It's safe to say that Mark Barnes is the ultimate optimist. The head of the South African Post Office oozes confidence and charm in equal measure.
Having come from a successful career in the financial sector, his move to the Post Office not only raised a few eyebrows but also had some industrial captains spitting out their cognac. Barnes however is unfazed and speaks with a steely determination.
So why the Post Office ?
"Imagine if it works," he says. And that summed him up right at the start. Barnes sees the Post Office in a very different way to that of average South Africans or businesses. He has vision.
"At the Post Office we are about finding solutions. Imagine what it could be. It is an organisation that has fantastic infrastructure and more clients than any other business in this country. If we combine a strong business culture with our constitutional mandate then we will have the winning formula," says Barnes.
And it is that culture that Barnes has started to change with fair success. According to him, although there are still many complaints, they have managed to reduce customer complaints by about 60 percent. In addition, international mail services had increased by double figures.
"We have lots of logical debates when charting the way forward for the organisation. Management is also more visible now. We visit Post Offices and get a feel for the operation at a very base level. I must admit there is a different anticipation in the organisation now," said Barnes.
He has also been vocal around the Post Offices ability to solve the SASSA grants crisis. Something he believes should be undertaken by the organisation.
"We went through a rigourous test to determine whether we were able to fulfil that mandate and we found that we can indeed do it. We have the capacity to do it and if you have capacity then you save money. The Post Office is a government entity, so why should we be sending these contracts elsewhere when we have the capacity ourselves," he said.
Barnes was also bullish about the 'Post Office of the future'. He sees the organisation playing a much broader role.
"Even with the advent of technology, there still needs to be physical delivery. You can order anything online but it still has to be delivered to you. Thats the space the Post Office can play in. I see the Post Office being a place where you can go in and apply for student loans and buy funeral plans and provide a wide variety of financial services," said Barnes.
He was also clear about how he sees the Post Office's revenue streams changing particularly with a new focus on e-commerce.
" I see our revenue streams being split equally between e-commerce,mails services and financial services. We are not a monopoly anymore. We have competition and we need to be in a position to compete," he said.
With the frenetic pace of the Post Office and the demands of turning around such a legacy South African institution, Barnes seizes the opportunity to slow down when ever he can.
“I have a small place on the coast that I go down to whenever I can and wonder around like a hippie. It just nice to sometimes spend some time alone and obviously some time with the family is always welcome.”
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