Lynette David is the Customer Services Manager for HEINEKEN South Africa. As we sit down to the interview she explains that she’s had a full day of performance reviews. “Things at this company are exciting, dynamic and challenging.” she explains. “You can never predict how your day is going to go!”
HEINEKEN is a newly established company in South Africa and they want to do things better. “My goal is to stretch myself, learn more and achieve more.” She mentions that HEINEKEN has 5 behaviours that they instil in their employees. The first one is Safety First. “Being in an office environment makes it a little more challenging to create an awareness and a new safety culture, but there are a few ‘out of the ordinary’ ideas that we have to push this agenda and use for educating the young, ambitious Customer Service team to keep safe. As a company that sells alcohol, we take responsible drinking very seriously. We need to constantly engage with the teams to ‘bring it closer to home’ – this topic is sometimes difficult to talk about, but it is vital to safety. We have to keep things exciting and fresh!” The second behaviour is Act as an Entrepreneur. Lynette explains, “That means that you have to act as if it is your own company, and make decisions that are good for the business.”
The next behaviour is Keep it Simple. “Not always an easy thing to do!” she laughs. “We also focus on improving things constantly. That means using what we’ve learned from other industries and applying the best of what we see.” The fourth behaviour is about collaboration, which makes up a big part of her job. “It’s about relationships,” she says. “We trust each other and work as a collaborative team to keep the customer happy, to ultimately make the sale! It’s all about maintaining those stakeholder relationships, both internally and externally!” The last behaviour is Learn to Improve and Lynette has found ways to make it relevant to herself and her team, in terms of constantly raising the bar and stretching targets.
Challenging herself is a theme that comes up often in our conversation. Lynette’s career has been defined by this drive to learn more and achieve more. “I started as a Store Clerk,” she laughs at the memory. “I handed out dust masks and safety shoes. It gave me a good understanding of how an operational environment works.” Getting bored quickly in this role, she looked for an opportunity to learn more, and moved into inbound and outbound stock management. After a stint in reception, which gave her an appreciation of what it means to be the face of the company, she started focusing on customer relationships. “I polished up on my social skills, and focused on how the energy I brought to the conversation can impact the outcome.”
She went on to study Finance and took responsibility for the Cash Books and thereafter the Accounts Receivable of the company. The company had names like Toyota, BHP Aluminium and Tata in their stable and this gave Lynette the opportunity to engage with customers and suppliers in depth. She is proud of the fact that her efforts lead to an increase in efficiency around outstanding invoices.
Her next career move was to East Coast Radio in Durban. “I managed Credit Control for them,” she remembers. “I basically had to ask customers to pay up in a nice way!” She loved the sense of fun and high energy at the company.
From radio she moved to Natal Portland Cement as Logistics Assistant. While doing her degree in Supply Chain she learned what she could about operations. “This was a turning point in my career – I thrived in the manufacturing environment. I loved understanding the process end-to-end and getting involved in the practical aspects of supply chain. This understanding can be applied anywhere and it has stood me in good stead.”
Her next job at CHEP, a manufacturer of pallets and crates, gave her the opportunity to manage her own budget and focus on the profitability of various products. Her responsibilities included managing a wide network of stakeholders, suppliers and customers and again she excelled at building strong relationships.
As Supply Planning Manager with Arysta Life Sciences she faced a particular challenge: setting up a supply chain function from scratch. “I managed to use my diverse experience very well in this role,” Lynette says. “I understood the distribution process, as well as a complex production function and managed to facilitate the implementation of an ERP system in a company that very quickly grew into a multi-national. Customer service was part of supply chain, and I moved into the role of Customer Services Manager. My strong background in supply chain helped me to bridge the gap between operations and customers in an efficient way.”
After a couple of years Lynette moved to Henkel as Customer Services Manager. Her 18 month stint at this multi-national gave her a great insight into managing complexity and diversity within a global market. She joined HEINEKEN in January 2016 and had carte blanche to set up a new team within the customer services space. It, again, provided her the opportunity to stretch herself and learn new skills.
The person that had the greatest influence on her development was the Supply Chain Director at Arysta. “He gave me the opportunity to prove myself. He coached and guided me to be the best I can be. I also learned to speak up for myself, to be strong and bold. And to always aim high.” She remembers.
To my question on what she does over weekends, her eyes sparkle. “I love spending time with my family. My two boys keep me busy. I love watching cartoons with them. We watched Trolls the other day – it was so cute! I’m also finishing off my MBA, it’s just the dissertation that’s still outstanding.” Lynette loves to cook and her speciality is beef roast with roasted potatoes and butternut. “I’m also good at a layered biryani, a family favourite.”
Where does she see herself in ten years, I ask. Lynette turns pensive. “I’d like to have done my doctorate degree by then,” she says. “And job-wise be in a position that allows me to have a big-picture view of the organisation. I love seeing how the pieces fit together.”
If you had to choose a superpower, I ask, what would it be? Lynette chuckles and responds: “Wow, that’s a difficult one. I think I’d choose Omnilinguilism. It’s the ability to understand any form of language – I could travel around the world and never have to worry about a language barrier. I can only imagine the exciting stories and experiences that I would have and most of all the ability to actually connect with people from all walks of life – with no limitations – that would be awesome!”