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EY’s Azim Omar Says Your Business Needs A Cause To Be Successful

What single characteristic unites South Africa’s most successful entrepreneurs? They have passion and a purpose — and it’s driving their successes to new heights.

Nadine Todd




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  • Player: Azim Omar
  • Position: Africa Growth Markets Leader at EY
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Purpose before profit

This is the critical deciding factor that we have seen amongst the most successful business leaders who have been nominated as finalists in the EY World Entrepreneur Award™ Southern Africa 2016.

Starting with a ‘why’ makes all the difference to success, because you aren’t just chasing profit, but a cause. Passion follows a why, allowing solutions to be found to even the greatest challenges.

You need vision, but keep your feet on the ground

They dream big, but they know that goals aren’t reached unless you make specific decisions to get there. The winner of the EY World Entrepreneur Award™ Southern Africa 2016 was Super Group’s Peter Mountford.

When he was appointed CEO in 2009 the group had made a loss of R1,3 billion and there was talk of a takeover. As part of a turnaround strategy to become sustainable and achieve growth, Peter had to make some tough decisions, starting with disposing of all non-core and loss-making businesses within the group.

Related: RocoMamas Founder Brian Altriche’s On Fabulous Failures And Visualising Success

Within six years Super Group went from a R1,3 billion loss to showing a profit of R230 million, and the business as a whole does a turnover in excess of R25 billion.

The key ingredient to success at the EY awards programme


In 2015 disruption was a key theme. In 2016 passion and purpose have dominated the business stories we’ve heard. This has always been a key ingredient of success, but as business and markets get tougher, it has become increasingly important.

Entrepreneurs with next level vision and growth

Margaret does the impossible. She visits every store once a week, in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town. She also holds artisan and baking classes, and builds up communities from grass roots level. That’s purpose. It inspires us, but it’s also a key indicator of what it takes to be a real success.

Behind every successful business and entrepreneur is tenacity, determination, innovation and the will to make an impact on society. You’ll never find money as a purpose when we evaluate the finalists in our awards programme.

You can’t buy success

That’s not how you’ll make an impact, because it’s a completely self-serving goal. The business leaders who focus on impact, who look out instead of in, and who have a desire to really be the change they want to see — these are the individuals who are building businesses greater than themselves.

Related: How Neil Robinson Is Saving The World 1 Bracelet At A Time

Finalists displayed the perfect mindset

One is the son of an entrepreneur who ran a stationery and clothing store in Zimbabwe before its economy collapsed. At the time, many business owners packed up and left. Kirit Naik didn’t.

Surely children still needed an education and stationery? If all the businesses packed up and left, who would support the community? Today he runs the largest stationery manufacturer in Zimbabwe with his two sons, all because he had a purpose.

Finalists who want to make an impact

Jurie Bester of Junit Manufacturing, wanted to use his family’s small clothing manufacturing business to make a real impact in his community.

He secured a contract to manufacture clothing for Woolworths, and with that was able to grow a factory in Utrecht outside Newcastle, KZN to employ around 700 people, and a further 1 700 people in Swaziland.

Jurie’s ultimate aims are to grow local employment and launch his brand internationally. Working in Swaziland is step one in understanding the challenges of cross-border business transactions.

Achieving your ultimate business purpose often requires linking a number of dots that work towards the same goals, but always, purpose remains paramount.

What is your definition of success?

Fatima Vawda, founder of 27four Investment Managers and winner in the 2016 Emerging category has helped 22 black fund managers to grow their own businesses and achieve their dream.

She’s grown from managing R500 million in assets under management and advisory to R55 billion. Her definition of success is to help others grow. This is how she lives her purpose and ticks her boxes.

Related: NicHarry’s R100 Million Business Plan

Ideas are one thing, but purpose is important

Gil Oved and Ran Neu-Ner

Gil Oved and Ran Neu-Ner

You’ll find the idea if you have the purpose. Our Exceptional category winners, Ran Neu-Ner and Gil Oved, co-founders of The Creative Counsel, live their values in every aspect of their business, but they’re also committed to growing SMEs and being one of the biggest first time employers in South Africa.

This purpose means they are constantly innovating, striving to be better and looking for ways to elevate their stakeholders and partners. And success is the result.

Nominations now open

EY World Entrepreneur Award™ Southern Africa 2017 nominations are open in the following categories:

  • Master: Honours individuals whose achievements have made them world-class entrepreneurs. Must be running an organisation with revenues in excess of US$100 million.
  • Exceptional: Recognises individuals who have shown exceptional tenacity and determination in building a successful and established enterprise with revenues in excess of US$10 million.
  • Emerging: Credits those individuals building businesses with high growth potential. The minimum revenue threshold for participants is US$3 million.

Recommend an entrepreneur or submit a nomination at

Submissions close: 31 July 2017

Terms and conditions apply.

Take note

Start with your ‘why’ and you’ll naturally find solutions to the biggest challenges you are facing, both personally and professionally.

Nadine Todd is the Managing Editor of Entrepreneur Magazine, the How-To guide for growing businesses. Find her on Google+.

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Lessons Learnt

#Wealthiest List: 8 Self-Made Millionaires On How They Built Their Wealth

These inspirational self-made millionaires built businesses with nothing less than hard work and sheer determination.

Catherine Bristow



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1. Nick D’Aloisio Wrote a Million Dollar App At Age 15


At the age of 15, Nick D’Aloisio wrote an app while sitting in his parent’s bedroom in the UK. At the age of 17, D’Aloisio sold his app Summly – a mobile news summarisation app to Yahoo for a staggering USD 30 million.

As one of the youngest millionaires, D’Aloisio is also the world’s youngest entrepreneur to be backed by venture capitalists – having secured seed funding from Sir Li Ka-Shing, Hong Kong’s billionaire, as well as raising USD 1.23 million from celebrity investors, including Yoko Ono and Ashton Kutcher.

“The number one thing I did that I think was wise was to get, through some of my advisers, was a Chairman; basically someone who was a very experienced business person, an industry veteran — Bart Swanson, who had been at Amazon and then Badoo. Then, myself and Bart really started finding people and growing the team.”

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Lessons Learnt

7 Cannabis Industry Millionaires Making It Big In The Marijuana Business

These entrepreneurs have capitalised on a new market set to continue to grow rapidly as more countries legalise marijuana across the world.

Catherine Bristow



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1. Brendan Kennedy


Brendan Kennedy worked on job sites as a carpenter to pay his way through university, with his eyes set firmly on becoming an architect, until the allure of Silicon Valley changed the course of his direction. While working at technology start-ups Kennedy began thinking about the possibilities that medical marijuana provided.

“I was really sceptical of medical cannabis,” he says. “It took a year of having conversations with patients and physicians and hearing the same story, repackaged but essentially the same, over and over and over again, where my scepticism eroded and I became a believer.”

In 2013, Kennedy and his partners applied for a licence from Health Canada and launched Lafitte Ventures, which was later renamed Tilray. Today, the company is a global leader in medical cannabis research, cultivation, processing and distribution.

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Lessons Learnt

Scaleup Learnings From Our Top Clients – What The Most Successful Entrepreneurs Do Right

So, how do our successful clients move through these constraints to scaling up? We see four key drivers of success, and they are: people, strategy, flawless execution and finance.

Louw Barnardt




You’re out of your start-up boots, staff is increasing, your client base is growing, revenue is up and you’ve proven your case to the market. Now it’s time to scale up. The challenges of this vital growth phase are different and it’s a time that demands different mindsets and different actions. In a world littered with small business failures, it helps to be well-prepared for scaling up using a proven methodology. At Outsourced CFO, we get an inside look at the success factors of our clients who are mastering the transition.

On the one hand, scaling up is a really exciting phase; this is what moves you into real job creation and making an impactful contribution to economic growth. On the other hand, it is really hard to scale up successfully. We see three major constraints that limit companies’ transition from start-up to scale-up:


The business has to have the leadership that can take it to the next level. When you start scaling up, especially rapidly, the founders can no longer do everything themselves. The team must grow and include new leadership talent that can take charge and execute so that the founders are working on the business instead of in the business.


The processes, procedures, networks, systems and workflows of the business all need to be scalable. This is imperative when it comes to your infrastructure for the financial management of your business. You’re only ready for growth when your infrastructure can seamlessly keep pace.

Market access

Scaling up demands more innovative marketing and storytelling so that you can more easily connect and engage with the new employees, clients, network partners, investors and mentors that need to come along with you on your scale-up journey.

Businesses that build a market conversation and a compelling brand narrative during their start-up phase are better positioned to have this kind of market access when they need to scale up.


It is critical to have the right people on your team. Our successful entrepreneurs have what it takes to attract, inspire and retain top talent. A strong team of smart, ambitious and purpose-driven people who love the company and want to see it succeed contribute greatly to a world class company culture. They are adept at communicating a compelling vision and establishing core values that people can take on. These entrepreneurs are tuned into the aspirations of their people and focus on developing leaders in their teams who can in turn develop more leaders.


It is planning that ensures that the right things are happening at the right times. At successful scale-ups strategies and action plans are devised to ensure that the most important thing always remains the most important thing.

Strategy includes input from all team members and setting of good priorities for the short, medium and long term. Goals are clear and everyone always knows what they are working towards. The needle is continuously moved because 90-day action plans are implemented each quarter to achieve targets and goals that are over and above people doing their daily jobs.

Flawless execution

Top entrepreneurs are not just focused on what operations need to achieve, but how the business operates. They have the right procedures, processes and tools in place so that everyone can deliver along the line on the company’s brand promise. Frequent, quick successive meetings ensure the rapid flow of effective communication. Problems are solved without drama. There is no chaos in the office environment. Everyone is empowered to execute flawlessly to an array of consistently happy clients.


Everyone knows that growth burns cash. A rapidly scaling business faces the challenge of needing a scalable financial infrastructure to keep the company healthy. Our successful entrepreneurs pay close attention to finance as the heartbeat of the business, ensuring that everything else functions. They look at the tech they are using for financial management and for the ways that their financial systems can be automated so that they can be brought rapidly to scale. The capital to grow is another vital finance issue.

The best way to finance a business is through paying clients on the shortest possible cash flow cycle. However, when you are scaling up and making heavier investments in the resources you need for growth, it is likely that you will need a workable plan for raising capital. Our scale-up clients know the value of accessing innovative financial management that provides high level services to drive their business growth.

Navigating the scale-up journey of a growing private company is one of the hardest but most rewarding of careers to pursue. Having people in your corner who have been through this journey before helps take a lot of pain out of the process. No growth journey looks the same, but there are tried and tested methods that will – if applied diligently – lead to definite success. Happy scaling!

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