We chat to Duppie du Plessis, managing director of the Foresta Timber Group, about his career and the challenges that face the local timber industry.

What are your responsibilities as managing director?
Together with my management team, we agree on our vision, then decide on a strategy to achieve that vision. Once that is done, we formulate and implement a plan to support those ideas and ensure that our plan has set deadlines to which we hold ourselves accountable. I see myself as the leader of the total process.

What do you hope to achieve in your tenure as MD?
I would dearly like us to become the leader in our category of the industry – the wholesale and retail – market with the necessary manufacturing support.Foresta

Explain how you got started in your career and how you got to where you are today.
I hold a national diploma in paint science and a national diploma in analytical chemistry from Wits Technikon and various other certificate courses in finance and human resources (HR).

I started my career with Dulux in the paint laboratory and eventually qualified as a paint chemist at Wits Technikon. I left Dulux and started my own business, Prominent Paints, with two partners and we quickly became the leader of the pack in the decorative paint market. In 2005, we sold the company to Sigma Kalon. In 1994, by supporting my brother, Foresta Timber and Board, was opened and in 2006, I joined as MD. Along with myself, Foresta Timber and Board also has two partners, however they are not operational. Together we opened a second company – Foresta Drum Manufacturing – with the same shareholders.

In your opinion what are the major challenges that the timber industry in South Africa needs to overcome?
We will run into shortages of wood in the future, the industry already cuts trees down at a really early stage in its growth cycle. Because of complex market and poor economic growth in our country, our suppliers are operating in our category of the market which makes it extremely difficult to be profitable. I am not certain how we will overcome this obstacle but as a business we must find alternative products or steer the business in another direction.

Do you enjoy what you do?
I enjoy helping people to develop their skills and become successful at their particular level. When you can give your people the tools to excel, it is fantastic to reap the benefits with the team.

What do you still want to achieve, as a director of the company and as an individual?
Our two companies still have much potential for growth and we will make a considerable effort to cater for the future South Africa via BB-BEE and attempt to empower all our employees before I move on.

What is your work philosophy?
Stick to the basic principles of life in general and make sure you enjoy what you do in your place of work. Make time for your family and friends.