At Barlow Rand, you worked in marketing and general management. What was more fulfilling for you and why?
I learnt much from both experiences, but I have always enjoyed marketing as a profession. I am deeply interested in what markets are doing, what people need, how they perceive what they need, and how businesses meet those needs.
How important is business education today?
Most of what we learn, we learn by doing. Business education is an acceleration of that process. It can have a great impact on your understanding of areas like finance, marketing and operations. But you must be sure of what you are looking for. A three- to five-year career plan which maps out where you want to be, will help you decide what to study.
What is most rewarding for you about your work at GIBS?
I have the benefit of being in two worlds at the same time – business and academia. In addition to managing the school itself, I enjoy lecturing. It forces me to clarify what I really think, and to look harder at what I see and how I interpret it. Added to that, I truly enjoy engaging with smart people every day.
What is the most important business lesson you have learnt?
That there are many different ways to be successful, that there is no single solution to any problem, and that a passion for execution is what makes things happen.
What is your view of entrepreneurship in SA today?
Entrepreneurship is the only way we are going to fix poverty and unemployment in this country. South Africa has a long history of great entrepreneurs like Donald Gordon, Anton Rupert and Ernest Oppenheimer. Now, we are witnessing a new generation of business leaders coming to the fore and it’s exciting to see that happening.
What are the key components of a strategy for a new business?
Cash, because it’s king for every entrepreneur; customers, because that’s what you live and breathe when you run a business; and change management, because in our fast-paced business world, you must be acutely driven every day by what is happening around you.
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs in the current economy?
Re-examine every single thing that happens in your business, ask what value that creates, and then find out how you can do it just as well or better at a lower cost. The challenges of a tough economy are going to leave many companies fumbling. New needs and opportunities will emerge as people grapple with budgets, and where and how to spend their money. Everyone will be seeking ways to cut costs.
For many companies, memory is stronger than vision; they will keep on doing what they have always done, which means that value propositions will pop up for someone else to take advantage of. If you can make it in the downturn, you will be in pole position when the economy turns.