Online business success

Cindy Preller

FAITH, family-like staff and never giving up. These are the elements that have ensured Roberta Sampson business success over the past 22 years.

This year she started her fourth business and now employs 45 people at all the Port Elizabeth-based enterprises.

Sampson started her first business in 1991 in Johannesburg by providing business entries in the Telkom phonebook, a unique service which is the only one of its kind that’s independent and private sector-run, Sampson said. Today this business is known as Directory Solutions and has a database of 800000 clients across South Africa.

“Our sales and service levels are better and we offer different options to the clients,” Sampson said.

Because this type of business can be run from anywhere in the country, Sampson moved to Port Elizabeth in 2002 to “start a new chapter in my life”.

In 2004 she started Effective Enquiries to handle Telkom 1023 listings and in 2010 she started Directory Holdings, which offers Yellow pages-listings to clients.

“I find Port Elizabeth to be a lot more of a relaxed and happy environment to work in, compared to Johannesburg.

“I find the staff to be very dedicated and helpful towards each other. I have two families working for me and we all feel like family, going to funerals and weddings together.

“When I appoint someone, the only pre-requisite is they have to be Christian and a non-smoker. We teach them everything they need to know,” Sampson said.

Her son, Darryn Hendricks, 27, also works for her as the IT manager for Online Directory Services, which was his brainchild.

This company was started earlier this year and is an online business name finder.

“He thinks differently and has helped me to develop new business ideas. Instead of faxing and face-to-face visits to my clients, he suggested a telesales team in 2010 and also helped me to create websites for the businesses, where people get more information.

“He grew up in the business and has been instrumental in its successes,” Sampson said.

She said Hendricks’ life “was miraculously spared by Christ in October 2008” after he was diagnosed with blood cancer the year before.

Referring to her companies as “David vs Goliath” in comparison with Telkom, she has had several run-ins with the telecommunications parastatal – in the Gauteng and Port Elizabeth High Courts and at the Competition Commission – about her right to offer the services to clients.

She loves to travel and prefers to appoint women employees.

“I find women generally work harder than men and are very dedicated. There are a lot of single mothers who do not get maintenance and rely on their salaries to put food on the table for their children. When we hire, I always try to appoint a woman and I hope to grow the personnel to more than 150 employees,” Sampson said.

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