CEO interview: Ushering in an innovative and technologically savvy leadership approach at Corobrik

by Madelein
CEO interview:   Ushering in an innovative and technologically savvy leadership approach at Corobrik

Nick Booth is a man of vision and action, and his coming out of retirement (which lasted only two months) to breathe new life into a well-respected South African brand has the industry sitting up and taking note.

Corobrik has been in business for the past 120 years and could not have asked for a more experienced and passionate leader to help navigate them into a new era of growth and technological advancement.

Nick has been responsible for a number of company success stories over his illustrious career at some of the country’s key players in the building supply industry. Editor in Chief, Marlene van Rooyen, had the privilege to sit down with him to discuss his role as Chief Executive Officer, his vision and how he aims to elevate Corobrik to new heights amidst these challenging times.

Visioneering a 120-year-old company

MVR: Nick, you have a clear vision for Corobrik, what is that?

Nick: Corobrik has been our country’s foremost supplier of bricks for as long as I can remember, but the post-Covid-19 landscape and the world have seen unprecedented changes no one could have foreseen. To ensure that Corobrik remains a trusted brand, the first major part of my vision is to modernise both the manufacturing and support operations to meet global standards.

MVR: You have introduced new manufacturing technologies. We’ll cover that in more detail in future, but tell us a little about that.

Nick: The older factories, which have been in existence for a number of years, will see a focus on modernisation, combined with a brand-new face-brick facility (Kwastina) that will feature the latest technology from Germany. This will improve operational excellence and efficiencies and includes:
• Two new kiln facilities
• Robotics
• Automated packaging from loading to customer, therefore no human intervention

The new facility will also demand a rethink in approach to the clay processing and internal standards of process control.

Breaking down silos and behavioural change management

MVR: There have been changes at Corobrik. How have you navigated these changes and the change management from a leadership perspective?

Nick: For me, the biggest change has been on the people side, as I believe that just as the technology and processes need modernisation, so too does the company’s organisational structures. A key driver of the change is doing away with old pyramid-type reporting structures and removing inefficiencies, which is done by collapsing structures and allowing employees the necessary empowerment and flexibility to ensure that the quality and rate of communication across the company is improved.

I firmly believe that a leader needs to be part of the daily operations of the company and not housed somewhere at “head office”, which is why I instituted the cultural change so that “HQ” is where I am operating from for that day or week. This further flattens the structure and allows me to interact with all levels of employees to gain insight and feedback on performance, morale and understand where change is needed.

For instance, it should no longer take days to get any authorisation. Corobrik should become a paperless organisation by 2024, speeding up delivery and improving customer service, both of which I am very passionate about.

Servant leadership drives accountability

MVR: Tell us about our leadership style and who you admire as a leader?

Nick: The best leadership quality is someone who leads by example, creating the culture and philosophy that he/she seeks by donating energy to their people, empowering them to focus their energy on customer service, high-quality products and on-time delivery.

Earning respect is particularly important with the younger generation, which means that a title does not automatically garner respect. It should be earned, which can only happen when as a leader you display the behaviour and attitude that you are advocating in other words “You have to walk the talk”.

The man I most respect is Gianni Ravazzotti the Chairman of the Italtile Group. This man has the unique ability to understand both the high-level strategic vision as well as see intricate detail needed to implement the vision. This balance of vision with detail is what I admire most and hope to bring to my new role, as so often implementation of the strategy is where things fall flat.

Navigating difficult and challenging times

MVR: We’ve seen very challenging times the past 18 months. How do you navigate that?

Nick: Being able to see beyond the impact of Covid-19 and support your team through the challenges requires resilience. You also have to be sensitive and not make crazy demands on people who are tired and insecure. I feel that offering employees internal stability and security will allow them to focus on the importance of their customer relationships, and that it is all I expect from them for now.

We have a good story to share with all our stakeholders, and everyone will soon see how we are geared to catapult the growth of our people, market, products and company culture. This is a brand new chapter in South Africa’s leading brick manufacturer’s story, and it is going to be a really good one. Watch this space!

Quick-fire 7: get to know Nick

  1. What is your favourite book?
    Lord of the Rings, which I was introduced to by my English school teacher, and which I have read numerous times during my life.
  2. Your favourite tipple?
    Any good Shiraz, and South Africa has some really sumptuous reds.
  3. What was your first job?
    Production Trainee at Corobrik – so I have come the full circle, it seems.
  4. Most used app?
    WhatsApp and my banking app.
  5. Favourite cheat meal?
    Peri-peri chicken giblets and chips with lots of salt and vinegar.
  6. Three words that mean success to you?
    Making a positive contribution while being content, happy and patient (I am still working on the patience).
  7. How do you motivate your team?
    You can’t flip a switch in someone – all you can do is to create an environment where people question, challenge and push themselves to achieve success.

We wish Nick all the best in his new role and will watch with keen interest how his vision unfolds.

For more information, contact Corobrik:
Tel: +27 (11) 871 8600
Website: www.corobrik.co.za

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