- Player: Basil Reekie
- Company: Clientèle
- Position: MD
- Contact: +27 (0)11 320 3000
- Visit: clientele.co.za
Under Basil Reekie’s leadership, the Clientèle group has successfully navigated the global economic downturn, which saw many companies around the world post vast losses.
Bucking the trend, Clientèle’s embedded value since 2008 has grown from R1 billion to well over R4 billion, while paying out dividends of more than R1 billion in the same period.
Clientèle is the only company presently listed on the JSE that has increased profits every year for the last 17 years. In 2015, the company was placed 14th in the Financial Mail ‘Top Company Survey’, and in 2015 it was also certified as a Top Employer by The Top Employers Institute of South Africa. Entrepreneur spoke to Reekie about his winning strategies.
You strengthened the Clientèle senior management team across all business units. How did you do it?
We were in the fortunate position of experiencing rapid growth which meant we needed to increase the size of the management team. This allowed us to determine what our weaknesses were and which additional strengths were needed to build a strong multi-disciplinary leadership team.
I normally look for a good attitude and proven ability. Formal qualifications are the least important factor, except for specialist roles such as statutory actuary or finance director.
Clientèle grew its employee number from 400 to 1 300 in seven years. How did you ensure that decisions could still be made quickly? Growth of this level can result in exactly the opposite.
Our biggest challenge has been remaining nimble as we have grown rapidly in a constantly changing environment. However, we have been successful at this in most areas.
The secret is making sure that the Group Executive team is aware of what is going on in all areas of the business and encouraging them to make proactive decisions.
Something I also encourage is people being prepared to test ideas and not being afraid of failure. If something does not work, it is important that you quickly revert back to what you were doing previously, or try something different.
Clientèle retains its strategic focus: creating simple, affordable and reliable products available to all South Africans. How important has it been to retain the strategic focus and how is that achieved against a backdrop of market challenges?
One secret to our success has been the ability to keep things simple. Nonetheless, we have extended our product range significantly over the last eight or nine years, adding products like our various hospital plans, our legal plans and our premium products, which offer significantly higher sums assured than our regular products.
Each time we add a product we are extremely conscious of the need to ensure that the product itself is simple and easy to understand and that it will enhance our offering to our clients, existing and new.
We have tried to stay away from being reactionary in what we do and do not simply copy our competitors, rather we are always looking for something that is unique, yet simple.
A good example of this is a recently launched funeral policy that pays the normal funeral benefits on death as well as a return of all premiums paid on death. This, we believe, is both revolutionary and easy for our clients to understand.
Another area where we are strategically focused is the area of client service. We aim to treat every client well at every touch point of the business.
The group has a reputation for its dedication to corporate governance and responsible budgeting. What is your advice on ensuring excellent financial management?
Make sure that the right people — those who understand the numbers — remain involved in the detail. That will always result in good financial management.
Furthermore, keep authorisation limits relatively low and ensure that the executive team thinks about spending as if it was their own money. That helps to ensure that no-one spends frivolously, even when the business is growing.
How do you gain consensus?
My leadership style is relatively collaborative. I listen to the opinions and views of other executives without being afraid to make decisions when these are necessary.
All significant decisions are discussed in the relevant forums, particularly at Group Executive level.
As a business we are more than happy to test things and this makes it much easier to gain consensus than in another environment.
The key to consensus for us is that we set sensible targets before any tests are undertaken. We are rarely unwilling to test something provided that we have clear objectives beforehand to allow us to determine (unemotionally) whether it has been successful or not.
What does ‘big picture thinking’ mean to you?
Big picture thinking is innovative. It’s the way a person looks at problems, opportunities and situations. Idea generators often think of big changes, new projects and substantial opportunities to create new business.
To be a ‘big picture thinker’ you need to be able to step back and look at the business and set goals for the long-term future, at the same time as being able to drill down into the detail in order to make a success of any given venture.
To imagine possibilities beyond what is immediately obvious, while homing in on detail when necessary is absolutely critical for a really successful leader.
In the insurance space, you have to be able to look into the future, understand what is changing in the competitive landscape and still be able to look at the detail of what is happening at present to make sure that the big picture you envision is indeed the one you want to achieve at your organisation.
What To Look Out For When Seeking A Mentor Or Coach
There is value in choosing a mentor or coach to help you build your business, says Dr John Demartini. Here he offers some sound advice on how to go about doing this so that you benefit from the experience.
When I was in practice I noticed many doctors attempting to build a business would seek out mentorship from management consultants, from people who have already been down that path. And there’s wisdom from learning from foresight and not learning from trial and error. But there’s a pitfall – I noticed that not everybody is able to do or sustain the actions that these consultants would suggest. Where some would follow and immediately go and succeed, there were others who would sometimes feel self defeated because they couldn’t sustain the actions that the consultants would suggest and recommend.
So a small percentage would excel and do extremely well. But there were those who would spend their money on the coaching and they’d never get anything in return. So the question is – what made the few excel with the help of a coach, consultant or mentor? And why is it that the majority of them didn’t do as well? And it boils down to how congruent the actions of the coach or consultant are with the values of the person that’s striving to build a business.
I have listened to numerous professional consultants all offering slightly different information about how to build a business. I have taken and learned from all of them. Some of them would suggest things I just couldn’t do – it just wasn’t me – and other things that I could do. And when I couldn’t do something, the coaches and consultants believed I just was not disciplined, not driven. They would imply that I didn’t have the drive… Their material works, but I wasn’t following it.
And those of you who have had the same experience will understand what I’m saying. And you need to know that the reason you don’t do what these coaches suggest is because it’s not aligning to your values. So you are labeled lazy, undisciplined, not driven. You are given these labels instead of realising that you’re self defeating because what they suggest is not congruent with your values. And so you go to different consultants until you finally find the one who matches, whose values are aligned with yours.
So it’s important to not envy and imitate somebody with a drastically different set of values. If you’re seeking a coach or mentor, make sure the coach/mentor has a value system that is closely enough aligned to yours or you will be setting yourself up to fail. Just because somebody is successful doesn’t mean if they are your coach or mentor that they will have the values that will lead you to that same form of success. You need to either shift your values to be able to succeed in their system or you need to find the mentor that aligns more with your values. Otherwise you’ll be beating yourself up thinking there’s something wrong with you when there’s nothing wrong with you. When you find the right mentor, you will take off.
So you either have to change your values to match the objectives of the coach, or change the coach to match the truth of your own values.
So the bottom line is, if you’re going to get mentorship, coaching or consulting from somebody, don’t just select the person because they’re successful. Select them because they’re successful and they have some alignment with your mission and your values. Make sure you select your mentorship and a consultant that is truly valuable to you; don’t live in a fantasy about who you are.
The Link Between Scaling, Relationship Building And Technology
It is the first solution of its kind in South Africa, this platform supports entrepreneurs to effectively establish legal foundations in their businesses for optimum growth and overall business success.
The challenges and opportunities of this new world and that the world is more connected than ever. The constraints of distance is no longer applicable and as a result business has little constraining borders. Networking is therefore still a component in key relationship building.
It brings me to my real point – in a world so busy and connected, what we cannot make more of is time and time, unlike any other commodity is invaluable when it comes to forging important relationships and sustaining them. So, if technology can break barriers when it comes to legal cost and time spent on it… why not? Especially when so many have experienced the consequences of not documenting the most important relationships in their business.
The SchoemanLaw SME Self- Service DeskTM is the ideal tool for any member-based organisation wanting to capacitate and empower members. It is an affordable and reliable online solution for start-ups and SMEs, where Users can customise and download their own contracts online and in minutes. It is the first solution of its kind in South Africa, this platform supports entrepreneurs to effectively establish legal foundations in their businesses for optimum growth and overall business success.
The following documents are examples of those available on the platform (currently hosting over 35 documents / agreement types):
- Confidentiality and Non-Disclosure Agreement (“NDA”)
- Independent Contractor Agreement
- JV Agreement
- MOI and Shareholder’s Agreement
- Supplier Agreement
- Letter Demanding Payment
- Various HR Documents and Company Resolutions
- BBBEE Affidavits (EME and generic QSE)
and many more!
Prices range from R195 and R895 per document if downloaded on a pay- as- you- need- basis or R249 / R495 per month on a subscription basis, this is over 75% less than usual rates if traditionally drafted by an Attorney. What is more, Users have the support of a Law Firm not only having created, but who maintains the platform and supports each User. We even offer customisable solutions. So, there support and a solution for any business regardless of size and industry are on offer.
The platform is easy to use, no prior legal training is required, and Users are supported through help texts, free podcasts, videos and training events. In the case of a legal incident occurring, you can consult with an attorney with the click of a button.
The platform is also ever evolving and completely customer- driven. Documents are added as and when customers request them. All the documents are also frequently updated to ensure that they align to the latest best practice. There is no need to leave your legal needs unattended ever again! The SchoemanLaw SME Self- Service DeskTM therefore ensures that SMEs are no longer invisible and capacitates them to free up time needed to build relationships, grow and scale their businesses.
Empower your business today, go to: https://www.schoemanlaw.co.za/online-legal-services/
To Survive And Thrive, You Need A Growth Mindset
The business case for a growth mindset is not what you think it is — if you’re serious about success, you need to start believing in yourself.
Any leadership and personal mastery principle that booms in popularity is ripe for misinterpretation. Growth Mindset has been hailed as one of the defining leadership principles of top international companies and is believed to be one of the core skills that will keep individuals future fit in disruptive times.
Despite its popularity and importance, many companies still think a growth mindset is about the profit growth of a business. It’s not. And if you don’t know what it really is and how to apply it, you and your business might not be around to grow at all.
Growth Mindset is about Belief in Ability
Studies that we have done at the NeuroLeadership Institute (NLI) have shown that many businesses still believe that having a growth mindset means keeping eyes towards profits and striving for business growth.
Having a growth mindset is really about the continuous belief that improvement is possible and that failures are opportunities to learn. It is much larger than the objective of improving earnings, although applying a growth mindset makes one more resilient and engaged in times of change, which can only improve earnings overall.
Another study completed at NLI revealed that there are five reasons why businesses are applying a growth mindset to drive business success.
1. Digital Transformation
The most popular reason is to stay agile in the face of technological uncertainty. Digital technologies are continuing to disrupt the way that we do business and a growth mindset is put forward as a priority to ensure businesses thrive through digital disruption.
2. Business Improvement
A growth mindset encourages feedback and continuous improvement and many businesses look to embed this when they are streamlining work streams, teams and business processes.
When organisations are pivoting they use a growth mindset in their approach to reinvention of culture, operating model and leadership challenges. The growth mindset principle of seeing challenges as opportunities and not threats has an impact here.
4. Growing up
In an effort to scale a business, organisations see the benefit of applying a growth mindset to navigate the challenges and turmoil that accompanies growth.
5. Performance Management Transformation
Some businesses interview for and reward demonstration of a growth mindset. This means that they value improvement over time as a priority.
Clearly a growth mindset has business success at the core of its value-add to many organisations. It helps businesses be more agile and engaged during change, but how does it work, and how can we cultivate it?
When faced with a challenge we either tackle it head on, hoping for positive results, or we shy away from the challenge, feeling inadequate. In the brain, this is caused by how we view the challenge. If we view it as a threat, our body reacts with duress (negative stress) and we don’t prioritise our best thinking, going into survival mode instead. But if we view it as an opportunity, our body goes into euress (positive stress) and we are energised, our body is able to prioritise its best thinking. This type of behaviour can be categorised into two groups, that of a growth mindset and a fixed mindset.
Psychologists have studied these behavioural traits and found that individuals who believe in their ability to succeed are seen to have a growth mindset, whereas people who give up instantly or constantly harp on the negative aspects of a situation are seen to have a fixed mindset. Therefore, a fixed mindset sees no room for improvement and in return devalues their ability to perform.
A fixed mindset is linked to a belief that our ability is fixed and a growth mindset is linked to the belief that our ability can be grown. The surprising finding here is that our default wiring is wired to that of a fixed mindset.
Creating a Growth Mindset
Researchers have found that to incorporate the growth mindset into organisations, leaders should focus on factors such as transparency, empowerment and development.
With the digital age that we are currently living in and even trying to adapt to daily, organisations need to constantly reinvent, improve and manage performance based on digital transformation. A growth mindset assists in the rapid changes that organisations face even on a digital platform.
For a growth mindset to be established in organisations, management needs to lead the overall process. Thus, there needs to be a shared language. To ensure that there is a shared language, managers should encourage employees to build the right behaviours, and have systems and processes in place that promote a growth mindset throughout the organisation.
This can be done by:
- Valuing and rewarding progress in others
- Focusing and highlighting learnings from mistakes and challenges
- Role modelling this behaviour.
Researchers have shown that a growth mindset can have measured benefit in organisations. An internal survey at a technology company showed that 92% of employees agree that learning is a lifelong exercise and 82% of managers displayed growth mindset behaviours. The growth mindset enhances the quality of an organisation for the greater good of future and current employees.
When calamity strikes in organisations, the growth mindset aids in seeing change not as a threat but rather as an opportunity to improve based on a positive mindset.
Shifting Away from a Fixed Mindset Approach
A fixed mindset hinders progress. For businesses to prosper, there needs to be an attitude of constant learning, even when failure occurs. There are certain things one can do to shift your fixed mindset to a growth mindset.
Firstly, eliminate any thoughts of inadequacy. Your thoughts determine your actions, therefore shift your thinking to that of a “can do” attitude. You need to recognise your potential, understand your abilities and that they can be improved, and know that stressful situations are opportunities to learn and grow, rather being a threat.
The minute you find yourself in a fixed mindset with a negative thought process, talk yourself into remembering your capabilities. Try replacing those negative thoughts with, “I know that I am not excelling in this area, but I am going to learn how to improve and come back stronger than before”.
A growth mindset is a phenomenon that you must constantly think about and instil in your daily life, both on a personal and professional level to see positive results, remembering that you are in a cycle of lifelong learning.
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