Member Interview: Judy Sunasky (Johannesburg III Chapter)

Want to take your business to the next level?

The WPO’s new Johannesburg chapter is looking for YOU!

Being a woman business leader can be very lonely – but joining the Women Presidents Organization (WPO) offers a safe, non-competitive space with like-minded entrepreneurs where you can share, learn, grow and ultimately turbo-charge your business.

So says award-winning Johannesburg entrepreneur Judy Sunasky, who is spearheading the launch of the City of Gold’s third chapter at PwC’s offices in Waterfall City on Wednesday, June 7, 2023.

She is looking for “next-level” Joburg women entrepreneurs to sign up to join these stimulating monthly peer-group learning conversations and reap the many benefits that WPO membership offers.

Having joined the “Johannesburg II” chapter as a founding member in 2016, with the past year as chair, she says being part of a close-knit “tribe” of South African women business leaders has been nothing short of transformative.

“I would walk away from every session and go back to my business being able to build or implement something new – or sometimes just park it for later. They have helped me navigate many tough times, from retrenchments to the sale of my business.”

Sunasky sold her industrial chemical manufacturing firm and is now a business and leadership coach, helping people transition into their next business phase. She says her WPO membership has given her invaluable insights, thanks to its support system where the focus is on mutual learning.

“Our members are entrepreneurs who have built something – who have gone from being creators to managing their own business. They had fun while creating it, but are often not having so much fun now that they’re managing it,” she explains.

“They need a step-change to find their way out of that and go back to a space where their original strength lies – but to do that, you have to put in place an accountable management team that you can trust. It’s your baby, but now you have to let go of that baby and put it into other people’s hands – which is not always an easy transition.”

She says the beauty of each WPO chapter – there are currently more than 2 000 members meeting monthly in 139 chapters across 10 countries – is that it offers an environment where women business leaders from diverse backgrounds, business sectors and fields of knowledge can draw on each other’s experiences in a dynamic marketplace of ideas.

“It’s a safe space to share, and building confidentiality and trust among the group is absolutely key.”

Each chapter is made up of 20 women business leaders drawn from non-competing fields. If there is a potential overlap in clientele or industry sector when new members join, a new chapter is formed to accommodate them – which is what is currently happening in Johannesburg.

“I believe our chapter [Johannesburg II] is the most diverse one in the world, from a race, religion and cultural perspective,” states Sunasky. “Diversity is very important to us – the more diverse your group is, the more perspectives you can bring to the table.”

While women do still face prejudice and subconscious bias in the workplace, Sunasky says the WPO does not beat the feminist drum. “It’s all about business – and we’re good businesspeople.”

She believes women add value as business leaders because they already lead in so many aspects of their lives – from parenting their children and assisting ageing parents to being a wife, partner and caretaker of the home.

“What the WPO is not is a networking group so you can meet people and sell things to them,” Sunasky points out.

“What it is is a support system that helps you see what you are not currently seeing in your business. You are so emotionally invested in your business that when things are tough, or you’re really stressed, the clarity of thinking required to make important decisions is not always there.

“You’re imagining worst-case scenarios, and all kinds of things are going on in your brain. This is where the value of peer-group learning comes in, as everyone brings something different to the table.”

You can apply to join a WPO chapter in South Africa if:

  • Your business has an annual turnover of R10-million
  • You have a share in the business (it need not be a majority share)
  • You are involved in the day-to-day running of the business
  • You can attend one four-hour in-person chapter meeting every month (a hybrid set-up is available in case of business travel or illness)
  • You want to take your business to the next level

What principles guide Sunasky’s approach to business? “I love to work with people. If you come into my business, I don’t expect you to be there forever, but I’d like you to leave having grown and moved on to where you next want to be.

“Also, when you look at any business, the numbers will tell you the truth. You have to know the numbers in all the different areas of your business to monitor them effectively. So many people don’t consider their numbers framework until they get to the point where they have to.

“Finally, I’m a forever learner. I’m open to learning, growing and whatever comes next. We live in uncertain times, so we need to regulate from within – the only thing we can be certain of is what’s inside us.”