Sisters Yolandi and Natasha van Niekerk share a love of psychology and are pushed forward by their eagerness to understand how people work. Their joint venture, PCD Assessments specialise in psychometric tests that look at the potential and capabilities of truck drivers, thus making South African roads a little safer for all.
Growing up in a small town in the Northern Cape, the sisters had a firm grounding in the importance of family and community values, “We grew up between nowhere and nothing so there really wasn’t much else to focus on,” older sister Yolandi jokes. When the girls were older, the family moved to South Africa’s biggest rural city, Heidelberg as their parents wanted to stay in a sheltered community, “I think they wanted to keep us out of the big bad city, but I guess we were just bound to end up here!” sister Natasha adds. PCD Assesments runs from Pretoria and they also branch out to Mpumalanga and even Cape Town. “I wouldn’t say that we have a small-town-mentality, we rather have a great advantage as we are able to communicate to both worlds of people,” Yolandi explains their marriage of communication and business skills.
Straight after high school, Natasha knew her path was to be in the psychology field as she studied psychology at the University of Pretoria until Honours level after which she completed her Psychology Council Exams. Yolandi, on the other hand took a different path to her current occupation as she worked as a real-estate agent for ten years before joining her sister in the psychology field. Next year she is also graduating with a degree in Industrial Psychology from the distance university, UNISA.
After working for a company that did psychometric tests for miners, Natasha decided she wanted to move into the industry on her own. “We really struggled to get into the mining industry,” she explains, “then one day we were approached by a company that offered different type of tests that focussed on reaction abilities, and so we started on the trucking industry.” Yolandi furthers that the industry is also quite close to their heart as their father was almost run over by a mining evaporator. “If he didn’t have quick reflexes and a quick reaction to the situation, we would have been without a father today,” Yolandi sternly adds.
Their psychometric tests are accredited by the Medical Council and are based on scientific findings from Karl Jung and Meier Briggs. “We base everything on research that has been proven over and over again,” Natasha explains. They have mainly five areas of focus in their tests, namely reaction (speed and logic), stress tolerance, concentration, non-verbal IQ tests and a personality test. “We have proof from our clients that testing drivers before allowing them on the roads significantly lowered their accident rate,” Yolandi boasts. “I guess the main thing it comes down to, is that truck agencies need to ask themselves before hiring, is whether they would give that person the key to their truck or their Mercedes. And the truck is always the more expensive.”
Yolandi and Natasha joined MEDO earlier this year as they felt they did not have enough knowledge to manage their business to reach its full potential. “We felt the knowledge that we owned was only going to take us so far, we felt MEDO could open doors for us,” Yolandi explains. The most significant things they learnt from MEDO was the value of PR and clarity on understanding corporate traffic.
Looking to the future, the sisters are branching out to a fully equipped training centre for truck drivers. “We want to train these drivers in a year programme, not only how to drive safely, but also what to do in emergency situations,” Natasha explains. They are also working in collaboration with truck agencies so that graduates will be employed after the training. A dream project that is still in the pipeline is that they want to expand the training centre to a child training centre. “We want to test the kids of the truck drivers in their potent capabilities, but more so, we want to encourage them in studies to give them exposure in a huge array of subjects,” Yolandi furthers.
It is often said that one should never do business with family, however it seems in the scenario of PCD Assesments this rule does not quite apply. “We get mad at each other, but in the end of the day we are connected by something more than a partnership, we will be bound to each other for ever,” Yolandi explains with little sis Natasha eagerly agreeing.