By Staff Writer
AS the chief executive officer of CorePay and CallConnect, Tandi Mapolisa is one of the most powerful figures in Zimbabwe’s payroll industry.
Mapolisa’s company, which she formed in 2018, offers payroll services and human resource services to many big companies and parastatals in Zimbabwe and South Africa.
But despite this power and influence, the CorePay founder has struggled to shrug off from her mind the memory of the sombre day several decades ago when her father lost his job. It was a development that cast a long shadow on her family.
“I did some of my early education in Zvishavane because my father had a good job at Buchwa Mine. Sadly, my father was retrenched. This had serious implications on our lives. Before his retrenchment, we led a comfortable life because he had a fairly good job,” she said.
The sudden retrenchment forced Mapolisa and her family to relocate to the high-density suburb of Mbare in Harare.
“When my father lost his job, we returned to Mbare in Harare but my father no longer had the means to pay our school fees. Luckily, my mother chipped in to enable us to continue with our education. She did a lot of buying and selling to help us through. It was clear, though, that our lives would not be the same again.
“The fairly comfortable life we had grown accustomed to at Buchwa Mine had gone just like that. We now had to adjust to the harsh realities of living in Mbare,” Mapolisa remembered.
Not surprisingly, she had to quickly take on a menial job soon after completing O levels.
“After I finished high school at Harare High School, I went straight to work for a company called Cole & Chandler which was then hiring school leavers. I was hired to work in the factory. I worked in the factory for a few months before being moved to the dispatch department where I became one of the invoicing clerks on the instruction of the owner.
“He thought the factory was not ideal for a little girl like me. I, however, worked in the dispatch department for a few months. The owner of the company, who was based in Canada, then moved me to the administration department where I got to do many tasks such as procurement. From his base in Canada, he would call me and give me various assignments. I am grateful to him because he taught me many things related to administration,” Mapolisa remembered.
At the beginning of 2000, despite having no relevant experience, she joined C F Tulley as a telesales person and stayed at the computer hardware and consumables company until the end of that year when its owners left after a management buyout.
“That is how Paynet was born. The new owners decided to close down all the other subsidiaries. As a result, I was moved to the help desk department. I later became the help desk coordinator for one of the departments that was involved in payroll administration,” she told
Joining the Paynet unit responsible payroll administration proved to be the turning point for Mapolisa.
“Even though I had no knowledge of payrolls and had not studied information technology at all and was pregnant with my second child at the time, I started learning about payroll software on the job.
“I was head of the first line support centre. Customers would call me and I would offer solutions. If I failed to resolve a customer ‘s challenge, I would escalate the issue to someone else who would either help on the phone or go on site to help the customer.
“That is how I learnt about payrolls. I became so good at them that I became a very competent trainer. I would train people on how to use payroll software and also ran payroll administration courses. I was promoted because our management had been impressed by my good work in this area. I became the service delivery manager for Paynet,” she said.
Mapolisa, who has won several awards, credits former Paynet managing director Stephen Marshall for setting the stage for her rise in the field of Zimbabwe’s payroll industry.
“He had confidence in me and motivated me a lot. Due to the confidence reposed in, I went out of my way and looked after this very important department very well. It was during the hyperinflationary era when systems needed to be regularly updated to keep up with the zeroes. It was a high-pressure job because customers such as financial institutions would phone all the time due to challenges associated with hyperinflation. I had to be on my toes all the time, motivating staff so that we could make our demanding customers happy,” she recalled.
After acquitting herself well, Mapolisa was promoted to the position of general manager of Autopay, which was a special business unit of Paynet.
“Autopay was one of the biggest payroll bureaus in the country. I did well in that role much to the satisfaction of both the management and directors. When I left Paynet I had risen to become an executive director. In fact, I was the only woman on the Pacer board. Paynet was then acquired by a new shareholder and a lot of management changes were implemented. That is how I left Payserv,” she told The Entrepreneurial Magazine.
Given the experience she had acquired in payrolls administration, it was inevitable that she would form her own company. The formation of the company, which she called CorePay, however proved not to be a bed of roses.
“One of the major constraints was lack of resources. I had to sell my car so that I could start the business. Earlier on, even though I had a lot of experience in payrolls, some companies were initially hesitant to entrust their payrolls with us. I really had to push for CorePay to be known in the market,” said Mapolisa.
Thanks to the efforts of Mapolisa and her team, CorePay has become the service provider of choice to many companies in Zimbabwe and beyond requiring payroll management and human resources solutions.
Growing up, did she ever dream of forming a company?
“I always had an entrepreneurial mindset. When I was working for Payserv, I used to make sandwiches for sale. I would wake up early in the morning and make sandwiches that I would sell to various companies in town.
“The sandwich business actually helped me improve my life; I remember I bought my first refrigerator using proceeds from the business. After I completed high school in Mbare, I used to plait hair for a fee. I think that was the genesis of my entrepreneurial journey. I believe the hardships I faced growing up in Mbare prepared me for the rigours of forming a company from scratch under very difficult circumstances. That is why I am proud of my Mbare heritage,” said Mapolisa.
The married mother of two, who has made a name for herself as a mentor for the girl child, believes rookie entrepreneurs who are willing to learn and work hard are better positioned to succeed.
“As America’s first female Secretary of State Madeleine Albright once said: ‘Whatever the job you are asked to do at whatever level, do a good job because your reputation is your resume.’
“I will also add that whatever the job you are doing, you should learn as much as you can. You should also do your job wholeheartedly because you don’t know what will happen tomorrow.
“If I had not pushed myself to learn the payroll system, I wouldn’t be here today; CorePay wouldn’t be in existence.
“To prepare myself for the demanding world of business, I also worked hard to attain various professional qualifications which include a diploma in marketing, diploma in payroll and pensions administration, a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) from the Institute of Marketing Management and an MBA in Strategic Leadership.
“More importantly, when you start a new company, you should not give up easily. It won’t be easy because you won’t have a track record to bank on. Because of that, clients will initially be hesitant to give you business. You really need to persevere,” the CorePay founder advised.