Mark Zartmann: 30 Years of top-tier service

Mark Zartmann, CEO of MBB Consulting Services International (MSI) and Managing Director of MBB Consulting Services (PMB) celebrates an impressive milestone achievement encompassing 30 years of Services.

Being brought up on an irrigation farm in Zimbabwe, Mark was not fond of watching plants grow and initially wanted to become an Astronomer or a Nuclear Physicist, unfortunately, these options were not possible in Zimbabwe. However, Mark was inquisitive and eager to know why things worked the way they did which engineering offered the perfect opportunity to allow an understanding of why the physical world takes the shape it does. The pursuit of Agricultural Engineering was favourable considering his background in irrigation would be advantageous.

Mark Zartmann’s career began as a Student Engineer in Zimbabwe for Triangle Sugar Estates, in the Zimbabwean lowveld. Before becoming a Student Engineer, Mark being dedicated to furthering his engineering journey, was fortunate enough to obtain a scholarship from Tongaat Hulett in Zimbabwe allowing this dream to flourish into reality. With his years of studies between Pietermaritzburg and Durban, he was offered some new experiences as a Zimbabwean farmer. From the larger classes, to the coastal atmosphere, and the new found love of golf (this cheekily being mentioned as a core part of the curriculum for it “probably received more time than it should have”), all being located in Durban, before moving on to the convergence of multi-disciplinary courses within the agricultural environment in Pietermaritzburg.

Mark goes on to mention some of his key Professors in his education were Professor ‘Pottie’ Meiring who “was a highly respected Agricultural Engineer who spear-headed much of what the degree had come to stand for” and Professor Roland Schulze, a world-acclaimed Hydrologist, one who “inspired excellence and pulled together the highly competent staff in order to provide an unparalleled teaching experience.” However, all good things experience times of uncertainty and due to unfortunate financial difficulties caused by a crippling drought, Triangle Sugar Estates was unable to offer a long-term position to Mark in Zimbabwe.

After obtaining his Masters in Science (Engineering), Mark joined the MBB team on a short-term contract in 1993 as a qualified Agricultural Engineer under the directorship and mentorship of Senior Professional Engineer, Mr. Richard Robertson. After having fulfilled all the Engineer in Training requirements at MBB Consulting Engineers, Mark attained his registration as a Professional Engineer from the Engineering Council of South Africa. “The short-term employment job was indefinitely extended until I got a letter of permanent employment ten years later” the formalities, as they tended to be back then, were based on a “smile and a handshake” as he fondly speaks of the memories associated with this time and the many made by the company since, we see the smile has yet to dim.

Shortly after this Mark’s journey of leadership commenced when he was appointed as Director and then Managing Director of MBB Consulting Services (PMB). Mark states, “Irrigation technology and its application have always been my passion, so the opportunity to make a difference in the sustainability of irrigation enterprises has been a motivating feature of my professional life.” Mark has undeniably brought a unique insight to the Company and his years of hard work and dedication have significantly impacted several others and the culture of MBB today seeing him fit to take on the role of Chief Executive Officer of MBB Consulting Services International.

Travelling with the likes of Alick Rennie, Dr. Rodney Maud and Oscar Ashton and experiencing different cultures through his work are other highlights of Mark’s career as colleagues became friends, confidants and sources of inspiration. Peru, with its laid-back culture, good food (ceviche) and beer, the extreme energy of Nigeria, the strive for organisation and cleanliness in Rwanda, and not to forget all the incredible history and inspiration of Israel, these are only some of his travelling highlights.  Mark goes on to say that the amazing mentoring he received from Mr. Richard Robertson had a significant influence, both on him personally and on the greater good of the larger company, for his leadership of the office served as a great example of servant leadership and of Richard’s desire for growth through mentoring. This, even today, is something Mark is continually encouraged by and strives to produce under his leadership in this role.

When asked ‘what the future holds for the CEO of MBB Consulting Services International,’ Mark states he often thinks of himself as a “reluctant leader,” his trait of being unafraid to take responsibility has often placed him in leadership roles, from as early as his schooling years. MBB Consulting Services International is a diverse group of independent companies operating in different locations within different industries, therefore, Mark believes his role as CEO is to ensure that the whole is better than the sum of its parts. Mark aims to work on one of his biggest leadership challenges which is integrating skills of MBB’s independent companies and delivering them to the appropriate markets.

However, the future of food and energy production in Africa needs people like that of Mark Zartmann, with training and experience that gives the ability to see through the difficulties that come with development activities, who offer advice that will reap benefits in maximizing production through optimizing sustainable systems with the end goal of long-term benefits to the entire value chain and the environment.

A driving motivation for Mark is to do his best in all that he does, to honour his family through quality time and to be fair and complementary to colleagues, and to ensure the sustainability of the company.  Mark’s responsibility to the company is about its staff. He states, “We are all about our people and their excellence, so I must build a culture of learning, of fearlessness, of adventure and fun.  If people feel the way that I do about my time at MBB, when I leave, I will have felt that I made a difference.” “Be prepared to start at the bottom and jump at every opportunity to gain new experiences” is the advice Mark lives by.