Mohau Modise welcomes me in the foyer of HEINEKEN South Africa. He is brimming with energy and shakes my hand enthusiastically. As we sit down in the meeting room, I notice his car keys on the table and comment on the shiny Mercedes Benz token. He laughs deprecatingly. “Yes, I love cars. And I love German cars!” He’s a BMW fan, but upgraded to a Merc because of a growing family. His son is 11 months old and safety is a major concern for him.
Mohau is proud of the fact that he had been with HEINEKEN South Africa since its inception in 2015. When I ask him to describe his career in one word, he answers with a grin. “Fun!” He declares. He loves working at HEINEKEN because the values of a family-owned business comes across in the behaviour of the staff. It’s not just about the numbers, he explains – people are seen as human at HEINEKEN. Management is very sensitive about the “how” of business, and not just the “what”.
Mohau has had an interesting career in Fast-Moving Consumer Goods. A native of QwaQwa, he majored in Marketing at the Technikon of the Free State. Even as a student, he asked himself how he could stand out from the crowd. “That lead me to found the Marketing Association of the Technikon, and in 2003 I was SRC President. I worked on my sense of responsibility and learned how to behave within the leadership structures of the institution.” He explains. “This prepared me very well for the world of work.”
He joined the South African Breweries in 2004 and was stationed in Bethlehem for 3 years as a Sales Representative. “The SAB culture is great,” he reminisces. “It is resilient and truly focused on high performance.” After 3 years, feeling a bit frustrated with a lack of career growth, he returned to Bloemfontein to study. Within six months he re-joined SAB in Potchefstroom where he worked for the next 2 years.
“Brandhouse was recruiting quite aggressively at that stage,” he recalls “and I decided to join them to head up the new office in Welkom. What a difference!” He laughs. “I was used to the well-designed systems, structures and processes of SAB. At brandhouse I had to establish everything from scratch. I remember having a sales meeting under a tree because we didn’t yet have offices! It was a great learning experience.” His biggest learning, he reflects, was to keep himself motivated in an unstructured environment. The resilience he learnt at SAB paid off and after Welkom, he moved to Klerksdorp.
Engen offered him a Regional Manager position in the Western and Eastern Cape. “Selling lubricants is very different from selling beer…” he warns. “The problem is that there is a limit to what you can sell – when the tanks are full, the tanks are full!” Although he learned a lot about corporate politics, he didn’t feel that this sector was right for him, and left to join brandhouse again. Stationed in Umtata in the Eastern Cape, he witnessed tremendous growth in the region. “The number of Spar stores increased from 3 to 17 in the three years I was there.” he recalls. “Our challenge was not to sell more, but to limit the number of accounts we opened! That was a great time .”
After a stint in Limpopo and Mpumalanga for brandhouse, he got the opportunity to head up national sales capability for the company. “I liked being able to impart knowledge to new sales reps, and to have a voice in the organisation because of my seniority. But, I got frustrated by the lack of numbers and thought that my personal growth would be limited.” Again, looking for other opportunities, he left in 2015. With no immediate job prospects in mind, he started studying his masters. In response to my question on his progress, he scratches his head embarrassingly. “I’m still busy with it…”. He chuckles.
In August 2015 the call came from HEINEKEN to join the newly formed company. He has been having a ball ever since. His advice for young people starting off in the world of work is to start with the basics. “Learn the fundamentals first, and don’t be impatient to move too quickly,” he cautions. “Build your self-confidence and know your worth.”
His vision for the country is a positive one. “We have such amazing possibilities and opportunities here,” Mohau says. “I want to contribute to that. South Africa has a great entrepreneurial spirit – my mother has never worked formally a day in her life, but she is always selling stuff. In fact, that’s how she put the kids through varsity. That’s how we are changing the world.”