When Mark Barnes announced he would take over as CEO of the SA Post Office, many questioned whether he had lost his marbles.
Barnes is a respected businessman, having served as deputy MD of Standard Merchant Bank, CEO of Brait SA Limited, and executive chairman of the Purple Group.
As a major shareholder in the JSE-listed Purple Group, Barnes did not take a job at the Post Office because he needed the money.
This raises the question: Why did he decide to lead the Post Office, considering it was fraught with financial mismanagement?
In fact, before Barnes took over, the situation was so bad the government put the enterprise under administration.
The reason is that Barnes wanted to make a difference and was willing to use his expertise to turn the organisation around.
Instead of sending in a CV for the job, Barnes submitted a business plan which showed how the government, business, and labour could work together to fix the Post Office.
He did not view the Post Office as another failed state-owned enterprise with unsurmountable problems, but rather as a great asset which could become a profitable company.
The first step for Barnes was to ensure the company grew, which gives its employees a reason to come to work and do a good job.
He believes the Post Office can compete effectively against private companies and is working to make this happen.
Over the past 21 months, Barnes has achieved a great deal to turn the institution around – as illustrated through the gains in its last financial year.
- Mail delivery standards improved by 12% to 73.6%.
- Audit Qualifications reduced by 60%.
- Labour stability was achieved, with no strike action which significantly affected operations.
- Loss before tax was reduced from R1.112 billion in 2016 to R959 million in 2017.
- The balance sheet position has improved to a positive net asset value of R1 billion.
- The Postbank opened 215,000 new customer accounts.
Barnes has also prepared the Post Office to help in all aspects of the social grants scheme, which will save the state money.
He has shown that one man can make a difference, even in a state-owned enterprise.