Three lessons to be learnt from South African entrepreneurial visionaries

A recent event hosted by Deloitte in Stellenbosch provided a platform for like-minded business people to learn from the stories of successful entrepreneurs. During an interactive panel discussion, three successful local entrepreneurs, Daniel Nel (President: Entrepreneurs’ Organisation), Chris van der Merwe (CEO: Curro Holdings) and Schalk Nolte (CEO: Entersekt) were asked to share their perspectives on entrepreneurial leadership success.

From the discussions that developed, the following lessons were learnt:

Lesson 1: Leaders need motivation
A common misconception is that only employees need support in a growing business. However, leaders also need support and guidance. “Leaders should consider the guidance of a mentor or a coach who can give them the necessary tools to keep motivated, as well as to deal with tough decisions,” said Nel.
He advised to keep the bigger picture in mind, and to not let the hunger for immediate profit become the primary business goal.
“Only chasing the money will not result in long term growth. Remember that there is a higher purpose that should link with your vision and explain why you run the business as you do. Know your role as the leader, this will help you remain dedicated when times get tough,” said Nolte.

Lesson 2: The value of teamwork
Consider the value of having the right team in place at the outset of your business journey. The founder is the DNA of the business, so ensure that those whom you hire are aligned with your values and ethics, especially when it comes to executive committees and board members.
All panellists agreed that if you are at the start-up phase and you don’t have the right team in place, you are likely to be distracted from what you need to do as the leader of the business. Similarly, ensure that each member of your team knows what his or her role is, so the business can function optimally from the get-go.
Sometimes being a leader also means making tough decisions. “You must be willing to let go of someone if he or she is not contributing to the growth of your business,” explained Nel.
Lesson 3: Master the challenges
It is natural for a business to experience periods of stagnation. “There is opportunity that lies in periods of doubt. For example, if you lose clients, perhaps it is time to revaluate your business model. Should you be relying on, say, one or two big clients for income, or should you increase the number of smaller clients with whom you work?
“In addition, setting up a business requires two main ingredients: trade knowledge and passion for the value of entry. You must be a master in your field to instil confidence amongst your audience and earn respect in the marketplace. By understanding the stakes involved, you can master the obstacle,” said Van der Merwe.
Wendy Smith, a director at Deloitte in the Western Cape and leader of their Growth Enterprises initiative, encourages business owners to adopt the thought behind the saying ‘no man is an island’. “The reality is that the perspective of others can provide critical insight into business cycle ups-and-downs, managing the business as well as top- and bottom-line profitability. By learning from others, you can fast-track your business’s success,” she concludes.


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