Born and raised in Durban, Tsogo Sun Gaming’s Glenn Joseph joined Tsogo Sun 10 years ago and worked his way through the ranks to his current position of Chief Operating Officer. Here he discusses some of the challenges facing the gaming and hospitality industries in SA, the sustainable initiatives undertaken by Tsogo Sun, as well as what course he would teach in college.

What is your story?

I have grown through the ranks since joining Tsogo Sun 10 years ago. I grew up in Durban and completed a commerce degree at Natal University and after my articles and a few jobs in Durban, which included two years as a Group Cost Accountant with Amalgamated Hospitals where I developed costing models for the hospital group to determine the most cost-efficient hospitals for different procedures that would deliver highest return. I came to Johannesburg and joined Medscheme, working in various departments, followed by Microsoft, where I worked as Financial Manager for West East Central Africa and the Indian Ocean Islands. I loved it, but when I was offered the opportunity to move to Atlanta, my wife and I found that we couldn’t bear the thought of leaving South Africa, so I took a job as Finance Manager at Montecasino, and I was very excited at the prospect of using my finance background to enhance the casino operation. I was promoted soon after to look after both operations and finance for the property, and in 2012, I took over as Director of Operations & Complex GM of Montecasino. While at Tsogo Sun, I was fortunate to complete the Executive Development Programme through the University of Stellenbosch. In July last year I was appointed Chief Operating Officer of Tsogo Sun Gaming, alongside our new CEO Jacques Booysen and my fellow COO – of Tsogo Sun hotels – and long-time friend, Ravi Nadasen.

What are some of the overall issues that you’ve seen affect the entertainment industry in SA?

The economic downturn has been our greatest challenge because entertainment spend is the first thing to be cut out of the consumer’s budget in tough times. We also mustn’t underestimate the impact that the country’s instability and the general sentiment has had; people don’t even buy houses or cars when the socio-economic climate is so unstable. The result is that we’re having to approach things differently. Following the events of the last few weeks, I’m optimistic that the tide is turning but in the meantime people are cutting back, which influences the space we play in. The situation provides us with both a challenge and an opportunity – to continue to provide value, so that consumers still support our business.

What are some of the challenges that Tsogo Sun is facing at the moment and how are you addressing these challenges?

The water crisis in Cape Town is undoubtedly the single biggest challenge our business is facing. We’ve been at the forefront of finding solutions, but it’s vital that we get the word out to the international market that Cape Town is open for business.

What are some of Tsogo Sun’s focuses at the moment?

We have to be innovative in the way we do things. It’s not business as usual, and we can’t expect that we’ll open our doors and customers will come. In this climate, you must look at the value you’re providing. We have to think differently about how to enhance the value we provide, drive repeat visits and engender loyalty in our customers. Our focus is on keeping costs in line, while driving the top line and at the same time continuing to deliver great experiences.

How do you see Tsogo Sun fitting into the South African entertainment industry?

Because of the variety of our properties – with 13 casinos and 100 hotels – our footprint fairly large. We’re the leading player in the southern hemisphere and in the industry. As such we are a big contributor to the provincial and national economy, and we are represented on the regulatory boards in both the gaming and tourism bodies, such as the Casino Association of South Africa and the South African Tourism board. Very importantly, we are committed to giving back to the communities we operate in, and because of our wide footprint we can make an impact on many people’s lives.

Where do you think its place and brand is, and what makes the company unique in SA?

Firstly, we are a brand with enormous heritage in the market, with representation across South Africa. Secondly, we have an established reputation for delivering on our promise to create great experiences every day. These two elements in combination truly make us unique.

Glenn Joseph’s Pop Quiz:

How do you engage your brand to the local SA market? Any engaging media initiatives and marketing campaigns that you run?

We’ve changed our thinking when it comes to how we advertise; we’ve streamlined and created an integrated marketing mix that incorporates more digital than traditional advertising, but we still take an integrated approach.

What are the company goals for future excellence in the local industry.

To innovate and lead the market with destinations that are inspiring, innovative and relaxing. We provide escapism and great experiences, and that’s the goal that we must constantly keep in mind. We need to talk to our customers, understand what they want and deliver on their needs. This alignment of company goals with customer expectations is how we will achieve excellence.

Let’s talk Sustainability and the steps you have taken to make a difference here?

As a group, we are highly focused on the goal of Sustainability, and we have many exceptionally impactful programmes in the arena of CSI, through our Tsogo Sun Moves for Life Chess Academy and our Learning Academy, which provides mentorship, job shadowing and career development programmes, as well as our entrepreneurial development programme, Tsogo Sun Entrepreneurs, and our environmental management programmes, which include water conservation and a partnership with Miss Earth. We also have an entrepreneurial programme called Tsogo Sun Entrepreneurs, which supports SMMEs across a broad range of industries with a full year of intense training, coaching, mentorship and support. A total of 242 businesses are supported through the programme.

How do you incentivise and motivate staff as an organisation?

The nature of our business is that we rely heavily on our people to deliver on our promise of creating great experiences, which means that they truly are our greatest asset. We invest significant time and resources in people and we acknowledge their contribution to the company’s growth and achieving our goals. We reward staff members who have gone the extra mile through livingTSOGO Moments, which is a peer-based recognition and reward programme.

2018 Trend Prediction for the local industry?

The future is definitely looking brighter and I believe the market will become more buoyant and the economy will turn.

If you were going to teach a college course, what course would you teach? 

Coaching and mentoring, because I really believe in its value in the workplace. Experience shouldn’t be taken for granted. Given the longevity of our business, and how many of our people have been in the business for more than 20 years, there is tremendous value in the knowledge they have amassed over the years. I have personally benefited greatly from having mentors, and I’ve attended a coaching and mentoring course, and would welcome the opportunity to impart the value.

What leader or leaders do you look up to and why? 

Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi. They were both great leaders of their time and made an enormous difference in their country, communities and the world. The characteristic they shared and will be remembered for is their humility, which I believe is an important trait in a good leader. They commanded respect because of the way they treated others, and that’s the leader I aspire to be.

What’s one assumption people make about you that is dead wrong?

My wife tells me that when people meet me for the first time I can come across as unapproachable – until I start talking.

Who is your mentor/s and what recent challenge/s have you sought their advice for?

Dr Cheick Modibo Diarra. He worked for NASA and was the chairman of Microsoft Africa. Although he doesn’t live in South Africa we’re very close. He helped me transition into my new role and become comfortable in my position through his advice of taking a step back and taking a helicopter view. I value his opinion enormously; he has helped shape me into a better leader.

If you could go back and give your 21-year old self a valuable piece of advice, what would you say? 

Don’t be lazy. In my younger days when I was finding my way, I was happy to just get by without putting in much effort. I only realised in my late 20s that I’m an entrepreneurial person and if I’d been more focused there is so much more I could have achieved in my 20s.

As you think about your career, who is a team member you had a huge impact on and what are they doing today as a result of your leadership?

The aspect of my job that gives me the most satisfaction is seeing people realise their potential, and I’ve been privileged to watch a number of my team grow to become leaders in their own right.

If you could work on solving any problem in the world, what one problem would it be? 

I would eliminate crime in our society. The safety of our women and children is of the utmost importance.

What is your leadership philosophy? 

Empower people to do their jobs and to take responsibility for what they do. A leader is not there to do every job; their job is to hire the right people, give them the right tools and empower them.

What specific mental, physical, emotional and/or spiritual activities do you engage in to keep yourself operating at your optimum level? 

I go to gym four to five times a week, play golf and I’m an avid reader; I keep abreast of everything going on around me, and I enjoy reading the Business Day, business books and novels.

What are you learning right now?

To be patient. It’s something I’ve been working on all my life. I’m learning as every day goes by that not everyone works at your pace.

Favourite Inspirational Business Quote

It’s a quote by Steve Jobs: “Management is about persuading people to do things they do not want to do, while leadership is about inspiring people to do things they never thought they could.” That’s how you get the best out of people.