WARREN THOMPSON: The man with the toughest job in the country, Mr Vuyani Jarana, put his feet under the table as CEO of SAA for the first time on Wednesday. We caught up with him and this is what he had to say.
VUYANI JARANA: One of the things is to realise that at SAA there is a turnaround strategy that’s been developed and is in place. So what I’m busy with now is to test some of the assumptions in the turnaround strategy and look at the roadmap for implementation.
Obviously one of the key elements of that is listening to [the people at] SAA, making sure that I get their views, and also understand what their take is on the strategy. But most importantly we have to develop a very keen execution framework to make sure that we can actually deliver on the plan.
So far, stress-testing the strategy that is in place, understanding the culture, listening to people’s views inside SAA and in the next couple of weeks we’ll be developing an execution model that will be interesting. It will include all the people of SAA.
WARREN THOMPSON: When do you plan of having that completed, Mr Jarana?
VUYANI JARANA: Look, part of this is I would hope to have a bit more time to diagnose and study. It’s a very big and a complex organisation and there are people here who have done a lot of work on this. So I’m hoping that within the first 100 days I will have done the full diagnostics and developed an implementation plan which I’ll share with the stakeholder. Of course, the board will be very, very important. We also realise that the board has been reconstituted and we still have to sort out on that as well, to make sure that they also understand the strategy, they are also part of leading in terms of implementation and governance.
WARREN THOMPSON: Okay. There are a number of things I wrote down as priority that you are going to have to deal with, probably sooner rather than later. I imagine executive appointments is going to be up there. You’ve got a chief restructuring officer who has joined with you, but how many other key executive appointments are you hoping to fill in the coming months?
VUYANI JARANA: We already have a number of those roles out there in advertised portfolios. So four key roles have been advertised – like for a chief commercial officer and then three other roles. The big focus is to make sure that we stabilise the organisation and bring capacity where necessary to execute on the plan, because only when you have strong capabilities inside can you execute on the plan. So we are focusing on filling vacancies, stabilising the organisation. But the big part of it is really focused on liquidity, cash-flow management to bring back liquidity in the business.
WARREN THOMPSON: Have you had the chance yet to meet with any of your funders or any of the banks that extend credit to the airline?
VUYANI JARANA: I’m only seeing them next week. I’m meeting the lenders next week.
WARREN THOMPSON: Okay, great. I think one of the other key objectives that you have probably been tasked with is finding a strategic equity partner. I imagine that would probably take a back seat for a little, while you stress-test the turnaround plan and make those executive appointments. But would that be something that you’d be looking at perhaps in the new year?
VUYANI JARANA: Well, the minister did make an announcement during the medium-term budget policy statement…about SAA. But obviously the big focus is really to bring the business back into shape as quickly as possible, and then look at the issues of consolidation of state aviation including SA Express as part of the road map. And the board will then consider and make a decision about what it means to bring in a strategic equity partner. So there is a bit of runway to take before we get there. The big-ticket item today is really to start focusing on stemming the losses. There are a number of initiatives that are in the turnaround strategy.
WARREN THOMPSON: That was Vuyani, Jarana, the CEO of SAA.