Jabu Mabuza knows business. He is a corporate leader with an impressive CV.
He has held a number of high-profile corporate roles in his career including group chief executive officer of Tsogo Sun, managing director of Southern Sun Gaming and chairman of the board of South African Tourism, despite starting out as a taxi driver.
His corporate background has given him insight into how to run a successful business – insights that can serve entrepreneurs well in their pursuit of creating a sustainable business.
The Mpumalanga-born businessman shared his wisdom with hundreds of delegates at this year’s Global Entrepreneurship Congress (GEC) which took place in Johannesburg recently.
Mabuza was one of the speakers at the global event that brought thousands of entrepreneurs and delegates from around the world to share insights and workshop ideas in the hope of strengthening startups and stimulate economic growth on the continent.
According to Mabuza, if entrepreneurs want to find entrepreneurial success, they needed to go back to basics and not only provide what people need, but also the best way to get it to them.
Here are 5 candid lessons that Mabuza says every entrepreneur should follow in order to make it in the tough business world.
1. Entrepreneurs are a unique breed
What makes an entrepreneur stand out is their ability to turn a challenge into an opportunity, says Mabuza.
“[When I think about] entrepreneurship, what comes to mind is that, [the entrepreneur] is the one who sees the gap between a need and an opportunity, as against a need and a problem. And says, ‘how am I going to plug that gap?’
“Entrepreneurs say, ‘I want to do it for myself. I want to do what I like. And I want to do it the way I like’. And you know what, getting paid for doing what you like is the ultimate career I want to be involved with.”
2. Find the ‘WHY’ that drives you
What drove Mabuza into entrepreneurship, he says, was his drive to find a way out of poverty. This is what has spurred him on even when times got difficult.
“For me, the entrepreneurial zeal came about as a consequence of survival. I dropped out of law school, I did not have the ability to go to law school in the first place. Prior to me going to university, I used to moonlight driving taxis. So I drove taxis, got to organise taxis, got to lead taxis.”
3. Successful entrepreneurs close the deal
It always comes down to the ability to sell, Mabuza says. This is what enables everything else.
“I don’t think entrepreneurs wake up and thinking how many people I’m going to employ. They wake up thinking how much more can I sell for longer. And as a consequence of that, in meeting that demand, they then can employ many other people.”
4. Business is about people
Keep everything simple, is Mabuza’s message. Focus on what’s important: your customers and employees.
“Business people have this bad thing of making this concept of business very complicated. Business isn’t about jargon. It’s not about big figures, billions or trillions. Business is about people,” he says.
“People produce and people consume. People sell and people buy. People have aspirations and desires. We call it human resources [but] people are not human resources, they have resources. They have talents.”
5. The customer is king
Mabuza says that every entrepreneur should be asking these four straight-to-the-point questions when it comes to serving the customer – What do customers need? Where can they get the product or service? Can I bring it to them? How do they want it?
“We like to make this thing so big and important, it’s actually as simple as that,” he concludes.
WATCH: Jabu Mabuza talks about his journey from a taxi driver to becoming a corporate leader, and shares his views about whether entrepreneurs are born or made.