Describe some of the challenges you have faced as GM of FIFA 2010.
In 2007 systems, processes and structures were still being put in place across the country, and the local organising committee had yet to organise itself. My team consisted of me and one other person. It took a year to get business plans and budgets in place, while ensuring that we remained within the timelines.
Secondly, the shortage of skills in the country, especially in hospitality and event management was exacerbated by the fact that no one has handled an event of this size and significance.
What is the most difficult lesson you’ve learned in business?
I used to work for a guy whose motto was “inspect what you expect”. He was right. I’m the type of manager who trusts his team. While some thrive under those conditions, others become totally lost. As a result, I’ve had a few critical things fall through in the planning process. When you work on a project as huge and time-bound as this one, you must stay close, walk with your people every day and give all the help you can.
What is the most important business lesson you have learnt?
You have to roll up your sleeves and lead by example. You cannot expect your people to climb mountains while you supervise them from your corner office. Be reachable, and talk with them. One-on-ones are essential; that’s when you really get to work with someone. And when people see you are there for them, they will do almost anything for you.
What are you most proud of having achieved thus far?
To create my team, I brought in people from very diverse backgrounds representing different cultures, beliefs and lifestyles. Today, we work and accomplish and believe as a unit. Watching them focus on the challenges they face together is immensely gratifying.
What does leadership mean to you?
Put the team first. Show deep commitment to and caring for your people. Express that by spending time with each member, being accessible, rewarding excellence and celebrating achievements. Ensure that your team has the capability, capacity and tools to do the best job they can and to be the best they can be.
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs in the current economy?
Disciplined execution of your plan will take you where you want to go. Entrepreneurs do not fail because of lousy products or services; they fail because they do not follow through. Success takes hard work and demands time and focus.