Prepare For The New Year With These Lessons From South Africa’s Biggest Entrepreneurs #SMESABestOf2017

Updated on 26 December 2017

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The end of the year is the perfect time for business owners to re-evaluate their goals and set the right tone for the start of the new year.

What better way to do that than with a recap of leadership insights gained from some of the country’s most recognisable names in business. They share the strategies they use to keep their businesses and themselves on their A-game.

Here’s a roundup of leadership lessons from some of the biggest names in the local business space to help you close the year off with a bang.

Sisa Ngebulana

WHO: Sisa Ngebulana is a property mogul and self-made millionaire with an estimated net worth of about R400 million.

He is the executive chairperson and sole owner of the multi-billion rand property company, Billion Group Limited, as well as Rebosis Property Fund Limited, the first black-managed and substantially black-held property fund to be listed on the JSE.

Disregard Negativity

Ngebulana has adopted a simple strategy – never mind the negative talk. He revealed this to Bruce Whitfield in an interview where he was featured as a “ShapeShifter” on Whitfield’s The Money Show on the radio station 702.

“I think inadvertently, you leave a lot of people perhaps unhappy about a few things and it does lead to bad-mouthing of each other and that sort of thing in the market. We never really do ourselves because we just stay out of it. My belief is always to focus on the future and where you’re going rather than be dragged by negative things. We don’t really have people or companies we can call enemies because we’ve competed with them before,” Ngebulana says.

Given Mkhari

WHO: Best known as the man behind the radio station Power FM, Given Mkhari built the largest, privately owned radio network in South Africa.

He is the Group CEO at MSG Afrika Investment Holdings, a black-owned media and communications group.

Look Beyond Opportunity

Mkhari’s biggest learning, he says in an interview with Moneyweb, is that opportunity on its own is actually not of value.

“Opportunity on its own is not enough. [It’s about] creating an opportunity, sustaining it, making it meaningful to all the key stakeholders. This could be the shareholders, the funders, the staff, the market. A more integrated, fully informed business proposition tends to last [longer] than a pure opportunistic opportunity defined by a trend at the time.

“Some people get away with that and I don’t fault them. But it hasn’t worked that much for us,” he says.

Siza Mzimela

WHO: Siza Mzimela is credited as the first black woman to start an airline.

She is the founder and executive chairperson of Blue Crane Aviation, an aviation services company that focuses on African airlines and provides specialist airline consulting, aviation legal services, aircraft management services – all to enable airlines and aviation businesses with strategic access to the global market.

Ask For Help…

Asking for assistance is something that Mzimela says, in an interview with SME South Africa, has helped her find her way. There have been a lot of people, but it is mostly family and friends, but it depends on what the issue is at that point in time. If it’s a very technical business issue it will probably be business people.

If it’s about me having a rough day in terms of having to make a difficult decision, I have access to other people who can actually help with that.

utilise anybody that I have around me, including my children as sounding boards. People always say, “but Siza how can you say that?” but I always say my two favourite groups of people are young people and old people. The common denominator between those two is that they just tell it like it is. They don’t try to sugarcoat things – they will tell you “but you are wrong”. So you need that sometimes.

Romeo Kumalo

WHO: With more than 20 years of experience in the South African ICT sector, Kumalo is currently CEO of Washirika Limited, an Africa-focused investment holding and private equity company that invests in the communication, construction, clean energy and ICT sectors, which he co-founded.

Your Experience Will Put You Ahead Of The Pack

When it comes to business, very few things beat experience, says Kumalo in an interview with men’s lifestyle magazine, GQ South Africa, and adds that one of his most important lessons has been to look at what you put into your toolbox.

“And with that, there are frameworks which you create for yourself,” he says, “I think it’s important to get business fundamentals right; systems and processes and building the right focus. You need to have a business plan for yourself. Acquire experiences to mould your framework.”

“If there’s one thing I could have done more it would have been to go out early in life and experience different markets. If you’re in your late 20s or early 30s and have the opportunity to work overseas, you should do it and don’t just choose the obvious markets like the UK and Europe; go to India, or Mexico or Brazil. The earlier you do that the better, because later on, in a highly competitive market you will beat someone else. Companies prize that more than anything. And if you’re not going to work for a big corporate, you’ll still win because no one can buy [from] you those experiences. Harvard can’t teach you that.”

Find Out More: Romeo Kumalo’s 4 Principles For Finding Your Direction In Business

Brett and Brad Magrath

WHO: Brett and Brad Magrath founded Zoona, a Cape Town-based mobile money transfer company that was chosen among the world’s best startups in the 2016 Fintech100 list.

Knowledge Is The Enemy Of Learning

“Things are shifting at a rapid rate – customer profiles are changing, expectations are changing and technology is changing,” they shared in a new book called, Zoona “ISMS”,  in which they talk about the principles entrepreneurs should be guided by when tackling challenges in the unique African landscape.

“Operating in Africa has no set formula, even within a single country. Knowledge isn’t going to help and if we are to win in this space, we need to toss it aside, question our assumptions, roll up our sleeves and start learning.”

Wendy Luhabe

WHO: Wendy Luhabe is considered one of Africa’s most powerful business leaders.

She heads one of the largest women-led investment firms, Women Investment Portfolio Holdings (WIPHOLD), the first fund to provide capital to women-owned businesses in South Africa with a R120 million private equity fund that was raised by women.

Your Self Esteem and Self-Worth Are More Important Than You Think

“I would say courage has possibly been critical to my success,” she says. Speaking at this year’s #Leaderex2017 conference, “I believe that courage enabled me to take on responsibilities that were way beyond my age and possibly experience, as a result, this positioned me for leadership roles early in my life, in a variety of large institutions.

“Courage is very much related to one’s self-esteem, sense of worth, self-belief and overall attitude towards life in general. If all of these are healthy, we are likely to find enough courage to stretch ourselves beyond our comfort zone,” she says.

Rapelang Rabana

WHO: TechpreneurRapelang Rabana is one of Africa’s most respected entrepreneurs.

Referred to as “Africa’s Marissa Mayers” by CNN, Rabana is the founder of mobile and computer learning solutions company, Rekindle Learning and was recently appointed as the new chief digital officer of ICT solutions company BCX.

It’s About More Than Just Business

Skills and business knowledge will only take you so far, says Rabana in an interview with The Legacy Project, your principles, values, as well as your personal growth outside the business, matter more than just what you know, she says.

“Entrepreneurship is far more a personal journey than it is a business journey. The extent to which you are willing to grow as a person has a direct impact on your business because in the early stages so much of your business is about you. I believe that true success comes from operating from an authentic space and being true to your own goals and aspirations.”

She adds: “If you try to behave like someone else, you deviate from that authentic space where your real power lies. Understanding of self, what truly motivates you, what your strengths and weaknesses are, building self-awareness are critical qualities. This is a skill available to anyone who seeks it – it’s about reflecting, reading, listening to yourself, exploring your hunches or ideas, even if they don’t seem like much.”

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