‘Get experience first, you need to understand the beast’ – Theo Covary

'Get experience first, you need to understand the beast' - Theo Covary

'Get experience first, you need to understand the beast' - Theo CovaryCompany Profile:

Name of company: Unlimited Energy

Years in existence: 7

Position: Director

Can you tell us a little bit about your background – personal, education and professional?

After completing a business undergraduate degree, I spent the following seven years working in the financial sector in London. I returned to SA in 2000 and continued working in banks but it was soul destroying so I did an MBA and changed careers. My thesis was on renewable energy so when I completed it, I resigned and started my own consulting company.

Can you tell us a little bit about your company and what you do?

Most of our work is for the public sector (Dept of Energy, SANEDISEDA etc) and International Agencies (UNDP and other Government Agencies such as the German, Swiss, Japanese, USA – we have done work for all of these). We also do some private sector work. Recently we have been doing a lot of work with schools. We conduct energy audits and help them formulate an energy policy.

How did you journey begin and how have you achieved success so far?

Realising that big banks were not for me and doing something about it.

“Now when I make extra in one month I stick it away for a rainy day”

Has it been difficult? What were some of the obstacles you face and how did you overcome them?

Of course it’s difficult. It’s much easier to know that someone will pay you at the end of the month regardless of how productive or unproductive you are. If you keep your head low you can survive in large corporate companies for a long time. I think it has a lot to do with confidence and believing in yourself.

How many people does your company employ?

I used to have a team and then we nearly went bankrupt. So now I work with other small consulting teams – instead of competing we collaborate. It’s a very good model but it can only work if there is trust. There are three people on the payroll at the moment.

What is your overall vision for your business?

To contribute and influence energy efficiency policy in SA and by so doing reduce overall demand.

What do you think it takes to establish and run a successful business in South Africa?

Perseverance. If cashflow doesn’t get you then government (and corporate) bureaucracy will.

How did you finance your business, how difficult or easy was the process?

Learnt the hard way. Now when I make extra in one month I stick it away for a rainy day.

What are the three things you attribute your business success to?

Never missing a deadline, relationships and not losing your cool. Do not hit the reply button until the next day!

When did you know that you were an entrepreneur?

I think I always did.

How would you describe your leadership style?

Giving everyone a chance but if they blow it then you’re off the bus

What three pieces of advice would you offer young entrepreneurs starting out today?

Get work experience first. You need to understand the beast.

What’s the worst and best business advice you’ve ever received?

To keep a written record of what you and your partners agree with, because one day you will need it. Unfortunately I didn’t follow it!

And finally, do you believe in luck, hard work or both?

Both.

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Lebohang Thulo
Lebohang Thulo
Lebohang Thulo is the editor of SME South Africa. She enjoys keeping up with the country’s exciting and fast developing entrepreneurship ecosystem. You can find her at @lelele3