Interview with Nicolene Van Der Merwe for WOMEN&CRANES


Your background?
Dust and Dump trucks… I grew up in a small town. I moved to the city when I was 14. I spent 13 years living and studying there, a week after I completed my Degree I moved back to my hometown and started working.
My father has been in the Earth moving and Mining Industry since before I was born, and for as long as I can remember. As a child I use to head out with him on weekends, to mining sites and spend time with his machines and cranes and I just liked it.
He started Benicon Earth Moving and Mining the year I was born, with one truck from the bank and pocket of hope.
My father has greatly influenced my perspective on life.

How did you start to work in Earth moving/crane business?
I started my career at Benicon in the Buying Department and was there for around 4 months. After that I was kind of dumped into shipping and told to swim, I have a B COM Business Management Degree, I had a bit of knowledge in Logistics but not Freight and Shipping moving large Earth Moving cargo around and placing them onto vessels, I learned pretty fast, and what I did not know, I acted like I did and slammed down on research or called someone that did.

2 years later I was offered to work for Central Africa Machine Sales, a smaller company and more room to grow. Central Africa has 3 Directors, Nick, Jason and Bevan.

Your Story?
My Story. I left home when I was 14. I was placed in Convent School and in hostel. My father and I decided that if there was a way for me to win, one I would have to change my languages to english, and second I would need a good education, a private school for girls and hostel could provide that.
Being a child and young the first few months were filled with tears. Everything was strange, one day I found myself in San (the school hospital) and a friend came to see me, sat down on my bed, opened my box of cookies and said…. “Nicolene your lot is your lot in life, it’s just the way the cookie crumbles, or it just ant gonne happen for you”
I remember that to this day as I knew then I was going to have to work.


Short introduction about your company (your job)?
We are in the Earth Moving and Mining Industry, situated in a mining town, we buy and sell earth moving equipment, dismantle refurbish and freight them around the globe. Some are pretty large and we use cranes to load and offload cargo and to dismantle cargo.
Central Africa is global and has a brother company called International Mining Machinery, we freight a large amount of cargo between the two Companies.
I do the import and export of all cargo. From EXWORKS to DDP. WORLDWIDE.
In the past we had an agent that handled our clearing. This has changed, we have now established in house clearing, of which I have headhunted an indian lady from The Port of Durban, Iresha Govender moved her and her family uptown and she is from the correct culture to negotiate contracts and port dealing in Durban Harbour. She has been in the Freight industry for over 8 years, has an extensive network of contact the correct skills and she is young enough to want to grow.
As this is still new we are indeed in rough territory, yet once this is established soon we will be able to clear cargo for anyone worldwide and we will be the first company in the town of Witbank to be able to clear cargo for import and export.

You are a women that works in Earth moving/crane world, commonly called “business for men”. How was the start of your career in crane industry?
The start of my career was when I was about 3 (laughing). The Crane and earthmoving Industry is Business for Men and I am a Women… (laughing). Firstly I see all people as people, people who need each other and who are attuned to each other. Therefore I don’t look at men as problems, but as people who can enrich my life, it is so easy especially in business to see men as a threat that want to take people and things away from you, also opportunities you wanted to utilise.
This is a negative perspective from which you stand to gain nothing. Of course there are men that disagree with you and with whom you have to get along out of sheer necessity. I don’t think there is only one text that can tell you how to act in Business for men towards some of them you need to be firm and decisive but in most cases you have to give men the opportunity to state their viewpoint and simultaneously accept that they don’t have a deliberate and underhanded agenda.

I am not a feminist and believe men and women both have a place in the sun. Women see themselves as disadvantaged due to the past. It is also true of the current situation in our country South Africa. It is said that those who try to forget the past are doomed to repeat it, contrary to this I would like to say: “Those who only want to live in the past are doomed to miss the possibilities of the future”.


For this reason we have to stop accentually placing all the blame on the past, we should rather utilise the new opportunities of today and tomorrow, but just watch out for negative resignation.
Every person male or female determines their own horizon. I don’t see myself as captive of my background or circumstances; it is therefore possible to achieve anything I set out to do. But you have to be willing to work and pay the price, and it don’t come easy.

You also have to make your piece with reality. I take my responsibility seriously, I try to live in an orderly and disciplined way, and put everything in its place, so that everything is made a little easier for me.

As a woman, I sometimes take a stand point from which men may differ and then like a conductor you need to turn your back on the crowd and continue to give your best. I love being a Women and I love working. Everything about being women I love I have no desire to be a man that means no shoes with bows or long Hair… ha ha.

What is most important to a company’s success – a good product or friendly and fast service
Both of those are important, depending on the industry that you are in. For us it is know your product, know your customer, know your market and have it available at the right time and place.
To make that all work together, information is key!
Information is a rich concept, the nature of information systems have changed the concept of business and management systems that was held before the revolution in information and communication technology.
The richness of information as a concept is valued to us as a company… we need data to be organised into a particular structure, the output of a process that is applied to information systems (JET CLEARING SYSTEM ) knowledge (tariffs, importers duty, SAD 500 incoterms).

A means of communication between sender and receiver is vital. To accomplish what we do. We need knowledge, a sources of clarification a reductions of uncertainty, positions of power, something of interest to our customers, and intuition, driven by logic.

Information as intuition with no obviously immediate logical source can be used to question many of the views of information we consider. “how come you so clever me so rich” are quotes and phrases from a view of management, which thinks that formal views of systems ignore what really goes in managing success with its human component. The enthusiasm for adapting to the world of the internet and information may be shared by European Commission and Becta but, in the end this enthusiasm cannot be based on logic alone.
There is no reliable formula for predicting the future…and Success.
An important ingredient of the commitment to exploiting information and communication technology is an intuitive believes that the future lies in this direction. Real success and information also includes such a soft intuitive component and an overall view of information must take this into account.


Typical day in your working life is….?
The elevator to success is out of order use the stairs. I try and do more and talk less. The mornings are always hectic, getting to work I would review mails, place orders, plan shipments, communicate between the parties and once I have established that I would be on a mission to find new work. I love making money,” I find Enjoyment in Earning and not in Owning…”

If you have children, is it difficult to conciliate work and family?
It is always difficult to conciliate work and home and family. I am a fitness instructor after work 5 days a week and that too takes planning and effort. I need to plan everything, and do it when it’s scheduled or else there just won’t be time; I do it regardless of how I feel. Consequently one learns patience as well as humility without ostentation. Secondly the creation of order is crucially important, in all areas of my life.

What motivates you?
I am largely self motivated. I have learned the gift of appreciation. I confidently depend on my own abilities, I do what I can with what I have, where I am and make the best of it.
A person while he is alive is never done, and I don’t have a preconceived final image of myself.
I am responsible for my own life, that which one wants to enjoys should in the first place be the result of one’s own efforts, if you want to appreciate something you have to use your hands to work for it.
To me my faith is everything in life. Because without faith you can easily complain yourself out of everything and forget that not all the robots are red.

What are your goals for the next five years/ten years?
My ultimate and end goal is FREEDOM. There is only one form of freedom in this old world and that is financial.
I am developing our in-house clearing in town, I am in the process of planning to build storage units to hire and this in its total combined with hard work, is a realistic goal.

3 Advices to have success in personal and working life?
1. Be yourself and Love who you are!
2. Find something that you love to do.
3. Without Dreams you are Drab, without Deeds you are Bare. The right time to start is now!

Short Questions:
Individual or team work?
Classic or casual style wears in the office?
Classic or pop music?
Mountains or seaside holidays?
Seaside and Mountains

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