Combining his two loves, entrepreneurship and education, puts Greg Fisher, Senior Lecturer at GIBS, in a job he enjoys. It has taken him some time to get here, but everything he’s learnt along the way has been invaluable. A chartered account by training, Fisher has a story to tell about how he ended up teaching.
“I think that chartered accountancy degrees attract some of the best young business minds. The training allows you to see inside businesses from so many different aspects. It’s a fantastic education about business, but there’s one problem: it’s all about managing and alleviating risk, taking the safe option and being prudent, so some of our best young business minds are getting all the entrepreneurial spirit sucked out of them,” he explains. However, Fisher’s experience doing Articles at Deloitte taught him something about himself. After getting involved in various training activities, he discovered his passion for teaching. He joined their training department, did an Honours degree in HR Development and then went on to do an MBA at GIBS.
It was here that Fisher’s own “entrepreneurial journey”, as he describes it, began. Following his MBA, he took the leap into the world of entrepreneurship and opened Learning Lab, a company that developed products to help people learn better. “During that time I became fascinated by what makes people go into their own business and what makes them successful at it. For the first time, decisions I made really counted and I think this is the reality for entrepreneurs everywhere,” he explains. “It was a fantastic journey but I realised I was doing less and less of what I loved, which was teaching,” adds Fisher. It was at this point that he accepted an invitation from GIBS to lecture for them. “I absolutely love it! GIBS is a hub for interacting with people in business, and in this role I get to do many different things. One of the things I love most is sitting down with a blank piece of paper and coming up with the design for a course, looking at how I can make an entrepreneurship programme as exciting, fun and engaging as possible,” he enthuses.
Fisher lectures in finance, strategy and entrepreneurship, but the last one is his favourite and he recently finished designing the Advanced Entrepreneurship Elective for GIBS’ MBA programme. Fisher’s passion gets him talking expansively on the challenges facing South African entrepreneurs today. “I think that nine out of 10 entrepreneurs in SA will tell you that access to funding is the biggest challenge and I agree, but there are other things as well, and at the end of the day we need to operate in the framework within which we find ourselves,” he says. “I think legislation is a huge barrier to people opening their own businesses. Government speaks about empowering and enabling entrepreneurs, but the fact remains that it is still very difficult to do things like register a CC, get a VAT registration number and hire staff with such restrictive labour laws.” He also points to the fact that South Africans grow up knowing they must “study hard to get a good job” – stable employment is still seen as the first prize by most people. “People need to be more aware of the fact that opening up your own business is a viable option,” Fisher says. His advice to entrepreneurs is simple. “Firstly, don’t just mirror what someone else has done. Understand why and how you are planning to be different. And get going! Start working and have something to show before you expect someone to provide you with backing capital. Finally, at some point in time you will go through an emotional dip. Be aware that there will be a time of self-doubt, panic or frustration. Mentorship is important here – you need someone to speak to at that point to get you through it.” As someone who not only has an excellent theoretical base in the subject, but who has actually been there and done it, it’s advice that holds substantial weight.