Annemie Apffelstaedt answers a few questions on what it takes to be a successful business woman.

Annemie Apffelstaedt wife of Professor Justus Apffelstaedt, mother of two and Practice Manager at Apffelstaedt & Associates.

Why did you choose this career?

I felt compelled to do something effective in a changing breast health environment. By giving women access to high quality breast cancer screening in an attractive and women-friendly environment, we make it easier for them to take responsibility for their own breast health. Our multidisciplinary breast health centre offers both imaging and clinical services under one roof and addresses the paradigm shift in addressing today’s need in breast health screening. The process we follow manages all aspects of breast health and is purely for the benefit of our patients, rather than pure material gain for us. This is rewarding.

What is it like working with your husband?

Being married to a man who is completely dedicated to his work made my decision to co-write a business plan for a multi-disciplinary breast health centre an easy one. Working with my husband can be challenging. He is at the top of his game, head of the Breast Cancer Unit at Tygerberg Hospital and Associate Professor at the University of Stellenbosch, as well as the primary surgeon in our practice. This results in a very high focus on time management and work often leaks into our private life.

But we’re devoted to the cause of providing premium breast health care in South Africa. So it’s worth it. My husband is more focused on the education of women to take proactive care of themselves. He is a passionate advocate of access to information and a priority of his is to ensure that the multidisciplinary aspect of the practice – that oncology, reconstructive surgery, diagnostics and surgery – all work together. This also means that he never stops working, but then, neither do I.

Describe your average work day:

Due to the nature of the business, the actual content of my days constantly change. I deal with accounts, review appointments, have a look at the general work flow for the day. If there are issues such as queries by patients or from medical aids, IT and equipment related matters, maintenance and security of the premises, requests for talks or media enquiries, I address and resolve them or delegate where appropriate.

As a co-founder, I participate in financial planning and business development, which forms part of running the practice. I head home to cook at lunchtime for my family so that I can stay until the practice closes which is 5 PM but I usually stay until the last patient has left.

What is the best part of the job?

Working so closely with the patients, you forge relationships with them, so their satisfaction is immensely fulfilling. Seeing the practice keep growing towards bigger potential is also great. We’ve created sustainable employment for 14 women and it’s fulfilling to be part of a team which contributes in a positive way to a shift for the better in female-focused healthcare. To be part of a practice which really does something to improve breast care in South Africa. We have built a great team, for which I am grateful.

Tell us more about your qualifications:

We conducted comprehensive global market research for an extended period on the occurrence of breast cancer, following the completion of an MBA with my husband through Bond University in Australia. The result is a model that many leading proponents in the developed world now scrutinise for the betterment of their own practices. It is now quite a ubiquitous statement in the business world that the preferred workplace for those holding MBA’s is no longer at established companies, but within entrepreneurial start-ups.

What do you find most challenging?

I have learnt through trial and error and dedicated focus that breast cancer is a ‘business’ like any other. Introducing changes in the way breast health is dealt with has been our most challenging and rewarding experience. This means that stringent quality controls and my responsibility to focus on maintaining this quality, means constant attention to detail and accuracy along with excellent client service, which can be as intense as it is rewarding.

What do you do in your leisure time?

I go to gym; I love travelling and going to concerts (classical music). Both my children are musicians, so when not at work I used to take them to their music lessons and rehearsals. But now they have left the nest…

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