Executive profile: Emmanuel Sinclair, Chief Operations Officer

Emmanuel Sinclair, our chief operations officer, joined the South African Revenue Services (SARS) as a registration clerk, just after matriculating in 1992.

Never one to waste an opportunity, he used his eight years at the Receiver to complete several short courses (including a Tax Certificate, Advanced Tax Certificate, and an Advanced Diploma in Management Accounting).

By the time he left SARS for a small family-run bookkeeping firm, Emmanuel was a qualified auditor who had a number of special investigations at the fraud department under his belt.

Welcome to the big time

But, enticing as the smaller firm was, Emmanuel wanted to spread his wings further, so when an opportunity to join EY as a junior consultant came his way, he took it. It was then, in 2005, that his career really soared.

Emmanuel progressed through the ranks and eventually landed a strategic role supporting multinational organisations expanding into Africa.

Here, as the relationship manager for i-Pay, he developed a good rapport with CEO Thomas Pays, who was looking for a Chief Operations Officer. Emmanuel fitted the bill in terms of work ethic and the skills Thomas had in mind, and was offered the job.

From start-up to scale up

Having worked mainly in large organisations, Emmanuel was unaccustomed to the start-up culture of i-Pay, which at the time didn’t have things like key performance indicators for employees to work towards.

He confesses with a smile that he hadn’t counted on the fact that startups typically don’t come with a built-in structure – his role was to provide that structure, and the auditor in him wanted to do it quickly.

His first three months at i-Pay were focused on settling in to the culture, understanding the industry, and establishing a structure he was comfortable with, but that would still accommodate the entrepreneurial mindset of the founders.

Next, he spent time with the sales team to keep them more focused on their go-to-market strategy and create a more sustainable approach to customer engagement.

Since then, he has driven a culture in which the company hires senior management and mandates them to build their divisions in a way that aligns with i-Pay’s growth vision.

Nowadays, as i-Pay moves out of the start-up phase and scales up for the next 18 to 24 months, his daily focus is on getting the balance between skills and strategy right.

He believes that the best way to achieve success is through enthusiasm and determination, all essential qualities that will contribute to growing the business.

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