Janine Hills, Founder of Janine Hills Authentic Leadership

Janine Hills, Founder of Janine Hills Authentic Leadership

Nov 02, 2021

Tell us about how you got started.

For many years I worked in corporate and was privileged enough to have incredible leaders that took me under their wing and taught me tools of the trade which meant I learnt very thoroughly on the job. I moved through the hospitality and service industry for 10 years which taught me a lot about servant leadership.

I then moved into the telco space in the early days of telco’s being launched in South Africa and Africa then into banking, which I love and have a tremendous passion for. The banking sector creates freedom for leaders through financial services understanding.

After that segment I then moved into understanding football at Kaizer Chiefs. I kept acquiring skills, and when I was a commercial director at Prime Movie I was learning about legal. I then moved into eBucks and learnt about start-ups and how you grow businesses slowly in line with cash flow management and how to work with multiple brands as well as partnerships.

In doing that I was acquiring skills to ultimately one day open my own business, which plenty people always used to encourage. My own lack of self-esteem and my own personal lack of confidence didn’t allow me to do that. But in the insights were good as I needed to learn the disciplines of corporate.

One needs to learn how to manage finance effectively, the loopholes, things to do and things not to do. One needs to also understand HR, legal in HR and the labour law.

It was a long journey that took me 20 – 25 years to open my own business but that period gave me the best grounding to start up my own business.


What makes your company unique?

It’s based on experience and actual events and hard-earned painful lessons. The tough times, the good times and the mistakes, it’s a good mixture coming together, learning the lessons and being open to learning the lessons and not repeating the lessons. Being brave and courageous enough to say I have learnt lessons and I have built a business over a period of time. Am I now in the position to truly teach, share and grow leaders? The answer is yes. It’s a comfortable quality space and right now what we have a shortage of in Africa, is leadership. So yes, it’s very well learnt lessons and worthwhile learnt experiences.


No business is without setbacks, can you tell us about a time when you faced a significant setback and how you recovered from it?

2008 my business was 3 years old, and the first load shedding started, clients stopped finalizing contracts as the country was unstable and we didn’t know where we were going as a country at the time, it was an incredible difficult time. I sold my house because I couldn’t afford it, moved in with my partner at the time to save rent and save paying a bond. That lasted 3 years but it was to help save the business and ensure that the employees received their salaries and ensure that we carried on growing the company, I reduced my overheads.

In that time, we rented space in a very nice office block but we made sure that the costs were low. We kept our overheads low until we secured substantial contracts which we did in year 3, year 4 and year 5 as the stability of the company grew. What was incredibly difficult was the time where I lost my home to support the financial and stability of the business, I did it because I saw the end goal.

The other thing that was extremely difficult at the time was that I had not learnt the lesson of large contracts being invoiced, waiting for the money, having to pay SARS upfront and the client paying late. The balancing of those books was very difficult, and I made those mistakes, subsequently I have learnt those lessons. Don’t invoice until you know the client is able to pay right there and then especially if its large contracts.


How do you define success and to what do you attribute your success?

There are two things here, personal success and company success.

Personal success is when you are in the position that you are not chasing business each day, you are comfortable with your mandate that you have set out to achieve. It’s about having balance in your life of work and life balance where you can give back to your family, society and communities.

Company success is when your brand is exceptionally recognised, respected and your brand and business attract quality business and quality clients. Where you can charge for your worth and you don’t have financial bad payers. That’s when you have a business that is successful.

What's next for your business, what will it look like in 5 years?

The big thing for me isr business in Africa, South Africa and Internationally and for reputation management to be truly understood and respected. I believe this could still be achieved in the next 5 years.

For our leaders that join us in our leadership programmes, for each one one of them to excel in their desired dreams and visions. To achieve quality of work with quality clients that truly uplifts society, that helps build South Africa and Africa’s reputation and enhances the unity of Africa and the perception of Africa’s worth to the world.


What do you think the future holds for Africa-focused entrepreneurs and advice do you have for entrepreneurs who are just starting out?

Be an expert at what you are doing but make sure you acknowledge what your strengths and weaknesses are. Make sure you surround yourself with the best, with people that know more than you do, specifically in aspects of the business that you are not an expert in.

Ensure that you are dealing with people that you can trust and grow with you and are prepared to cry with you during the tough times and celebrate with you during the happy times.

Be realistic in your goal setting. Don’t chase the money, chase the vision. The money will come. Be fastidious at managing detail and contracts, deliverables on contracts. Often what happens is finance is invoicing but the team is not delivering and then the client holds up payment and this can sometimes be an issue in an organisation. So, what you promise is what you must deliver.


Owning a business while balancing a personal life can be challenging; how do you take care of yourself?

It is extremely challenging because being an entrepreneur your boss is no longer your corporate boss; your boss now becomes your client. Your costing to your clients is very important as the clients need to know what they are paying for.

Employ people around you that can sustain the business, allowing you to step out for that hour, half day or even that week but never hand over your banking to anyone else and ensure that there are always two signatories at any given time.

What is your favorite quote or mantra?  What keeps you going?

"When you go high, I go low" – Michelle Obama.  

What is your favorite app or a business tool that you can't live without

My smart phone.