Nonduduzo “Muke” Khanyile (previously Kheswa), the managing director of TKN Incorporated, together with her business partners, Thami Tembe and Madoda Nxumalo, service a range of corporate, government and private clients from the firm’s premises in Florida Road.
Khanyile and her team won the overall Entrepreneur of the Year award at the gala event.
TKN Incorporated was formed in 2012 after the three partners had worked for attorney Mvuseni Ngubane, the founder of Ngubane & Partners, for more than 10 years.
Khanyile obtained an LLB degree from the University of KwaZulu-Natal as well as an LLM degree and a certificate in business management. She was admitted as a conveyancer in 2001, although she has focused on civil litigation serving corporate clients. Her first job was with Mngadi and Partners in Empangeni where she did her articles. She then briefly worked for a law firm in Pietermaritzburg before joining Ngubane & Partners as a attorney junior (now known as a junior associate) in 1998.
Ngubane offered her and her business partners partnerships in 2002, and she took up the role of chief operating officer. The business employed 11 staff, including the four directors.
When Ngubane committed suicide in 2012, Khanyile “by default” took the reins to pick up the pieces and lead the business. Her partners voted her in as managing director and supported her in the role.
“There was no succession plan. We were taken off guard. Mr Ngubane was my mentor and a father figure,” she said.
“I introduced systems and then re-engineered the business as a whole. I got external HR experts and we built a strategy to re-engineer the whole business, from treating it as just a law firm to become a business that offers legal services,” Khanyile said.
“The re-engineering was also focused on changing the clientele. Until 2012 our big client was the Road Accident Fund, we were the panel attorneys, but we wanted to do more corporate work,” Khanyile said.
Over the years the firm has managed to grow its client base to 95% corporate work, including for government entities such as Sars, district municipalities, the Industrial Development Corporation, and Transnet.
Khanyile said that as part of the firm’s business plan it achieved a major goal when it bought a building in Florida Road where its 20 staff are now based.
On receiving the award, Khanyile said it had been a “humbling” experience: “We have had a very tough road, but we had perseverance and with the strategy that we developed we made sure that first prize was to put the resources that we earned back into the business.”
Khanyile was the first chairwoman of the Attorneys Fidelity Fund, now known as the Legal Practitioners Fidelity Fund, from 2015 to 2017. She is currently the vice-chairwoman and only female executive committee member.
“The industry is still male dominated. I have made sure that as one of the very few women-led law firms I have a strong bias towards women. Six of 10 of our professional staff are women because I needed to bring some balance,” she said.