Have you been enjoying the pieces we been sharing with you thus far? Well as promised from the previous article, we are excited to share today’s piece all the way from our Copperbelt, Kitwe branch, the story of Mr. Gilbert Mfuya – General Manager.

Have you ever wondered how certain personalities fear challenges making them feel nothing can be achieved? Well, this article is more pragmatic because it takes a leader to have both inspiration and good solid traits to lead a team to greater heights. This interview was different in a sense that it was more balanced as the interviewee shared more about his professional, personal, social, Faith and family. This is how Mr. Mfuya briefly shared about his experience at Toyota Zambia.   

“Thanks Faith Nawakwi for according me this opportunity to share my Toyota Story. I joined Toyota Zambia in 2002 as Information Systems Manager from Lonrho Group and played a significant role in redesigning and transforming the IT infrastructure at Toyota Zambia for improved business performance and operational efficiency. This project gave me better understanding of Toyota ‘s corporate vision and growth strategies and further enhanced my interest and knowledge of Automotive business operations which began during the time I worked for Lonrho Zambia Plc. Did you even know about the brand name Lonrho Zambia Plc? (as he smiles). Well that will be a story to tell after we done with this interview. I was awarded best Information Technology Manager, three years after joining Toyota Zambia, which was quiet an exciting experience for me.  The competition was tough as I was amongst employees from Toyota Tsusho Corporation (TTC) distributors in Africa under the Discovery Award program for effective design, management and delivery of projects and IT services. Coincidentally, this is the year I decided to change my career path to taste the waters of being in Sales and marketing. I made this decision to better contribute to Toyota’s core business and to know more about our external customer needs and how the business operates away from the IT services.

Fortunately, there was an opening in October 2005 for the position of New Vehicle Sales Manager in Lusaka. Even though this was highly competitive with seasoned industry experts competing for the Job, I took a leap of faith and applied for the position. What gave me confidence was my people management skills, knowledge of automotive business (which I have always loved), related market environment, which I wanted to use and explore to reach higher heights. Yes, I do love to push myself and turn the impossibilities to possibilities.  My educational background span from finance, project and business management. My base qualifications is in computer science and mathematics. Fast forward, I got the Job after several rounds of interviews, you can just imagine how elated I was, yet my mind was telling me that I was up for challenging times. Again positive energies kicked in, as it was time for a different change of wind in my personal life.  I have since marked the year 2005 as a career turning point, for I had to define a new trajectory in my exciting journey at Toyota Zambia.

Managing the Sales team came with its own challenges at the beginning. Nevertheless, the right environment of trust and respect for one another was created which gave birth to a team spirit environment. As a team we became alive with improved interaction and communication, great ideas began to flow. I further supported and filled the role of National Sales & Marketing as there was no one at that time in that position.  Faith, I will tell you that with unity of purpose, we pushed for sales growth to achieve our targets as a team. The collective effort paid off with the admission of Toyota Zambia into the Toyota Tsusho Corporation (TTC) 1000 club membership for selling over 1,000 units for the first time in Zambia.

In March 2009, I was promoted to head a totally new portfolio of “New Business Development and Growth” with a primary objective of infrastructure development and Organisation Process improvement. This portfolio required strong collaborative and engagement efforts with various internal and external stake holders for successful feasibility studies, evaluation, approvals and efficient projects implementation. Some of the notable achievements in the three years I served in this portfolio include:     

  • Feasibility study for the establishment of Non-Automotive business in Zambia.
  • Establishment of a flag ship facility in Lusaka (Nangwenya Toyota), Aftersales facility in Livingstone and upgrading the Copperbelt Toyota facility.
  • Migration of Enterprise Resource Application from Automate system to a more robust and dynamic system, SAP DBM.
  • Feasibility studies for Toyota foot print expansion in selected provincial centres, namely Chipata, Mansa, Kasama, Solwezi and Mongu and the eventual appointment of Authorised Service centres (ASC’s) in Chipata and Kasama.

I was later appointed as head of the Corporate Affairs Department in 2012. This was yet another exciting shift from project based activities to corporate governance, branding, retail concepts, including Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) under our shareholder theme of growing together with the community. During this tenure, we carried out various CSR activities which were related to education, health, safety and environmental sustainability. To achieve care for customer principle under customer relations, we established a centralised call centre to effectively track customer experience, complaints resolution.

Truthfully speaking Ms. Nawakwi, I have had a fair share of challenges which I believe you well know that no one is immune to the latter, such as team resistance to change and their affinity to the status quo and other minor things. However, change is inevitable. As a leader with a good number of years of experience, I have come to understand that motivation is easier to achieve while change of mind set takes one to lead the way. I believe in my team and expecteveryone to do right thing and push positive energies in the same direction, team potential is unlocked and the resultant competitive force is unmatched.    

Let’s go back to how Toyota Zambia has groomed me, 2015 I was promoted to my current position of General Manager Copperbelt, Kitwe branch. This has given me an all-round experience in dealer management over the last 5 years. You asked for 30 minutes, this has been two and half hours already, what else would you like me to share? (as he laughs). I am very approachable down to earth person, married to a beautiful wife Jacqueline. God has indeed been gracious enough to bless us with four (4) children, two boys and two girls. I try to balance time, however life experience has taught me that sometimes you need to sacrifice a portion of time, whether at work or home, to deliver on a corporate objective with support and understanding of family. Not easy but doable. With regards to my interests and hobbies, I enjoy reading innovative and management books.  At times when am just trying to relax, I end up occasionally attending golf day events, playing the game of chess or watching football. Above all, I am a Christian hence always have time for God. I have really enjoyed my networking within the Toyota Zambia family and still is enjoying. My dear, car dealership business is very detailed and require accuracy and trust elements in the delivery of service. Any compromise results in unhappy customer! Hence the need for continuous improvement in order to have ‘always happy customers’. I can only advice young ladies and gentlemen to exercise patience, develop a strong foundation on which to anchor their career ambitions. Furthermore, seek knowledge and understanding rather than immediate financial rewards. These principle tenets can help fulfil their dreams.

It’s a brief interview Faith, my journey at Toyota Zambia has been and still is exciting, challenging and yet rewarding.”

This has been an awesome interview from Mr. Mfuya. Our next article will be more like a twist of tales. No preambles,  just stay tuned and look forward to the next piece.