“Whenever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision” ~ Peter F Drucker
I only joined the Plus 94 team in February of this year, but even then, on my very first day, they were already talking about it. The company was celebrating its fifteenth year of success in the business realm and there was going to be a party. And not just any kind of party, this was going to be one of those “wear a dress for the first time since my matric dance, get shoes I will have to learn to walk in, borrow one of those tiny bags that you can’t really fit anything into and attempt to apply eye shadow” kind of party. To add to the excitement, it was going to be on a Thursday night, in winter and there would be no plus ones. If I don’t sound too excited, it’s probably because I wasn’t. You see, on top of my aversion to anything that might be even vaguely described as formal wear, I also suffer from what one might call a nervous disposition. And unknown, highly social situations without a plus one to cling to would probably be at the very top of my list of nerve inducing circumstances. But I put all of this to the back of my mind. After all, I was a newbie; I probably wouldn’t even be invited…
But then I got invited. As did everyone else who works for the company. And it turns out I wasn’t the only one with an impending sense of doom. Apparently nervous dispositions are quite common among researchers. As I was trying to think up the best possible way to excuse my inevitable absence without having to lie dreadfully, my plus one (who let’s face it was probably just looking forward to an uninterrupted night of Xbox and South Park) reminded me of something. The last work function I went to at my previous job was a bring and braai. The year before that we went to The Spur. This was an opportunity to be cherished, not scoffed at. I had finally arrived at the corporate ladder and if I had any ambitions of climbing it I would need to put my foot on this first rung. And so I dress shopped with purpose and got friends and family involved in the accessorising; but most of all I joked with my office mates about how utterly terrified we all were and ironically that began to create an atmosphere of relative ease. And then, after months of build-up; of guessing where the venue would be, of voting on who the MC should be, of sneakily watching auditions for the entertainment slots and of asking “do we really have to work the next morning?” the big day arrived. And a little bit of excitement was honing in on all of the trepidation.
When I arrived, I saw the sign for “Urban Tree” and lots of parked cars, but I couldn’t see an actual venue. Off to a great start. But then I was told that a shuttle bus would collect me. How exciting! A place so exclusive you couldn’t access it yourself, you had to be taken there. (I later found out that this was only because the parking at the venue itself was already full and so I had to be transported from my parking a block away, but anyway, at the time it felt quite glamorous!) Urban Tree is an exquisite venue! From the psychedelic tunnelled entrance through to the elegant mingling space and finally the chic, beautifully decorated dining area; it promised the five star night that the occasion deserved. I found some of my fellow “socially challenged” co-workers and as the master of ceremonies, Kaya FM’s Bob Mabena, adeptly opened proceedings I found I was almost breathing normally.
The night was blessed with so many excellent performances, I could write an individual post for each of them. The array of different dance styles performed throughout the night by the extremely talented artists from Wats in the Box Productions kept us all tapping our feet. Nicholas Maweni from the Black Management Forum gave us a lot to think about in terms of empowering ourselves and reminding us that empowerment in business is still not happening at the significant levels of management. We were treated to a jubilant performance from members of the choir from the Jabulani Welfare Centre in Soshanguve, a home that cares for children in distress and is at the forefront of Plus 94’s community work for social responsibility. Gloria Malindi, an Angel of Mercy of Soweto gave a heartfelt speech of thanks for the assistance she receives from Plus 94 for the incredible work that she does to uplift members of her community, particularly disadvantaged children. The CEO of SAMRA, Leonie Vorster, spoke of Sifiso Falala’s immense contribution to the market research industry in Southern Africa. And we had the unique and eclectic mix of music and spoken word that is The Collective Innuendos deliver their messages of hope, love and inspiration. But if I had to pick my three highlights from the evening (apart from the sumptuous food of course) this would be them…
I was lucky enough to have seen T-Squared – the tape dancing duo from Soweto – when they first auditioned at our offices to be part of the celebration. Very quiet and soft spoken young men, their features just come alive the second their toes start to tap. As Bob Mabena said, they make it look so easy, you just want to jump up alongside them and join in. They are two extremely talented young men and it was wonderful to see them given the chance to shine in front of a large crowd; certainly a highlight of the evening.
Sihlangule Siwisa; author, songwriter, aspirant filmmaker and MBA student at Rhodes Business School; shared an enlightening analogy of how we should continue to hold ourselves to a higher standard. I was enraptured as he spoke of how as long as you are continuing on an upward, ever ascending path, even if you fall, you will fall to your knees. From your knees, you can pause to reflect before getting up and pushing onward; onward and always upward. If your strength falters or you lose sight of your goals and find yourself on a downward spiral, you run the risk of falling head first into the ground – something from which you might never recover. With his words, Mr Siwisa perfectly captured the essence of Plus 94 Research. From its inception, Plus 94 has been a company in ascension. The leadership of Sifiso Falala has empowered the company and its employees with a sense of fortitude. With resilience and determination, Plus 94 will always aspire to more. We will always be moving onward and upward.
Plus 94 is very aware of its social responsibility and is conscious of the role that big business needs to play in the betterment of society. As such, in 2010 we decided to turn our efforts to one of the most fundamental areas of development and we sponsored a school in Soweto. Never shying away from a challenge, we chose to adopt Moletsani High School, who at the end of 2010 had the lowest matric pass rate in the region at only 27%. With a hands on approach we sought to motivate the learners by creating a prize giving ceremony where the top students in each subject per grade were awarded trophies and certificates. A range of mentors gave motivating talks to the students and opportunities for internships were offered to the highest achieving matriculants. Our involvement did not go unnoticed by the students and within only one year the pass rate had more than doubled to 60%. The school and its students have not looked back since. On Thursday night we had the privilege of having the Moletsani High School Choir perform at our anniversary celebration and they were amazing. The passion and natural flair that they displayed on stage is testament to what the youth of this country can achieve if they just know that someone believes in them and their abilities.
As SAMRA CEO Leonie Vorster so aptly pointed out, our founder and CEO, Mr Sifiso Falala is many things; a writer, a philosopher, a joker, an activist and a leader. And the best part is, when he walks into the room, you never know which one you’re going to get. During his address Mr Falala shared a wonderful anecdote of stopping at a petrol station and having a young man ask him how it would be possible for him to own a car as awesome as Mr Falala’s. Mr Falala’s message to the young man was that you can’t aspire to have what only the top 5% of the population have when you are working in the same way as 90% of the population. It is not enough to aspire to greatness, you need to be great. It is this attitude that brought Plus 94 Research from a fledgling concept into an industry contender in only 15 years. It was wonderful and inspiring to hear Mr Falala speak with passion and grace about what is in store for the next 15 years, and beyond.
As I look back on the night I have come to realise that it truly did encapsulate and epitomise everything that Plus 94 is and everything that we stand for. The evening was dynamic, constantly in motion with fast paced, energetic performances that gelled perfectly with the intellectually stimulating words from our guest speakers. And although we might have been dressed up, in a venue fit for a fairytale; every moment and every person there was authentically themselves. But not only did I have a surprisingly wonderful evening, I was also proud to discover that in coming to work at Plus 94 Research, I did not simply join a team; I joined a family. And also that going to work at 8:30 in the morning after a night of partying doesn’t suck quite so much when the place you work is Plus 94.