Public affairs, reputation management all in a day's work for Tamra

Tamra Capstick-Dale is the managing director of public affairs and reputation management consultancy Corporate Image, based in Johannesburg and Cape Town.

"I'm a chronic academic and mum to two young boys. I'm also on the board and exco of the Cape Town Central City Improvement District and am chair of the Cape Town Heritage Trust - I don't get much sleep," she tells Fin24.

"I'm never happy unless there's a book in my hand. I fish (deep sea) and travel a great deal both on business and for leisure.

"I'm an artistic philistine, which is why I collect antique maps instead. I have a dry, sometimes dark sense of humour and diplomacy is not one of my more obvious personal strengths."

Capstick-Dale has an undergraduate degree and two post-grads, from the University of Oxford and from HEC, Paris. She is about to embark on her next academic foray, although she has not decided what it will be yet - but it will be at Oxford or Edinburgh.

More broadly, she is passionate about honesty and integrity.

"Watching my people at the company grow gives me enormous pleasure. I do charity work with children, which I really love, and I'm a passionate Capetonian," she says.

The business

According to Capstick-Dale, Corporate Image works mainly for large listed companies and has worked in 30 countries around the world. Many of its clients have been with the company, which was founded in 1987, for more than two decades.

With a team of 28, she describes Corporate Image as being in many ways, more of a large family than a medium-sized company.

"I like it that way. Most of our new work comes from referrals, which we prefer," she adds.

In her view, there can be little question that the full burden of regulation and red tape is a material disincentive to start a new business or run a small one in SA.

"It takes too long, and costs too much, and onerous legislation is demotivating to would-be entrepreneurs, even those who aren't risk averse," she says.

Accessing the supply chains of big companies (and navigating procurement departments whose focus is often on the wrong measurements) is a serious challenge in corporate South Africa, in her view.

As for small companies, she thinks probably the most important challenge is economic pressure, which causes big companies to change payment terms for creditors, lengthening them to breaking point.

While government is strong on talk about the importance of SMMEs to economic growth, precious little is done, in her view, to help them practically, or create an enabling environment.
Furthermore, securing start-up capital for a small company is a perennial problem.

Successes

"Over three decades, the successes have probably been too many to mention, and much of the work we do is confidential. That said, there have been several highlights," she says.

"One was our work with Pick n Pay on its extortion crisis in 2003, which they handled superbly, and many other major projects with them since then."

In her view, some of Corporate Image's finest work has been for SABMiller plc.

"It was an extraordinary opportunity to help manage their global reputation research programme on the ground in 22 countries for a decade, to innovate new tools for international application, and to work alongside some of the best brains both here and abroad," says Capstick-Dale.  

She adds that perhaps some of the more challenging work Corporate Image did was with Sun International in an era of tremendous regulatory change.

Future plans

She is looking to use Corporate Image's experience and qualifications in extending the work it does in change communications, into change management.
 
In her view, this is a gap for the company given that it has the experience in mergers, acquisitions and business combinations.

"We are receiving more work from abroad, which is very pleasing, and I hope to increase this, together with our consulting work in Africa," concludes Capstick-Dale.