AVTS believes in the efforts of the collective and in what it does. “Safe vehicles save lives, and we hope that our employees buy into this vision. Further to that, our success comes from a good reputation in the industry. Where there are challenges, we face them head on, take responsibility and overcome them promptly,” she explains. In 2010, German testing and inspection body, TÜV SÜD bought a 26% share in the business, and this partnership has brought international expertise and a global market to AVTS.
There are several hurdles that Oaten has had to overcome on her way to establishing a successful business entity. “While cash flow will always be a challenge, it was especially a problem in the early days,” she pronounces. She elaborates that getting the public sector to trust a private company was also difficult. “Vehicle testing was previously done only by government and traffic departments, and the fact that the public flocked to our testing station was seen as suspicious.” Oaten further notes that, in the early days, the values of great service, extended hours, as well as experienced and well-qualified staff were diminished by the suspicion that AVTS must be doing something fishy if people were driving past government testing stations to use a private facility. However, over the years, this challenge has been overcome by building a good reputation, she points out. Personally and professionally, Oaten believes that she is on her chosen path and professes to be “constantly excited and enthusiastic about what I am involved with”. “My business has been through many ups and downs, but the fact that we survived the recession within the motor industry is an achievement on its own,” she shares. AVTS Roadworthy Stations has also celebrated 20 years without any withdrawal of licences and achieved one million tests in April 2012.
Always be Prepared
Ever the entrepreneur, she has words of wisdom for the aspiring female entrepreneur: “One should always be armed with a good dose of realism, in addition to having the normal business tools. There are so many entrepreneurs who think a good idea alone is good enough and that the rest will fall into place,” she says. Oaten elaborates that this is a fallacy that can only lead to business failure. “Have a proper business plan that is accompanied by a proper feasibility study. Most importantly, have a realistic idea of the demand for the product or service you intend to offer and question whether you would risk investing in that business if you had your own money,” she advises.
Lack of knowledge puts one at a disadvantage she says, and contends that every business in South Africa is under enormous pressure in the current economic climate. Faced with such conditions, “everyone needs to assess their own situation critically, and not wait for the boat to sink”. Oaten shares a leadership lesson called the Stockdale Paradox, which has sustained her through the years. A man named Admiral Stockdale was the highest-ranking officer to be imprisoned during the Vietnam War. He survived eight years in the worst torture camps and, when asked how he had survived, said that he had always had an unwavering belief that he would get out, all the while confronting and dealing with the current reality. “So, while I encourage business owners to have faith that we will pull through this period in the economy, they have to confront the current reality and take the necessary steps every day to remain in business. Watch cash flow every day, make conscious cost savings, be innovative in expanding your product line, engage your staff, as they may have many more, and even better, ideas than you yourself, and don’t lose hope” she elucidates.
The recent recognition gained by her at the 2013 Most Influential Women in Business and Government Awards ceremony serves as a springboard for her to be a role model and an example for other women to aspire to, says Oaten. “With recognition also comes a responsibility to promote the process and to share lessons with others.” She believes that the recognition also reflects on her abilities as an accountable leader. Oaten points out that the image that leaders and management portray, as well as their actions, goes a long way towards ensuring success, for management accountability is critical to the success of any business. Oaten concludes by saying that she believes that she has acquitted herself well on behalf of the organisation and that a future with more responsibilities beckons. “I would like to focus more on consultancy work regarding quality management in the industry and offer accredited training in quality management. AVTS has an accredited training centre, and we would like to expand our offering,” she concludes.
After two decades in business, Oaten shares some of the major lessons she has lived by, lessons which she believes any aspiring businessperson should subscribe to.
Incorporate a good dose of realism in your financial plans. Although it may be easy to procure money, you still have to have the ability to pay it back.
Integrity needs to be part of everything that you do and to guide you to do what is right.
Success breeds complacency, so one cannot relax once one goal is achieved – there are constantly other goals.
As the business grows, take the time to work more ‘on’ the business than ‘in’ it.
Dispelling Myths in order to Succeed
Doing everything with integrity is vital for business success. Without integrity, a business cannot survive or thrive. These are the wise words that have served as a guiding philosophy for a woman whose two decades in business have seen one company germinating into seven vehicle-testing stations around Cape Town, South Africa. The various awards Ferose Oaten, Managing Director of AVTS Roadworthy Stations, has received over the years are testimony to her hard work and commitment to excellence.
Oaten, the Services Industry (Support Services, Entertainment, Leisure and Tourism, Transport and Media) Sector winner of the 2013 Most Influential Women in Business and Government Award thrives in an industry which many still regard as male terrain. “We owe our success to the fact that we guarantee integrity and take responsibility when things go wrong,” says Oaten. She adds that the whole team at
by Andrew Ngozo