‘I see opportunities everywhere’ – Johan Eksteen

Updated on 18 September 2014

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'I see opportunities everywhere' - Johan EksteenCompany Profile

Name of company: Agricon Pty Ltd

Years in existence: Established in 1992. Sole owner since 1996

Position: Owner and managing director

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

After school, I studied agriculture at university and got my masters in sustainable agriculture. My first job I worked as a fertiliser and chemical representative for a business distributing fertilisers. I went on to work in agri-nominal working with vegetables. I continued to climb the ladder and had 500 people reporting to me. After that I did grape exports then went into the cotton industry, first in South Africa then Uganda.

What is Agricon, and what do you do? 

Agricon Pty Ltd is a worldwide supplier of pelletizing machinery and equipment as well as agri–processing factories. Pelletizing, involving the processing of materials into small dry pellets, is a common practice in industrial procedures. This process is used globally by manufacturers of animal feed or recycling facilities that specialise in processing materials for reuse.

In addition to the manufacturing of machines and equipment, the company also provides training and on-site installation for clients, as well as support following a sale or the provision of spare parts.

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

I was 21 in 1993 and started the business then. My brother worked full-time in the business, while I ran it as a sideline business. I was more on the advertising and administrative side.

“We want to innovate, we don’t compete”

In 2001 I went to do my MBA. That was between 2001 and 2004. After that I changed direction completely, and went to work for a JSE-listed company as a managing director. That’s when I realised that I preferred to work for myself.

The reason I first worked for others is I needed the money to run my business and for the exposure. In 2006 I bought my brother out.

What were some of the obstacles you faced and how did you overcome them?

The biggest hurdle was financing. It’s easier now, everyone is realising that entrepreneurs need to be nurtured. I used my salary and income from the business to re-invest and grow the business.

How many people does your company employ?

We have a business model where we outsource our manufacturing. So the big picture is 40 people, but internally it’s 12.

What is your overall vision for your business?

Agricon is an international business, not local. I intend it to be in the forefront of the pelleting industry. We want to innovate, we don’t compete.

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

You have to have tenacity, know that the buck stops with you. It also depends on your internal locus of control. Believe in yourself, and that you can solve your problems. If you behave like a cry baby you won’t survive in the South African industry.

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

We scrapped money together to put together our first machine, which we sold and it paid for the second machine, and that one paid for two more and so on.

“An idea is not a plan”

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

I had an amazing upbringing with wonderful parents. I was given opportunities to better myself through education, I have learnt my whole life. I am an entrepreneurial person who can see opportunities everywhere, and see how they can apply in my own life.

When did you know that you were an entrepreneur?

It started when I was 11-years-old and my father came and asked me what I wanted to do. I told him I wanted to be a stud breeder. He bought me 6 cows and one bull. I was the youngest stud farmer to be registered in the South African Stud Book. I started showing cows and started breeding. The business grew to be quite substantial. I sold it when I went to university and used the money to do my masters.

How would you describe your leadership style?

I’ve got a very participative leadership style. I work with the guys, even if it means sweeping floors. I believe you can’t expect something from someone if you don’t do it yourself. I expect a lot from them, to act with integrity and ethically. I am not a micro manager, I’m not looking over their shoulders.

What are some of your favourite motivational books and motivational gurus that have inspired you in growing your business?

Funnily enough, I do show jumping. I get on the back of a horse and feel connected to the horse and nature. In the unique industry I work in, it’s difficult to find mentors. I like talking to people, and I learn a lot from everyone.

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

– An idea is not a plan. You have to put that idea into a plan, have a template for all facets of the business. Ask yourself, if I take this plan to an investor would they invest?

– Be prepared to face the worst case scenario. Don’t make a decision if you can’t live with the worst case.

– Believe in yourself and God.

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

The best is from my mother, that if you are looking for a helping hand, look at the end of your arm. The worst is to look overseas for investors with big money. They are just big talkers, if it sounds too good to be true, then it is.

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

I believe in hard work and blessings. Luck is blessings. The more you put in, the more you receive.

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