• Turning point

    Pam du Plessis, MD of Invincible Valves, believes in a hands-on and inclusive style of management to draw the best results from her team

    Turning point

    ‘Love what you do, and remember that you are entitled to nothing. If you want it, you must earn it,’ says Pam du Plessis, speaking about the corporate culture at Invincible Valves – the Gauteng-based supplier of valve products and ancillary equipment that has been thriving under her leadership.

    ‘With this culture we are able to create opportunities for staff on an ongoing basis,’ says Du Plessis, who took over the reigns as MD in 2013. ‘In my opinion, a good leader is someone who has a great understanding of the operations; who is emotionally intelligent enough to make those hard decisions; displays empathy; has a vision; and is able to get buy-in from all team members.

    ‘My style is my own and has been referred to as a “new-age” management system, whereby we have leaders with teams of no more than five members in order to be able to identify with each and every person on a daily basis.’ Du Plessis adds that, first and foremost, all new employees are hired according to their cultural fit.

    ‘The transition to this culture was fairly easy as existing staff were counselled and shown that their input and efforts are ever-so-important to the success of the business. We run a “family-values” system to assist one another to work together as a team. Our education and upliftment programmes help in achieving goals, and our recognition programme celebrates achievements.’

    Having the correct cultural fit also applies to Invincible Valves’ agents, who serve as an extension of the business, says Du Plessis.

    ‘For us it is of great importance that our agents are in sync with our company operations. We operate in a transparent manner, which is a potential risk – therefore we need to work with people who we can trust and who in turn trust us.’

    Honesty, integrity and business ethics form a vital part of the core values, which the medium-sized firm strives to integrate into every single aspect of its operations. ‘Personally and professionally, I believe that impact across a broad spectrum is worth more than your bank balance, hence the reason we take great satisfaction in touching people’s lives and creating opportunities for them,’ says Du Plessis, who has become a role player in the male-dominated valve industry.

    She says the game changer for her was being honoured at 2017’s Enterprising Women of the Year Awards in Fort Lauderdale, US. ‘This life-time achievement award meant the world to me, as it recognised that I had made a global impact, and not only to the South African economy.’

    Although Du Plessis wasn’t particularly interested in valves when she joined the firm as an accountant in 2007, she says she connected with ‘the right people at the right time’ in her career. ‘My passion was for the company and its growth path – it was about making the business more efficient and streamlining the processes. In 2009, I was appointed financial director, which marked the point at which my love affair with the valve industry started, and it has grown stronger year-on-year.’

    Having worked in all areas of the business herself means that Du Plessis – who is very much a ‘hands-on’ leader – has in-depth knowledge of the operations. ‘This gives me the advantage of understanding the day-to-day challenges,’ she says. ‘Working through the processes and having a full understanding has most definitely been beneficial to both me and the business.’


    To the uninitiated, valves may seem a niche business but they are fundamental to many industries. Africa’s industrial valve market is expected to surpass US$4 billion by 2021, according to a recent report by TechSci Research.

    ‘Valves are used in mining, petrochemical, waterworks, construction, power generation, hospitals, schools and, of course, in our homes, where bathroom and kitchen taps are common valves that we use daily,’ according to Du Plessis. ‘The valve industry has a direct impact on any pipeline as well as metal dealers, foundries, pattern makers, warehousing and engineering shops, along with secondary areas of paint producers and rubber manufacturers.’

    Invincible Valves is one of the continent’s largest stockists of these items and even offers its own branded product range, called Inval. Weekly product instruction takes place at the company’s Inval training centre, which was recently opened on-site and also hosts courses on wellness and basic business skills.

    The firm offers training to its entire staff, including apprentices and interns, and it is open to welcoming outsiders for skills transfer sessions.

    Furthermore, there is daily instruction for employees taking part in South African Valve and Actuator Manufacturer Association courses. ‘At present, we are spending on average 80 man-hours per week in our training centre,’ according to Du Plessis. This highlights Invincible Valves’ strong commitment to education and skills development.

    By Silke Colquhoun