Looking back, what do you remember as the most challengingperiod at Imperial, and why?
Perhaps the most memorable was the Hertz merger,in which Imperial became the major shareholder with management control. Twoextremely competitive companies were put together literally overnight. Itcreated extreme upheaval and discomfort for both Hertz and Imperial staff andthe fall-out directly impacted our service levels and caused loss of marketshare. However, by working (sometimes through the night) with staff and ourChairman, Bill Lynch, we overcame the challenges and by 1992 had achieved a 42%market share.
What lessons did you take away from it?
I was passionateabout Imperial becoming the biggest car rental company in South Africa.In my enthusiasm to achieve this, I should have determined the effects andconsequences of bringing two highly competitive companies together with greaterforesight and planning. The lesson was to plan in greater detail for such astrategic partnership and to realise that the impact of such change is huge.
Do you believe that entrepreneurs today need a differentapproach to business, or do you believe the attributes required to be asuccessful entrepreneur remain constant?
The business environment has changeddramatically, and technology and the sheer pace of change have impacted the waybusinesses are run. Entrepreneurs today have different challenges, particularlyin South Africa with the shortage of skilled people. Increased regulation andthe administration burden have taken away, in many instances, the opportunityto have a maverick approach to business, as we did in the 80s. But, generallyspeaking, I believe that entrepreneurs need to have certain common attributesno matter what business climate they may operate in. These include workinghard, being visionary, constantly challenging systems to find more efficientways, aggressively pursuing new customers, being unafraid to take risks andensuring all personnel are fully engaged in every aspect of the business.
Was there ever a time when you experienced a really toughperiod similar to the current economic downturn?
What would your practicaladvice be to entrepreneurs on how to get through such periods? I don’t thinkthe current economic downturn can be compared to anything that I experiencedduring my time at Imperial. But this does not mean we didn’t experience toughperiods. Instead of becoming negative, we saw them as an opportunity andaggressively sought out new prospects. So my advice is to quite unequivocallyremain positive, to seek out new opportunities and to associate with like-mindedpeople who have the foresight to weather the storm.
What empowered you to reach your potential at Imperial?
I amextremely grateful to Bill Lynch, who had absolute confidence in me andempowered me to reach my potential without any restrictions. The sky was thelimit and in that environment, I thrived. Because of that, my people thrived.
You stepped down as CEO and Chairman in 2002, but remainedon the main board for two years. What are your current plans?
I am now ready toinvest in a business and am exploring new opportunities. But whatever it is,it’s not my intention to be consumed by it as I was with Imperial – I want toenjoy everyday living and spend time with family and friends. It may well endup being something philanthropic.