“I like solving problems, which is why I took this job. The deeper the crisis, the more I relish taking on the challenge,” Percy Raditladi tells me from across the table as we sit for an interview.
It is only a month and a half since he took on the job as the Botswana National Sports Council (BNSC) Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and it is quite clear he has hit the ground running.
While he had expected this to be a tough job, it is proving to be more than that. His phone rings incessantly in between our interview, with calls from the ministers to the permanent secretaries, BNSC board members to sporting codes, each with issues as varied as the callers themselves and ranging from stadiums to athletes welfare.
“It is the nature of the animal,” he says with regards to his new job.
As the new CEO of the trouble ridden BNSC, Raditladi seems unfazed by the task and the pressures that lie ahead of him as he takes to cleaning the mess at the BNSC and for sure there has been no grace period to ease him into his new job. Already in his short tenure, he has overseen the suspension of at least three BNSC employees on allegations of maladministration, among them former acting CEO Neo Chankuluba. These are tough calls and decisions to make, more especially if someone is still ‘new to the job,’ but decisions have to be made.
“This is one of the toughest jobs I have ever taken. I can safely say it is the second toughest job behind my two year stint as the head of G4S in Nigeria,” Raditladi explains. “If you are to be successful in this job, you have to make those kinds of decisions. When you take a job as big as this one of heading BNSC, you have to accept that pressure will be there from the start. But I have already been in similar situations and I am ready for it,” he explains.
To put this into perspective, Raditladi then narrates his experience as the head of G4S Nigeria. After accepting the offer to head what is one of the company’s largest operations in Africa, Raditladi says he had to hit the ground running. Three days into his new position, he faced a crisis when the G4S operations in the country came to a standstill as almost all the company’s workforce went on strike over salary related grievances.
“I had been there for only three days, and I was caught in the middle. It did not matter whether I was still new to the job, I had a crisis and had to solve it. I went out and had some negotiations with the employees and we eventually resolved the problem,” he explains.
This, he says, was just the tip of the iceberg. Fifteen days into his job, another crisis came. The company’s offices were being closed as the Nigerian authorities closed in on the company for tax evasion related problems. To top it all, during the whole process, Raditladi says, as the G4S head, he was arrested and was taken into custody, only to be released at a later stage on bail. Rather than quit then or move, he was determined to steer his ship to safety and he soldiered on. After a turbulent first year that saw the company encounter crisis after crisis while also registering losses in profits, Raditladi was left with no choice but to quit in the second year. However, as he puts it, this had nothing to do with failure or the crisis, but rather it was a matter of principle.
“I have a certain principled way of dealing with issues and I don’t compromise on principles. We had a disagreement on how to deal with some issues as I felt it was not the right way. When I refused to compromise on my principles, I was offered to go and head the Ghana operations but I could not do it. For me, it was Nigeria or nothing else because I relished the challenge and I believed I could turn the company’s fortunes around. When I felt it won’t be, I quit,” he explains.
It is this kind of steely determination, coupled with experience, that makes Raditladi confident he can turn around the fortunes of the BNSC and he is already pouring his energies and time into the job.
He The then lets me into his vision for his organisation, to see to it that it is a well-oiled machine that perfectly executes its mandate by the time he leaves the job. The challenge is daunting, there is pressure and the expectations are high. How does he plan to achieve this?
“Simple, all we have to do is get the small things right. If we try to fix the biggest problems, we won’t make it. It is the small problems, the small crisis that if left unsolved eventually turn into big crisis. If we solve these small issues, then we get to the core of the biggest crisis,” he says philosophically.
And if his word is anything to go by, the process has already begun. With the BNSC boasting of a good number of employees, Raditladi says a good start is for each of the organisation’s workforce to do his job, on time.
“Most of the crisis in this organisation has been due to people not executing their duties. This eventually led to the crisis we find ourselves in today. It is the same thing with most of the companies that go bankrupt, people not performing their duties as expected,” the new CEO explained. To ensure BNSC delivers, Raditladi says he will expect each of the employees to do their jobs and to be held accountable if not performing to expectation. To achieve this, all the employees of the BNSC, including the CEO are expected to put in the required working hours as well as to be efficient.
In the long term, Raditladi says he wants to see the sports council being partially self-sustaining rather than solely relying on the government. He says to achieve this; the BNSC has to cut spending and try to source funds from other channels for its daily administrative duties.
“We cannot be totally financially free from the government, but we can generate enough money from the land we have as well as our various facilities to use for our daily administration, including paying our workforce. This will, in turn, free a lot of money to go to the various sporting codes as well as to the athletes’ welfare,” he explains.
On the issue of spending, Raditladi said the BNSC has been paying inflated prices to suppliers in the past and this will be closely looked into. He says as such, the BNSC will seek only the right prices from suppliers to cut unnecessary expenses.
But whether he can achieve all this is yet to be seen, and the new CEO is aware he is walking a tight rope. He has already seen the politics that come with the job, and he is willing to take them head on.
“There is always a lot of political manoeuvring in this organisation and there is a lot of dishonesty. People will tell you they have done something while they know they have not done it. You hear a lot of people say they are doing it for sport or the love thereof, but that is not true. It is all about money, power and self-benefit. People look at what they can get and that is the bottom line,” he says without flinching.
On whether the fact that he has not been into sports will affect his job, Raditladi does not think so. For him, it is all about management of the BNSC and he believes he is the man capable of executing that mandate and his conviction is unwavering.