Founded on the values of respect and integrity, Motlanalo Inc, a black women-owned SMP headquartered in Polokwane, Limpopo, is geared towards transforming the audit landscape.
In reliving the events around the genesis of her firm, Koko Khumalo CA(SA) entertains an erudite conversation on learning organisations, a branch of study associated with knowledge management. The CEO and founding partner of Motlanalo Chartered Accountants and Auditors Incorporated (Motlanalo Inc) ruminates at some length about empowerment and development, attaching much importance to ideas around cultural excellence in business.
‘At Motlanalo we provide a safe and empowering work environment,’ she says. ‘At our core we are a teaching and learning organisation that creates a nurturing and empowering environment for future auditors and accountants. We share our successes and we respect and value each other. We are respectful, understanding and supportive. We promote cultural excellence in business.’
THROUGH THE AGENCY OF PwC
With a footprint in four provinces, the firm has made great strides, going on to employ well over 90 people in the six years of its existence. That’s no mean feat considering the company started with only 12 employees.
Koko chalks up the company’s success to the support she’s received from the PwC, EY and Auditor-General of South Africa (AGSA) enterprise development programmes and, perhaps most importantly, the clients who had confidence in the firm.
‘The firm was founded through the agency of PwC,’ she says. ‘We are really grateful for the support we received from PricewaterhouseCoopers to kick-start our Motlanalo journey. Through the acquisition of an existing PricewaterhouseCoopers practice in Polokwane through their enterprise development programme in April 2017, I was extremely fortunate to take on a registered training office with the right infrastructure for the profession and as a going concern. This definitely eased our start-up pains.’
For all the support to kick-start the business, it was up to the firm to prove itself capable of excellent work. Also, the client base-building phase formed part of the growing pains.
‘The harder part of our growth story has been to position the Motlanalo brand as a credible professional services firm for accounting, external and internal audit, and consulting services that can compete with more established brands and sourcing our clients. I mean, some looked at us and wondered about our ability to differentiate on key business ethos and acumen,’ Koko explains.
‘It was up to us to grow our client base and attract the right talent: something that’s not easy, but we continue to believe in this – qualified CAs(SA) and trainee accountants, accessing new markets and finance, and establishing our own business network, IT infrastructure and market. We have learned that size doesn’t matter when it comes to living the professional ethos in line with the professional code of conduct: providing quality services, being accredited by the professional bodies, and complying with the required standards.’
BEYOND THE PANDEMIC
With the pandemic and subsequent rounds of hard lockdown, remote working has become the norm with companies embracing hybrid workplace solutions. It goes without saying that hybrid working makes a case for increased automation as well as intuitive, smarter technologies.
Koko concedes that there’s no substitute for audit technology and pertinent software. ‘Technology is very important,’ she says. ‘We are already focusing on transforming the business and utilising the various technological platforms we use for speed, agility, quality done, and ease of decision-making; also in our quest to transform the audit landscape. The future is in tech. We need to move at the same speed and in the same direction.’
While change is inevitable, it’s reassuring that the firm’s value proposition has remained intact. As a leader, Koko herself has proved to be a paragon. Lately, she’s been synonymous with RUTA, an acronym that has come to represent − among other things − stewardship and empowerment.
‘At Motlanalo, we want to share our future with smart, young, talented and diverse people who embrace our values of respect, understanding, trust and accountability (RUTA), which means “to teach” in Pedi – people who have the ability to create a better future for themselves and those who follow by positively contributing to the diverse and cultural excellence of Motlanalo,’ she explains.
‘This is core to who we are as a business – and it is important for us that our clients and partners understand and support our values. In addition, we want our staff and the firm to always demonstrate our brand personality of being determined, dependable, and disciplined.’
WELL PLACED TO TRANSFORM THE LANDSCAPE
Born in Sekhukhune, Limpopo, Koko has amassed over 20 years of experience in audit and professional services in both client service and practice management roles.
Formerly a partner with PwC, she went on to become a managing partner of PwC’s operations in Mpumalanga and Limpopo. Koko also served a stint as an executive and partner at EY Africa as the Africa Leader for Risk Management.
Offering a plethora of services within the realm of audit and advisory, the firm has carved out a niche for itself as an efficient and dependable auditor in the private sector, especially where it concerns non-profit companies.
‘In the private sector, we think we have managed to build expertise and capability in auditing member-based organisations within the non-profit companies in the last few years and continue to secure audits within the sector,’ she says. ‘We currently audit a few of these apex organisations that represent corporates, unisectoral organisations, chambers of commerce, and professional bodies. These organisations exist for a purpose and serve to keep their members’ interests at heart in economic, socio-economic, professional and regulatory policies. From the consulting services perspective, we are also building and finding our niche in the education sector.’
From producing its first CA(SA) after three years in the business to winning a global award in 2022, Motlanalo’s rise has never been short of milestones and highlights. In 2022, the firm did it again with its first registered auditor.
‘Also, being appointed alongside Ernst & Young as an empowerment firm for the Transnet internal audit, which is by far the largest assignment for us, was a true highlight,’ Koko says. ‘We have recently also been recognised by Topco as the most gender-empowered firm, among other highlights.’
It is Koko’s dream for Motlanalo to continue playing its part in transforming the landscape of the audit profession. Going forward, which is the next ten years, she harbours ambitions to grow Motlanalo into a mid-tier practice.
‘We look at the future differently as we live in a fast-paced professional space. Our plans are shorter and focused on our purpose of transforming the audit landscape within the markets we serve. Our current strategy, Reimagine Motlanalo by 2025 (RM25), is very clear on what we need to achieve. By 2033, we believe, we should have long achieved our desire to be a mid-tier firm and be the go-to firm in advising and auditing businesses within the non-profit sector and auditing JSE-listed companies.’