By Charndré Emma Kippie
Margaret Hirsch is the Executive Director of the Hirsch’s Homestore Group. She co-founded Hirsch’s, the largest independently owned appliance and electronics retail outlet in South Africa 42 years ago with her husband Allan. She has won multiple business awards over the last several years including three lifetime achievement awards. Margaret was awarded her MBA in 2020 and her thesis was largely based on research surrounding Entrepreneurship. She is a champion of women’s empowerment and a sought after keynote speaker.
Margaret Hirsch was recently a panelist at the Standard Bank Top Women Virtual Conference 2021, taking part in the “A roadmap to entrepreneurial success” panel discussion, and diving into powerful strategies from the top for how to build a high-profit business.
What got you into the field you’re currently in?
It happened completely by accident. I lost my job and started a small business working as a shorthand typist. At the same time, my husband Allan started his own business and I just automatically gravitated towards it. It didn’t happen by design though, and was purely accidental.
What excites you the most about your role at Hirsch?
Everyday is different! Everyday is exciting. There is never a dull moment or an identical day of work. Life is what you make of it. I make it exciting and make sure I have a full day every single day.
In what way do you think Hirsch is enhancing the South African economy?
We are the largest independent appliance, electronic, and home furnishing company in the country. Although our permanent staff is only a thousand people, we employ more than 2500 people and they, on average, have about seven dependents each. So we are essentially playing our role in feeding a large part of the South African economy.
Do you think your field is diverse in terms of gender equality?
Absolutely. We promote the person who can do the job, whatever gender they are. In fact, many of my managers are women because they can do the job so incredibly well.
What are your top tips for ensuring the success of women in your field?
Women have to be financially independent so they can make choices! They have to work incredibly hard and they have to work with honesty, integrity and loyalty.
What have been some major obstacles in your career, as a woman, and how did you overcome them?
My first major obstacle was being fired when I was pregnant. I overcame that by deciding never to work for a boss again. That’s what drove me to invest in a business of my own and what has been my saving grace over the years. The next was trusting people – I trusted a person who preached in church on Sundays and he defrauded me of R5-million in 1988. So it taught me to be really careful and not to take a person at face value. The pandemic was also a huge obstacle that got in our way, but we overcame that by working around it and just making sure that we survived and thrived through Covid.
What are your goals for the future?
We’ve recently opened a few news stores and we plan to open another massive store in Cape Town next year. So we are invested in this country, still investing in this country and investing in our company because we know we are only going to go from strength to strength.
Are there any memorable books you’ve read?
Yes. The best one was probably MONEY Master the Game by Tony Robbins. I also love Jay Shetty’s Think Like A Monk. I am a voracious reader and literally read a book a week if not more.
What advice do you have for young women entrepreneurs who aspire to work in your field?
Firstly, they have to be able to work really really hard. As a woman you have to work harder, smarter and faster than anybody else. Women have to go for the long haul. This is not a ‘get rich quick world’ that we are living in. It is a world that requires you to work hard, keep reinvesting in yourself, into your company, into your future and to also help other people along the way.
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