By Koketso Mamabolo
Madelein Barkhuizen has held various executive positions for over two decades. Her experience covers marketing, sales and business development, with some time spent in financial services and healthcare. This mix has allowed her to build up a wealth of corporate communication knowledge which she is applying at the largest self-administered medical schemes in the country.
She began working in grade 10 and has barely stopped since. However, this never slowed down her learning as she’s gone to obtain four qualifications, three of which she studied towards while working. “My mother had to work extremely hard to raise us and, at times, had to juggle three jobs. She was my role model and had an important and profound impact on my life. She taught me to persevere, be resilient, work hard and appreciate the small things in life,” says the Executive Manager: Marketing and Sales for Bestmed Medical Scheme.
We find out from Madelein what the keys to high performance are, how to adapt to trends in corporate communication, and how to motivate your team.
What are the keys to high performance?
I think it is probably different for every person. For me, high performance is a mindset. I am disciplined, resilient and self-motivated, and this pushes me to achieve more. I believe that a healthy body and mind are two very important ingredients for a successful career. I try to follow a healthy lifestyle that includes exercise and healthy eating and make it a priority to build positive, constructive relationships with my peers and teams, with lots of laughter in between.
To achieve high performance, you must also remain involved, driven, relevant and committed. You cannot be complacent. The marketplace and business world are competitive and ever-changing arenas. You have to remain very involved with your brand and your team and make sure that you adapt your strategies and approaches, where necessary, and again refine and improve it. It should be a continuous process.
Importantly, I recognise that high-performance can rarely be achieved alone. A leader is only as good as their team, and everybody should be aligned. I surround myself with talented individuals who share my work ethic and energy. I prefer to appoint team members with a positive attitude, zest for life, cognitive ability and a kind heart and do not mind teaching and coaching them to learn the ropes. It is also important to understand that you need to set the example of the performance that you want and expect, without fail. If you expect high performance, you have to ensure that you set an example of high performance.
I work with an incredible team of talented individuals, and I am very proud of them. They are skilled, committed, positive and we share a high work ethic. We engage constructively and regularly.
I also enjoy working with the wider Bestmed team. We have a very special organisational culture. We believe that we are in the business of saving lives, and we take our responsibility very seriously. The team is also very committed to live our brand promise which is “Personally Yours” and we recently received external validation that members experience our service and products as “Personally Yours”, via the 2021 South African Customer Satisfaction Index or SA-csi. Bestmed was rated number one among a number of large South African medical schemes.
As the brand custodian, you put your personal reputation on the line when you market and sell your brand. Thanks to my incredible team and our committed group of employees, I am exceptionally proud to market and sell our brand.
Have you noticed shifts in corporate communication? How can businesses adapt to changing times?
Yes, I think that more and more businesses have realised that there is not one single recipe for communication. You have to know your audience/s very well and select your content and communication channels accordingly. For example, social media works for many brands but there are brands that are not well suited to certain social media channels. It is interesting to see how different brands engage with their audiences in new and innovative ways.
Consistency is important. Through their customer journey, members engage with the brand via different channels, and it is important that their experiences via the various touch points are consistent throughout. To achieve this, you need to make sure that your team is aligned at all times, with regard to the brand philosophy and brand management objectives.
It is also important to select the right person and team to manage corporate communication and Marketing functions. For me, personally, it is very important to truly believe in the brand that you represent. Your personal values should align with the values of the brand. This results in an authentic and honest approach to brand management, communication and business in general.
How does a business translate corporate strategy into action?
For me, everything we do should be strategic. In other words, every action should be a translation of the strategy. Every engagement, piece of content or advertisement will have an impact on the brand and should be considered strategically. To achieve this, the various teams need to understand the organisation’s vision and reason for existence and the message must be reinforced continuously. Every person in a team should also understand how their area of responsibility impacts on the achievement of the organisation’s objectives and ultimately its strategy.
A brand is not a logo – it is the people, service and the values that consumers come to expect from the organisation and whether it is consistent. At Bestmed, we call our employees our heartbeats and I truly believe that they are the heartbeat of our brand and the executors of the strategy.
What advice do you have for business leaders who are looking to motivate their teams?
You have to genuinely care about your people and they need to know that you care. I normally have 45-minute introductory meetings/get-to-know sessions with every new employee. It is quite an investment in terms of my time, but it is so absolutely worth it to know every team member by name and know a little more about them as a person. People are not numbers or “resources”. They are the brand.
You also need to keep your team updated about what is happening in the team and the larger organisation. When teams feel involved and engaged, they are motivated to contribute.
Other important aspects are the management of underperformance and celebrating achievements. Leadership is an extremely important responsibility, and it has a significant impact on a team. As leaders, we should continue to develop and try to become better at it.
Why is change so difficult for many businesses and how can this be changed?
Change is difficult for us because we are human and we prefer stability and the known. Considering that the culture of an organisation starts at the top and a change in culture is normally required for any other change to become embedded, leaders need to be totally committed to change and they should be aligned, otherwise it will not happen.
Leadership communication and actions are crucial to successful change. If leaders fall into a groupthink and/or conforming trap, change will be very difficult and new incumbents will quickly feel out of place and either conform or leave.
In my team, we work hard to maintain a culture of trust, honesty and constructive feedback and as a result, we have been able to implement positive changes.
How does one go about building good business relationships?
I believe that all relationships are based on mutual respect and treating each other with dignity, whether it be personal or business relationships. This is step number one. Following from there, it is important to ensure that relationships are truly mutually beneficial. Both parties should find value in relationships.
What are the elements that go into offering customers value for money?
Value for money means that a person/consumer feels that they pay a fair price for what they get. As soon as there is a gap between what I pay and what I receive, the value for money diminishes. Oftentimes organisations make the mistake of focusing exclusively on price. Value for money includes the cost, of course, but also other aspects such as the level of service delivery and the convenience of using the product. It is important to understand customer needs and tweak products where necessary to ensure good value for money and also to continuously review the value compared to the market trends and competitor developments.