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Women in power

BUCO Nelspruit is a bastion in the Lowveld, and there are few people who haven’t wandered the aisles looking for a specific product, and come across their friendly and helpful staff members. In honour of Women’s Month, we catch up with a few of these intrepid individuals, and find out just what goes on behind the scenes in this well-known hardware store, that was once thought of as “a man’s world”.

Mariet Erasmus

Mariet might be of slight build, but looks can be very deceiving. There is simply no challenge that she will shy from. She is the person who must make sure that the pay-point side of the company runs like clockwork, every task is always done with her own personal touch.

“I cash up with the cashiers, ensuring everything balances, reporting to the bookkeeper and financial manager.” She is also the person who ensures that the floats are packed correctly and that there is always enough change for the cashiers. “It keeps me busy, and I love being busy. ”

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She started at BUCO approximately two and a half years ago, and has gone from strength to strength since, making herself valuable not only to the company, but to her beloved customers. Her energy is palpable, and it is easy to believe Mariet when she says she loves the challenge of her job.

“I love to solve problems and will not give up until there is a solution. For example, one of our biggest headaches can be when the cash up does not balance, I will sit there until I can honestly tell myself that I have exhausted all possible avenues regarding where a mistake could have slipped in.”

Mariet believes that at BUCO there is a great sense of belonging. All of her co-workers agree that her sentiments could be directed right back at her. She is always friendly and one of the first to arrive and last to leave in the afternoon. It is a passion for Mariet that as a BUCO family member, she enjoys giving back to the Lowveld community and would love to be even more involved with the various community projects that the company supports, especially those focusing on the younger generation.

Khanyisile Mkhabela

At first glance the glamorous Khanyisile reminds you of a beauty queen. For her, it is all about interacting with customers and knowing they go home with big smiles and with the correct product to suit their individual needs.

“It is very important to me that our customers leave here happy with an understanding of what they have bought.” One of her favourite memories at BUCO is when a customer overpaid his invoice, and she immediately gave back the excess money. “He was very surprised and could not stop smiling, and it is incidents like that which make it worthwhile, knowing because of how he was treated here at BUCO, that he will return.”

Just like the rest of the team, Khanyisile is very driven. “I started as a student and soon after got promoted to a cashier.” She was recently advanced to a supervision and administrative position on a part-time basis. “I would love to be promoted to the debtors’ department, and am working hard to achieve that.”

When asked if she would ever change jobs with someone else at BUCO, she laughs and without hesitation says she would love to exchange jobs with someone in finances. It is obvious that Khanyisile enjoys interacting not only with customers, but also with her coworkers. “For me BUCO is simply the best, amazing. It is such a professional company and I cannot wait for what my future holds.”

Hanka Beukes

The moment you meet Hanka you are overwhelmed by her bubbly and outgoing personality. With an infectious laugh the first thing she tells you is that she simply loves her job at BUCO Nelspruit.

“How can I not? It is everything in one; personal interaction with both customers and my co-workers, the thrill of sales, and also the telephonic aspect of it. It is a different environment every day, and I love our loyal customers who keep coming back. We all know each other by name here.”

Hanka’s day kicks off early by turning on the switchboard, and from the moment it is on, the phone does not stop ringing. While this might have irritated any other sane person, this simply puts her in that great mood for the rest of the day. She is a people-pleaser and everyone usually turns to her to calm down the odd irate customer who occasionally pops up.

“I try to handle each situation individually and my first aim is to calm everyone down. Coffee and a friendly smile get you much further than antagonising someone.” To Hanka it is the appreciation that everyone at BUCO Nelspruit receives from the branch manager, Pottie Potgieter, who really makes them such a close-knit family.

“I remember the one day he called me into his office simply to thank me for everything I do for the company, and that really made me feel very appreciated and proved to be an inspiration to give even more to BUCO.” She loves the family vibe at her workplace and the caring nature of her colleagues.

“I would never (in capital letters) switch my job.” Besides her real job, Hanka is also the unofficial caterer at the company and has a reputation of not only being a great cook, but also being an ace at organising events and making things look pretty.

Antoinette McDonald

Antoinette grew up in the BUCO culture. When asked to explain what that culture means, she answers without hesitation: “family, loyalty and professionalism”. She elaborates and explains that even though BUCO Nelspruit is a business, it focuses on the family culture and that they aim to make all new customers part of that close-knit family.

First-hand understanding of this motto is what makes Antoinette excel at her job in customer services and working with the internal sales representatives. The challenge of keeping customers happy by providing quality products is what really excites her.

“I honestly love keeping customer projects going, and really aim to help even more to improve our customer service.” It is obvious that she lives for her job, and laughs that she often knows more about her customers than she does about her friends.

“Our customers are more than just business to me, and I take pride in the fact that I give my all to make them happy.” Antoinette’s job description might not officially state enthusiasm and energy, but that is what she brings to the table.

She simply jumps in and does something herself; from fielding endless phone calls to running around BUCO with a trolley and handpicking products to please customers, to sourcing materials that an individual customer might need. She has many long-term goals for herself, one of the biggest being to get the stock sorted in such a way that she immediately knows where what is kept.

When asked if she would like to switch jobs for one day with someone else at the company, she vehemently shakes her head and firmly says no. “I love my job and I know and understand my own challenges.” Antoinette’s charm and passion obviously rub off on her performance and one of her favourite memories at BUCO Nelspruit is the day she made her first two million sales for one month.

Mariaan Neethling

Mariaan’s official job description might read Personal Assistant to the Branch Manager at BUCO Nelspruit, but she is also the HR Assistant to the Regional HR Partner. She comes across as an extremely driven person who keeps updated with the comings and goings of the company, but her passion lies with the charity work BUCO does.

“I am so fortunate to be part of a company that gives back so generously to its community.” One of her favourite projects is the school initiative where she always gets involved first-hand. “BUCO Nelspruit often assists not only the local schools in town, but also some very disadvantaged ones in rural areas. What I love most is that everyone here really cares about these projects, and the development of children has always been close to my heart.”

Mariaan says it is especially during these difficult Covid-19 times that her manager, Pottie Potgieter, has gone out of his way to assist several businesses which were struggling financially. She admits she is a little bit of a perfectionist who can be very strict to maintain the best possible standard, but she loves working with the staff.

She admires the way that BUCO Nelspruit’s management encourages growth within the company. “It is not just about having worked myself up, it is also about how much my selfconfidence has grown.” For Mariaan the fact that the BUCO culture stands for caring, is a very important factor as to why she loves her job so much.

“As a branch we are driven, yet so familyorientated at the same time!” She firmly believes that is why the company is the best in the country. Her biggest challenge is to remain objective regarding staff matters as everyone feels so much like family to her. “I have to really get my head into that mode when there is the odd employee issue.”

Sanet Nel

Sanet has climbed the BUCO ladder for 20 years with hard work, commitment and zeal, and plans to do the same for the next two decades. She is the Inwards logistic manager, a bit of a Jill of all trades, and assists many with their responsibilities, be it marketing or ensuring that the buying function is working correctly.

And taking the BUCO family motto just that little bit further, Sanet met her husband at the company. “Yes, we literally are a BUCO family,” she laughs.” One of the biggest reasons Sanet has been at BUCO Nelspruit for such a long time, is the fact that she believes that it is not only a building company in trade but also builds lives, friendships and relationships.

“One of my own greatest challenges is to keep up with the things happening out there in the world, and to adapt to those challenges and then to prioritise between work and family.” She says one of her biggest dreams is to see that the company continues to grow in the way it has done up to now, and that it carries on with providing such opportunities to women in a generally male-dominated world.

She also loves the way that energy flows between customers and everything at BUCO. “Sometimes it feels like a living breathing thing.” She adds that this adrenalin and energy feed her soul and in turn she will always try to give her best to stay with that energy.

Sanet’s favourite BUCO memories include the many awards they have won, but most specifically how the team manages to turn every challenge into an opportunity. “I love working with my co-workers.” Sanet was recently one of only 10 women to be nominated for the Celebrating Women in the Building Industry award.

Franciska Oosthuizen

“I can sum up my job in one word: interesting.” Franciska started as a sales coordinator at BUCO Nelspruit in January. “I enjoy the daily challenges that working with both customers and sales representatives.”

She is new to the Lowveld, but says she is already so fond of not only Mbombela, but its people. “I love working at BUCO and how the people operate as a team. You never feel like you are alone, but have several shoulders to lean on. Here you are not just a number, but very definitely a beloved member of such a driven team.”

Franciska has a soothing demeanour and it is obvious why the BUCO customers adore her so much. “Yes, I do aim to stay calm and friendly no matter what,” she admits. “My goal is simple: ensure the customer is happy and returns to us on a more regular basis.” She laughs that it is often the small things that make it worthwhile in what can often be a stressful environment.

“At the moment I am dealing with cement orders. Yes, cement! The demand for cement is very high, but we aim in our vision to assist every single customer.” She says what makes her day is when she can tell customers she has found some bags of cement, the joy on their faces makes it worthwhile.

“That is what we are here for: to please.” One of her passions, that slots in perfectly with the BUCO motto of giving back to the community, is to work with disabled learners from local schools. “I love how we work hand-inhand with these schools to improve those children’s lives.”

Franciska has already surpassed her own personal target for the month, she is extremely passionate which rubs off on her work. She enjoys meeting new customers and making them part of the BUCO family. “I am a people’s person and love how I get to work with customers and so many friendly colleagues.”

Marié Deichmann

Stock controllers generally have a strong sense of right and wrong, and a good work ethic. Marié is no exception and laughs that hers is often the most hated position. “I have to count stock and capture and update the system so the stock correlates with what is on the system.”

When asked if she would then rather exchange jobs with someone else for a day, she simply smiles and answers with a firm no. She says she tries to be very thorough in her job and that the grass is not necessarily greener on the other side. “I understand my job and love both the challenging and good times.”

One of her most memorable achievements was when she managed to keep their three-month counting cycle at 100%, an accomplishment not often repeated in this industry. Marié says it was only because she worked hard and gave her all.

“What you see is what you get, I have no front to maintain and even though I push my colleagues to work hard, I will give that back twofold.” When asked to describe BUCO in three words, Marié does not hesitate and says: “successful, competitive and professional”.

Almost the exact same words her co-workers use to describe her. She says her biggest challenge is to ensure that the actual stock and the stock on the systems correlates, and praises the branch manager, Pottie Potgieter, for always providing an ear to listen and a shoulder to cry on.

“It is very comforting for an employee to know that your manager always has some kind of advice to give, that is what makes this team so strong.” Marié says she loves it when the target for the day was achieved. “I am very goal-oriented with most things in my professional and personal life. When we reach our targets at work I feel extremely satisfied and proud of the team.”

Louise Duvenage

Even when given the opportunity to be at home Louise simply could not do it. “I have to work and stay busy, and could not be a stay-at-home housewife as the hustle and bustle of customers was calling me.” As the head of the paint department at BUCO Nelspruit, Louise does everything from orders to customer care to stock count, and she loves every minute of it. What she enjoys about the company is the opportunity given to grow and test your wings in all departments.

“I actually started out as the head of the tile department, and was given the opportunity to develop my skills and creativity as the HOD of the paint department.” Louise adds that she loves the fact that every day presents a unique set of challenges and the opportunity to learn something new. She is not the kind of person who can sit still, and will easily jump in her vehicle to travel to a customer’s house to go assist on site. “I love to add that personal touch of assistance.”

According to Louise, she enjoys working at BUCO Nelspruit as she can relate not only to like-minded people, but also because it is nice to “work for success, and this passionate company is very successful”. She still has many plans to move to other departments and learn to grow even more so she does not stagnate in one position.

“I love to assist new employees to grow in themselves and their jobs, it is such a passion of mine.” She takes this role as mentor very seriously and gives back her knowledge freely. When asked what goals she has as a BUCO employee, she says she would like to go and assist the larger community by physically getting involved with projects to share her skills. “I would really like to expose the younger generation to the wonderful work environment I have.” As long as you have dreams, there is hope.

Rose Dladla

Rose has an unassuming air about her, yet her kind nature shines like a beacon in the dark. In her gentle voice she says she loves her job as tea maker and general cleaner at BUCO Nelspruit, where she has been employed for eight years now. It is Rose who ensures customers walk into a sparkling restroom when they visit.

As a grandmother herself she knows exactly how to prioritise time and explains that might be her best attribute. “I know not to waste time and work economically to ensure I give my best before I move on to my next chore.” Rose’s day starts by cleaning the restroom, then doing dishes and cleaning the offices.

Her co-workers think of her as a little mother bustling about. “Yes, they feel like family to me, and it is my duty to look after them,” she shyly admits. It is obvious that Rose takes a lot of pride in her work and she insists that she works in such a way that nobody can point a finger at her and tell her it was not good enough. “I always do my best.” Rose says her favourite part of working at BUCO is the fact that she knows her co-workers will always be there for her.

“You know, if I had to get into financial trouble, for example, I know that these people will be there for me, to look after me and help me out.” She hates being away from work and seldom takes a day off sick. “If I am sick or not at work, they always ask where I was and that they missed me!”

Rose feels very strongly that this company is the best shop in town. “BUCO is always full of people!” she exclaims. Her most memorable moment as an employee was her most recent birthday. “Ah, these people love me, I cried so much. They had a big cake for me, I will never forget it.” It is also Rose’s responsibility to make sure there are adequate stocks of cleaning materials and to ensure they are stored safely, away from food and drinks.

Anne Handley

The moment an employee surpasses their one-decade mark at a company, you know you are dealing with a professional. Anne has been part of the BUCO Nelspruit family for 13 years and this shows in her in-depth knowledge of this Lowveld company and its extended family members, namely the customers.

As the sales representative coordinator, Anne works with both the reps and their customers, and this includes invoicing and coordinating. “I try to get to know them on a personal level and to then just provide good service to the best of my ability.” Anne’s coworkers agree that she is one of those people who will always be friendly and supportive, no matter what the circumstances are.

“I really feel like I have grown as a person in this company over the years, and got to really enjoy my job.” From invoicing and quotes and getting orders ready, to picking stock to ensuring the reps know what needs to be delivered and where, she has it all covered in her quiet and confident way.

“Yes, there are always a lot of ordering of special orders placed and buy-outs, but I do enjoy the pressure of it all, I enjoy my job.” Anne loves the interaction with the clients. “Once you get to know the customers on a more personal level, understanding their needs and what they want becomes so much easier.”

She adds that that is one of the biggest reasons that she always strives to go that extra mile for them. “In the end, by making the extra effort, it simply makes my own job so much easier.” Despite being a self-proclaimed introvert and reserved person, Anne’s quiet and caring nature and obvious enjoyment of her job have made her a favourite, not only among her co-workers, but also among the BUCO customers who without fail will seek her out not only for her knowledge of products, but also for her genuine concern.

Rachel Venter

There probably is not much that Rachel does not know about the building industry. She cut her teeth as an employee on the then Laeveld Bou, before it became BUCO Nelspruit, and was the only woman for a very long time among an all-male staff. Being the only female in such a male-dominated world simply made her more determined to succeed and to be first when it came to sales and performance.

“I used to love that challenge, and today I still enjoy anything that my job throws at me,” Rachel laughs. She was recently promoted to handle all the direct special orders, and says this gives her a new kind of job satisfaction and that she is very happy with this new position. According to Rachel, despite being an old hand at this, she still learns something new each and every day and grabs at challenges with both hands.

Co-workers often arrive at work to find this dedicated woman already hard at work behind her computer. “I take pride in my workplace, and try to give back the ethics of success, the best that BUCO Nelspruit gives to me.” Rachel says her job is not something she does to earn an income, but something that gives her personal joy.

“I love Lowvelders, I would move back to sales just to see more of them!” Rachel is one of those people who will go out of their way to ensure the customer receives the best possible care and service at the company. “I have a Portuguese customer in Mozambique who does not speak English, so we have a system of pictures to figure out what his order is, and so far it has worked well for both of us,” she laughs her infectious laugh.

Rachel says everything at BUCO is special to her, and that there is not specifically one moment that stands out, she simply loves going to work in the mornings. “I have always given my best in everything I do, especially in the workplace.”

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