By Charndré Emma Kippie
Mercia Jansen, Motul Area Manager for Southern, Eastern Africa and Indian Oceans, was drawn to studying chemistry because of all the subjects she considered, it seemed to offer the greatest potential for combining practical skills and working with others. Studying chemistry proved to be a fortuitous choice, as it has led to a rewarding career in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). While others may consider her a trailblazer in what is still sometimes seen as a male-dominated space, Jansen didn’t set out to change the oil and lubricant industry. Instead, she is happiest when she is judged on her performance and achievements.
Prior to joining Motul in her current role in May 2017, Mercia worked in the chemical raw material distribution business for various local and global companies, in the financial services sector and as an entrepreneur, running her own business. In all these roles, she deepened her knowledge of regional chemicals and logistics industries in the region – knowledge which she has continued to build on and use to great effect at Motul.
Her subsequent career has enabled Mercia to follow her passion – as a keen motorcyclist and self-confessed ‘petrolhead’, Mercia can be found in the saddle most weekends. Her work and her hobbies dovetail perfectly, and she’s equally committed to both.
What challenges have you faced in your current role?
The region I look after includes southern and eastern Africa and the Indian Ocean islands. It’s a part of the world that has seen more than its fair share or turmoil down the years, with currency issues, regulatory changes, counterfeit issues, and changes in management at distributors necessitating strategic pivots. Being adaptable has helped me overcome these challenges. Then there’s the fact that South Africa is a mature market with many competitors, so it’s not easy to penetrate and it takes constant innovation, imagination and commitment to build the resilience that’s needed to succeed.
What have been your greatest achievements in your current role?
With Motul having identified Africa, including South Africa, as a key focus of long-term growth strategy, there was a need to enhance the support we offer to our distributors in sub-Saharan Africa better, both now and into the future. Motul’s first step was setting up a branch office in 2016. Helping to incorporate a subsidiary, opening a Distribution Centre in Johannesburg with warehousing in all four main hubs and now an office in the Western Cape, are some of my greatest achievements, as these steps addressed past supply issues and accelerated regional expansion. Motul South Africa has also continued to grow despite the challenges of the pandemic, including expanding its local recruitment and creating new employment and upskilling opportunities.
Can you tell us about a moment that sums up the spirit of Motul for you?
The company’s response to the 2020 coronavirus crisis continues to sum up the spirit of Motul for me. Motul has lived its value of togetherness through internal initiatives and campaigns to support the staff and their well-being, as well as external initiatives to support our customers and partners worldwide. We’re proving that we can be Stronger Together, and #bettertogether – no matter what challenges we face. Motul also continues to innovate, with the launch of the new Motul 300V range and the Motul App being prime examples.
The continued growth of Motul in sub-Saharan Africa is a remarkable achievement in these very uncertain times. Can you share some tips or insights on how you have managed to grow your team, keep them motivated and manage the impact of the pandemic on the business and on individual team members and suppliers?
Continually adapting. I attended a webinar by Erik Kruger on mind shifts during this pandemic, and his insights into the importance of working on the best possible inputs you can make in the current situation really struck a chord with me.
I found his ideas about encoding the now, changing the way we do things to fit the situation, to be really powerful. As a company, we have been continuously reinventing and adapting to changing situations. We have stayed focused on the action steps we need to take towards growth and developing rather than merely surviving.
It’s important to understand what challenges each employee, each customer and each partner is facing and working on solutions to make their world a better place. As a team, we celebrate the victories and support each other through the defeats. And we never forget to still have fun – even when fun has had to be redefined as well.
It’s been challenging for the team not to be able to travel and visit our customers in other countries or even provinces, or to go to events to spend time with our partners and share the Motul spirit. So it has become even more important to keep that spirit alive within the restrictions in different ways. We have worked on many initiatives to stay engaged with each other and our customers.
What gives you hope/cause for optimism in the current circumstances?
How resilient people are – especially in South Africa. We are survivors, and we come together when times are toughest. The way that communities rallied round to support each other in the aftermath of the recent unrest really showed South Africans at their best.
Based on your life experience and journey, what would you tell your younger self if you could travel back in time and meet her?
- To say ”no” more often (I still sometimes have to remind my current self to do this!)
- When I was younger I felt the need to prove myself and fit in. I did things I didn’t want to because I felt that was what people and society expected of me. I spent a great deal of time trying to please other people rather than doing what I needed to do for myself to feel fulfilled.
- Not to sweat the small stuff. Looking back now at some of the “small stuff” that stole my joy and caused me stress at the time, almost all of it seems insignificant. Ask yourself if it will be remembered or even matter in 5 years’ time and if it won’t, then move on.
- Don’t be scared to fail. Just learn from every bump in the road. That’s how we grow.
- Value every moment with family and friends. Life can change overnight.
- Ask the questions. Don’t assume everybody else knows everything. If you don’t understand then ask and if you need help, ask. More often than not, there are several people in the room very grateful you asked the question as they also wanted to know the answer or need assistance too. This is definitely the best way to learn.
What has been your most exciting moment watching a Motul-sponsored event or athlete?
I’ve always enjoyed watching Motul-sponsored events – Motul athletes are like family, and we all take immense pride in their achievements. As a lifelong MotoGP fan, I was thrilled to attend MotoGP Le Mans when I’d just joined the company and then MotoGP Valencia in 2019. The experience was even more rewarding as a proud partner as well as a fan.
Closer to home, seeing Motul branding in the Maloti Mountains during the Motul Roof of Africa is always a special moment for me. Painting the mountains of Lesotho red in support of our dedicated Motul athletes gives me a real sense of pride. However, it’s almost impossible to single out events as to this day I feel huge pride every time I am at any Motul-sponsored event or see a Motul Athlete compete. They’ve become family, and I share in all the emotions of their successes and occasional setbacks.
What would you like to do when the weather warms up and restrictions are further eased?
It’s hard to imagine life with fewer restrictions. But the one thing I really miss is attending picnic concerts with friends in beautiful green parks.
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