Serenity, friendliness and compassion are among her finest attributes but woe betide the person who attempts to exploit her kindness; for beneath the soft and composed exterior is a woman who takes some of the toughest decisions in business.
Managing a growing enterprise that boasts of 380 employees in four cities from North to South may sound formidable but how Odelia D’Souza does it could be an exercise in itself.
As the equal partner (with her husband Steve D’Souza), in the fledgling Kalamazoo Group of Companies, she sets policies and targets for all (including herself) and ensures that each of them is tenaciously and meticulously met.
While Steve brings revenue, looking after sales and customers, Odelia ensures the smooth running of production and administration, with a sound balance sheet and comfortable cash flow.
She believes in delegation of responsibility and rarely interferes with the job of the Operations Manager and other Line-Managers and Department Heads.
“Bu there are occasions when there is a need to identify and fix problems before they balloon into crises. I believe that everyone is capable of discharging his or her responsibilities. However, they know that I am always available to discuss issues and solve them because, the objective of promoting customer satisfaction and maintaining the image of the Group can never be compromised,” she said.
Odelia however maintains a watchful eye on all aspects of the Group, including managing people, finance, purchase and administration.
“We are a growing family of people and care for each other. But I do not mix personal friendship with professional relationship. Everyone, including me, has a job to do and everyone is assessed by Key Performance Indicator,” she said.
Steve and Odelia ‘specialise’ in acquiring sick companies and turning them around to profitability and productivity, injecting financial resources, and more important, revitalising the existing human capital.
The decision to buy out Wickliffe Office Solutions, which was on the brink of collapse last year, was a major challenge but the couple managed every aspect of the move with dexterity and forethought.
“We were convinced that with proper control, checks and balances and a better corporate culture, the operation could be made profitable. There were creditors, bankers and others who needed assurance of our competence. Wickliffe is back to good health and moving forward with confidence,” she said.
The Kalamazoo Group is arguably the largest printing house in the country, incorporating among others, Kalamazoo NZ Limited, Wickliffe Solutions, Publishing Press, Print Shop and Computer Forms Limited (Auckland), Wyatt & Wilson (Christchurch) and Astra Print (Wellington).
Odelia and Steve have others business interests in India but that is another story.
She is happy that their only son Dayne has decided to join the business (their only daughter Deanne is a student), which she hopes would add strength to the Group.
Beyond all the corporate responsibilities, which also involve travel to various offices around the country, Odelia is deeply religious like her husband.
“I believe I am extremely fortunate to have an inspiring husband, loving children and a large and growing family of people at the Kalamazoo Group. I am thankful to God for His Blessings and giving me the strength and confidence to manage my professional and domestic lives,” she said.
Odelia believes that corporate success depends on commitment, dedication, teamwork and the determination to move ahead.
“I feel very happy to see so many successful companies being recognised and rewarded at the Indian Newslink Indian Business Awards (IBA) every year. The fact that many of the winners, finalists and sponsors are our customers makes us proud,” she said.
Editor’s Note: The Kalamazoo Group is the sponsor of the ‘Business Excellence in Customer Care’ (formerly Best Professional Services Business of the Year) Category of IBA 2011.