Edward Colle - Through my eyes, there can't be black and white

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Edward Colle:Sales Director at Belgotex

EDWARD COLLE, after completing his studies at Stellenbosch, Colle spent four years working in one of his mother's businesses before officially joining Belgotex. He views this time as vital to his professional development, and the broad foundation he gained in this smaller business has stood him in good stead in his career at Belgotex.

Belgotex was founded in the 1950s and evolved into a multi-national corporate spanning five continents. Despite being brought up in the flooring industry and being the third generation in this family-owned business, Colle earned his stripes before being promoted to the executive team. Starting on the factory floor, he moved slowly through the business, taking learnings from each stage of his journey and getting to know the staff on a personal level before being appointed Chief Futures Officer.

Colle has spent the last nine years with Belgotex and has a clear passion for the industry which motivates him daily. Sustainability in all aspects of the business as well as society is a key priority and ensuring that Belgotex continues to evolve as a purpose-driven organisation that has a significant impact on the generation that follows him is central to the way Belgotex does business.

Driven by creativity and trained in the arts, Colle brings a unique perspective to the business. He is acutely aware of the value of multiple insights and diversity of opinion, and says this inclusive attitude allows him to have an objective view of the world. This embodies his philosophy that there is no black or white in life. "Through my eyes, there can't be black and white, because that means everything is either right or wrong. But that depends on which side of the table you are sitting. Your experiences and exposure to life are going to inform your perspective."

Colle has a progressive management style and strongly supports the concept of the win-win approach. He has a clear vision for the future of Belgotex and the company continually strives to develop the business and inspire their people to achieve the unimaginable.

Colle credits his ability to empathise with others, and trying to understand other people's viewpoints, as a strength that he contributed to his success. He points out that challenging the status quo is not always plain sailing, but by doing so they create greater opportunities and a greater meaning in what they do. "When facing challenges," says Colle, "managing your frustrations and focusing on your objectives are essential."

The "Belgotex Green Journey" was initiated well before he joined the company, and he is committed to taking it to the next level. He views the environmental sustainability of the business as best practice, and as a never-ending journey, but the bigger value-add to society is the sustainability and inclusive growth of all stakeholders in the industry.

Belgotex believes wholeheartedly in a 'hand-up' rather than a 'hand-out' approach, and Colle is co-founder of the Belgotex Foundation which was established 6 years ago. The Foundation's focus was initially focused on three key areas: wildlife conservation, early childhood development and economic upliftment through vocational training, but has recently morphed into something much bigger.

"We're proud to be associated with initiatives that support the efforts of communities and individuals to improve their socio-economic circumstances," says Colle. "And we have the opportunity to make a significant difference in society through the scale we've created."

"If we look around, we cannot be proud of the current situation in society. It may be more evident in this beautiful country we live in, but the same social decay and lack of inclusive growth is evident globally. This is not part of our purpose, and if we don't address the situation, we will leave our children a very challenging set of cards. On a fundamental level, if we cannot look after our planet and the society that occupies it, we will have a very dysfunctional set of circumstances which will put immense pressure on business, as the environment will not be conducive to any form of growth. The sooner we address and deal with these issues, the better it will be in the long run."

On a personal level, Colle and his wife Sarah are embarking on a 90-hectare agricultural restoration project. Sarah is a chef by profession so has always had a passion for food. Together with their three-year old daughter, they spend weekends planting and harvesting good honest produce. Their plan is to run a training facility for the community in which they live so that these skills can be transferred and create a restaurant and deli which serves all the local ingredients to its patrons. Watch this space...

"I'm not sure that we will ever find the perfect balance in life between work, family and social," says Colle, "but we try to juggle these three balls as effectively as possible."

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