HARARE – The Daily News on Sunday recently caught up with new Highlanders chief executive officer Nhlanhla Bahlangene Dube to talk about some of the issues affecting the club. Find below excerpts from the interview.
Q: Tell us briefly about your life at Highlanders?
A: My association and relationship with Highlanders is as old as the story itself. I have been within and without Highlanders for a very long time. I was a club representative in a nonelected space in Harare. Gradually I became part of the functional aspect of the team. Way back in the early 90s just after university. Subsequently I was elected in to the Harare Supporter’s Association now called the Harare Chapter.
When the opportunity came I was nominated to be a committee member. I was based in Harare. I learnt quite a lot, worked with very sharp administrators. I suppose I got a grooming there. Later, I was elected club secretary.
Q: Why did you decide to come and be the CEO?
A: When the opportunity availed itself for me to come at Highlanders as the head of secretariat, I just thought it was an opportunity and challenge I couldn’t miss.
My belief is that we are at a time as a club where we are finally coming face to face with the need for us to be brave and cooperative ourselves.
Bearing in mind that Highlanders has been going through an evolution and transformation, though a lot of people might not know about it. There are a lot of transformational activities at Highlanders. I think it has readied the club for this stage that we are at.
I think there is a lot of concentration on the fact that the club owes, the club has an uncomfortable level of indebtedness. It is not understood that the changing in various dynamics which affect the football world as driven by different aspects of the economy will lead a club like ours which is member driven to the situation that it finds itself in.
I think Highlanders saw it coming a long while ago and there has been a lot of resolutions pertaining to how long we should have contracts with players and that we should consistently be producing and exporting players.
That the sale of players is a revenue stream on its own and various other things.
We should look at our sale of replicas and merchandise. We are probably a way ahead of a lot of our other compatriots.
We started this long back. In 2004, we were already designing and importing merchandise and replicas from China.
That has grown now to a level where we are discussing issues of technical partnering with branded kit manufacturers. Now we are able to state in numbers what we do in replicas and merchandise sales.
For me it is the time to broadcast, unleash and start to mechanise a vision that has been involving within the walls of the club and make it public and share it so that we have a broad-based energy so that we can plug into various other institutions corporate and social to leverage the brand. Focus is partnering with like-minded value systems. Institutions that share the same principles as we do
Developmentally we are focused on creating a sporting identity that continues to lead as an institution. Basically, I think to me the evolution has got into a time where it is starting to smell like a revolution.
It is because of that and such that I have availed myself.
Q: What was in your briefcase that you had to offer the Highlanders CEO?
A: My toolkit is a combination of corporate experience and football administration but the greatest asset in my toolkit was the ability in my view to drive myself towards seeing things from a different perspective than the obvious.
The ability to clearly define and communicate the club’s vision. The ability to network and knock on doors, share ideas and leverage on the ideas for the strength of the club. That, dressed by my optimism and shear passion are the greatest assets that I think I have.
The love for what I do; the never say die spirit, the continuous learning, that for me is what I offer. We want to be consistent when it comes to clarity.
The picture is big; the distractions are always there when the picture is big. We want to look at all problems as challenges. The problems for us are opportunities to find answers. If we find correct answers then we find solutions.
Basically my net being is a good feet for a challenging space such as leading the secretariat of a club the size of our own.
Q: How was the challenge like of taking over from seasoned veteran administrator Ndumiso Gumede?
A: It’s progression. You can never compare two individuals. Our skill sets as individuals are different. Even equipped with the same skill sets, our very characters and talent will make us different. We will try and achieve the same things differently. It is worth noting that my first certificate in administration was achieved before I was voted into any office. When I was in Harare I spent a lot of time with Gumede.
He encouraged me in fact to take up administration and be certificated. I learnt tonnes from him and gradually I am growing. I still speak to him a lot. It’s a continuous conversation that Gumede and I have.
It’s not a comparison, it’s a collective effort and we are very comfortable in our conversation him being the teacher and I being the student. I am glad to be having someone like that to consistently reflect ideas and issues. Of course new ideas come and there is a bigger community out there also from whom I enjoy to tap and learn every day.
I believe that a good leader is the one that learns every day.
Q: How has been the situation like after taking over?
A: The institution has grown, the systems have changed and new systems have developed. The guys that have been manning the institution in their different capacities have done a lot of good work.
They have moved the institution forward in a lot of ways.
And you need to come back and relearn; that is what I have been doing. When I came back I went straight to the deep end. It’s been straight out planning and action at the same time. It’s been exciting and time consuming. Such is the requirement for the office.
Q: What’s your five-year plan as Highlanders, what are the targets and goals that you have set for yourself and the club?
A: We have a plan, my office works as an implementing office. I could have a lot of ideas that I put together which we discuss as a body and the implementation then starts.
The vision that I cast when we started in my view after my mandate was given, is basically to speak to our brand image, our brand communication so that it is attractive to potential partners. So that we are seen in a way, our values and principles are appreciated.
We have to been seen as a credible viable partner by marketing entities and corporates who want a brand extension opportunity via our partnership.
Creating and solidifying revenue streams that are there. Our replica and paraphernalia side of things.
Our development policy for our youth. How our youth teams should develop from an entry level at a tender age until they get to the first team?
How do we market our players?
Development and sale of players is a commercial activity. It’s a huge revenue stream. How do we do that and what are our targets?
There are other ideas. How do we converse with our fans?
How do we understand them, how do we know them, how do we incorporate their interests? What do we communicate to them, when and how? All things are very important.
There is a lot of institutional thinking that we are doing, processing and documentation. We are also at the same time doing a lot of application.
Q: What are the major challenges at Highlanders?
A: Our biggest challenge that we have as an institution is finding resources quickly enough. To be able to do a lot of things that we need to do. To drive the greening process of our club house. Bringing our club house or our training facilities to the level that we want them to be so that we can be a sporting centre of note. It’s a landmark. When you talk of Highlanders everyone must know that it is a sporting centre.
It’s where everyone must want to go if they want to see the best practice for what grounds should be like.
Challenges are finding answers quickly on how to financially resource ourselves to achieve and overcome whatever we want to.
There is a lot of hard work going on, smart work. We have set some smart goals and we hope that come end of the year we are very positive that we will be getting partnerships and that will be driving a lot of our grand ideas.
The challenges at Highlanders are as grand as its plans.