Vusi Sithole is a firm believer that nothing in life is free, and that if something is worth having, it’s worth working for.
“As a result of affirmative action in particular, many young black graduates are immediately snapped up by big corporates at big salaries. They’re starting their working careers already successful, without really walking the path to success,” he says.
Sithole worries that this is creating a generation of South Africans who don’t have to work for their dreams.
“I was that executive who had a nice, safe salary and led a cushy lifestyle,” he says. “But I wanted more. I wanted to build something, and that meant sacrificing the stability I had for the unknown.
“Achieving my dreams came at a price. I gave up my executive’s salary and all the things that were just over the horizon, like a holiday home, boat and oversees trips for the family, and I focused all my energy and assets on building a business.”
Today he heads up Nestlife Assurance, which underwrites over R150 million in premium incomes. It’s a long way from a decade ago, when he headed up a one-man business after giving up everything he had built as a salaried-executive.
“I have never been afraid to take a step backwards in the present if it meant future growth,” says Sithole.
“But the real reward was that this trust in myself paid off. My family had to believe in me and support me, because my decisions affected them, but I really needed to believe in myself.
“There will always be an easier road, but it’s the tougher path, the roller-coaster of highs and lows and occasional steps backward that bring us the real rewards. It’s all about committing to a long-term goal.”
The Lesson: You sometimes need to take a step back if you want to move forward.