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Awards 2007

Indaba Stand Awards: SILVER


Dedicated, determined, modest and poised are the adjectives best used to describe South Africa's number one boss, Dawn Jones, CEO of Imperial Car Rental -Europcar.

Dawn joined a fledgling Imperial Car Rental-Europcar in 1980 in what was to become a life-long career move. As the company grew from five vehicles to its current 16,000, Dawn grew from literally handing over the car keys to the leader of a mighty force in the car rental industry. It was a progressive climb up each rung of the ladder learning every facet of the business until her understanding matched her sheer determination. However, she knows industry knowledge alone does not win you the respect and support of the most valuable asset of any business – its people. As Dawn reached the top rung, it became apparent to everyone she had the two most important leadership qualities – industry knowledge plus her compassionate understanding of human nature.

Dawn says it is about understanding that every individual has a hierarchy of values and no two people are the same. "Being a good manager, means caring enough to find out what those values are and communicating in those values to achieve optimum performance," she says.  "No human being is so altruistic that they work for the good of a company without needing some personal gratification of their own. And a salary alone does not satiate that in people. The motivation comes from connecting the dots. People need to visualise how helping to build a company can assist them to fulfill their own goals and dreams. Lose sight of this and companies will end up with 9 to 5 robots mechanically fulfilling their job description, counting the days till pay day instead of an organisation that heaves with passion, energy and a collective vision for the business and themselves," she says.

What really drives Dawn Jones if you will excuse the pun? Who is this passionate woman who has been known to hand over the keys of her own personal vehicle when the demand for Imperial cars exceeds the 16,000?  

A perfect example of her determination and energy comes from the early days in Durban when Imperial were unable to secure rights to an airport kiosk. Dawn would park a few rental vehicles in the arrivals parking lot at the airport and tout for business in the arrivals hall. When all the vehicles had paying drivers, Dawn was left with no transport for herself – a sacrifice she was willing to make even it meant hitching back to the office in her smart Imperial uniform.

That is the professional business woman, but who is Dawn Jones after she has ticked off the last appointment in her diary for the day and turned the lights out as she leaves the Imperial building headed for home?  

She is the doting mother of Daniel, her 21-month old son. Even this is a story of incredible determination as she embarked on a journey riddled with "red tape", challenge and frustration. It culminated in a trip half way round the world to deliver maternal love to a little boy languishing in a Russian orphanage. She says she feels grateful and blessed, and it has fulfilled a part of her life that no number of successful deals could ever achieve.

While it is apparent that vocation and family are high up on Dawn's hierarchy of values, a close third is physical,meaning she makes regular visits to the gym to maintain her slim figure. This is partnered by eating all the right foods – kosher of course , since converting a few years ago to Orthodox Judaism – a feat in itself.

There is one thread that runs through Dawn's business and private life and that is her poise, which is unwavering. While most of us lose it at some point in our lives, Ms Jones seems to keep a lid on it and present an almost serene persona at all times.

Her lifetime of successes and the good fortune that goes along with it have not dented Dawn's modesty. This was evident when she shied away from reading all the wonderful things her fellow Imperialists had to say about her in the nomination proposal for Boss of the Year submitted by her loyal PA, Lizzy Robinson. Well for one, she knew her mascara would run, but she is acutely aware that too much acclamation is not healthy for a balanced outlook.

We ask if there is a secret to her success. "Love what you do and do what you love," she says. If you want to rise to the top, passion is the secret ingredient. It unlocks energy, drive and dedication, which if shared, serves to inspire all that come into contact with it."

And what does the future hold for the woman who appears to have so much going for her? She laughs at that notion and says, "More of the same good fortune I hope."