SA’s Leading Business Brains Offer their Advice for Business Success

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Business Success

“[As a leader] you have to learn not to make good decisions but to facilitate good decision-making – a completely different thing – so many people think a leader has to be all powerful and know everything, that is not your job, [leaders] have to tease out the right answers,” says Michael Jordaan, former CEO of FNB and the man credited with building it into one of the most innovative banks in the world during his tenure.

Jordaan, who now runs his own venture capital business, Montegray Capital, recently sat down with venture capitalist and entrepreneurship champion, Vusi Thembekwayo to talk all things business, from his leadership philosophy to what he looks for in a winning startup.  

Jordaan is one of a number of South African business people Thembekwayo has interviewed on his series, MyGrowFund Osmosis, which is fast becoming a must watch for all entrepreneurs. 

Below are our favourite interviews and what you can learn from some of SA’s best business brains.

Richard Maponya – The Father of Black Business

Richard Maponya is a Sowetan business icon and is credited with helping to grow Soweto’s economy. Maponya Group’s ventures include property development, horse racing and breeding, retail, automotive sales, filling stations and liquor stores.

Proving them wrong

“They said a mall in a place like Soweto will never work because black people want to shop in the cities, they would like to see the bright lights of the city.”

A man of the people

“That was the secret to my success, I looked at people as people, not as numbers. When I meet with you, when you come into my business place, I would ask your for your name, if you come again, I will welcome you as Mr So and So.”

“I will always refer to my late wife, we were such wonderful partners in business, she also loved working with people and respected people as people.”

Without ego

“It was a blessing on me that I became quite a successful young person, but my success never got me into a place where I started looking down on people.”

“I looked at people as people and respected them irrespective of what class they belonged to, people were just people to me, that was my greatest success in business.”

Michael Jordaan – The Innovator

Michael Jordaan is considered one of South Africa’s most notable businessmen. In addition to his VC venture, he is behind Bank Zero, a new app-driven bank set to launch in South Africa after getting a provisional licence from monetary authorities earlier this year. The bank is expected to launch in the fourth quarter of 2018.

Leadership philosophy

“It’s not about me, it’s all about the team, and setting up people around you so that they can succeed. So you got to get the right people, they have to be better than you, you have to empower them, you have to set them free.”

“People will surprise, not only you as the leader, but they will actually end up surprising themselves and so this is really the story of what happened at FNB.”

“I would love to say I came up with all those hundreds of innovations, but it wasn’t me, it was a cultural wave that allowed people to come up with these ideas, to try new things, to sometimes fail, but sometimes succeed and then if you succeed [with]in a big corporate suddenly you have 9 million customers.”

Supporting startups 

“I think startups are the best way to solve the problems of the world.”

“Startups can take ideas and turn them into something sustainable.”

Startup advice

“The best idea must win.”

“Don’t go big until you get it right, don’t start the next McDonalds until the first McDonalds works perfectly.”

“Many entrepreneurs fall in love with the idea – ideas are the easiest thing in the world, executing [them] is the hardest thing in the world.”

“There is nothing that impresses me as much as someone who has got it working.”

Karl Westvig – The Strategist

Karl Westvig is chief executive officer of Retail Capital, an SME lender. Retail Capital has advanced over R1 billion to thousands of businesses in the restaurant, retail, wellness and medical industries since 2011.

The value of teamwork

“The most successful businesses are not one-man operations with resources, they tend to be teams.”

“As one man you always have blind spots and weaknesses that you don’t deal with.”

“If you can find a team which has strong finance structuring, governance skills, someone who is a creator and someone who has the marketing and distribution, then you have a strong team.”

Funding is not the answer to everything

“Brand credibility is big; a good distribution model is critical; good customer value proposition is critical; a track record is critical. If you have those four things you are unlikely to not be able to find funding.”

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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