What is your business background? I’ve always been in buying and selling – right through school. After school, I owned wholesale, mobile and shoe import businesses and an electronics company. It hasn’t all been illustrious as I was also involved in an Internet business that went from riches to rags in the dot-com bubble! In 2001, I co-founded TCC with Gil Oved. We’ve just won the CNBC All Africa Business Leader Awards Young Business Leader of the Year 2014 – Southern Africa.
It sounds like you were a master of all trades? When I started out, I was unfocused and tried to make a buck wherever I could. I learned along the way that businesses require focus and that the sooner I focused on one of my many ventures, the sooner I could build something meaningful. I have a more focused approach now and ensure that I spend time on being the best at what we do.
Not believing that we would grow meant we were always playing catch-up.
What is the costliest mistake you’ve ever made? I’ve always focused on the magic of business and neglected the administration duties that come with it. My biggest mistake was not believing and foreseeing that we would build a big business one day. Unfortunately, the fact that we did not build and invest in the infrastructure that is required to run a big business came back to bite us in the end.
What were the repercussions? Not believing that we would grow meant we were always playing catch-up. Our finance and admin teams were always weaker than the business they had to support. We lost a lot of money along the way, our growth was hampered and I personally had to spend a lot of time cleaning up. I found respect for the admin drivers of a business, finance departments, IT infrastructure and admin processes and hired the best people in each of those respective disciplines to drive our business. I also earmarked budget for the creation of systems to support sales and ensure that we were building our business on solid foundations.
What would you have done differently? I would believe! If you really believe that you have a good business, you must build it in such a way that the foundation can support the largest of developments. Many entrepreneurs struggle with this. The difference between being an entrepreneur and building an empire lies in the ability to focus on the areas that don’t necessarily drive your ambition, but rather build the foundation for the future. I know we are supposed to live without regret, and as much as I learned from the mistakes, I would have preferred to avoid them and learn from others instead. But there is great value in making mistakes and this is truly the differentiator between those who talk and those who have. Many people have ideas and ideologies, but few can weather the knocks and recover from the mistakes. I make lots of mistakes everyday, but I’ve developed the capacity to keep getting up. This is the most important quality of an entrepreneur.
This article originally appeared in December 2014 issue of DESTINY MAN.