Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - BUSINESS - JOSEPH BOOY­SEN joseph.booy­[email protected]

CAPE TOWN-born en­tre­pre­neur Siyasanga Ngcongca has had to jump into the deep end in or­der to run her late fa­ther’s build­ing con­sult­ing busi­ness fol­low­ing his death in 2013.

“I did not have a wealth of busi­ness knowl­edge, but I had to dive straight into the busi­ness, in a male-dom­i­nated in­dus­try, be­cause I had to think about the fu­ture of my fam­ily as well as the employees,” says Ngcongca.

The fam­ily busi­ness, based in Mowbray, was es­tab­lished by her late fa­ther, Lamla Ngcongca, in 1993. It of­fers ser­vices rang­ing from claims re­gard­ing fires to storms and floods, break-ins to build­ing main­te­nance.

She is now the direc­tor of Ngcongca Build­ing Con­sult­ing, a ser­vice provider for in­sur­ance com­pa­nies re­gard­ing their non­mo­tor, build­ing and com­mer­cial claims. At the time of her fa­ther’s death, she was about to grad­u­ate as an in­ter­nal au­di­tor and had just started her ju­nior ac­count po­si­tion.

She says since most of the employees had been work­ing for the com­pany since it was es­tab­lished in 1993, she had to weigh her op­tions of whether she should con­tinue with be­com­ing an in­ter­nal au­di­tor or let the lights go off for the fam­ily.

“I didn’t even know what the con­se­quences of that would be. So I took a brave de­ci­sion.”

How­ever, her fa­ther had taught her the busi­ness from an early age.

When she was younger, Ngcongca had to bal­ance her life be­tween go­ing to school, her dad’s work and house­hold chores.

“So they (the staff) got used to me over the years, be­cause I had done this from a young age. You know how God works. I didn’t even have a clue that one day I would want to take over the busi­ness,” she said.

Ngcongca added that for the next two years af­ter tak­ing over the run­ning of the busi­ness she had faced very chal­leng­ing times manag­ing money, hav­ing come from earn­ing a salary of about R8 500 month to now con­trol­ling a large amount of money.

She said that at school and univer­sity she was never taught how to man­age money, or what fi­nan­cial guid­ance was all about.

“So I strug­gled the first few years. I re­alised that the busi­ness was not go­ing to make it if you only rely on one in­come com­ing in.” She re­alised she needed to seek more clients and knock on other doors.

“I knocked on doors in 2014, 2015, 2016 and no­body opened. It was only in 2017 that I started get­ting a turn-around in the busi­ness,” she said.

Ngcongca added that be­sides hav­ing Ned­group In­sur­ance as a client, she then took on board clients such as San­tam, Absa and Bryte In­sur­ance.

Ngcongca adopted a hands-on ap­proach when it came to learn­ing about the busi­ness.

She re­calls try­ing to un­der­stand the process of a fire claim and fol­low­ing the in­spec­tor up on to the roof.

“I am such a stub­born per­son and I wanted to learn. A guy said while I was climb­ing on the roof: ‘No, Siya, you don’t have to see what’s hap­pen­ing there.’ But I got on to the roof and five min­utes later I was on the ground af­ter fall­ing off a 2.8m high roof. But that did not get me down.

“Be­cause of be­ing a woman, I said to my­self, oh my gosh, I’m fall­ing in front of these guys, I can’t cry. I then had to act like a tough cookie and say: ‘No, guys, I’m com­pletely fine.’ ”

She says it has been an in­cred­i­ble jour­ney.

When peo­ple ask her if she feels the pres­sure of be­ing in a male­dom­i­nated in­dus­try, Ngcongca says no, be­cause she won’t let the pres­sure get to her.

Ngcongca says she cur­rently em­ploys 14 peo­ple and plans to em­ploy up to 35 by 2020 as she in­tends to grow the busi­ness fur­ther and ex­pand un­der cor­po­rate build­ing main­te­nance.

Her goals in­clude sav­ing cap­i­tal to buy de­hu­mid­i­fy­ing ma­chines to be used across a num­ber of jobs, which will al­low her to em­ploy 15 ad­di­tional peo­ple, which she hopes to achieve within the next 18 months.

SIYASANGA Ngcongca. Manag­ing money was her big­gest chal­lenge.| Sup­plied

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