- Player: Pepe Marais
- Company: Joe Public United
- Claim to Fame: Medium Business Entrepreneurs of the Year Award, 2018
- Visit: joepublicunited.co.za
Pepe Marais and Gareth Leck founded Joe Public 20 years ago with zero capital. They sold their business, bought it back, lost their biggest client, almost went bankrupt and clawed their way back to profitability. Along the way Pepe discovered his sense of purpose while the partners continued to build their business into South Africa’s largest independent agency.
Leadership has been a key component of this success. Here is Pepe’s take on the leader’s role in an organisation and how to grow into the leader your business needs you to be.
Q: How have you boosted your personal productivity?
One of the key lessons that I apply today, I have learnt from one of my business partners, our head of strategy Laurent Marty: Focus on the 10% that will make 90% of the difference. It’s a valuable and pragmatic approach that yields the best result.
Q: How do you train people to think about outcomes and to be more proactive?
I am an absolute believer in a systematic approach. In order to entrench a specific behaviour within the business, I design simple process. Process and routine over time will create habit. We even have a process that drives our proactive thinking.
Q: How do you push for excellence while also tolerating and managing mistakes?
I have tried for years to drive, motivate and at times threaten (although I am not proud to admit that) in order to get people towards higher levels of excellence and responsibility.
However, I have learnt that people are like plants, and you can’t inspire a plant to grow by shouting at it. So now my approach is to create an environment that is like fertile soil, metaphorically watering our people, allowing them to grow more at their own pace.
It is a new approach, I still have some bad old habits, but in time I believe this way of being with people will become my natural state. It doesn’t mean that I am not willing to prune when needed.
Q: If you reflect on significant changes you’ve gone through in your performance or approach to business, what was the trigger and what were the outcomes?
I started working at the end of 1991. From then until January 2007, I was an exceptionally hard-working individual of high calibre ability and craft. But if I have to be honest, I was in it for myself.
In January 2007 I found my greater purpose. From that date I went into the service of others, naturally. The result in my output based on the very same input was and still remains profound. It’s indeed true: The more you give, the more you get. As long as you don’t give to get.
Q: What would you train your kids from a young age on when it comes to business lessons and why?
I have been teaching our ten-year old boy, Jasper, for the past four years a very simple principle in working with money: Every weekend he receives pocket money based on his performance over the past week – things like helpfulness, manners, spirit, doing his homework and making his bed.
He has four pots. 50% goes into Spend. 30% goes into Invest. 10% goes into Save. And 10% goes into Tithe. I annually double his investment if he has good discipline with his money. And he annually gets to use his Saving’s pot to buy anything he’d like.
Spending is for anything he wants every week. And his Tithe pot is annually used to buy a gift for someone less fortunate.
I also apply this rule of thumb to my own money matters. I wish I started this behaviour thirty years ago.