Meet the boss: Candice Parker, Sales Director at Nashua Eastern Cape

BY TAI CHISHAKWE - AUGUST 5, 2016

East London-born Candice Parker has worked her way up to become one of the Eastern Cape’s top businesswomen – winning the Corporate category of the Businesswomen’s Association of Port Elizabeth (BWA) Investec Regional Business Achiever Awards (RBAA) in June.  

After spending her early childhood in East London, in 1988, she relocated to Port Elizabeth with her family, after her father had been transferred from the Daily Dispatch to the Herald.

She then attended Clarendon Park Primary and Matriculated at Victoria Park High school in the city before enrolling at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) for a BCom degree, majoring in Industrial Phycology in 1999.

It was during that year that Candice realised that her passion lay with people, sales and marketing and decided to enrol at the then-PE Technikon for a sales and marketing diploma. 

Shortly afterwards, she was offered a junior sales position at a local Port Elizabeth company and “eager to start working and become independent” she put her studies on hold and entered ‘working world’ at the age of 19.

Business Link magazine (BL) recently chatted to her (CP) and this is what we found out.

BL: Again, congratulations on your recent BWA award; what does this award mean to you?

CP: I feel extremely honoured to have received this award. The BWA is a prestigious organisation and I find myself amongst woman that I have looked up to since entering the working world. 

To have been selected as a winner all these years later is definitely one of the proudest achievements in my life.  The judging was tough but fair and I found myself challenged and whether I won in the end of not, the journey was a definite one of personal growth. 

I consider myself a person, who has set myself goals in my life and ensured that I worked hard and aligned myself with causes and people that I believe in and that in turn believed in me. I am extremely proud of what I have achieved, but to have also been publically recognised for this, I hope inspires others to be assured that no matter what their goals might be, that with hard work and dedication, they are within reach.

BL: How did you end up at Nashua?

CP: Given my passion for people and the need to be financially independent, I continued waitressing in the evenings whilst being employed full time. I simply loved meeting new people and over the years developed wonderful relationships with the owners and patrons at the restaurant at which I worked. 

It was during one of these evenings that I served two of Nashua’s directors, the sales manager and their wives. Halfway through their meal, they mentioned to me that my service to them had been excellent and I was handed their business cards and told to contact them the next day as they had a sales position that they would like to offer me.

I recall being extremely nervous as at this stage I had only had 9 months sales experience but after meeting with them and receiving the assurance that I would have their support, I decided to accept their offer and have never looked back. I started with Nashua in September 2000.

BL: What have been some of the highlights in your career to date?

CP: Two years after starting at Nashua, and at the age of 22, I was awarded the Employee of the Year award at our annual end of year function. This is an award that usually went to someone in a managerial position and I remember feeling overwhelmed with pride when it was awarded to me. 

I recall my MD saying that I was an employee that was always positive and friendly and walked around with a constant smile on my face and was a true asset to Nashua. I believe that receiving this recognition so early in my career played a definitive role in my determination to succeed and add value to this company that had placed its belief in me.

In 2011, I was promoted to the General Sales Manager of the department, which was a position that I had worked towards and really enjoyed the new challenges that the role presented.  I believe that my experience as a sales consultant equipped me well in leading the team.

And finally, in October 2015, I was appointed as the Sales Director and a shareholder of the company.  I am one of only two female directors in the country and also the youngest. 

My entire career at Nashua has been a highlight for me and I believe that receiving the recognition mentioned above is merely a product of the passion that I have had for my company and brand.

BL: What would you say was the best or worst business advice that you have ever received?

CP: Shortly after receiving my directorship, someone said to me that now that I am in this position I no longer need to attend to the ‘trivial’ aspects of my sales department and should leave this to someone else.

I strongly disagreed with this as I believe my strength as a leader has always been that I entrench myself in every task that faces my sales team and lead by example. I consider myself an enabler and my priority as their leader is to ensure that I enable them to be the best that they can be. No matter what position I find myself in, we are a team and they are confident in my on-going support and that that no matter how small or insignificant their challenge may seem that we’ll face it together.

The best advice I ever received was to surround myself with people that are smarter than me. When placed in a position of leadership it could be intimidating to have staff or fellow management who are more experienced, older or have more expertise than you. 

However, I am only as strong as my team and their commitment to our common goal and therefore I receive no greater joy than seeing someone climb the corporate ladder. I have realised that just because you have been recognised as a leader, it doesn’t mean you are expected to have all the knowledge and therefore empowering and promoting my staff gives me the greatest satisfaction.

BL: Tell us more about your work at Nashua?

CP: I lead the sales department and am responsible for 52% of the company’s turnover. I have two divisions under my control, namely the consumables and hardware sales division which combined comprises of 17 staff members. 

Nashua is a leading player in the office automation market and no two days at the office are the same.

My best time is spent out of the office in front of clients, both existing and prospective and at least half of my day is spent this way, accompanying the sales consultants. I ensure that I am always available for assistance to my team as they are my focus which often means that I am at the office at 6am and work after hours at home to ensure that I also stay ahead of my personal work commitments.

BL: How would you describe your leadership style?

CP: I believe in a mentoring approach and earning the respect of my team. Having being a sales consultant myself, offers me perfect insight into ‘their world’ and challenges and my expectations are fair and realistic. I measure my success based solely on theirs and dedicate my time to ensuring that they are always enabled to be the best that they can be.

BL: What is it that separates Nashua PE from the other players in your industry in our region?

CP: In the very competitive Information Technology market and one that is constantly evolving Nashua ensures that it stays ahead of the time.  An example of this is the launch of Nashua Communications many years ago and an extensive PABX and VOIP offering in conjunction with our wide range of printers and multifunctional products. 

This recently evolved into virtual telecommunication solutions which has taken the market by storm. We pride ourselves on offering a solution and not a product and welcome our customers business challenges so that we may find a suitable solution. Our range also includes surveillance and Time and attendance products, a complete consumables department and professional print and copy shop.  Nashua is also the only Company in our industry in Port Elizabeth that has achieved our ISO 9001 accreditation.

In addition to the above, I do believe that without the dedication and commitment of our team of 65 staff members that Nashua would never be as successful as it is and this is the main factor that separates us from other players in our industry. It is quite obvious when dealing with someone from Nashua that there is an underlying passion for our brand found in everyone and nothing less than 100% customer satisfaction is accepted.

BL: What are some of the challenges that you think women executives are facing locally?

CP: I believe that the main challenge that woman in business face is the constant struggle between their home and work life balance. In my opinion, corporate South Africa has evolved and has recognised that woman have an equal place in business next to their male counterparts. However, maternity benefits and flexibility for working parents still leaves a lot to be desired by many companies and places a huge amount of pressure on woman.

BL: What can government and the other stakeholders do to help women in business overcome these?

CP: A greater level of importance needs to be given to working parents, allowing them the flexibility to have a successful career and not be limited in any way by the need for them to still want to be involved in their children’s lives.

It is my belief that offering employees this flexibility is arguably higher on their list of employee satisfaction than financial remuneration. It is always my priority for my staff to have accountability and take responsibility for their positions but also for me to be aware that they have lives outside of the work place and allowing them time off work to enjoy their children’s school or extra mural commitments is a priority to me. Staff retention is often high on an employer’s list of key areas that needs to be addressed, and by adopting this kind of attitude often employee loyalty goes hand in hand.

BL: When you are out of the office, where are we most likely to find you?

CP: During working hours, if I am out of the office, you will find me in front of existing of prospective Nashua clients with my sales staff. Without our loyal clients, Nashua would not be the leading service provider it is and I feel that it is important for them to always receive that personal contact from our management team.

Accompanying my sales team to client meetings is also, in my opinion, the best form of training and it gives me great satisfaction when I see their confidence increasing and the fact that I can be present and part of their successes in business.

Before my household wakes up, you’ll find me at the gym, I believe a healthy body goes hand in hand with a healthy mind.

However, my time with my husband and three children is my most valuable time and with our busy work schedules, we ensure that our evenings and week-ends are spent enjoying time with each other.

BL: As a working woman, how do you juggle the office and your family?

CP: I am a mother of three beautiful children namely Hannah, who is 11 years old; Luke (7 years) and Josh (4 years old). I am an extremely well organised person. 

My fridge has lists and weekly schedules constantly stuck to the front of it! I have learnt to seriously multi-task and also plan well in advance. But I don’t believe it would be possible without my support system.

Firstly my husband, a very successful attorney in his own right, is my right-hand person and together we support each other with our children and running of our home. I am also blessed with the most dedicated domestic worker who has been a part of our family for  seven and a half years and who I would be completely lost without.

I also have both my mom and mom-in law living in Port Elizabeth and they are always a phone call away to assist when I require it.  We lead extremely busy lives but I have always believed that I can have it all and am so grateful to have the support by everyone to enable me to have achieved this.

BL: What advice would you give to other women in business out there?

CP: It doesn’t matter if you are a man or woman, good old fashioned hard work and commitment is the secret to success.  There are no short cuts and one needs to set clearly defined goals for themselves.

To climb the corporate ladder means putting in extra effort in the years leading up to this time in all aspects of your organisation. Get as involved as you can and volunteer your time and energy wherever is required. You need to ensure that you stand out as being dependable and someone with insight as to what it takes for an organisation to be successful. I was always very mindful of ensuring that the value I added to Nashua, over and above my job’s responsibility, could not easily be replaced.

BL: What do you think or hope will be your legacy, one day when you leave Nashua?

CP: It is the success and growth of my staff that ultimately drives me and that I measure my success based upon. Therefore my greatest wish is that when I leave Nashua I will leave it with a management team comprising of the young staff members that I am blessed to have part of my team today and for those that chose to leave and move on to other companies to have achieved the same success.

May they grow as business people and ultimately be rewarded for their hard work, passion and dedication in the same manner that I was. If I could walk away and hear them say that because I believed in them they are where they are today, that would be my ultimate success.