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Green Cross Manufacturing November 09 www. bus- ex. com 173 Transcending the generation gap to appeal to all age groups is one of the factors that underpins the success of Green Cross Manufacturing, South Africa's largest privately owned footwear manufacturer. CEO Hatti Zeppel talked to Jayne Flannery had the excruciating experience of wanting to scream out loud halfway through the day because of ill- fitting shoes, a scenario that should never happen with a Green Cross product, since comfort is the key proposition. In fact, so comfortable and durable are Green Cross shoes that a special corporate division has been created to address institutional and organisational needs where staff occupy roles that demand long hours on their feet. " Within the police force and airlines, for example, it is vital that staff are given the right support to both stay comfortable over many hours and also to encourage good posture," he adds. " We don't make mass- produced, cheap run- of- the- mill footwear which would involve us competing head on with imports from Asia," he continues. " Neither are we interested in the high fashion end of the market which is also very competitive. Rather, we opt for a niche mid- market position that takes in all generations. We have a cradle to grave approach, starting with size one for toddlers and going up to the larger sizes available on the market." T he first thing that sets Green Cross apart is the company's track record. It has an unbroken trading history dating back to 1975, when Green Cross was founded by Karl Heinz Zeppel, the late father of the current owner. As the company gears up to celebrate its 35th anniversary next year, CEO Hatti Zeppel can find much to feel proud of. Last year, the company manufactured 650,000 pairs of shoes, generating a £ 52 million turnover and employment for some 600 people. Meanwhile, the retail division that was founded in 1998 has gone from strength to strength: in addition to being represented by many small stockists, Green Cross now has 25 stores of its own with new outlets scheduled to open shortly in Durban and Bloemfontein. By any measure, it is a formidable success story. " We still operate in the close- knit, family environment that has always characterised the business. Our staff turnover rate is very low and everyone takes great pride in working with a quality product that will provide lasting comfort," states Zeppel. At some time or another, he believes that everyone has

Every business aspires to be excellent, but by definition, only a few can ever achieve that status. Even fewer can sustain it. A business that is excellent today can be overtaken tomorrow if it does not commit to continuous improvement. As others improve, standing still means moving backwards. Businessexcellence ACHIEVING ONLINE