Consulting business stems from experiences – Buhle Dlamini

buhle_dlamini_3The words and works of Nelson Mandela are a constant inspiration to Buhle Dlamini as he develops his business, MindGro Consulting Ltd.

South African Buhle Dlamini is building an international consulting business from a historic home in downtown Pictou, a house that is 50 years older than the city he grew up in.

But sometimes business takes a back seat to the immediate demands of life in a cold climate. One particularly cold morning last week he had to run down the street to an auto parts store, carrying a dead car battery in front of him. Last January he was battling a build-up of snow and ice on the roof of his house.

“Believe me, all the cars were slowing down to watch this black man up on a ladder with a roof rake. We had just moved in and I didn’t even know what a roof rake was until then,” he said.

Dlamini, who met South African hero Nelson Mandela and received an award from Archbishop Desmond Tutu, was well aware of the differences between Pictou and his native Johannesburg, a city of eight million founded in 1886 when gold was discovered there.

“My wife Stacey and I made many trips here in the last 12 years. We’d been here at Christmas so I’d experienced snow before but I admit last winter’s cold was more than I expected. We did not come for the weather. We came so our family could have more time with Stacey’s family, especially the grandparents in Hopewell.”

Dlamini met Stacey Jeffery at an international Salvation Army conference and she later moved to South Africa. When they married 12 years ago, their mixed-race union, though legal after the repeal of Apartheid laws, was quite unusual.

“Stacey had travelled and was very curious about Zulu culture so I think that helped my family to love her. She also did not have the baggage many white South Africans would have had at the time but in the early years many, many people would take a second look at us.”

He added his interest in Canadian culture may have helped to woo his in-laws.

“We share a bond through our church. They are good people who made me welcome in their family and they love their grandchildren. What more can you ask for?”

The Dlaminis are a family of six – an adopted daughter who attends Nova Scotia Community College, Buhle’s brother who is in Grade 11 at Northumberland Regional High School, and their two younger children who have settled into elementary and play schools in Pictou.

“In South Africa I have a training and consulting business that employs eight and I go back there about four times a year. I deal in skills as opposed to product and I’ve started a similar company here. This time I have the advantage of past experience so I am not starting from scratch and I am not viewed as a novice.”

With Johannesburg being the economic hub of the African continent, Dlamini’s first company had access to markets throughout Africa and into Europe and Australia.

“Definitely, it is different here and it takes time to grow a business but I think Nova Scotians see their location as more of an obstacle than I do.”

Dlamini has been a guest speaker at conferences hosted by St. Francis Xavier University and municipal administrators, and has held workshops for regional businesses. He has written several articles for Oprah Winfrey’s magazine and has recently been invited to make appearances during African Heritage Month in February.

“I was 11 years old when Nelson Mandela was released from prison. I grew up watching him bring the plight of South Africans to the world stage. Then I watched him bring a normal democracy to our country. By his leadership, his humanity and his example, he showed what people are capable of. For black South Africans, he gave us something to measure ourselves against and influenced us tremendously.”

Dlamini co-founded a national television campaign on values that featured Mandela.

“He agreed to be in the opening sequence of all our films. These films addressed our history of violence and mistrust and how we could change that. When you grow up hating based on race and you must change, you must begin to think in terms of forgiveness, reconciliation and responsibility.”

Dlamini’s consulting business stems from his own experiences.

“I train small teams on leadership, teamwork and customer service. I also talk to companies and organizations about cultural intelligence which becomes more and more important as business is increasingly international.”

One of his first speaking engagements in Nova Scotia was as a guest of the Knights of Columbus in Pictou.

“I’d only been in a Catholic church once before so I had no idea what to expect. The people were very warm, very welcoming, very interested in my background. They are people I am now happy to meet and chat with on the street. I’ve noticed people of colour seem to expect me to tell harrowing stories about my experiences in a small town Nova Scotia but that has not been my experience at all.”

He pointed to an invitation to join the board of the deCoste Centre as another example of hospitality.

“Cultural expression is the life of a community and the deCoste is a vibrant organization so I am happy to be involved. Really, our whole community is involved in importing and exporting talent and I see lots of potential for economic development.”

He added he has participated in several Rotary Club activities and been impressed by the county’s multicultural festival.

Dlamini is holding a free seminar at NSCC Wednesday, Jan. 21, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., called Unleashing Your Greatness in 2015. It is designed for companies and individuals who want to accelerate their growth.

“I have to market myself but this isn’t just marketing. I’m going to be teaching skills and strategies that can make a difference for people and companies.”

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