Linda Blackbeard ran her own interior design and hospitality businesses before taking up the task of CEO of the Randburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry (RCCI). Having started as a receptionist, she quickly moved through the ranks and gained experience in marketing, sales and function coordination with a large corporate and then two hotel groups. Her hospitality business took her to Zimbabwe, Botswana, Mozambique and Malawi.
Linda serves on a number of forums, including being an elected council member of the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SACCI).
Would it be correct to say that the area covered by the RCCI has some of the country’s most dynamic businesses?
The areas we cover are: Randburg, Sandton, Fourways, Lanseria and Midrand. These areas form the economic powerhouse of South Africa. I cannot stress strongly enough that the actual business hub of Sandton alone is responsible for decision-making (on signing powers and approval) of a large number of business transactions taking place across the country.
What are the key functions of the Chamber?
The key functions of the Chamber are primarily to promote business, to facilitate introductions, to be the voice of business in the municipal local and government levels, in defending business in areas of poor decision-making or unintended consequences of various acts that are passed.
What does the Chamber do to support SMMEs?
One of the Chamber’s main focus areas is the development of SMMEs, finding opportunities for them, business enhancement with regards to training, helping with business plans, company registrations, giving direction to ideas that entrepreneurs might have and actually building them up so that they can run businesses of their own. Teaching them to form joint ventures with other small businesses to actually grow and have an opportunity then to tender for works that may be available through City of Johannesburg. We promote our local businesses getting the work that needs to be done here. We are trying to focus on supporting businesses, especially our small businesses within our space.
Does the RCCI interact with the municipal government on issues relevant to business?
The Chamber is represented at the Johannesburg Business Forum, which is a platform to speak at a municipal level with regard to things like potholes, Pikitup, service delivery, electricity, power outages, etc. We also sit in the Community Policy Forum Committees and we are active partners on the committees of LDAC (Local Drug Action Committee), which is the local organisation driving crime prevention, so we look at all areas of safety and security for the people within the area.
Are your members drawn from very different sectors, or is there a concentration on types of businesses?
If you’re a registered business you need to be a member of the Chamber, there is no particular industry sector. As long as it’s a company and business with integrity and it is legal, we will support you and try to help you wherever we can.
Are there particular challenges?
There are challenges. Randburg Chamber is – for the age of the Chamber – not very well known. Our biggest battle is to create the awareness that we’re serious about wanting to help you, serious about moving you forward, connecting you, engaging on platforms that bring service to the businesses. By that I mean: are we sitting on the right committees? Are we connected to the right people at the City of Johannesburg? Are we dealing at the right levels of government? Do we have the correct connectivity to be able to assist you in the areas of your need?
These are questions we continually ask to improve our offering. Most of all it’s the members who need to dictate the integrity of our benefits list and not the people sitting in the chambers. The businesses out there need to tell us what their needs are. This way we can provide a better service for them.
What does the future hold?
With all the amazing initiatives planned and in the process of actioning – including our unique digital custom-designed Certificate of Origin programme for export – businesses and members can look forward to renewed focus, positive opportunities, and facilitation in the SADC region for business growth and opportunity. We are also proposing a name change to incorporate the very large area we now service.
Contact the Randburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry or visit www.rcci.co.za
Linda Blackbeard image courtesy of OCDMP, a division of Owondo Corporate.