On 1 May 2019, Sakkie Liebenberg, our current Group CEO will be handing over the reins to Cobus Barnard. Cobus has been the Supply Chain Director at PnP and has played a pivotal role in transforming the PnP Supply Chain into a world class operation.
We sat down with Cobus and asked him a few questions about himself, by way of introduction to the LiebenGroup.
Q. Tell us a little about your career and background.
A. I like to tell people that I was basically born in a shopping trolley! I started at Woolworths when I was 19, as a trainee manager, and I was there for 23 years in various positions, including managing stores for 10 years. I played a variety of roles, and by the time I left I was senior executive for franchise. I worked my way to the top.
I also spent some time at business schools in Stellenbosch and Switzerland, and when I moved to PnP 10 years ago, the small format stores didn’t exist at all – only the supermarkets and hypermarkets. So in my first year I established that format, but I only worked there for a year.
When I moved into supply chain, it was non-existent at PnP, and the team and I built it up over my time there. So everything we did, started off from a clean sheet of paper. We built everything from scratch.
Q. What challenges are you looking forward to in this position?
A. First, the LiebenGroup has a very good name, from the way it services customers to the quality of the work it delivers. So of course, I want to continue that very good foundation that Sakkie has laid over the years.
In terms of the value for money the group offers, and the way people work, I’d also like to continue with that, and even try to improve it if I can. Those foundations must be protected, and if we can improve on them even more, we will do that.
We need to be competitive through the quality of our people and the way we serve our customers.
Q. What appealed to you about this position?
A. Well, it’s a healthy business that is run exceptionally well, and I believe it presents great opportunity to grow. There are good people and a solid environment that people can thrive in. So I’d like to keep that core, but look for other opportunities. Is there an opportunity for diversification? That’s exciting for me.
There’s a nice springboard for diversification in what Sakkie has set up. That could mean other retailers, or even other industries.
Q. Where do you think the future of logistics lies?
A. If you look at the sheer number of trucks on the road, I think we’re going to have to get a lot smarter in terms of road transport and look at how to make that more productive and efficient. That could mean improved technology, amalgamation of transport companies and a different approach to driver management.
Q. When you are not at work, what is your favourite thing to do?
A. I’m an avid long-distance runner and a fisherman. And family is very important – my family comes first.
Q. Who is your personal role model and why?
A. My mother. We were a large family, and my mother brought us up as a single parent. Today we are all successful in both our families and our careers.
Q. Family values are very important at the LiebenGroup – how do you prioritise time with your own family?
A. I’m quite organised so I schedule my time carefully. That’s why I prefer running over other sport. You train in the early morning so there’s little impact on family time.
Q. What’s the biggest lesson you have learned in life?
A. When things are tough, that’s when you really have to knuckle down and work. Tough times give you even more reason to try. If I had believed what people told me they thought my limits were, I wouldn’t be here today, and I wouldn’t have achieved what I have. So believe in yourself, and go after it – especially when it’s difficult.