Goscor Access Rental is blazing the way for women in a traditionally male-dominated industry. Excelling at maintaining long-term client relationships and customer service, in addition to sales, the ‘women of access’ are helping the company reach new heights.
Durban Branch Manager Shirly Smit joined Goscor Access Rental in 2013, taking up the challenge of launching a successful branch in KwaZulu-Natal. This required her to relocate from Alberton in Gauteng to Durban, a particularly daunting prospect at the time. “There was no office as yet when I joined, with a paltry four machines on hire,” Smit recalls.
She and her team knuckled down, securing the new Makro development in Amanzimtoti as their first project, which saw an incredible 17 units deployed on-site. However, this was only the beginning, with Smit ultimately growing the rental fleet in KwaZulu-Natal to a staggering 182 units in only four years.
“I am motivated whenever I see a machine leave our yard to go out on rental,” she comments. However, underpinning this spectacular growth has been a singular commitment to offering superlative customer service and technical back-up. Smit maintains that this has been key to ensuring Goscor Access Rental has the leading edge in this competitive sector.
This commitment has resulted in memorable moments, such as Smit recounting getting onto a machine and driving it around, “in front of an audience of men, with their mouths hanging open.” While knowing your product and ‘talking the talk’ is vital, “being prepared to drive the machines and understand the basic operational and technical functioning is as important.”
Smit stresses: “You must be prepared to get your hands dirty.” She personally drives every single unit whenever the opportunity presents itself, an achievement that has garnered her much respect among her male colleagues.
“My service technician taught me the basics, while I conducted my own handover training. I off-loaded and on-loaded machines onto trucks. I learnt about the engine and hydraulics, and also how to disable and enable a machine,” Smit explains. “Learn about your product and know what you are talking about. Do not go out there looking pretty, and thinking that therefore you will get the business.”
Smit points out that there are definite career paths for women in the access-equipment industry, including positions such as Sales Executives, Branch Managers, and even Sales Managers – all traditional male roles. “It would be very difficult for me to find an industry that is as exciting and as versatile as the access-equipment industry. I personally believe we have only touched the tip of the iceberg with regard to access rental in South Africa.”
Another woman blazing a distinct trail in Goscor Access Rental, and the access-equipment industry itself, is Johannesburg-based Sales Executive Sthembile Khoza. She joined the inaugural Forklift Division in 2008, and saw it develop into the modern Goscor Access Rental company it is today. “When I started, I was the only female in the group. I answered the phone, completed quotations, did follow-ups, and attended to breakdowns.”
This knack for multi-tasking eventually saw Khoza employed as a Rental Controller, overseeing the general business and even contracts. Here she discovered her abiding passion, namely sales. “I am a people’s person first and foremost. Sales really has little to do with the product itself, as the customer must first buy into the brand and the total solution you are able to offer.”
Khoza adds that she while she loves the physical challenge of her job, she has not compromised on being a woman. “My nails are always done, even when I am wearing a hardhat. I love going to site and being part of that environment.”
What is particularly satisfying for Khoza is watching men transform from open skepticism as to her capabilities as a woman to genuine respect when they hear her talk about Goscor Access Rental and its culture of service excellence and quality products. “Being a woman does mean you have to work harder at that initial conversation, but as soon as you have demonstrated that you know what you are talking about, you have them eating out of your hand,” she says proudly.
Khoza has been instrumental in exploring and developing new market opportunities for Goscor Access Rental, with 20 units deployed at the Rand Show at Nasrec in Johannesburg last year – the company’s first foray into the events and exhibitions sector. Since that initial resounding success, she has developed this part of the business into a significant contributor to the bottom line.
Her message to women wanting to follow a similar career trajectory is simple: “Get rid of the fear. You can do it. It always looks intimidating from the outside, because men do not want you in their space. Whatever you want to achieve, go for it. I think men have been too comfortable for too long running the show in these types of industries. The advent of women has definitely shaken things up, and is helping to generate a new dynamic. We are here to stay,” Khoza concludes.