Charlotte Middleton, Associate, Arup and JA South Africa Alumnus 1985
Set realistic expectations that you can delivery on time, at the right price, with the right quality.
“I was at Northcliff High School in Johannesburg and I remember participating in the programme during my Std. 8 year (or Grade 10 as it’s now called). The company that we formed was called ‘Ear ‘Ear and we made earrings. One of my favourite parts was sourcing the raw material which we all did together.
“From my perspective there were a few key learnings which have served me well throughout my career:
– Set realistic expectations that you can deliver on time, at the right price, with the right quality. Make sure that your supply can meet demand. Our marketing team were excellent and they created a big demand for the product which then our production team had a very hard time fulfilling.
As I have progressed in my career I have found this can be a problem in many companies – marketing overselling to the client and the production/delivery team being unable to meet that expectation – with blame being the natural next step and an unhappy customer at the end of the day. We swapped roles for a week (marketing taking over production) and it resulted in far better understanding and a more realistic team that went out selling the following week.
– Finding the balance between the actual worth of a product, and the customer’s perception of worth. I have been involved in the marketing of artwork in my career and the customer often does not know (or care) how many hours it took to create a product. Always make sure that you are factoring in your time as well as materials and packaging to ensure you have a profitable product to take to market.
– Sometimes, other people have better ideas, or do things better than you can – and that’s okay. This has been a tough one for me to learn and I still find it difficult to delegate. I have had to learn that just because someone approaches work in a different way to you doesn’t make it wrong or less effective. It is just different and if you can embrace that difference you will have a happy team, and happy teams produce great work!”
Middleton is an Associate with Arup (Consulting Engineers) and the Marketing and Communications Manager for the Southern Africa region. She possesses a wealth of experience in communication and marketing strategy work together with a strong understanding of sustainability as it pertains to the business environment. In this capacity she also heads up the Southern Africa Sustainability Task Force for Arup.
After running her own successful communication consultancy for over eight years, Middleton joined the National Business Initiative in 1999, ultimately heading up the Sustainable Futures Unit and the communications division; ensuring that the NBI engaged member companies to help them develop frameworks for understanding, improving, measuring and communicating the role of their business in society.
She led the partnership between the NBI and the World Business Council on Sustainable Development and built relationships with the South African government Departments of Environment & Tourism and of Minerals & Energy. This latter partnership led to the drawing up and signing of an Energy Efficiency Accord between government and business. Her contribution to this was recognised at the 2006 ETA Awards where she was joint winner of the Woman in Industry category.
Middleton was one of three editors of a special African edition of the Journal for Corporate Citizenship in 2005 (Greenleaf Publishing, UK); and, with the same team, has published a book on Corporate Citizenship in Africa (Greenleaf Publishing, UK). The journal has been made prescribed reading for a number of business schools in Europe.