PKF OCTAGON offers a range of services and solutions that are backed by experience, expertise and sound business judgement. PKF Octagon understands that clients need advisors who take the time to truly grasp the business challenges to provide customized solutions that are backed by local knowledge and global resources.
PKF Octagon is a member of PKF International, a global family of legally independent firms bound together by shared commitment to quality, integrity and the creation of clarity in a complex regulatory environment.
SAprofessionals.com spoke to newly appointed Partner Charles Muzhindu about his personal, professional, and entrepreneurial journey over the years.
Tell us about your early life, training, and professional development to your role today
When I was in high school, my mathematics teacher mentioned chartered accountants in the context of her topic discussion and one of my classmates asked her what a chartered accountant was. She responded by saying we needn’t worry about it is as none of us was smart enough to qualify as one. This piqued my curiosity and determined my career path.
I joined the EY Durban office as a trainee accountant in 1994 and did my junior degree with UNISA whilst doing my articles; I did my CTA with the University of Natal – Durban. My training was quite challenging as I had to train and study at the same time. The environment was also quite different to what it is today. As Black trainees, we were in the minority and working in an environment that was affected by the political changes that were taking place at the time. That required some adaption on our part and that of our white colleagues, which was rather difficult.
I left EY in 1998 and joined Argil Pty Ltd (an advisory business 40% owned by EY and 60% by African Investments Limited (now known as Phembani)) as a Manager. I left Argil in 2000 and joined the South African Breweries as a Commodity Manager – Procurement. I left SAB in 2002 to start my own practice my own practice which I ran from 2003 to 2010, and grew to a partnership called ANF Incorporated, where I was the first CEO. I left the ANF Incorporated in 2012 to join EY Johannesburg as a Direct Admit Partner. I left EY and PKF Octagon in June 2019.
What does it mean to you that your colleagues have entrusted you with the position of Partner?
PKF Octagon is more of a partnership than a corporate entity. I love the intimacy. I am able to have a greater impact on the business and staff and the level of autonomy that I am afforded enhances my ability to offer growth opportunities to younger professionals. I resource and manage my own portfolio, which enables me to give my clients a more personalized service. Appointment to the PKF Octagon partnership is a privilege and an expression of my partners’ confidence in me that I take very seriously. My partners have a long and rich history in the profession, tremendous experience and have made huge contributions to the profession. It is an honour to work with such people.
What would you like to have achieved by the end of your term as Partner?
I would like to have contributed significantly to the growth of the firm and to the development of professionals, especially from previously disadvantaged communities. I would like to have put more into the firm than I have taken out.
How would you describe your management and leadership styles?
I believe in treating everyone that I work with equally. I think that in all things, relationships and mutual respect are most important. Respecting and actively supporting my teams builds their confidence and brings out the best in the team. I like my team to know that I am as invested in their welfare and growth as they are.
What makes you tick or keeps you awake at night with respect to your position as Partner?
I am passionate about seeing people succeed, particularly young people. This gives a deep sense of fulfillment. I have a strong desire to grow the business and to make a change in the business lives of our clients and stakeholders. Internally, giving opportunities to colleagues and junior staff to realise their full potential and be successful is paramount.
I am always aware of my responsibilities to my clients, my staff and ensuring that I deliver to them on time and in full.
How do you take part in mentoring others?
There is the formal mentor/mentee programme where the two are required to meet every six months to discuss progress and give feedback at the end of the year. I mostly prefer the informal mentorship through proffering advice on challenges that junior colleagues face either in the workplace or in their personal lives. If I can help someone to avoid the mistakes I have made or benefit from the successes I have enjoyed, I feel that I will have made a significant contribution to his/her life and career.
If you had to relate a couple of experiences, what would be the highs and what would be the lows of your working career?
Highs: Being CEO at ANF Incorporated, making Partner at EY and PKF Octagon.
Lows: Failing my board examination. That was really disappointing given the hard work I had put in.
What accolades have you and your organisation received recently?
I only have been at PKF Octagon for three months, so it’s early days. Our CEO Clifford Livingstone received the SAPSA Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018.
How has the firm fared in terms of achieving its business growth objectives?
I know we have grown from eight partners to fifteen partners in the last five years. We have achieved 100% growth in revenue from 2016 to 2018 which indicates that we are growing steadily and doing something right.
Through what means does the organisation ensure that the firm maintains high level of ethics and integrity?
A quote of one of my former partners that I live by is: ‘It is better to sleep well than to eat well’. I will not allow financial gain to determine whether I retain a client or not. I firmly believe that if you work ethically and deliver value, the fees will come. PKF Octagon places strong focus on technical strength and ethics – Everyone in the practice goes through two weeks of induction. We have six to eight weeks of ethics training annually. There is a technical department that receives support from PKF International and PFK South Africa who drive standards and review files for audit quality.
Is transformation considered a key objective at the firm, and if so, how is it attended to?
Yes, it is. My appointment was key to that. We have a PKF Leadership programme (mini-MBA) – the practice identifies individuals (mostly individuals from previously disadvantaged backgrounds) that are assisted and supported to improve their skills and grow. Our recruitment has a strong focus on marginalized individuals and women.
Kindly highlight some recent contributions by the firm to the community and to the relevant professions your professionals are a part of.
We have partnered with the Smile Foundation with whom we organize a Soccer Day where we raise funds annually.
We are auditors to the Hospice Foundation, Society of Animals in Distress, Air Angels and the Autism Association of South Africa, all of which benefit from pro-bono services from us.
How does the firm ensure that professionalism and good customer service are upheld?
Professionalism and client services are always top of the agenda in our interactions in the practice. All the work we do is partner driven and has a high level of partner involvement so that our clients are able to see and trust the product and service offering.
What values do you hold dear and why?
Family values and interpersonal relationships.
I believe that raising your children with strong family values and providing them with a good education is the greatest gift you could ever give them. I value honesty in everything I do, and I hope I have managed to instill that in my children where I could.
Life is about relationships, one needs to constantly think about the people around you, how you make them feel – be it clients, colleagues, family, your neighbours or a stranger on the street.
Do you think your organisation is a great company to work for? If so, please elaborate in detail what makes it different from others in its field?
Indeed. The size of PKF Octagon enables it to support the staff to achieve and succeed – the right level of attention is given to nurture and coach the junior staff to gain the experience necessary for them to realise their full potential. PKF Octagon has developed and maintains a traditional and authentic partnership of professionals with a high level of co-operation and transparency.
When you not at work, what do you get up to including family life?
My religion is important to me. I love spending quality time with family. I thoroughly enjoy watching sport particularly rugby and cricket. I play squash when I have the time to keep healthy. I am also involved in financial advisory work in Zimbabwe.
Where can people follow you online?
People can follow the PKF Octagon website and all our social media platforms. I am on LinkedIn as Charles Mazhindu.