Ask Mike Kitshoff what pushing a wheelbarrow has to do with a holiday in Russia, and the story he shares is an inspiring one. As the branch manager for Stuttaford Van Lines’ Cape Town branch, Mike has a ‘secret recipe’ for his pristine branch’s success – a recipe that has seen him selected as one of the Group’s Top 12 managers worldwide, with a reward to match!
Considering everything that Mike has achieved in driving SVL Cape Town’s branch to market leadership, you may guess that the removals industry runs in his family.
In reality, however, 29 years ago he was working incredibly long hours at a well-known retailer. Applying on a whim to a job advertisement in a newspaper for a removals consultant, Mike was short-listed.
Regardless of his lack of familiarity with the industry – and the 300 other applicants – Mike secured the job and rapidly worked his way up through a number of removals brands and management roles. Four years ago SVL’s Cape Town branch relocated to its new premises in Epping 2, and Mike joined mid-2012 as Branch Manager to work his magic.
“I always remember Stuttaford Van Lines as the pinnacle of the removals business, because I sold against them for 27 years,” says Mike. “I know how to deal with the market, and believe that 50% of the business you see is going to move with Stuttafords anyway – you’ve just got the other 50% to convince.”
Rather than resting on that comfortable heritage, however, Mike has played an active role in transforming every aspect of SVL Cape Town. Right at the start, he recalls that entailed purchasing a wheelbarrow and personally clearing away left-over building rubble and weeds from the branch’s entrance, and hosing the driveway clean.
“Why did I do it? To show people I care, because if I care, everybody cares,” Mike explains. “If you can’t care for your own assets and building, how can you care for somebody else’s furniture?”
Incorporating that belief into his management, Mike still ensures that his car is the cleanest in the office parking lot, so that he can lead from the front and encourage all SVL’s truck drivers to keep their vehicles equally sparkling. It’s a similar story in the warehouse, with its gleaming floors.
In another unique touch, Mike also hung several framed artworks in a passage in SVL Cape Town’s warehouse, leading up to the section dedicated to crating Fine Art. “That shows that this is like home: we enjoy creating environments where people immediately feel comfortable,” he says.
In SVL Cape Town’s case that is more than an aesthetic goal: the branch needs to always be welcoming for impromptu visits by clients. Regardless where in the world they hail from, they always leave impressed by the order that Mike and his team have created in their small corner of Africa.
“All our staff – both old, new and the industry stalwarts I’ve hired to join me – are part of my success story,” Mike concludes. “The success of a branch like this is not just one person, it is everybody.”
Earlier this year it was announced that Mike had been selected as one of the Top 12 managers worldwide for 2013 in Stuttaford Van Lines’ group of companies, and they all united in Saint Petersburg (Russia’s second largest city) for a prize vacation between October 16 and 19.
“I’ve obviously been very flattered by the award, but will I work any harder to achieve it again?” asks Mike. “No, I’ll carry on exactly the same way that I have for years, because I believe that my recipe is a winning recipe and I won’t change it.”