Inspiration Session: Nonkululeko Gobodo – the first black female chartered accountant in SA

Nonkululeko Gobodo is currently the CEO of Nkululeko Leadership Consulting. In 2011, she played a key role in the successful merger forming SizweNtsalubaGobodo, the largest black audit and first home-grown South African accounting firm. Nonkululeko shared her inspirational story at our recent Inspiration Session.

Growing Up: Nonkululeko grew up in Umtata working in the family brick laying business from an early age. At the time, she had lots of role models going into business in the Transkei that provided lots of inspiration to her. Nonkululeko had a dream of starting her own accountancy firm one day.

Focus & Hard Work: When starting articles at KPMG, others were moaning about Apartheid and the lack of opportunities, but Nonkululeko found her own. She asked to handle some of her colleague’s clients, worked hard and ended up taking over his portfolio. 8 months later, she was offered partnership! Not only would she have been the first black partner but also the first female. However, she declined as it didn’t align with her dream.

Gobodo Inc born: After some time, Nonkululeko started her own firm. It was tough, but after 18 months, the big jobs rolled in and she went from 4 employees to 2 partners and 30 staff. In 1994, Nonkululeko asked a colleague to open a new black accounting firm with her. The initial reaction was “No!”, but eventually she won them over and opened Gobodo Inc with 10 partners and 200 staff. Her dream had become reality.

The Dream: But Nonkululeko was agitated, she still had this dream of a big black accounting firm. Her partners were afraid and it was always a question of capacity. But Nonkululeko was a woman of faith, so they stepped out, merged with SizweNtsaluba VSP and were appointed as the sole auditor for Transnet!

Don’t Let Fear Stop You: Transnet warned her that they couldn’t afford to make a mistake. If they failed, they would be failing South Africa and the black population. Nonkululeko’s fearless attitude drove them, “If you don’t want to put in the effort and you don’t want to face challenges, then you must learn to settle for small achievements.” She never dreamt that SNG would become the 5th largest auditing firm in SA.

Future Vision: The merger had been successful, but they soon realised that having two leaders for too long was going to cause issues. SizweNtsalubaGobodo’svision was more important and Nonkululeko didn’t want to destroy the business, so she left in April 2015 to pursue her vision of economic transformation.

Nonkululeko left us with some pearls of wisdom:

  1. Focus on your dream – step out of your comfort zone and do it despite your fear.
  2. Know who you are – invest in knowing yourself. Don’t just focus on your mental state, work on your emotional and spiritual health too.
  3. Bad relationships at home affect your relationships at work – deal with your mother issues. If you’re still moaning about your parents, sort it out and start charting your own course!
  4. People are placed in your life to help you grow and heal certain areas – stop focussing on the ‘bad’ aspects of your boss. Try to understand why they are dealing with you like they are.
  5. Don’t waste energy – develop the kind of relationships that you wantand need to grow.
  6. Leadership is not easy but we need more effective leaders – you need to hold on to your values.
  7. Encourage each other – successful black professionals must act as role models to others.

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