Elmar shares his career journey from starting out in audit at Coopers & Lybrand to becoming CEO of Safair, South Africa’s biggest domestic low cost airline.
Elmar spent his first nine years on a farm in the Free State and then the rest of his school career in a mining town called Odendaalsrus (which lies between Welkom and Allanridge). He attended the University of the Free State before pursuing his interest in business and gaining the CA designation, which he believed was the best way to get into business.
He joined PwC in 1998, but first started in the audit department at Coopers & Lybrand (C&L). He had a keen interest in computers and could program, and was asked to join the CATS team in CAS, which eventually became GRMS when C&L merged with Price Waterhouse.
He left PwC in 2002 and took on several different roles, all of which he regards as having been rewarding in some way. But he feels that being CFO at the time FlySafair was started was a great experience. He had to learn about marketing, low-cost airlines, and all kinds of other things – and of course again had to get involved on the IT side of things and was initially responsible for all the systems and the website. Indeed, his greatest career highlight was to be part of the growth and current success that FlySafair is enjoying.
The best advice he ever received was to follow his gut instinct and back this up with data. He is passionate about doing things right and improving on them, and loves using data and systems and processes to achieve that.
Elmar balances his time between work and family responsibilities by being very conscious about the issue and making sure that he spends enough time with everyone – but he remarks that his family is pretty good at reminding him when he doesn’t make enough time for them. He married Nicolette (neé Pretorius), whom he met at PwC in the Sunninghill office. They have three children: Rowen (15), Jared (13) and Cayla (10).
In his spare time he enjoys following some obsession that he has read about and then learning more about it. At the moment it is home automation and the internet of things. His inspiration has been the many influential people in his life, from his older brother, to Hantie Bouwer (his partner at PwC). But the person he believes inspired him most was his COO, Wimpie Davidson, who was his mentor before he passed away.
He was drawn to the aviation industry when he got to know Safair as an article clerk at PwC – he was on the audit. He loved the people and the culture, which is why he was excited to join Safair.
He lives by the motto ‘Success and failure are written on ice – and tomorrow the sun will shine’. His most recent read was Shoe Dog, and as regards music, he claims that he can’t choose just one song as his favourite because he loves music so much. It really depends on his mood and what he’s listening to in a particular week, he says. But his most-played track on Spotify is ‘Woman’ by Mumford & Sons.
The colour that best describes his personality is blue, because he says that he’s pretty steadfast and calm most of the time – but can get a bit stormy. Something he doesn’t think people know about him is that he’s a huge Batman fan.
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