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26 Apr

4Racing’s Daring CEO Fundi Sithebe Inspires Women!

Fundi Sithebe is the Chief Executive Officer of 4 Racing, she has enjoyed challenging the status quo. Truly one of a kind and not deterred by any glass ceiling imposed on her, she lives by believing that regardless of our circumstances we can all reach great heights.

“If we apply ourselves and put in the hard work needed to attain success, nothing is impossible,” she said.

The brave and daring little girl from Diepkloof went on to become one of the ‘old boys’ at Hilton College, went on to and got a pilot’s licence because someone told her it was impossible, Fundi definitely walks the talk.

“All the fights I’ve had in my personal and professional life over the years have always been to create a better path for those that come after me. I don’t believe we should ever allow ourselves to be boxed into any particular set of circumstances or misconceptions of what our capabilities are,” she said.

Fundi grew up in a family where her mother was a scientist, and a journalist father, she knew neither academia nor journalism was the way for her. Instead, she carved her own path and opted for a career in business and management. 

“From an early age I knew you had to sink or swim. My education gave me a solid grounding and my experience as one of the first girls accepted at Hilton College was phenomenal. It taught me a set of skills and gave me access to a network that I still benefit from today. 

“But in business you also need ‘street smarts’ and my Soweto upbringing gave me plenty of that. So yes my education gave me the skillset to deliver at a high level in the business environment, but I value my ability to connect and engage with everyone in the workplace – blue collar or white collar I treat everyone exactly the same,” she said, reflecting on her journey.

Despite holding the title as the CEO of 4Racing, she always knew she would be the CEO of something, but never in her wildest dreams did she ever imagine it would be CEO of a horseracing company. 

“I was looking to take a break after a demanding period as Chief Operations Officer of the Airports Company of South Africa [ACSA]. This position (that of CEO of the newly formed 4 Racing) piqued my interest and I expressed an interest in the position. 

“When the 4 Racing management team reached out to me they said they were looking for someone with a fresh perspective, who did not necessarily come from a horse racing background, to lead the organisation and reinvigoration of a much-loved sport that like most modern business was facing its challenges. And I must admit it’s a tough industry, but I’ve fallen hook, line and sinker for the beautiful and exhilarating sport of horse racing,” said Fundi.

However, she admits that it has not been smooth sailing, as each and every journey is vulnerable to challenges along the way.

“Women have always got to run the race ten times longer and harder than males. Sometimes vulnerability is considered a weakness when it should be a strength. Horseracing is a male dominated industry and largely still a white one. But for me I’ve stressed the spirit of partnership,” she said.

Fundi believes that it is necessary to have the institutional knowledge and passion of the traditional lovers and drivers of the sport of horse racing, while introducing the sport to a more diverse audience for its future sustainability. 

“I’ve still got a long way to go, but I think I’ve worked to earn the respect of the horseracing industry, who can see my growing passion for the sport and desire to see 4 Racing – and in so doing the horseracing industry as a whole – succeed for the benefit of the millions who love and live for the sport,” said the CEO.

Behind the remarkable woman we see, she is deeply driven by her faith and religion.

“The bible influenced my work ethic. It’s always God first. Be true to your word, that truly guides me. I also firmly believe in accountability. Under promise and over deliver and never be scared to get your hands dirty, she said.

Nounouche would also like to congratulate Fundi on her recent appointment to serve on the South African Airways Board. We know that aviation is an area she has a wealth of experience in and that she is passionate about. 

Speaking on this appointment, Fundi said we need a strong, sustainable and profitable national carrier and it’s crucial that we get SAA back to where it belongs again as one of the world’s great airlines, and we couldn’t agree more!

We asked Fundi some personal questions to get to know the leading lady behind the racecourse rumble:

1. What does a typical day in your life look like?

There’s really never a typical day. It’s an early day that in this new online world starts with a flurry of meetings, closing administrative matters that need my attention. I am a people’s person and checking in on people and getting a feel for how my team is doing is important to me. Relationships and stakeholder management is a big part of our industry, whether it’s our internal staff or the grooms, trainers, jockeys, owners and punters that make up our industry, so there’s plenty of work in managing those relationships.

Horse Racing is virtually a year round sport, so there are lots of working weekends on our major events at Turffontein, Vaal and Fairview in Gqeberha. No two days are really the same, but that’s what keeps it stimulating I guess.

2. How different is the running order of businesses in the different industries you’ve worked in and are there any similarities?

On time performance is key. That’s the difference between making revenues and not making revenues. It was crucial in my job as COO of ACSA that our planes were able to take off on time and that our operations allowed our airports to thrive as major economic drivers . Punctuality is key too in horse racing, we have a relentless calendar of fixtures that have to run predictably like clockwork. Stakeholder management too has been intrinsic to my success to whatever industry I am in and an area I’m well-equipped for.

3. What’s one thing you would do differently in your journey thus far?

I’d laugh a bit more, play a bit more, I would not be so serious.

4. What are three things you wish you knew earlier in your career?

Save money, be financially savvy, the world is not always kind. People tend to look out for themselves, they don’t always have your best interests at heart. 

Whether you are the CEO or the tea person, we are individuals doing our best to make the change for the better in the business. 

Seniority is all relative, every part of the value change is crucial to an organisation’s success.

4. What message of hope would you give to your younger self and those to come after you?

Stick in there and have conviction in what you want to do. Everyone is trying to figure things out, even if they seem as if they’ve got everything together. You don’t need validation. It’s okay too to make mistakes, as long as you learn from them.

In exciting news, Fundi and the team have been hard at work in preparation for Johannesburg’s horse racing season and cannot wait to celebrate the champions of their sport with some of the best horses in the country competing for honours and big prize money.

That’s right, the WSB Championship’s Finale promises to be a fantastic day out, with great entertainment from a great lineup of DJs and artists.

While the team drills in on final preparations in place and making sure Turffontein looks as pretty as a picture and that all the elements are in place for people to come and have a good time – as a loyal Nounouche reader you are receiving a personal invite from the CEO herself to come and join them this Saturday for a fantastic Jozi day out on the course.

“It’s an adventurous, risky, beautiful sport that has just captured me. I never felt I would fell for it as I have and become a part of the horseracing ‘community’. I urge anyone who has never been to Turffontein Racecourse to come and experience it. It really is an experience like no other, seeing these beautiful animals up close. A day at Turffontein too, with its unmatched views of the Joburg skyline, is really wonderful to experience and a great day out in Johannesburg.

“I guarantee you will have an absolute blast!” – Fundi Sithebe, 4Racing CEO

On that note, we are pleased to announce that four of our lucky readers will have the chance to win double VIP tickets to the race. All you have to do is reshare the story on social media and the users with the most reshares/retweets will win!

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