A construction and interior company, Stonecliff is working hard to cement its position in the industry and beyond the borders. Having recently opened a branch in South Africa, the sky seems to be the limit for the youth owned business. Below, Managing Director, MODIRI ZULU
THEBEETSILE talks to KOOBOONYE RAMOKOPELWA, about the early days of the company and what lies ahead.
Botswana Guardian: In a nutshell, how will you describe Stonecliff?
MODIRI ZULU THEBEETSILE: Stonecliff is a construction and interior design business which services both the private and public sector. The company was incorporated in 2017 here in Botswana. Originally, Stonecliff had two shareholders. However, my business partner has since sold his stake to me as he wanted to pursue other business interests. I will forever respect his efforts and bravery because building a construction and interior business is not a bed of roses.
BOTSWANA GUARDIAN: Who funded the business?
THEBEETSILE: The business was self-financed from our own savings. I must admit that, starting a business needs hard work, courage and determination. The early days of Stonecliff were tough, but through perseverance, we have managed to pull through. I remember vividly that we used my personal car to run around and get things done. We had a dream and there was no way we were going to let it die.
BOTSWANA GUARDIAN: As a citizen owned and youth run business, what kind of challenges do you encounter as you go about your daily operations?
THEBEETSILE: Like any other business, we experience challenges from time to time. However, it is worthwhile to note that, challenges for businesses will always be there no matter what. The best way is to adapt and continuously work hard to become better companies than we were yesterday. As a youth owned business, we believe values of discipline and hard work have helped us pull through, even during the most difficult of times. At a personal level, I have a strong opinion that as citizen-owned businesses, we need to up our game, especially when it comes to work ethics.
BOTSWANA GUARDIAN: What competitive edge does Stonecliff has over peers in the industry?
THEBEEITSILE: Our biggest advantage is a very solid group of talented individuals. At Stonecliff, we value our human capital much, and this explains why we put them ahead of profits.
BOTSWANA GUARDIAN: Tell us more about your recent expansion into South Africa.
THEBEETSILE: We have opened a Stonecliff branch in South Africa and the plan is to expand throughout Southern Africa. We do have clients in South Africa that we were servicing through our Botswana office but as the years went by the number increased and we saw this as an opportunity. The SA office will also allow the business to target new customers and use SA to expand to other countries. The ability to reach a new market can generate revenue and with that we can gain access to other markets in the region. Basically, we are using the country as a spring board into the rest of the region.
BOTSWANA GUARDIAN: How has Stonecliff been accepted in the country, which is the region’s economic power house?
THEBEETSILE: We have been well received by the South African market. What has also helped us a lot is that, over the years, we built a strong SA customer and supplier base.
BOTSWANA GUARDIAN: How many people are employed by the company?
THEBEETSILE: Stonecliff employs 21 permanent and 5 temporary employees in Botswana. In our first month of operation in South Africa, we have 5 employees.
BOTSWANA GUARDIAN: What citizen economic empowerment initiatives do you have within the business?
THEBEETSILE: Stonecliff is a strong believer in citizen economic empowerment. Of the total workforce we currently have, I am proud to state that 96 percent are Batswana. In addition, we continue to engage many other citizen owned sub-contractors for all our projects.
BOTSWANA GUARDIAN: As a business, what kind of corporate social investment initiatives do you have in place for communities you operate in?
THEBEETSILE: We believe the success of our business depends entirely on our clients and the communities that the business operates on. We are working on a structural model which we can use to give back to our communities.
BOTSWANA GUARDIAN: How has COVID-19 impacted the business in general?
THEBEETSILE: Covid-19 has affected businesses a lot. That willingness to create, spend and travel has really diminished for many people because you need to connect physically with other human beings to get the best out of you - we are social creatures. What has kept us strong during Covid-19 has really been the culture here. Even when we were apart there was always that strong connection and willingness to create the same quality work and that automatically ignited hope for our clients so we never stopped working.
BOTSWANA GUARDIAN: As a youth business, what is your view on strong corporate governance for sustainability?
THEBEETSILE: I will be honest with you. For startups and family businesses, establishing a professional, independent board and other aspects of corporate governance tend to be far down the priority list. Corporate governance is very key to any business’s growth and sustainability. A lot of businesses have folded, not because of market forces, but lapse in corporate governance. However, there are important legal, ethical, and fiduciary considerations for companies of any size before corporate governance structures could be established. Companies need to first understand why corporate governance is important for business growth and sustainability.
BOTSWANA GUARDIAN: Where do you see the business in the medium to long term?
THEBEETSILE: We want innovation to be at the core of our service. The condition of production equipment and service quality are key to us, and they will continue to do well into the future. Finally, as alluded earlier, the plan is to build Stonecliff into a Southern African focused entity.