We are excited to introduce you to our new Management Couple at Morukuru Family Madikwe – Anne-Marie and Armand Steyn.
Give us a brief background of your career in the hospitality industry? We both started in the industry at Mabula (Limpopo) in 2007, Armand as a Trainee Guide and me as a Reservationist. We quickly moved to the Lowveld (Mpumalanga) where we spent about 6 years in and around the Kruger National Park. Armand mostly as a guide and myself as a Receptionist/Reservationist. In 2012 we decided to move back to the city, where I took a position as a Marketing Manager for a Hotel in Pretoria and Armand qualified in the motor industry (cars are his other big love besides nature). In 2015 we decided we had had enough of the city and moved to KZN where we assisted in opening a new lodge. In October 2015 we moved to Madikwe, Armand as a Head Guide and myself as a Junior Assistant Manager. In August 2018 we joined the Morukuru Family as a Management Couple, and exactly a year later we have been given this amazing opportunity as the General Managers!
Which challenges are you most looking forward to? This is such an outstanding lodge and we are committed to making Morukuru Family Madikwe even better. We are looking forward to introducing some new ideas and just getting everyone to have fun.
How important is mentorship … how do you mentor members of your team…tell us about some important influences in your own career? Mentorship is very important in this industry. We learn from other’s experience. Armand and I believe in leading by example, and also getting our hands dirty. We have both had some amazing mentors in our careers. People who have taught us the value of working with staff members and being a team player. Armand’s influential mentors have been Gerrit & Nicky Meyer (they were the GM’s at a lodge in the Kruger), they gave Armand his biggest opportunity to work and learn in the industry. Vicky Nel has had a huge impact on my professional life, as she taught me the value of staff and also believed in me as a person.
How do you evaluate success? By motivating and training staff. Keeping a positive attitude and by creating a dynamic work environment. We also encourage staff to come up with ideas. If they don’t work, we all learn from this and move on.
What inspired you to pursue a career in the hospitality industry
Anne-Marie: I realised very early on that I have a love for people and nature, and this industry gives me both. I enjoy dealing with people and making them happy. I also want to make a contribution by giving back for future generations.
Armand: My love for the outdoors and nature led me to realise that I want to be in the industry. I have always had a love for nature and wildlife, so this is the perfect career for me. I also like sharing knowledge with people and have a passion for protecting our wildlife.
Explain how important on-the- job-training is…and how you plan to encourage on-going upskilling for your team? On the job training is very productive. We are planning to learn from each other. There is so much knowledge at Morukuru that we can tap into and each of us has our strong points. We are also planning some on-site training next year with all the staff – just to refine some things.
How important are problem-solving skills…give us an example of a situation which was overcome with quick thinking? Problem-solving skills are essential and we need all our managers to be quick thinking as this can make a huge difference. We recently had guests that had car trouble on the day of departure, with some quick thinking from us all we arranged a last-minute road transfer with a company that was dropping new guests off. This was a combined effort by all managers to make sure we got our guests back to JHB.
Tell us something about yourself others probably don’t know...
Armand loves restoring classic cars, this has been his passion from a very young age. He has a completely restored 1969 Ford Capri at home in Pretoria. He also likes building model cars and is currently busy with a Ford Mustang.
Anne-Marie: I love arts and crafts. Even though I don’t get a lot of time for this now, I love to paint, do mosaic and adult colouring in. This is my way of relaxing and taking some time for myself. Hopefully, I will be able to get to do this really soon again, and yes, I love to collect feathers!
Teamwork is critical at Morukuru Family – what most impresses you about your team?
The dynamic of our team is amazing. We have so many different backgrounds and cultures and we all work together. The energy within our squad is something we have never seen before and makes us super-proud to be a part of the Morukuru Magic in Madikwe.
Living and working in the bush might sound idyllic – what are some of the challenges?
Living in the bush can be fun as well as frustrating at times. Because we are so far from everything, it can be very difficult to fix things – sometimes as we need to wait for parts and delivery. This can really throw a spanner in the works. Then, on the other hand, there is no noise, lights or too many people. We know this is not for everyone but for us this is a big advantage!!!
Working together can also be demanding – are you two a good fit and what advice do you have for other couples? We have learned over the last 12 years that you will not always agree on every decision and that you will have your “fights”. But we have learned to deal with this and also that work cannot take over your personal life. This is easier said than done – believe me. You need to be able to go to work and get on with your job even if you have had a disagreement at home. You need to be a strong bond for your team. Our advice is to talk about anything and listen to each other and also take your partner’s opinion into consideration.
What is your favourite part of the job? We like to have fun and make sure that our team is positive and also having fun. Life can’t be boring – especially in an amazing place like Madikwe. We also strive to motivate and train our staff as much as possible, as we like to see them grow and bloom.
Tell us about a memorable game-drive experience…
Armand: One sighting that comes to mind is the day I was watching a pride of lions with guests at a waterhole. We noticed that one of the young females got up and started chasing something, as we could not see what this was, we drove closer and saw that she was chasing some mongeese around. The next moment the baby mongoose started running towards my game viewer, and to the delight of us all the female kept chasing and not realising what was going on almost ran into the game viewer. The baby mongoose ended up under the game viewer and the female lion gave up the chase.
Anne-Marie: Doing conservation work with our guest. We had the opportunity to do conservation work on a female cheetah that had been injured in the reserve. Just getting so close to a cheetah was one of the most amazing moments of my whole career.
Do you have any hobbies or sports – and do you get a chance to pursue them in the bush? Armand’s hobby is working on cars, and he does get time to do that here as he can work on the company vehicles. My hobby is reading and at this stage, I don’t get a lot of time for that as we have a little boy of 9 months!
When you get a chance to travel – where do you head off too? Our family laughs at us as we tend to go to the bush for holiday even though we live and work in the bush. This will also change now as we have a son and we will need to experience beach holidays as well.
Tell us about your dream destination? Taking a trip to Mauritius or Zanzibar, or even to go to Switzerland or maybe to see the Gorillas……..