Sea Harvest flying high

Konrad Geldenhuys.

2014 was quite a year for Konrad Geldenhuys, he was promoted to Sea Harvest’s Director of Sales and Marketing in January and in July became a brand new dad.

Geldenhuys took over the position from Felix Ratheb who was promoted to CEO. “Felix is a remarkable person to work with, he is very smart and I admire how he always backs his team. He is also very decisive, which I think is a great leadership quality. Thanks to Felix I was fortunate to walk into this position with an excellent team already in place,” says Geldenhuys.

 “2014 was an incredible year, with the birth of my son, Alexander Jonathan, and I have been given the enormous opportunity of leading Sea Harvest’s Sales and Marketing team.”

Geldenhuys, a natural leader who is quick to find the laughter in any situation, has been with Sea Harvest for almost six years. He joined as Commercial Manager in 2009 and did a short stint as Divisional Manager International before becoming a Director. “Commercial Manager is a role that fits between Operations and Sales and it is position where you learn a lot about all the aspects of the business,” he says.

In his new position Geldenhuys is responsible for a team of just over 30 people. “My management style is cooperative and collaborative, there is no time to micro-manage, and I have a very committed and capable team. “In my job being decisive is key in the day-to-day activities, but you also need to be strategic and long sighted in regards to business and markets.”

“I believe in hard work and fair leadership. In management, I believe it is important to set an example – you can’t expect your team to go where you are not willing to lead. This is a big portfolio, so it’s hard work and long hours,” says Geldenhuys.

Sea Harvest, turning over a billion rand annually with more than 2000 staff, operates with a relatively small management team. “Because we are a resource dependent business the marketing and sales functions must be totally aligned,” he says. Geldenhuys’s function essentially deals with three businesses: local retail – which includes packaging for Woolworths’ own brand; local food services – Sea Harvest’s business with the hospitality and catering industry; and exports.

There is also brand management to consider, Sea Harvest is an iconic South African brand, and operates two other brands on the market – Findus Frozen Vegetables and Quorn Meat-Free and Soy-Free products. “Our business deals with markets across the world, from Australia to America, so markets are active 24 hours a day. The job requires a lot of travel, my team and I attend trade shows, conferences and do customer visits all over the world. This is a challenging portfolio but it is always interesting, and certainly never boring,” he said. 

Geldenhuys, born in Cape Town, grew up mostly in Pretoria. His father was a pilot and Geldenhuys grew up with a great love for aviation. “My dad has always had a remarkable influence on my life, I love his courage and sense of adventure.” Geldenhuys used to fly small planes but has put that hobby on hold for a while.  He studied PR at Tshwane University, finishing his Honours degree in International Communication.

It is clear that Geldenhuys is a trader at heart. He speaks enthusiastically about his first ‘job’ at the Pretoria Fresh Produce Market, where he worked during school holidays. “I was trading fruit and vegetables on the market floor. We’d get there at 5am, selling fruit from farmers in Limpopo and Mpumalanga to the trade – in hindsight it was quite a good introduction to what I’m doing now at Sea Harvest.”

In 2008 Geldenhuys decided to do something “drastically new.” Bravely he quit his job in Johannesburg and moved to Cape Town to do a full-time MBA at UCT. “This is where I met Felix,” he says. “I went to exactly one alumni lunch and it was the same one Felix attended, we were seated next to each other and we got chatting.” Remarkably Felix had a very similar career trajectory. Also a natural trader he’d started out trading goods into Africa, settled on a different career and after a few years decided he needed a drastic career change, which led him to do an MBA at UCT. During his MBA Felix met George Bezuidenhout (Sea Harvest’s former CEO) who later employed him at Sea Harvest as Commercial Manager.

Another influential person in Geldenhuys’s life is his wife, Nancy, an Egyptian – born and bred in Cairo. The two met through mutual friends and were married in February 2010 in a church off Tahrir Square in Cairo. She had spent some time in Cape Town before they met, and has easily settled into life here. “A successful family life is so important to me. With the arrival of my son I wouldn’t say my priorities have changed – they have totally transformed.” 

Geldenhuys’s life philosophy is to build and add value by serving other people. “I have always tried to build, create and add value in business, to my family and in my life generally, but with the arrival of a child this becomes so much more important. One spends one’s life learning but then you have to start teaching, mentoring – serving others – especially younger people, and the less fortunate. In South Africa it is particularly important to cultivate a culture of mentoring and empowering, to become a contributor and not just a consumer,” he says.

In business one of the people Geldenhuys would most like to meet is Bill Gates. “Of course there are the visionaries and entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs and Elon Musk, but I have always admired Bill Gates. He is one of the early pioneers of the electronic business era. I admire his consistency in business and his focused global philanthropy.”

For fun Geldenhuys and his family love to see friends, go for walks, braai or eat sushi, visit Kirstenbosch, and he loves to read. “We like the simple things” he said. “One day, when things are less hectic, I’d like to re-do my pilot’s licence and take up flying again,” he says, although it looks like Geldenhuys Geldenhuys couldn’t be flying higher than he is right now.