We sat down with the CFO of SAFA, Gronie Hluyo, to get some inside information on his journey to success. Read on to be inspired – and get tips along the way. It’s a simple cooncept. One ball. One field. Two teams trying their utmost to emerge victorious…

But as with most things in life, what goes on behind the scenes is often what makes the simple things possible.

Soccer has long been a favourite of many South Africans, and the love of the game both inspires and creates a connection between many. It’s a culture as well as a sport, and it takes a lot of work and a lot of dedicated, passionate people to keep interest levels high and to ensure the quality and integrity remains intact .

The South African Football Association (SAFA) is rooted in progressive politics, having been formed in 1991 when our country was at the doorstep of transformation. The association was formed with the driving purpose of inspiring change in the South African sports industry. From the beginning their manifesto was clearly geared towards changing the unfair racial segregation that had managed to seep into every fibre of the collective South African consciousness.

SAFA is an influential organisation and it is that very influence that allows them to extend their reach and to provide help where it is needed. As is so rarely the case, SAFA’s voice and authority is used for the good and the South African sports industry and general public is fortunate to have such invested, dedicated individuals doing their best to ensure that our sports teams remain at the top of the game SAFA primarily allows for a consistent, interactive discourse between South African football and the issues that arise in our country’s politics; engaging in productive diplomacy in the world of sports and creating opportunities where they did not exist before. SAFA acts in a way that is similar to a multi-disciplinary organization, taking considerable care to cut no corners in it’s ultimate goal of uplifting and substantiating South African football.

Maintaining a proactive operation becomes increasingly difficult as a business expands and the demands grow, and this is also a challenge facing SAFA.

Exemplary individuals are essential at the helm of an organisation such as this, specifically individuals who can safely commandeer the ship through troubled waters. A balanced combination of sound financial expertise and goal-orientated management is not easy to achieve, and it stands as both a requirement and a hard bargain. Enter Gronie Hluyo. With a career journey characterised by hard work and alculated financial strategy, Hluyo seems a perfect fit for an established organisation like SAFA

Having grown up in various small towns around Zimbabwe, Gronie’s early life was wholesomely humble. His parents worked around the clock to ensure that he and his siblings had a stepping-stone in life, lending a helping hand in their respective educations and offering sage wisdom when needed.

His parents’ hard work and dedication has most certainly paid off as two of his sisters are Chartered Accountants (SA), one of his sisters holds a Bachelor of Commerce (Accounting) degree, while his younger brother is finishing his Masters Degree in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Johannesburg.

“Maintaining a proactive operation becomes increasingly difficult as a business expands and the demands grow, and this is also a challenge facing SAFA.”

Having received a fortunate opportunity from NCR Limited to further his tertiary education, Gronie was able to ‘move the goalposts’ and achieve success in his chosen field. Gronie holds exceptional qualifications and serves as a shining example of the power and opportunities that education creates. His appreciation of his education is inspirational, and having fully realised the impact and change that often arises from the benefits educational grants, Gronie is still furthering his impressive list of academic qualifications.

However, he’s definitely not leading with his chin, and has his equally successful wife, Duduzile, to thank for helping to keep his head firmly on his shoulders and for being with him every step of the way. Life is a two-man game and Gronie and Dudu carry the ball together, their personal lives being invaluable assets in to their professional success. Their brood consists of five children, who are all lucky to have such exemplary role models as their parents.

“My vision for SAFA for the next few years is to support the objectives of Vision 2022 as espoused by our Board. I would also like to see SAFA broadening its revenue streams and thereby changing its revenue matrix. ”

We asked Gronie if he has any secret ritual or daily activity that aids him in staying on top of his game. His reply was swift and matter-of-fact. His daily routine is simplistic and successful in helping him maintain his diligent work ethic: My day starts at 04h00 with my clock alarm going off. I meditate in bed, say a prayer and plan my day before “jumping” out of bed at about 04h15.”

Gronie seems to have perfected doing what he loves, and doing it well. Being a prolific member of SAIBA (which he thanks for raising his profile as a business accountant), we thought it apt to ask Gronie Hluyo to take a few minutes out of his incredibly busy schedule to talk to us about what it takes to be a team player and about how he gets the most out of the game.

What is your vision for SAFA in the next few years?
My vision for SAFA for the next few years is to support the objectives of Vision 2022 as espoused by our Board. I would also like to see SAFA broadening its revenue streams and thereby changing its revenue matrix. The traditional revenue sources are becoming “dry” due to the tough operating economic environment, therefore, it is imperative that we explore a diverse range of other revenue sources which must result in a revenue mix that is not over-reliant on a few sources and that is also sustainable in the long term. I support the vision that is contained in our Technical Master Plan, which is that all our national teams must be in the top three football rankings on our continent and in the top 20 on the world football rankings. 

What is the biggest accomplishment you have reached since being at SAFA?
My biggest achievement since being at SAFA is the automation of most accounting processes which includes the operational design of the Financial Management System (FMS) workflow.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced?
My biggest challenge has been, in some instances, curtailing critical programmes or activities due to lack of funding.

Now, for something light – have you met any of the famous soccer players?
In my course of work, I meet famous players most of the time. These include international stars when they come to South Africa to play our national teams. By the way, I pay all our South African national team players, so in some cases they do call me; they have my cell phone numbers!

Who is your favourite soccer player – national or international?
Andile Jali is my favourite national team player and Neymar is my favourite international player.

Have you ever been a soccer player yourself?
I played for the school’s “B” team and also played a bit of social soccer here and there. So, clearly I was not a bundle of talent, but I have always loved soccer dearly. Working for a national football association while being a soccer lover myself is indeed a blessing.

What position did you play?
I was a midfield and they used to call me “Stix” because I was so thin those days.

“My  advice  to  an  aspiring  CFO  is  that  you  must  always  keep  yourself  abreast  of  the developments  in  the  accounting  profession,  you  must  have  an  excellent  overall  understanding  of  the  business  and  you  must  be  prepared  to  work  hard.  ”

Did you do any internships while studying?
I did my internship at NCR Limited when I was studying towards my degree. This internship was the most important part of my career development. I had a well-structured programme, which exposed me, in anintense and structured way, to the different areas of accounting. This experience was cemented by the theory that I was acquiring through my degree studies. When I completed the internship and my degree, I was bubbling with confidence and ready to conquer the accounting world!

Have you ever had a mentor?
Yes, I was fortunate to be mentored by Mr. Selwyn Grimsley. Around 2004, during my early years with the SAFA, I met Mr. Selwyn Grimsley and we discussed the concept of a mentor and he agreed to be my mentor.

What did you most value about having a mentor and why?
Mr. Selwyn Grimsley was someone that I looked up to, especially because he is a Chartered Accountant (SA). He held positions as Financial Director for a number of companies and also as a Chief Executive Officer. He also worked overseas and acquired international experience. He was therefore, my professional role model. It is vitally important for one to identify a suitable mentor. A mentor is someone who gives you advice and someone you can discuss your career progression plans with. A mentor has walked that path before and will be able to guide you, based on their experiences. When you face professional challenges that seem insurmountable, your mentor will be there to help you see the flickering light at the other end of the tunnel

What was one of the most important lessons learned during this journey?
The most important lessons that I have learnt include that accounting is a very dynamic profession. Therefore, one needs to be constantly updating oneself. It is very easy to become rusty in this field (“the boiling frog principle”). Continuous Professional Development (CPD) is therefore paramount. This is achieved through further studies, relevant seminars and workshops, subscribing to relevant newspapers, magazines, and journals, as well as doing your own online research. It is also very important to belong to professional bodies like SAIBA which emphasise CPD.

What does your job entail?
Financial planning – this includes preparation of SAFA’s annual budgets to be approved by the National Executive Committee (“board”) and also preparation of long-term budgets which support SAFA’s long term strategy. Our current long-term strategy is termed Vision 2022 and I must ensure that we have a financial strategy that supports Vision 2022. I manage SAFA’s costs, in line with the approved budget, on a daily basis. Financial Reporting – our accounting team produces monthly management accounts and I must ensure that these are relevant and accurate. More importantly I must advise the Finance Committee and the Board of areas where we are doing well and on the areas where we need to improve. I also advise the Heads of our different departments on the financial performance of their departments. Furthermore, I advise these Heads of Departments on how they can improve the financial performance of their respective departments. I craft and update the financial and procurement policies for SAFA. These policies must be approved by the Board before they are implemented. I prepare reports and present them to the Board Committees.

What is the toughest part of your job?
The toughest part of my job is allocating the limited financial resources of SAFA to its unlimited needs. There is huge need to develop football throughout the country, especially in the under-developed areas. These needs include developing qualified coaches who can train our players, especially the youth. The ratio of players to coaches in South Africa is extremely high when compared to soccer powerhouses like Spain, Germany and others. The other critical needs are developing referees, building proper soccer facilities, especially in the under privileged areas of the country and providing suitable transport so that soccer players do not travel in the back of the “bakkies” or catch taxis or, worse, walk to play matches. Unfortunately, SAFA has limited funding from sponsors and broadcasters and we are not able to meet all these needs.

What is your favourite part of your job?
My favourite part of my job is providing financial advice to the different departments within SAFA and making a difference. I enjoy giving “game-changing” advice.

Any advice for aspiring CFO’s?
My advice to an aspiring CFO is that you must always keep yourself abreast of the developments in the accounting profession, you must have an excellent overall understanding of the business and you must be prepared to work hard. It is therefore imperative that you become a member of a professional body, like the SAIBA where you will benefit immensely from the CPD programme and networking with other professionals.

Gronie Hluyo is a prime example of a person who is whole heartedly dedicated to the recognition and development of talent while still finding the time to climb the ladder and establish himself as an exemplary addition to the world of finance. He is most certainly someone you would want in your corner.

Mr. Gronie Hluyo is a team player that has his sights firmly set on the goal. We here at SAIBA are honoured to include him in our ranks – a man that believes in community and the power of education. We’ll leave you with his favourite quote, the words of none other than the late, great Nelson Mandela:

“Education is a great engine of personal development. It is through education that a daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mineworker can become a head of the mine, that a child of a farm worker can become the president of a great nation. It is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one person from another.”- Nelson Mandela.