Change is the only constant in life
André le Roux, formerly Crabtree’s regional sales manager: Gauteng, Free State and KwaZulu-Natal, started 2017 in his new position as general manager: marketing and sales at Crabtree. André is one of those down-to-earth guys who enjoys what he does and does it well while keeping his finger on the pulse of the electrical industry.
André is a team player and he knows only too well the value of a united team that is motivated by shared goals and backed by strong leadership.
Sparks: Where were you educated?
ALR: I matriculated at Carletonville High School and went to Wits Technicon where I obtained a Diploma in Electrical Engineering.
Sparks: How long have you been involved in the electrical industry?
ALR: I’ve been in this industry for 10 years – six of those at Crabtree.
Sparks: When and where did you start your career?
ALR: I started my career in 1995 as an onsetter on Western Deep Levels gold mine, currently known as Anglo Gold Ashanti.
Sparks: What are the greatest changes you have seen over the years?
ALR: I’d say the most significant change I’ve seen has been the gradual disappearance of local manufacturers as cheap imports have made locally manufactured products seem expensive. At Crabtree, a major advancement has been the new 164-2 16 Amp Slimline socket, which Crabtree has actually been producing for over 16 years.
Sparks: What major projects have you worked on and what is your greatest accomplishment?
ALR: A major project has been the launch of the 6 Amp Click Duo product together with Radiant, which Crabtree manufactures. Undoubtedly, the most recent project – as well as the most challenging – has been Crabtree’s ‘divorce’ from Aberdare. This meant a dynamic effort from the new management team as well as every staff member within Crabtree in order to get the right message out to our customers.
Sparks: Who has been your inspiration or have you had a mentor who has influenced your career?
ALR: I’ve had a few mentors and each has added something special to my career’s learning curve: Graham Chick, Pierre Nothard and, more recently, James Calmeyer, Chad Andrews, Doug Craig and Gary Venter.
Sparks: What, to your mind, are the biggest challenges facing the industry at this time?
ALR: There are a couple of challenges in the industry; as I see it, these are meaningful communication and inferior imported electrical products.
The first is a result of the current state of the economy, which has seen wholesalers minimising stock levels while, at the same time, electrical contractors are not holding as much stock as they have done in the past. The electrical contractor expects to find everything on the wholesalers’ shelves and the knock-on effect is that wholesalers expect the manufacturers to maintain a constant supply of every product. I believe that meaningful communication between all the parties involved will alleviate delays from manufacturer to end-user.
Inferior imported products are a major issue in the electrical industry: Contractors want to get the job, do it as cheaply as possible and get out. It all seems to be about price with very few people selling the features and benefits of their excellent workmanship and the high quality products they install. It seems that the man on the street doesn’t care too much whether a cheap or quality product is installed.
Sparks: What do you enjoy most about your job?
ALR: Definitely the people. We all work towards a common goal and we all have fun along the way.
Sparks: How do you motivate your staff?
ALR: I am probably one of the luckiest sales managers because Crabtree personnel are self-driven and know what has to be achieved. I give praise and promotion where it is due.
I don’t have to micro-manage the sales representatives and we all work together, whether it be at a tradeshow, a breakfast run or training evenings. I think what really motivates them the most is that I don’t sit in the office all day but go out with them.
Sparks: If you could ‘do it all again’, would you change anything? If so, what would that be?
ALR: I’m inclined to say that there are some things that I’d do differently, but when I sit back with a beer in my hand and really think about it, I am very happy with how my life has turned out.
Sparks: Would you advise a person leaving school to enter the electrical industry? And why?
ALR: If you are dedicated and willing to go the extra mile, there is definitely a great future in the electrical industry; and I highly recommend it as a career path, especially with the emergence of renewable energy products and projects.
Sparks: What is your advice to electrical contractors and/or electrical engineers?
ALR: Make time for sales representatives. They are not there to waste your time but to introduce a new product to you or to assist you with completing your project on time.
Upsell your skills, if someone is not willing to pay you what you are worth, don’t lower your standards by using cheap, inferior products.
Sparks: What is your favourite quote?
ALR: “Change is the only constant in life.” – Heraclitus. To me, this says that the faster you learn to adapt to change the better it will be for you.
Sparks: Name three things on your ‘bucket list’ (things you want to do before you ‘kick the bucket’).
ALR: I’m afraid of heights but I would really like to try out skydiving. I’m fascinated by the ancient Egyptians, Mayans and Greeks and I’d like to visit those civilisations’ ancient ruins in Egypt, Greece and Central America. Thirdly, I’d really like to learn how to enjoy fishing; I just can’t get over people sitting for hours looking at a fishing rod and basing their joy on a creature with a memory span of three seconds.