The Birchwood hotel in South Africa is a family owned hotel business with 665 accommodation rooms, 60 conference facilities, three onsite restaurants and a popular pub called Hi-Flyers Aviation Theme Bar.
It appeals to both the emerging market and international traveler, with a mix of business and leisure market because of its proximity to OR Tambo International Airport and the East Rand Mall shopping complex.
Makamba Online recently sat down with the director, Jazzman Mahlakgane, and spoke on the challenges of heading up a family owned business from an outsider’s perspective.
“Born in Johannesburg from a family of eight, I am the fourth born from six boys with two girls. I completed my Higher Education Diploma through Kathorus College, pursued my marketing through IMM, before completing my MBA (marketing). I was head hunted by the Clarence family after a few interactions with Kevin (founder of Birchwood Hotel) through the business I was in. Brian and Kevin Clarence asked me to join the team and the rest is history.”
Challenges as a startup
“Firstly, Boksburg was never perceived as a business or social town due to the stigma attached to the country’s past. The major challenge was convincing clients to visit Boksburg where the hotel is situated. We overcame this by introducing a very strong event concept, the Ekurhuleni Comes Alive Jazz Festival, to attract patrons through their favourite musicians. We are also constantly using public relations platforms to communicate the hotel offerings to the larger market,” the smiling Director reflected on Birchwood’s challenges.
What do we learn here? The lead-up to starting a business is hard work, but after you open your doors, your work has just begun. In many cases, you have to put in more time than you would if you were working for someone else.
Challenges as a big business
On current tests Jazzman said: “To keep the service levels high and maintaining clients. By constantly keeping the relationship with our clients and offering products with value for their money.”
Is your business doing the same? Do you have different strategies? Always be looking for ways to improve your business and to make it stand out from the competition. Consistency is key component to making money in business. You have to consistently keep doing the things necessary to be successful day in and day out.
Market, advertising and competition
“By creating strong relationships with both top corporate companies and government decision makers we penetrated the market with ease,” said Jazzman, to keep the market’s attention he said, “We use a variety of media – electronic, print and social media advertising.”
Birchwood is always ahead and on top, we asked the Director the secret behind. He said: “By being one step ahead of the game, I guess that is our secret.”
“To consolidate and complete a 3000 permanent venue, create the unique environment like no other in hospitality industry both for our staff and our clients,” Jazzman Mahlakgane said.
On a personal level the Director said he has achieved one of the most important aspects of any company “trust from staff and clients.”
Qualities of a business leader
Birchwood Hotel’s Director gave us a brief on the qualities needed for one to succeed as a business leader;
• Decision making
Advice to young business leaders in Africa
He also gave advice to young and aspiring entrepreneurs;
• Open your arms wide enough to embrace change in the business environment.
• There’s just as many exciting times as depressing times but they all form part of business.
• Think out of the box.
• Accept criticism.
• Don’t busk too long on prizes or glories.
Author: Gesture Chidhanguro