How Tough Leadership Saved Synaq

How Tough Leadership Saved Synaq


Vital Stats

  • Player: Yossi Hasson, co-founder and MD
  • Company: Synaq
  • Established: 2004
  • Contact:

I have a saying: The person with the most certainty in a relationship is the one who achieves the outcome they want.

It comes down to the principles in Victor Frankel’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning. The book examines how the mind-set of holocaust survivors greatly enhanced their chances of surviving because of the psychotherapeutic method that involves identifying a purpose in life to feel positive about, and then immersively imagining that outcome.

We-recommend-tickWe recommend: Yossi Hasson on Mastering the Art of Productivity

My business partner David Jacobson and I didn’t have any tertiary education and everyone was advising us to take good jobs rather than risk being in business.

We were certain that what we had would be a success, so it was quite hard to fly in the face of such warnings. It was this conviction that kept us going when things were tough.

Then at 26, Justin Spratt told me the best thing I could ever do was study an MBA as it would give me a completely different grasp of building a business. I applied to GIBS, but without any undergraduate backing me I was rejected.

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I appealed because when you have absolute certainty and conviction, people generally believe you. After listing all the business books I’d read and showing that I already had the foundations of business mastered as an entrepreneur, the academic director agreed and put me on three-month probation. But without that certainty I would’ve lost the negotiation and wouldn’t have got in.

Five years into the business we decided to move from a service- to product-based business.

We were young, didn’t know what we didn’t know, and thought it would take six months. In reality it took two years; we lost R1,8 million, owed SARS half a million rand, and we grossly underestimated the complexity of the change and planning for it. Yet, through it all we never felt like we were dying. David and I never believed for a minute that we’d liquidate.

It speaks to conviction and having a plan we knew would work if we stuck it out – no matter how stressful. We recovered through management pay cuts, we froze salaries, cancelled outsourced providers, managed expenses like crazy, managed to get clients to pay upfront for a small discount, and convinced shareholders to give a little bit more money. It took over a year just to break even.

But the move was also the best business decision we ever made. It taught us about building products and making the business more scalable. Without that move the business wouldn’t have grown as it did and Dimension Data wouldn’t have come knocking.

We-recommend-tickWe recommend: Synaq: Yossi Hasson


We also learnt a very important lesson about change: Now we always get advice and manage expectations before we start.

Tracy Lee Nicol
Tracy-Lee Nicol is an experienced business writer and magazine editor. She was awarded a Masters degree with distinction from Rhodes university in 2010, and in the time since has honed her business acumen and writing skills profiling some of South Africa's most successful entrepreneurs, CEOs, franchisees and franchisors.Find her on Google+.

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