Now in its 22nd year of existence, I am pleased, that the Austrian Business Chamber of South Africa had another very successful year.
In difficult economic times, people and companies often review the smallest expenditure, so I am delighted that we have been able to keep our membership base stable around the 80 members mark, and that we consistently see new members joining us, such as FMT Christoph Industries, Werksmans, AGS Frasers during the last year.
This continued interest is testament to the value that we add to our membership base as a Networking Organisation, and once again, we had quite an interesting line up of events in the last financial year.
Our main events format, our monthly Sundowner in combination with an informative talk, remains very popular with our members, and we will continue this successful format in the New Year.
Amongst the many interesting speakers we had with us last year, I would like to mention
- Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba
- Hilton Johnson, the founder of Compliance Hub, assisting us with better understanding the constantly changing BBBEE framework
- MEC Jacob Mamabolo from the Gauteng Department of Infrastructure Development
- As always, ABC Chief Economist Dawie Roodt, for his budget review
- And entrepreneur and business incubator Pavlo Phitides
A big thank you goes to Karl-Heinz Machalek, for introducing Pavlo Phitides to us, there is only so much we can do as directors, and I would really like to encourage each and everyone of you to assist us with your own networks to bring interesting speakers to us.
We continued to work very closely and successfully with the Austrian Trade Commission, in particular with Johannes Brunner but also his deputy Thomas Spazier and their team. Apart from giving us a home at the Austrian Trade Commission, we have also been benefiting a lot from his network, his access to trade opportunities with Austrian companies seeking assistance in South Africa and our participation in networking events with Austrian companies who were attending trade shows in South Africa. I can attest myself to the effectiveness of this relationship. We got introduced to Hitzinger, an Austrian rotary UPS manufacturer, at one of these events and last year, we signed with them a distribution agreement
Thank you Johannes, and thank you Thomas. Thomas will be leaving us shortly and take up a new challenge with the Austrian Trade Commission in Russia. On behalf of the ABC I would like to wish you all the best for your future endeavors and am looking forward to seeing you back in SA one day as a trade commissioner.
Our focus last year was to capitalize on the popularity of our sundowner events. We also tried to make them a little more special by hosting them at different venues, and adding welcome drinks or snacks, often at no cost to our guests. This came at slightly higher costs as various venues have become much stricter with regard to venue charges and freebies are hard to get! Thank you to Joerg Zwinscher from the Balalaika Hotel for the continued favorable rates and hospitality he is extending to us.
Our strategy has been quite successful, as shown by the increased attendance at these events, and I would like to thank our members who assisted in bringing additional guests to these events. Unfortunately, where we fell short was in converting these additional guests into new members. Once again, I would like to call on everyone in assisting us to increase our membership base to ensure that we can continue providing these additional value-adds at our events
Under Deon Hellberg’s leadership, we also hosted another very successful ABC Golf Day, and we will continue with this tradition this year, on the 1st of June. There are only a few four-balls and sponsorship opportunities left for this event, so if you are a golfer and haven’t signed up yet, please contact Moni Kopp.
On the financial side, I can report that the ABC remains financially very sound. We ended the financial year with a small loss of app ZAR 25.000, but nevertheless with a healthy cash balance of ZAR 312.000.
The loss was the result of the above-mentioned strategy to drive up attendance at our events, but also reflects our increased activities with regard to social media.
Our Facebook, Linked In and websites are now regularly updated with upcoming events, interesting news and reports on past events, so if you haven’t done so yet, please check-in more regularly. This increased social media presence has also done away with the need for a regular newsletter and we are currently evaluating various options for re-inventing this communication channel.
At this point, I would like to take the opportunity to thank my fellow board members for all their hard work and contributions during the year. The difficult economic situation puts a lot of pressure on all of us in our individual businesses, and it often makes it difficult to allocate time to the ABC and to our membership base. Nevertheless, each and every-one of the ABC directors continues to make a tremendous contribution to advance the networking opportunities and benefits for our members.
Monika Kopp has stepped up to the challenge to take on more responsibility in driving this organization and has done a formidable job as the Managing Director of the ABC.
Deputy Chairman Deon Hellberg, remains firmly in charge of our finances and reporting, and as an avid lover of golf, he very ably takes the leadership in organizing the annual ABC Golf Day
Richard Leiter and Gerhart Mischinger, remain the stalwarts of the organization, with their experience, big business contacts, and Gerhard’s passion for training and development. Gerhart for example is spearheading our co-operation with the Zurel College, which aims to source and provide talented interns for your companies
Maria Hofer and Marco Errath, representing the younger generation on our board, are amongst others, driving our marketing and social media strategy. Marco also doubles up as our photographer, whilst Maria is working tirelessly on improving our relationships and co-operation with other chambers. I am pleased to announce, that in September, we will have our first inter-chamber event, with the participation of the Spanish and Nordic Chambers.
Johannes Brunner I have mentioned before, so last but certainly not least, I would like to mention Sheri-Leigh Pienaar, from Werth Schroeder Attorneys, our company secretary. Business and Compliance is getting more complicated, and we owe it to her that we are never worried about any legal or compliance issue.
Thank you all, for your hard work for the ABC and for our members! I am very proud to have you as part of my team!
And with a big thank you to all our loyal members, I conclude this year’s Chairman’s Report.