112: PRECIOUS DUBE

Helping CEOs of medium businesses increase business value

After a successful 20-year career in finance, Precious Dube is launching herself in a new direction as a corporate coach.

As CFOs we are at war, the biggest war being that you are entrusted with the budget. In some instances, it’s hundreds of millions of rands and in some instances billions of rands, amid a society that feels entitled to some of those monies.’

CIARAN RYAN: I’m very happy today to introduce Precious Dube. Precious comes from an interesting background. She has a Master of Business Administration degree. She also has a BCom Managerial Accounting and Finance degree, and she’s in the process of completing the ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) qualification, after a 20-year career in finance, and is now launching herself into an entirely new career, that of corporate coach.

Now, this is something that we’ve seen a lot more of – people with experience in finance offering their skills to segments of the market that may not typically be able to afford a full-time CFO. Given her knowledge in organisational structure, development, job profiling, job evaluations, business-process review and re-engineering, she now plans to use these skills and put them to work in the marketplace.

First of all, welcome, Precious. Where are you talking to us from?

PRECIOUS DUBE: Oh, thank you for having me, Ciaran. I’m in Waterkloof in Pretoria.

CIARAN RYAN: Waterkloof in Pretoria. Okay. We seem to have a lot of CFOs residing in that area now. You’ve obviously seen a lot of changes in the finance function at a corporate level over the years. Just give us a sense of your background and your 20 years in finance. What are those changes? How has the role of the senior finance executive changed?

PRECIOUS DUBE: Yes, that’s an interesting one. It’s amazing. That question takes me right back more than 20 years ago, when I started in the finance function. What it brought to my memory almost vividly was this cash book that I used to work with. Every time I needed that cash book, it was a huge, huge wood-covered cash book. I don’t know whether it was one metre by one metre, or something along those lines, but hard-covered and very heavy to use. Every time I needed it a messenger would carry it from the City Treasurer’s department, and bring it down to my office for me to work in it. At any given time it would be carried by one messenger, if he had a great physique, or it would be two of them.

CIARAN RYAN: The book was that was that big, was it?

PRECIOUS DUBE: It was, it was massive. I had to make sure that there was nothing on my desk if I was ever going to work with that book. And then you couldn’t sit, you had to stand. It was a massive book. That is where we come from.

CIARAN RYAN: I suppose you had to lean over. If you’re filling out the top of the page you can’t do it while you’re sitting down, you’ve got to be standing up.

PRECIOUS DUBE: We had to. You’d actually have had to stand up, otherwise it would be a mess trying to stretch your arm right across to the other side of the table. Yes, those were the vivid memories that came to me.

When I started in finance those many years ago, the main functions of finance were straightforward. We had to do bookkeeping, the normal recording, reporting, as well as compliance, which was basic. It wasn’t at the levels that we see now. So, over the years, I think during that time, that cash-book time, we used to have – I don’t think it was a computer – what was called a terminal. I can’t remember what it was called, but it was where you would actually go and capture some stuff in that terminal. There was just one, and I think we used to share it among about 20 or so of us. Every time I think about where I am now and where I come from, I’m always amazed at how that was sufficient and we were all comfortable with that and accepted it.

‘In my laptop I’m carrying the entire organisation’

But all of a sudden technology set in where now, instead of me asking somebody to bring that huge, massive cash book, I have my laptop and in my laptop I’m carrying the entire organisation. I’m carrying everything that I need and I easily access that information from where I am. I think of it in terms of the way that we used to function in finance – it was more “grey”. I’m sure you’ve heard of finance people being grey. We were very grey, we didn’t interact. I’m not sure whether we didn’t interact because we were not friendly, or we didn’t interact because we were not allowed to interact. I can’t really tell you. But all I know is that we never, ever interacted. You kept to your corner. I think in most cases, in most organisations, the finance function was safely tucked away, away from everyone, so we were not easily accessible. We didn’t smile a lot. That was the finance function. We were supposed to be seen to be serious people, always wearing smart outfits, grey pants or skirts, and seriously getting along with our jobs.

CIARAN RYAN: It sounds like a rather unhappy kind of experience for you.

PRECIOUS DUBE: It was a very difficult one for me because, remember, it was at a point in time. One of my executive directors later on in life said to me, “You are a finance person with a difference”. So you can imagine what those years did to me. They were traumatic.

CIARAN RYAN: Oh my goodness. Sometimes the finance functions operate in a bit of an ivory tower that makes you not easy to get to. They want to avoid you getting influenced or coerced or something like that, particularly when you’re dealing with big organisations. There may be some logic to that, but I guess that has changed, right? That would be one of the big changes – that it’s more interactive these days.

‘The first big change that I came to over the years was the technology.’

PRECIOUS DUBE: It is, it is. There’s been a huge change, which is good, which is great because, like I’m saying now, we interact, we are open. Maybe some of the things we’ll address as I go – so that I don’t lose my train of thought.

The first big change that I came to over the years was the technology. This terminal, or whatever it was, was a step into the technology space. Over the years we got to a point where we eventually got a couple of desktops. And then we got to a point where each person had their own desktop. And now we talk about laptops; people have to have laptops.

I realised that a lot of our functions that were routine got more and more automated over the years. When I studied, it would take me maybe an entire day just to write up the cash book and write up a journal or follow up to a query. It was quite a cumbersome process. But now with technology those things we can do in minutes, things that would take us forever to do are now done in minutes. You’ve got the information that you’re looking for. The processes are straight to the point. You just sit, you capture, and at the press of a button you’ve got your trial balance. Whatever reports you want are available to you, you see. And now with technology you actually have a view of the entire organisation in the comfort of your office, something that before was almost impossible to even visualise. But now you have it. And, because of that, you are able to give advice quicker as a finance person, and give more support.

CIARAN RYAN: That’s one of the questions I wanted to follow up with. The kind of advice that you are expected to give as a senior finance executive is quite deep level. It’s not just have we got the annual financial statements or the monthly financial statements prepared; it’s how do we fund this growth plan of ours, how do we comply, what do we need to prepare for in terms of compliance over the next day? These are the kind of things that are coming up.

PRECIOUS DUBE: That’s correct. I remember as CFO I had to transition. Some years back I worked in an organisation where as a finance division we were called into a hole for a meeting. They were looking at retrenching some people or reorganising the division. I remember the CEO saying in no uncertain terms that, you know what, I don’t place any value in you guys, you are the consumers of budget, so my focus is in terms of the people that bring something here, the project people. That was not true. Because we were not generating any income our focus was always in terms of how we manage the income that’s already there, how to keep the costs down, how to bring efficiencies – and things like that.

But, as a CFO, and even maybe before that as director, I would be asked for strategies to raise funding. How do we raise income, how do we raise revenue for the organisation – which is a huge shift in terms of that. It’s a massive mind shift for every finance person; it doesn’t matter how low you are, you start thinking in terms of things like I’m no longer just pure support, I’m now part of the strategy of the organisation. So those were some of the big changes that I’ve seen over the years, whereas you have now a say in terms of what strategies we are going to employ. We want to do this, ask the CFO and the CFO must tell us where we’re to get the funding from. Is it a good idea? Should we even do that?

And in addition, what I’ve also seen over the years is pure “bean counters”. That’s what we were known as. So we’ve now shifted to a more revenue and shareholder-value building space, where we are concerned about those things. Why? Because now we have to shine. Technology has given that into our hands, so we can actually do that. At the end of the day there is a big requirement for us – that mind shift that I’m talking about. Either you have it or, if you don’t, it’s a requirement, because otherwise you won’t survive.

CIARAN RYAN: My question as a follow-up to that is tell us a little bit about your career journey. You were born in Durban, I believe, or in KwaZulu-Natal. Tell us how you ended up here.

‘Now finance is seen as a strategic partner to the CEO, almost like a co-pilot.’

PRECIOUS DUBE: Okay. Maybe just before we get there, I just want to share briefly in terms of the strategic focus that changed as well. I think what is interesting in terms of the finance position is that there was a huge strategic focus. In the past finance was just an ordinary position within an organisation, but now finance is seen as a strategic partner to the CEO, almost like a co-pilot, where a lot of decisions actually get made from there. And if I try to visualise the function those many years ago, it would be like a round robin, people holding hands and sharing – like passing things to each other. But now finance occupies a central role where people come to finance for advice, for direction, for guidance, that type of thing. So it’s a beautiful shift because it puts the CFO in a very, very strategic position and it gives him or her a lot of power, especially considering that finance is one of the key things that drive an organisation. I think that is one of the most important and critical things to be appreciated with this shift.

CIARAN RYAN: Okay. Now tell us about your journey.

PRECIOUS DUBE: I grew up in Bulawayo. That’s where I did my primary and high school education. I lived with my sister there, and then I came to Durban for my tertiary education. You’ll see that both my degrees are from there.

I started my career as a clerical assistant at the Bulawayo City Council and was there for almost seven years, where I grew to accounting assistant. Then I moved to Durban. My first job was in an NGO space as an admin assistant. By the time I left there in 2010, I had worked with three different NGOs. By the time I left the NGO space, I was a finance and administration manager. Then I joined the higher education space, the universities, from 2010, where I started as a senior manager: finance, and then got promoted to director and eventually to chief financial officer, which I left after eight years of service in the higher education sector.

For a number of reasons I decided to leave the higher education space, and employment as a whole, in pursuit of my own dream. I had registered a company in 2005 and had worked in that company part-time, charitable, mainly offering people business support, giving advice and registering businesses and offering accounting services and things like that at a very, very minimal fee, if not free for those who couldn’t afford it. That’s just where I am. That’s how I got to where I am.

CIARAN RYAN: Right. And the companies that you are advising, are they like in the SME sector, or are they middle-sized companies? Just give us a sense of that.

PRECIOUS DUBE: Mainly SMMEs. That was a calculated choice in the sense that you realise that SMMEs don’t have the capacity or the budget to afford a CFO for the type of services that we offer. They don’t have a governing body. They don’t have anybody that they account to. Hence my decision to support them because I’ve seen how they suffer, how people with brilliant ideas come into the space. They try out a business plan and they fail – not because it was a bad idea, but because they didn’t get the support that maybe they needed.

CIARAN RYAN: Right. That is fascinating. You’re right. There are so many great small business ideas there, but they lack the business knowledge and often lack the network to be able to crack it. And so they fail. There’s so much failure of small businesses in South Africa. In this informal sector – maybe it’s not correctly named – a lot of people out of necessity are forced into that sector and needing a bit of guidance and a little bit of understanding about how to manage the cash of the business.

We’ve had people on CFO Talks before, talking about one of the organisations that actually funds SMEs up in the Polokwane area, where some of these people started off selling things on the side of the street and now own guest houses and fleets of taxis. That’s what can happen if they get the right guidance.

‘I realised that there’s a lot of funding that’s available in South Africa and outside South Africa for the pursuance of these dreams and ideas.’

PRECIOUS DUBE: Exactly. I think the main reason why I chose to be where I am is because I realised that there’s a lot of funding that’s available in South Africa and outside South Africa for the pursuance of these dreams and ideas. The main thing that’s lacking is the support. It’s the guidance, because I always say that business owners were never taught, they never went to school where they were taught how to run businesses. So, in the absence of that, I’m an accountant. You will find somebody as an IT specialist and so on and so on, but as a small business owner you have to occupy all those roles over and above running the business.

What happens is they know what they know and they’ll try and deliver on the promise they’ve made, but then no one is managing the administrative side of things. No one is managing all these key elements of running a successful business. As a result they fail.

The other thing is, even when they’re given funding, I know that there are people that are going to mentor, people that are going to monetise, whatever. On the ground that doesn’t happen. I’ve had clients that come from, for instance, incubation, who are incubated and somebody is being paid something to incubate them. But those clients end up coming to me and prefer to pay for their services because they’re not getting the support that they need. They’ll tell you that, you know what, we think this person themself actually needs to come for support here as well.

So the monitoring doesn’t take place. I’ve heard of stories where people get given maybe millions of rands. They walk away and the funder doesn’t even follow up to check what’s happening. It is only years later when they’re still paying, that they realise. What happens is they’ll be given, say, R10 million to go and start whatever venture they’ve been approved for. They go away and six, seven months, one year down the line they’re using that loan to repay. It’s not like they’ve generated any income or done anything. So yes, two or three years down the line, when they are still paying because they can’t afford any more, that is only when the funders wake up and go and check and find their officers were never there. Sometimes the employees will come complaining because they haven’t been paid, and then they discover that the business never actually took off because there was no monitoring and evaluation.

So that’s one of the areas that I particularly focus on in terms of that monitoring and evaluation, in terms of making sure that I hand-hold my clients. If you come to me as a client, and I coach you – and some of them need financing – if I help you source financing what I try and do is to enter into an agreement that I’m going to support you for the next two or three years to make sure that, by the time I walk away, you have a business, a sound business, a sustainable business that you can actually carry on from.

CIARAN RYAN: I’m interested in your period in Bulawayo because I, myself, grew up in Zimbabwe, but in Harare. Your time there at the Bulawayo City Council – just give us a sense of how that was. The picture that we have, right or wrong, is that the local government in Zimbabwe is broken. Was that your experience?

PRECIOUS DUBE: During then. Many years ago it was perfect, it was thriving, it was green. I always use that term because there’s a picture that I see of the Bulawayo City Hall, where the lawn is green and the buildings are beautiful and everything is perfect. So that’s the picture that I have of the Bulawayo City Council. It was financially sound. We had investments. I was involved. If you look at my CV, I was involved in the investment of the city’s excess funds. We had excess funds. But now I think it’s just a dream. I haven’t been there in years, but the last time I was there things were already falling apart. And the pictures that you see if you go onto social media actually bring one to tears, because Zimbabwe was the bread basket of Africa at some point in time. I think those were the years when I happened to be there. But now it’s a very, very sombre story that you see. It’s sad.

CIARAN RYAN: Yes, indeed. Okay. When were you last there?

PRECIOUS DUBE: We last went on holiday to Victoria Falls. I think it was at the end of 2016, or 2018 – either 2017 or 2018. You could see the difference even as you drove on the roads. Victoria Falls, obviously, because it’s a tourist place, would try and have their things in order. But otherwise, as soon as you stepped out of that comfort zone, it was a totally different type of story.

CIARAN RYAN: Vic Falls is a bubble. It’s a tourist bubble. You have to kind of go. I was in Harare a few months before the lockdown. The infrastructure is decrepit, but there’s money. There are people there that are doing exceptionally well. I am amazed and staggered by the ingenuity of the entrepreneurs up in Zimbabwe, and how they find a way around every obstacle you throw at them.

PRECIOUS DUBE: Actually we were talking about it. I don’t know now, but we always hear stories of people shopping in Dubai, shopping overseas for their furniture and things like that, things that we can’t afford here in South Africa, and you kind of wonder. On the extreme end you’ve got these people living in total luxury, and on the other side you’ve got people living in total poverty. So it’s that balance. I don’t know where you can strike a balance between the two.

CIARAN RYAN: Yes, indeed. I think there’s a lot of vested interest in keeping it that way, because a lot of people are thriving off black markets and that sort of thing, which keeps the rest of the country in poverty. I guess that’s a subject for another day.

All right. Let’s change gear a bit. You spent a lot of time upgrading your skills as an accountant, and you are now completing the ACCA qualification. Do you think this is an essential feature for the modern CFO? You’ve got to be continually studying, upgrading, and you’ve got to be keeping on track with all of the changes like IT and cybersecurity, and so on.

‘As CFO you’re the custodian of compliance.’

PRECIOUS DUBE: Definitely. Because for you to be relevant, to remain relevant, you have to be aware of what things are happening around you. Also remember as CFO you’re the custodian of compliance. So, if you don’t keep yourself up to date, if you don’t study, how do you know what has changed? How do you not end up with an audit qualification because you’ve missed out on important things that you should have been aware of? Even when it comes to reporting standards, they constantly change. It’s something that has to happen. You’ve got no choice.

And also, considering that things used to be simpler in the past, where with closed eyes you knew that this is my role as CFO – I have to make sure that my records are okay, I have to report and then I have to comply, now there are so many more demands on the CFO. If you don’t study you are doomed. You are better off not being a CFO than not keeping up to date with things.

CIARAN RYAN: I notice that you also have an MBA. Did you do this because you wanted a broader understanding of the business world, because the MBA does introduce disciplines like human resources, marketing strategy, and so on. Is that the reason you did that?

PRECIOUS DUBE: That’s correct, because my motto from as early as I can remember has always been to be in a position where I actually understand what I support. It’s a motto that I inculcate in all my team members, all my staff that I come into contact with, because how do you offer people support if you don’t understand what they do? The MBA offered me that opportunity to have not a detailed understanding of each department, but a strategic understanding of what each department does – what they do and how they do it and how they mean to do it. That helps a lot, because otherwise you set yourself up for failure.

And in the new role of a CFO one of the functions is as an advisor. How do you become an advisor if you don’t know what’s happening? But what I’ve realised is that, because I’ve spent so much time in each department, I actually sit with each executive in each portfolio just to get a sense in terms of what it is that you do, what it is that you want to achieve, what it is that you perceive as a problem? What is it that we can do? So I kind of provide, eventually, the advice. I anticipate problems before they happen because of my understanding from the MBA.

CIARAN RYAN: That’s an interesting viewpoint. It’s anticipating problems that haven’t occurred yet, and trying to get them out of the way before they do happen.

PRECIOUS DUBE: Exactly. So if problems do happen, they’re not a surprise. I would have anticipated them a long time ago and tried to resolve them before they happened. But then there are certain problems where you just have to accept the risk and move on.

So for me, if you are going to call yourself a CFO and still have these surprises, then you’re not worthy to be called a CFO. A CFO understands every area that he or she supports.

CIARAN RYAN: Yes. I see you describe yourself first and foremost as a mother and a wife. Now this is a thing that everybody’s battling with. How do you find the right balance between work and family, and have you been able to do that?

PRECIOUS DUBE: To be honest with you, I’m still striving for that balance. But what has helped is that I’ve found a workable point. I learned at a very late stage. When I used to work within the NGO space, you kind of become this selfless person. The environment doesn’t force you to be that, but somehow it has a way of sneaking that into you – that, you know what, this is of utmost importance.

As I went through the hierarchy, work became an absolute first priority, and my family was a very extreme second priority. I realised that that wasn’t working and that when people died and when people left work, nothing stopped, work continued after a couple of days. Then I realised that the only thing that was stable in my life was my family. As a result of that, I actually created a split between my work and my life, and I don’t mix the two unless it’s unavoidable. I stopped taking work home a while back, because I realised that my confusion in most cases stemmed from my poor time management. As soon as I figured out that if I managed my time very well, I actually ended up with excess time. I actually stopped taking any work home. I made it a point that everything that needed to be done was done in the office, unless it was an absolute necessity, especially during reporting times or for audit times I would make a way for that.

What I realised also is that most of the things that wasted a lot of my time were things that I didn’t like. I find that in my functions there are certain things that I don’t necessarily enjoy, but I still have to do them. To help me with that I called in an accountability partner, where we kind of check on each other: have you done this? I know that that’s something that you don’t want to do, where you have to be brutally honest with a a person in terms of what you like and what you don’t, and what you want to do and what you don’t want to do – so that they can support you.

And then in terms of running my own business, what I’ve done is I’ve got a business coach of my own, who holds me accountable because I know that within my business there are certain things that I don’t want to do and which if I had a choice I wouldn’t do. So to make sure that I remain on track, I’ve got a business coach who keeps me accountable and supports me all the way. So that’s how I’ve actually managed myself on that.

CIARAN RYAN: And your family – how many children do you have?

PRECIOUS DUBE: I’ve three – a boy and two girls.

CIARAN RYAN: And what ages are they?

PRECIOUS DUBE: My son has completed his university studies. Unfortunately it looks like we are not going to be able to go for his graduation ceremony.

CIARAN RYAN: Ouch.

PRECIOUS DUBE: I’ve got a daughter who is doing her third year in medicine, and then my last one is doing Grade 9.

CIARAN RYAN: And are they all at home or have they moved out?

PRECIOUS DUBE: No, my son is still home. He does go out every now and then for business purposes. But then my daughter, because of Covid, has been doing most of her learning online. Even the last one does most of her learning [online]. Now they’ve got alternate days where they go to school, like one week they’ll go for two days, then the next week they’ll go for three days – that type of thing. But otherwise most of the learning happens online.

CIARAN RYAN: Wow. Okay. That’s impressive. So two of your children in university, or just completed, and the other one in high school.

PRECIOUS DUBE: Yes.

CIARAN RYAN: That’s well done.

PRECIOUS DUBE: It’s a lot of work. I try with my children to provide them with the life that I didn’t have. My father died when I was nine years old, so life was not so easy. I promised myself from a very, very early age that if I was going to have kids I would take very good care of them.

CIARAN RYAN: All right. Just a couple of final questions here – the clock is running down. From your observation point, how has Covid impacted businesses? Some seem to be doing well, others are suffering terribly, particularly if you’re looking at tourism and hospitality and so on. How does this change things for companies that are battling to survive? You’re obviously involved in this at the coalface and a lot of companies are experiencing those difficulties. What’s your advice to them?

PRECIOUS DUBE: At the beginning of lockdown I hosted webinars where I spoke about the impact of Covid-19 on businesses. At the time, whatever I presented was based on research. But the reality is that whatever I said during those webinars is our current reality. Businesses are closing down and we see a lot of people losing jobs. So my advice would be, because I know we say that we are better off, the reality is that fear knows no boundaries. So whatever happens in Brazil, America or wherever, as human beings – and because we now have globalisation and international trade – we are linked. We are one big society. It eventually will catch up with us. It will catch up with our businesses; hence our businesses are suffering.

‘One of our biggest challenges is that we’ve allowed countries like China to take over our manufacturing.’

And one of our biggest challenges is that we’ve allowed countries like China to take over our manufacturing. That has impacted on us a big, big deal. But again, if you look at it from another perspective, that’s one of the opportunities that I speak about. So now we can actually as South Africa look into manufacturing as an opportunity.

In terms of what these other businesses can do, they will need to evaluate where they stand, ask themselves questions like: are my assets, my capabilities, and my capital where they should be? If they’re not, then what can be done? Can this be corrected? If it cannot be corrected, then we evaluate the alternatives that are available for you to venture into. Otherwise I would actually strongly advise businesses to get into the habit. I know it’s not the norm in South Africa to get a business coach, because really during this time you need somebody who understands exactly what’s happening out there, somebody who can support you through and give you proper sound advice. It’s not a time for trial and error, because there’s just so much at stake at this point in time.

And again, a business coach will offer you an objective view in terms of where your business is, and the circumstances it faces. So that would be my advice.

CIARAN RYAN: Okay. Good advice, too. Here’s a question for you, and a question I ask everybody who comes on CFO Talks: what books would you recommend? Something that really fascinated you or inspired you.

PRECIOUS DUBE: We read a lot of strategy books and stuff, but there are three books that I really, really like and continuously keep going back to: The first is New Confessions of an Economic Hitman.

CIARAN RYAN: Oh? Has John Perkins brought out a new book? I read the original one. I haven’t read the new one.

PRECIOUS DUBE: Yes, there is a new one. And then No Greatness without Goodness by Randy Lewis. The final one is Duty: the Memoirs of a Secretary at War by Robert M Gates.

CIARAN RYAN: Oh, who is he?

PRECIOUS DUBE: I think he was a secretary during the George Bush administration, as well as the Obama administration.

CIARAN RYAN: And so the book is called Duty? What’s your takeaway from that?

PRECIOUS DUBE: What has helped me is that, just like any other function that we do, we are at war. I kept telling people that we are at war, but we have different types of wars. One day when we share where I come from, why I’m where I am – I don’t know what to call it, the deeper version of that – you would understand that as CFOs we are at war, the biggest war being that you are entrusted with the budget. In some instances, it’s hundreds of millions of rands and in some instances billions of rands, amid a society that feels entitled to some of those monies.

I think I was drawn to that book because it kind of resonated with how I feel or how I felt about my function and my responsibility as a CFO. It felt like you’re constantly under attack. People don’t try to move to where you are so that they understand why you do the things that you do, but they see you as an enemy. Do you understand?

So for me, it is a book that if you are a CFO or CEO or whoever you are, someone who really takes their work seriously, it’s a book that you should read. For instance, he talks about the budget. Instead of the budget being decided maybe along normal ways, the budget gets decided in certain ways that you would not expect – which is exactly what happens in most cases. These are things that we see as CFOs.

CIARAN RYAN: Fascinating. Worth bringing up at this point is that strategy. A lot of people have recommended the book Art of War as a business book, because what is war? It is really an engagement. There are enemies, and you try to avoid conflict as much as possible. So it really does need a strategic mindset.

The South African Institute of Business Accountants has a designation called CFO SA, a certified financial officer. The reason is that people with senior finance experience, who have come up through the accounting route, are ill-equipped for this kind of war and the kind of disciplines that are required at that level – how you engage with a team, how you lead a team, how you communicate, how you strategise. This is one of the key things that seems to be missing. I’m glad you brought up that as a book. I haven’t heard of that one, but I definitely do want to read it.

PRECIOUS DUBE: Please. It’s a thick book, but it’s well worth your read.

CIARAN RYAN: Is it a book not just describing his time in the political sphere, but the kind of challenges and how he had to face them, and his strategic approach to them?

PRECIOUS DUBE: He’s telling his story, some of the team work, just like in any organisation when your team goes through some stuff, because he is the person. I think in one of the areas he even says he would actually see a coffin, draped in flags, and think, I am the one that actually signed to this person on – and now this person is dead.

CIARAN RYAN: That’s a horrible thing. A horrible thing, isn’t it?

PRECIOUS DUBE: The same applies to an organisation because you sit in interviews and you encourage people to come and join you. Then you watch people sometimes being torn down and you’re thinking I’m the one who convinced this person to come and join me in this organisation. I promised them a heaven and earth in this organisation. But you get to a point where you realise, you know what, how much I am not able to deliver on what I’ve promised to do.

CIARAN RYAN: Just to go back to that other book very, very quickly. It’s called the New Confessions of an Economic Hitman. The first book, Confessions of an Economic Hitman, described how he was working for an organisation like a consultancy, but he was going to South America and Central America and basically selling them loans that he knew they couldn’t pay. It was kind of a CIA front, where they would then come in and dictate all sorts of demands, and if you didn’t behave, very bad things would happen and they’d “take care” of you. They called them the jackals. They’d send in the jackals.

PRECIOUS DUBE: Yes. It’s so sad, because then you do realise that sometimes we assume – because we are looking from outside, we don’t know what’s happening internally – that people are corrupt, but we don’t know the reality behind that, because some people have been forced into that corruption. He makes examples of people who were murdered because they refused to be corrupted.

CIARAN RYAN: There was an airplane that fell out of the sky – I think it was the President of Guatemala or something like that. Just some horrific stories that he told us about.

PRECIOUS DUBE: It makes your hair stand on end as you read it, because you’re thinking, goodness me, how can people be horrible? He talks about where he goes, I think India or somewhere, where these kids are playing, and they’re dirty, they’re hungry, but just a few stones away people are living in total luxury, and he comes to make sure that they enter into more debt. For you to survive in this world you need to understand how the world operates.

CIARAN RYAN: All right, Precious. We’re going to leave it there. That was a truly fascinating discussion. I really appreciate you coming on and sharing those insights and I’m excited by you and the new career path of being a business coach. Please stay in touch. Let’s catch up again in a few months’ time and see how things are going.

PRECIOUS DUBE: Definitely. Thank you so much, Ciaran.

CIARAN RYAN: And have a good day. It’s a nice sunny warm day, I’m sure, in Pretoria. It is in Joburg, so it should be pleasant.

PRECIOUS DUBE: It is, when I look outside.

CIARAN RYAN: Yes. Aren’t we blessed?

PRECIOUS DUBE: Grateful for that, especially now during this Covid time.

CIARAN RYAN: All right. Precious Dube, thank you so much for coming on.

PRECIOUS DUBE: Thank you so much, Ryan, for having me. It’s really been a pleasure and quite eye-opening.

CIARAN RYAN: Great. Talk to you soon.

PRECIOUS DUBE: Thank you. Bye.

 

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