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Leadership Spotlight | Michelle Olckers, Co-CEO, Mazars

In this Leadership Spotlight, we hear from Michelle Olckers, Co-CEO for Mazars South Africa who speaks to us about how to achieve success through passion and perseverance.

Tell us about your company & your role?

Mazars is a professional services firm specialising in Audit, Accounting, Tax and Advisory services. We operate as an integrated partnership out of 90 countries globally. In South Africa, we have 10 offices and a staff complement of over 1100. I am the Co-CEO of Mazars in South Africa as well as the Managing Partner of the Cape Town office. I sit on our National Executive committee and also play a role globally on our governance council. I sponsor our Accounting and Outsourced service line nationally, as well as our privately owned business working group.

What are your main priorities & goals in your role?

My main priorities are to lead and support the business and our people in the delivery of our strategy to grow the firm, deliver a quality service to our clients, and to attract and retain the right talent. I sponsor our diversity and inclusion initiatives and our sustainability strategy and one of my goals is to create an environment where all our people feel valued and are empowered to contribute based on their unique strengths.

How do you define success & what drives you to succeed?

The key to success is to focus on goals, not obstacles. Once you determine your goals and how you are going to achieve them and the road map you need to follow, you set your direction. Success is achieved through not giving up and requires passion and perseverance.

How do you keep your team motivated?

Teams need to feel supported and heard in order to deal with the challenges that they face daily. I am always available to help my teams deal with problems but encourage them to find their own solutions. I believe in allowing them to make mistakes and then helping them reflect and learn from those mistakes. Building resilience is a critical skill that provides people with the tools to face challenges and not allow these challenges to break them.

What new trends/disruptors are emerging in your industry?

Increased use of data analytics, automation, and robotics within the delivery of our services has been a significant trend. We have a strong focus on innovation and the development of tools to ensure we are constantly adapting to remain relevant. We are also seeing more value driven business models emerging and need to stay ahead in regard to providing the right value.

Our profession is facing change due to mandatory audit firm rotation, which is opening up the market to “challenger” firms like ourselves. We have also been faced with disruption in our market due to new emerging businesses competing for the same talent and through offering full remote work opportunities providing what seems to be a “better” job opportunity. This has meant we have to rethink and re-invent how we attract and retain talent, as well as build our business based on values and drive the right behaviour for the culture we cultivate.

What areas do you think need to be improved to enhance the business environment in Cape Town, especially in a Covid-19 context?

Increased focus on the importance of networking to develop business and to maintain social cohesion.

Are you finding any skills gaps in the market?

The war for talent has never been this prevalent. There are not enough CA’s to serve the needs of the profession. The audit industry is transforming, and we need to find new ways of working in order to make the profession attractive to young professionals and to get them to make a career in professional services. HR professionals are also hugely in demand due to the movement and changes in the market and recruitment teams are overstretched and new resources scarce.

If you could choose to have dinner with two influential South African business or government leaders, who would you choose?

Thuli Madonsela and Adrian Gore.

 What’s the best advice you’ve been given, or would give, in business?

Never stop listening and learning from those around you. Always challenge yourself to think differently and to put yourself in the shoes of others to view the world from their perspective. Inclusive, collaborative leadership is critical to building great culture in the work environment.

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