- Player: Nonkululeko Gobodo
- Company: Nkululeko Leadership Consulting
- Formerly: Founding partner of SizweNtsalubaGobodo
- Visit: nkululekoleadership.co.za
1Accommodate those you want to lead
I have always dreamt big. It’s who I am. In 1992 I formed an accounting practice in the Transkei with two partners. I was young and I thought I knew it all. My leadership attitude was, ‘follow me, I know everything.’ It didn’t occur to me that others were in a different space, or that they didn’t share or see my vision. I ended up moving too fast, with people running after me to keep up.
As I grew, I realised that leadership is also about taking the spaces, personalities and life views around you into account. Having a clear vision is important, but there are other egos, personalities and individuals on your team — and everyone is important.
How I saw things was important, but everyone is entitled to see the world the way they see it. You need to find a way to get them excited about your vision too — without asking them to stop being who they are.
2Employees are part of this journey too
They have careers that they’re growing. They have dreams and ambitions. As you grow, they are an integral part of it. At SizweNtsalubaGobodo, our future partners come from our employees. As we diversified there were more opportunities for them. Staying with us and benefiting from those changes crystalised their own careers. Continuously moving forward is one of the most important ways to keep talent.
As a leader you are challenged in new ways as your business grows. It’s up to you to challenge your partners and employees in the same way. You are in a unique position to influence growth. When we started diversifying Gobodo Inc in 1998, we did it through our partners and employees. If we noticed someone was interested in forensics for example, we built a whole business unit around them. If they succeeded, it inspired others to follow their dreams. The higher the confidence levels within an organisation, the more people will contribute.
3Lead through influence and character
As a leader I’ve found that you need to be able to influence, inspire and support, but also put on the pressure when it’s needed. Not everyone will respond to a vision alone. Not everyone can be clear and decisive.
In 1996 I wanted to take my small business to the next level. It meant I needed to recruit partners. It was a scary idea for most of them. They would leave safe and secure management positions to join me. The rewards would be great if it worked, but they saw a big downside too.
I spent eight months trying to convince them. Eventually I realised that anyone not yet convinced would never be willing to take the leap with me. Once you know who they are, walk away. They will just hold everyone back. It’s better to let them go.
I had to push the issues and demand a decisive answer. It worked. Seven partners joined us, resulting in a firm of ten partners, and 200 employees. It had been time for a decisive action, and Gobodo Inc was formed.
4The right people will learn to fly
The first few months of Gobodo Inc were tough. Everyone had to bring in business or they didn’t get paid. We were partners. It was up to them, not me, to ensure they earned a salary. But I realised that as long as you have the right people and they buy into your vision, they will learn to fly. We experienced incredible growth because we had the right people who, when pushed out of their comfort zones, achieved amazing things.
5Know when it’s time to change
At Gobodo Inc we never wanted to be small players, least of all me. We had to grow and make our contribution to the economy. But things change. We started out with a BEE competitive edge, but soon the big firms adjusted and this was no longer a differentiator for us. We needed to stay competitive in different ways. Things change, that’s the nature of business. It’s important for leaders to be cognisant of this.
When your market shifts or changes, you have a choice to make: Do you die, or face those challenges?
If you want to survive and grow, you need to read the market, respond and change. Size will never be your protection. All companies face the danger of becoming obsolete.
For a decade we grew by ourselves. By 2011 it was time to take things to the next level. If we wanted to compete with the big international firms, we needed to be bigger and this meant merging with another firm. We started with five firms around the table. Eventually there were just two left: Gobodo and SizweNtsaluba. We formed SizweNtsalubaGobodo and became one big, unified and diversified firm.
6In tough times, persevere
Mergers are always a challenge for leadership. There are many things you can’t anticipate. We thought we had a shared history and it would be easy to integrate the businesses but we made some faulty assumptions going into the merger.
I’d done extensive research on mergers. I’d spoken to people who had done it, attended courses, read books — most of which was specific to accounting firms. I thought I was prepared. One lecturer told us that if we were planning a merger, ‘Don’t do it’. Of course I was going to do it anyway, but once we were in, I realised all the preparation in the world hadn’t adequately prepared me. And yet failure wasn’t an option. We needed to make it work.
7Culture determines everything
The way we did business was different. We were tough, disciplined and decisive. SizweNtsaluba’s culture was more creative, easy going, and less decisive.
Leaders attract people who are similar to them. Gobodo had developed in a certain way, with specific personalities in leadership and management roles. The same was true of SizweNtsaluba. You hire people who suit your culture and then this culture permeates the organisation.
All this really meant was that there was now frustration from top to bottom. 55 partners, 1 000 staff and everyone was on edge. Mergers are a huge test of wills.
We needed to balance the cultures that existed, and develop a new culture that could encompass everyone. This was our growth path.
8Find a culture champion
Mergers are a time of uncertainty for employees, and so it’s important to have someone they know and trust to champion the change. This was my role from the Gobodo side, and Victor Sekese’s from the SizweNtsaluba side, with consultants assisting us. It was a time of massive communication. But communication is only effective if it’s understood. You need to ensure that your message is received.
As a leader, I had to let go of our previous culture, which was tough for me. But I had a vision of growth, and that meant letting go of the culture I had created.
Change has to begin at the top. You can’t expect to change things within the organisation if you won’t change too.
There was so much friction in those early days. It could have broken us. Instead, we looked at it as a good and positive thing: a catalyst for change, forcing us to critically evaluate what worked and what didn’t. We all had different strengths. We needed to find what worked well together and made us stronger than the sum of our parts.
When the new culture had settled, people started to leave. We let them go. The individuals who didn’t fit needed to leave for everyone’s benefit. And then we hired new people who suited the new culture, and the organisation grew and developed.
9Know when it’s time to move on
One of the toughest leadership decisions I’ve ever had to make was choosing to let go of the legacy I had been instrumental in creating. SizweNtsalubaGobodo was a unified firm. In 2015 I decided to leave. At first two leaders were necessary as we found a way to blend our firms.
Once that was accomplished though, it was counterproductive. The firm had come of age. It needed one leader, not two. We were two different leaders with different styles. This mission was greater than us. I made a clean break to allow the firm to move forward under Victor’s guidance and leadership.
10Leadership is a journey, not a destination
Leaving SizweNtsalubaGobodo gave me the freedom to choose the next challenge in my life. I’d been a leader all my life, and I could share this with other organisations. An effective team and an organisational culture that enables the execution of a business’s strategy are the cornerstones of success. Mature leaders are able to influence both.
This was where I wanted to concentrate all the lessons I have learnt over the past twenty years. Together with my partners we want to help organisations find the leadership frameworks that work for their businesses.
Leading a business to success is not an individual activity. It’s the ability to motivate and support a team that can execute your vision.
Going The Extra Mile With Neil Robinson Of Relate Bracelets
In business, your offering is only as good as your relationships. Neil Robinson from Relate Bracelets explains how FedEx Express has helped the business grow into Africa and beyond.
- Who? Neil Robinson
- Company: Relate Bracelets
- Position: Managing Director
- Visit: relate.org.za
Neil Robinson, MD of Relate Bracelets understands the importance of business relationships. While Relate is a non-profit organisation, it is run like a business. It does not rely on donors, but instead produces and sells a product.
For each bracelet sold, one third of the income goes towards the materials and operating costs, one third supports the people who produce the bracelets, and one third goes to the charity for which that particular bracelet is branded.
In order for the business model to work and be sustainable, Relate’s partners are incredibly important. These include the retail chains that stock the product and who provide prime point-of-sale positioning, the charities who Relate works with, and most importantly, Relate’s logistics service provider, FedEx Express.
“Retail is all about visibility and availability,” explains Neil. “A brand is a living, breathing thing. People can see it, use it, and comment on it, but if they can’t access it, it’s all for naught. And so, at the point of purchase, it’s both visible and available, or it’s not.
“Logistics is key. You need to get your product to the retailer on time, 100% of the time. The expertise and focus that FedEx displays in supply chain and logistics encompasses far more than just retail, they understand our specific needs, making them a strategic partner, rather than merely a supplier.”
Building a relationship
The FedEx/Relate Bracelets relationship stretches back to 2009, when Relate Bracelets launched its first campaign with ‘Unite Against Malaria’ leading up to the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
“We did the first campaign in partnership with Nando’s,” says Neil. “Robbie Brozin was passionate about the cause, and he pulled in strategic partners to launch the campaign. Within two years we’d shipped hundreds of thousands of bracelets. FedEx was an incredible partner, ensuring the integrity of our product and time-sensitive deliveries, and we’ve worked with them ever since.”
As with all good B2B relationships, the FedEx and Relate Bracelets teams understand that regular strategy sessions and updates are important.
“FedEx understands the inner workings of our business,” says Neil.
“A successful campaign has multiple elements, from planning and strategy, to marketing support, pricing and distribution planning. Of these, distribution planning is the most critical. For us, the bridge between our brand and the consumer is logistics. FedEx have delivered beyond expectations. They literally and figuratively go the extra mile for us.”
Protecting a brand
FedEx has customers across different industries and each of their needs are different. In the case of Relate, who operate in the retail sector, buying patterns are important. “Retailers run a tight ship,” explains Neil.
“They have planning cycles and seasons. Besides the fact that penalty clauses are built into contracts, you can’t miss a deadline by two days, or you’re in the next cycle, and that might be two weeks later. Not only are you missing out on valuable shelf time, but this can affect an entire campaign. Lost sales can also influence the retailers’ buying decision the following season. FedEx has made it their business to understand our business, so they know what’s at stake and what’s important to us.”
FedEx has also played an integral role in the overall expansion of Relate Bracelets, particularly into new markets. “As a global organisation, FedEx has been absolutely critical in supporting us to grow our business into Africa, the US, Australia, the UK, Western Europe, and now New Zealand. They play an enormous role in the delivery of our products, with sophisticated tracking systems ensuring that the quality and integrity of our products are maintained.”
Through the relationship with FedEx, Relate experiences the benefits of working with a globally recognised and credible brand. “When you work with quality, you get quality.”
If you’ve ever bought a beaded bracelet that supports a cause (for example: United Against Malaria, Operation Smile SA or PinkDrive), chances are it was a Relate Bracelet. If you bought it at Woolworths, Clicks, Sorbet or Foschini, it most definitely was.
To date, Relate Bracelets has raised more than R40 million, which supports various charities and ‘gogos’, women living on government grants and supporting their grandchildren, and who desperately need the additional income Relate Bracelets provides.
Slikour’s Moto: If You Dream It, You Can Be It
Rapper and entrepreneur Slikour believes his success is the result of one key element: The aspiration to make something of himself, and create a platform for his voice to be heard. Now he’s bringing that mindset to South Africa’s black urban youth.
- Player: Siya Metane AKA Slikour
- Company: Slikouronlife.co.za
- Launched: 2013
- Visit: www.slikouronlife.co.za
Before you can achieve great success, you have to believe in the possibility of success. This is the single greatest secret to changing your circumstances — you have to believe it’s possible.
Did music or entrepreneurship come first? Siya Metane, aka rapper Slikour, isn’t sure himself. The two have worked hand in hand for him since he started selling cassette tapes of his own music when he was 12 years old.
What has developed over time however, is an innate and deep understanding that with his success comes a responsibility to pay it forward, and help his community and kids like him see that they can be anything they put their minds to.
If they can dream it, they can be it — provided they realise they can dream it in the first place. This is his challenge, and greatest driving force.
Start small, but dream big
I bought cassette tapes on Smal Street in the CBD for R5. My best friend, Lebo and I recorded our own rap music onto them and sold them in our neighbourhood for R15. We needed the mark-up — it meant we could buy more tapes, and also that we were making a profit.
I’m not sure if we were trying to start a business or launch our rap careers, but if you’re living in a hood like Leondale you don’t always recognise that there are opportunities open to you. No one is going to do it for you — you have to have your own aspirations, and find a way to make them happen.
Keep dreaming big, no matter what
That was one of the biggest and earliest lessons I recall growing up: The ability to dream big can be stifled out of you. I lived in a hood where there were no aspirations past our neighbourhood — the neighbourhood and its opportunities were everything. If 90% of the people you know are suffering, who are you to not suffer?
It’s a very limiting mindset, and one that does a lot of damage to our youth. I knew kids who had incredible potential, but could only look at their immediate environments for opportunities. So a budding young scientist doesn’t find a way to change the world — he finds a new way to make drugs.
Those are the limiting aspirations I was surrounded by. I call it the Trap, and it’s the driving force behind everything I do today. I want South Africa’s urban youth to recognise the Trap, and understand that they should have aspirations beyond it, because they have the abilities and potential necessary to break free.
Work hard, be determined and believe in yourself
I was lucky, I wasn’t a victim of the Trap. What so many people don’t understand is that I could have been. Hard work, drive and discipline aren’t enough to break free of the Trap. You need to believe you can break free — to look beyond your current circumstances. In my experience, that seemingly simple mindset shift is the biggest hurdle to overcome. It’s more complicated and pervasive than you can imagine.
Two things showed me a different way. First, my mom got me bursaries at Holy Rosary Convent and then St Benedict’s College. I was surrounded by rich white kids, full of privilege, and it struck me that here were the same talents and opportunities, but with a wealth of aspiration in the mix.
That was the real difference — not ability, but recognising that ability and having the aspiration to do something with it. It was eye-opening. The second was meeting my best friend, Lebo Mothibe. Lebo, or Shugasmakx, as he’d later be known in the music world, had one foot in the privileged world, and one foot in our world.
His mom lived in the hood, his dad was a wealthy entrepreneur who lived in Illovo. And Lebo straddled both worlds effortlessly, and with humility. But he looked beyond the limiting beliefs held by many of his neighbourhood peers.
Find people to inspire you to reach success
His dad was also the first self-made, wealthy black man I met. But when I heard his story, I realised that it wasn’t overnight success. He’d slept on Lebo’s mom’s couch while he slowly but steadily built his business. It gave me an understanding that success is earned. You need to work at it, and push on against adversity. This had a huge impact on me.
Lebo was the ying to my yang. Even though we didn’t think of each other as business partners, that’s what we were, from the age of 12. We formed Skwatta Kamp, we hustled and shook up the music industry together, and changed the face of rap music in South Africa.
I was the dreamer, the visionary, and Lebo was the executor. He found a way to make my crazy schemes and ideas come to life. This is exactly what a partnership should be — helping each other grow, and complementing diverse skill sets.
Build your success, one step at a time
We built our success, brick by brick. I entered a TV show competition, Jam Alley, and won. I used the cash and Dions vouchers to buy recording equipment. Lebo’s dad helped with speakers and a keyboard. My brother, who was studying IT, downloaded software and helped us with our recording quality. Everyone pitched in with what they could.
Be your own biggest cheerleader
We tried the recording contract route for a while, but realised that the only people who cared about our success were us. And so we hit the streets — hard. We had street crews, we sold our own CDs and negotiated with music stores to carry our albums.
Recording studios kept saying they’d sign us, but they never had a studio available. They just didn’t see the value in rap and hip hop. They didn’t believe there was money in it in South Africa. We needed to prove there was.
Gallo finally approached us and signed us after we won at the South African Music Awards (SAMAs) as an independent act. We used real guerrilla tactics to get our name out there — on stage, with that platform, we told our fans that if a music store didn’t carry our album, to burn it down. We wanted the attention — that’s how you build a name.
Our first album went gold, and we used that to push the idea of rap into mainstream media. If 20 000 people bought the album, another 200 000 had bootlegged it. There was money here; and slowly brands and advertisers started realising we were right.
Drive a movement with your business
We were musicians, but first and foremost we were driving a movement, and that meant we needed to be businessmen as well. We hosted end of year parties, and got brands on board, realising we had a captive audience that aligned with their target market demographics. We started our own label, Buttabing Entertainment.
Our goal was to find and nurture young musicians from the hood to get them established in the industry, and show other kids in the Trap that it could be done: Anyone can create their own destiny. One of the things I’m proudest of is discovering a kid in Katlehong, Senzo Mfundo Vilakazi, who would develop into Kwesta.
He’s doing phenomenally well, and recently appeared on Sway in the Morning, one of the biggest hip hop shows in the US. Our success spilt over into Kwesta, and now his meteoric rise will hopefully inspire a whole new generation to dream bigger than they ever thought possible.
Pivoting to further growth
All success has its pinnacle. By 2010 we had achieved so much as Skwatta Kamp. We’d brought rap music into the mainstream and opened opportunities for countless kids, as music labels actively sought rap and hip hop acts. I realised that I’d hit a ceiling. I needed to step back, regroup and figure out what to do next.
What I did was something I’ve only ever associated with privilege. I moved home, spent a lot of time lying on the couch, and wrote. I wrote my life, my lessons, my dreams, my ideas. I don’t know how I reached a point where I was able to do that, but I’m grateful. I started collecting my thoughts and understanding my purpose.
During that time I was approached to join a few marketing agencies. I had no formal marketing training, but we’d worked with big brands at our parties and activations.
Sprite was the first to recognise that they had an opportunity to authentically connect with the black urban youth through us, and so we partnered up. I learnt above-the-line marketing in a Coca-Cola boardroom, and built onto what we’d learnt on the streets about below-the-line marketing.
Take a step back, and rediscover your purpose
That experience had drawn attention, and so for a while I joined an agency. But its mandate was sponsorships, and my heart was with the black urban youth. I’d discovered my purpose, even if I’d subconsciously been living that purpose for almost 20 years.
I wanted to create a platform that gives young black artists a voice; established artists a way to reach out to the youth that other platforms don’t offer; and brands a way to authentically connect with that audience — not just to sell products, but to show black urban youth that their culture is important, that it holds value, and that they, in turn, hold value.
Adidas’s support of Run DMC in the US showed that kids from the ghetto had a message worth listening to. Big brands have the power to connect the unheard and voiceless to the mainstream, if it’s done correctly. I had the marketing experience to understand the ROI that brands need, as well as what I could do with that to support black urban youth.
All I had were dreams and a URL, but that was enough. I quit my job and launched my website, Slikouronlife.
Reveal opportunities and create aspirations with your message
This is my politics and CSI. If we can get marketing to marry culture, and change the positioning and perception of young black South Africans, we can show there are opportunities out there, and create aspirations.
But we need to put culture first and tap into the authenticity of who we are as South Africans. We need to recognise and acknowledge the mental traps that exist in our neighbourhoods, and that we are victims of limiting beliefs, and then show that there is another way.
Everyone told me I was nuts. That black people don’t go online. I did it anyway. With Skwatta Kamp we had created a market for our music. Kids supported us; my name added value — and then brands came on board. We now average between 200 000 and 250 000 unique visitors a month, which is impressive for a mainstream website, let alone a niche music site.
Ten months ago we were a team of three operating from my house with one desk. Today we’re a team of ten with one focus: To make a real difference on the ground. To give the voiceless a voice. To prove that if we can drive the aspirations of South Africa’s urban youth, the sky will be the limit.
Edward Moshole Founder Of Chem-Fresh Started With R68 And Turned It Into A R25 Million Business
Edward Moshole started a business in 1999 with just R68 in his pocket. Today he has a company that not only has a turnover upwards of R25 million, but is also on the cusp of expanding to the next level. Here’s how he’s turning clients into partners.
- Player: Edward Moshole
- Company: Chem-Fresh
- Established: 1999
- Visit: www.chemfresh.co.za
In 1999, Edward Moshole was a cleaner with just R68 in his pocket, but he noticed a business opportunity.
Good quality detergents and disinfectants could make a tough cleaning job much easier, so he started buying quality products in bulk and selling them to his fellow cleaners. He wasn’t satisfied, though. He wanted a business that made and sold its own products. So, he tackled the long and arduous process of creating cleaners and detergents that could pass strict regulations and compete with the best products on the market.
It wasn’t easy, but he kept at it. In fact, he only got his first real breakthrough in 2006 when a supermarket agreed to start stocking his products. Today, his Chem-Fresh products can be found all over Africa, and he counts Pick n Pay as one of his main clients. How did Moshole manage to turn R68 into an empire?
Here are his rules for building a large and sustainable operation.
1. Find the right clients
“Very early on, I identified Pick n Pay as a must-have client. I could see that the company was changing its strategy — it was starting to move into townships and rural areas, places where it hadn’t been operating until then — and I thought it would be the perfect place to sell Chem-Fresh products,” says Moshole. But getting in wasn’t easy.
“As a small business, you don’t get to sit down with decision- makers. Becoming a supplier to a large retailer is a difficult process. It took me years to get a foot in the door, but I didn’t give up. I just knew that Pick n Pay was the right company to do business with, so I kept at it.
I refused to take no for an answer. Today, Pick n Pay operates more like a partner than a client.
Thanks to my partnership with Pick n Pay, I’ve been able to scale Chem-Fresh quickly and access a distribution channel that allows Chem-Fresh products to be sold all over the continent. Once you have the right clients, you gain instant clout and reliability.”
2. Own the manufacturing process
When starting out, entrepreneurs often have little choice but to buy other companies’ products and resell them. It’s not necessarily a bad thing — it can be a successful strategy. However, it can eventually limit your growth.
Firstly, buying and reselling products places a cap on your margins. When you own the manufacturing process, you can increase your margins, since making and selling products tends to offer wider margins than merely buying and reselling.
That said, you have to keep in mind that this is only true when you operate at a certain scale. Making and selling something in small quantities can often be more expensive and time consuming than simply buying it from a supplier. You need to crunch the numbers and make sure that the expense of a manufacturing facility is actually worth it in the long run.
Secondly, it allows you to keep control of the quality of your product. “The secret to any great brand is consistency,” says Moshole.
“People should know what they can expect from the brand, and one of the best ways to ensure this is to have total control of your product. If you make it yourself, you’re in charge of the quality.”
3. Be willing to diversify
Some companies can grow while sticking to a very specific niche, but most have no other option but to diversify. Although Chem-Fresh started out selling just one or two products, Moshole soon started to expand the range. The company now has more than 100 products.
“Generally speaking, you can only capture so much of a market. Sometimes it makes sense to actively try to grow your market share, but it’s also a good idea to diversify. Not only does this open more revenue streams, but it also protects the business against market changes. So, if the sales of one product slows down, another speeds up and everything evens out,” says Moshole.
But the important thing is not to stray too far from your comfort zone. Chem-Fresh now has a large product range, but it has stuck to an industry that it is knowledgeable about. The company has built a name for itself within a specific industry.
4. Build a strong foundation
“Don’t wait too long to start thinking about the long-term life of your business,” advises Moshole. “The stronger the foundation of the business, the easier it is to grow it, so you need to implement the right systems and processes early on. If you don’t, the business will fall apart without you.
“You will always be very involved at an operational level. You’ll be so busy with the daily grind, that you’ll never be able to take a strategic view and focus on building the company.
So, you need the right systems and the right people. You need to know that the business can keep going without you. If you do this, you will be able to grow the company while others deal with the operational demands.”
There’s no substitute for perseverance
It took Edward years to get his product onto Pick n Pay’s shelves, but he wouldn’t take no for an answer. Today, the relationship is more like a partnership.
Own the process
In the right quantities, producing and selling your own product can significantly increase your margins over selling someone else’s products.
Strategically increase revenue streams
Diversifying your product range within your niche allows you to offer the same clients a greater range, tap into new markets, and protect the business against market changes.
Take a long-term view when contemplating the growth of your company. It’s never too soon to prepare a business for growth. Implementing the right systems and processes right now can make it much easier to scale the operation down the line.
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