JOHANNESBURG - Belinda Francis is the founder and managing director of Tych Business Solutions, a generalist recruitment service provider, with 21 permanent staff (20 who are female) and 200 contract employees.
Francis founded her business in June 2009 a month after she was retrenched from a 9-5 job.
Francis confesses says she has always had an entrepreneurial drive and a winner’s mentality. “I always believed I could make things happen,” says Francis.
From a young age, she says, she would sell ice blocks, make popcorn, stage concerts and “anything just to have my own little business going” in her birthplace, Wentworth, Durban.
Francis's mother was a factory worker who encouraged her youngest daughter to pursue her entrepreneurial ambitions.
To raise the money to eventually start her business one day, Francis decided to look for employment, little knowing that the job she would finally secure in the recruitment industry in 1994 would lead her success as a business owner years later.
She worked for two leading companies in the recruitment business. But Francis was passed over for promotions that she believed that she had earned and subsequently retrenched in May 2009.
“My background was in recruitment, which I started in 1994. I found my passion when I started in the recruitment industry. When I was retrenched, there wasn’t much of a retrenchment package, but just over a month’s salary and the company’s laptop, which I had worked to earn, worth roughly R2500,” says Francis.
With no start-up capital, in June 2009, she started Tych, the name of which is made up of the first two letters of her children, Tyra and Chloe.
“When I started I was only doing office support. I started my business in my home, in the South of Durban,” she says.
Francis says her family thought she was crazy to start a business in the recruitment business during a period of recession.
The economy at that time was in bad shape due to the contagion from the collapse of the US sub-prime industry, which led to a global meltdown and a job bloodbath worldwide.
South Africa was caught in the fallout. It too was hit by widespread retrenchments and job losses.
But Francis says she wanted more from life than just to be a statistic of the unemployment rate.
“The only way to do it was to go into business on my own,” says Francis.
“It was the most trying time because it was a recession. I was very disciplined. I kept my expenses as low as possible and looked for a gap in the market where I could try and increase revenue for my business,” says Francis.
She says every morning she would dress up in a sharp business suit to look the part and to keep her spirits up. It was important to feel confident about her credibility with clients, even though Francis's office, for which she paid rent to her ex-husband for the space, was at the back of their yard at their home in Durban. She says, “I live by the motto: get up, dress up sharp and never give up.”
Her success up to now, she says is largely due to what she calls, “my crazy work ethic”. But she has had to be business savvy and manage her business carefully.
Aggressive marketing, fearlessness and sales acumen were instrumental to the growth of Tych in the early start-up years during which most small businesses fold.
She says, “I would spend 80 percent of my day on the phone cold calling. I did back flips for clients and was available 24-7. I also made sure clients got the best candidates and looked at what I could do differently as a business.”
Francis revised her pricing to make her services more competitive to secure an advantage over competitors.
She says although she has tried hiring men in her company, she quickly realised why the recruitment was driven mostly by women: it is a business model where employees need to have high competence in multitasking, which women have and with which men struggle.
She, therefore, began to apply a deliberate strategy to hire far more females than males.
Francis believes it was the right path to follow.
As a 100% black female-owned firm she can make a real difference to women empowerment in the workplace.
“In the country, women were left behind. We need to empower and develop women, in the workplace as well.”
If you give women an opportunity, they will soon make good on it, Francis believes as she had proved this on personal journey and made good on them with the success of Tych.
Tych now had offices in Durban, Eastern Cape and Gauteng and next year Francis plans to expand her operations to the Western Cape, where she will create a division dedicated to the recruitment of people with disabilities (PWDs).
She also plans to expand internationally and establish another office in the Middle East, -in either the United Arab Emirates or Qatar - about which she says discussions are at an advanced stage.
She says her life principle is simple: “I wake up every morning believing I can, that today is a new day, and it’s going to be awesome. You choose to be successful or unsuccessful, because of what you believe.”