Managing Director of Matador
I matriculated in 1967 at Mansfield Boys High School in Durban and was Head Prefect that year. I joined Barclays Bank, Berea Road, Durban in December 1967 until I was called up for National Military Training in the June 1968 when I turned eighteen years of age. I spent one year doing the National Military Training in Pretoria and on returning home I resumed my duties at Barclays Bank.
I joined Marshall’s Refrigeration (Pty) Ltd in 1970 as a major apprentice where I learnt my trade. During this time I attended night school as part of the apprenticeship training to do my refrigeration theory knowledge. I was fortunate enough to have completed my major apprenticeship in the said time period and went on to do my Trade Test shortly thereafter. I worked mainly in the installation department on both refrigeration and air-conditioning and prepared the necessary materials from scratch to final completion for various size jobs/projects. My job entailed quite a bit of travelling to far away sites within the whole of RSA. I spent many months working on new fishing trawlers, 75ft & 95ft, where I had to build the fish blast freezing plants from scratch. This included building the refrigerated freezer hulls, throwing concrete floors in the hull, and the 6 cylinder diesel engines with power take-off for the compressor units. I worked side by side with all my fellow workers and helpers, and it gave me great pleasure to see them grow in experience from the onsite training that I took pride in teaching them. This meant that as a team we could get the job done more efficiently and at times reduce the time allotted to various jobs/projects.
In 1972 I married my wife Gabriele Smith (nee Friggens) and we had two sons, Simon and Matthew. I did not see much of my family nor my two boys growing up as I spent many days travelling, doing the jobs and in the evenings attending evening school to further my tertiary education. I learnt how to make a plan at times on the various sites, I learnt more about the practical side of both refrigeration and air-conditioning, and gained a World of experience through this. I also learnt how to manage staff and got the best out them by being respectful and a good listener. I was a great believer in that I did not ask someone to do something that I was not prepared to do or to do something that I could not do.
After a few years I joined Ted Surf Refrigeration and Johan’s Refrigeration both in Durban to gain more experience in both refrigeration and specialized air-conditioning. Here we engineered and designed the equipment for the printing of bank cheque books which entailed very close temperature and humidity control so as not to have the cheque book paper shrink or expand during the printing of the cheques. I soon found that I needed more challenges in the career path that I had chosen and needed to look to new horizons again.
I then took up a position as assistant engineer at the newly built Mega Watt Park business unit in Sunninghill JHB. My duties and job entailed looking after all the refrigeration as well as the air-conditioning plants throughout the building. While working here I enrolled to do my Government Ticket and while working, studied correspondence for this diploma. I only managed to do section A of the Government Ticket and consequently passed only two of the subjects out of four.
After a year I left Eskom and went to White River in the then Eastern Transvaal to start my own refrigeration business in a partnership with my wife’s uncle. The business was called Solar Refrigeration and covered both refrigeration and air-conditioning throughout the Lowveld.
I then sold the business to my older brother who had many years in the refrigeration industry and my family and I returned back to Durban.
I was offered a position to start from scratch the Matador Engineering Durban branch in July 1981 (the holding company was Columbit Group and the H/O was in CT and a branch in JHB). I was made the Durban branch manager and successfully grew this branch over approx. 7-8 years from a staff of 4 of us to, if I recall correctly approximately 25 staff. I was fortunate to have grown the branch financially from an approximate budget of R300k per annum when I started, to R8-9m per annum when I transferred to JHB. While in Durban I attended more evening classes and obtained various diplomas which would help me from a business point of view. This where my banking years of experience helped me to develop on the admin/financial side of the business. This was approximately 37 years ago when I started the Durban branch and started my full time career with Matador Engineering. During this time while I was in Durban, Matador started the manufacturing of the Hill cabinets under license to Hill Phoenix USA in CT which was called Colcab and soon this division of Matador grew into a very successful business.
I was transferred to JHB to run the JHB branch while at the same time I was involved with a management buyout of the company and the three stakeholders took over the company from Columbit Holdings and change the name to Matador Refrigeration (PTY) Ltd. I was made MD of Matador JHB and PTA. Likewise it took a lot to sort the problems out, but soon the JHB branch was working like a well-oiled machine. There was also a smaller branch in Pretoria that also fell under my control. It was a difficult task as the cultures of the work force in Durban were somewhat different to the work force cultures here in JHB. Nevertheless it was a challenge that I needed to resolve it, and soon I had things under control and the work force respecting the implementation of changes to the branches both in JHB and PTA. Very soon things were working like a charm, but what I did learn is that I had to keep my finger on the pulse at all times. We were able to satisfy our most valued customer refrigeration needs and thus turnover started to increase.
Matador was then sold out to the Corpgro Group. The new owners then removed Colcab as a division of Matador and made it a (PTY) Ltd company. I was made MD of Matador and after a short while joint MD which did not last very long as the joint MD left the company and went to Australia. After a while Corpgro realized that Matador per se did not fit into their financial portfolio and thus Brent Duffield, John Kritzinger and I bought Matador Refrigeration from Corpgro.
The rest is history and all three shareholders at the time were committed to growing and developing Matador refrigeration to where it is today. In the twenty years or so of owning Matador Refrigeration we have seen it grow into the great company that it is today. I am also equally proud to say that Matador will be 60 years old this year and that last year we received from GEA Bock GmbH company a trophy and acknowledgement for the 59 years as an international distributor partner with them. The closest that rivals with Matador has only 37 years as an international distributor.
Sadly my first wife passed away after almost 34 years together and I have remarried a lovely lady, Cheryl Smith (nee Green) of almost 10 years. In my opinion you have to find the right lady as your partner in our profession as there is no such thing as normal working hours or a normal life style. This industry that we serve in is very demanding, it weighs heavy on your family life, and you have to give it your all in order to survive. I was fortunate to have such understanding and loving ladies in my life.
I have learnt so much from this industry as well as from our staff, and have seen many changes over the 48 years that I have served in this industry, and it has been worth it every step of the way. I will still carry on learning every day more and more from my fellow colleges and workmates. I still would like to share and impart my knowledge that I have learnt over the many years with my fellow colleges and workmates as well as still learn from them as they develop and grow.
I owe most of the company’s success to the staff, employees of Matador as they are the real backbone of the company. What I have learnt over the years is that if you treat people with respect and give them the time of day, they will give you complete dedication. They are truly a credit to this great company called Matador.
“Together we stand united, alone we are divided”