- Player: Victor Sekese
- Company: SizweNtsalubaGobodo (SNG)
- Est: 1985
- Contact: +27 (0)11 231 0600
- Visit: www.sng.za.com
When Victor Sekese was appointed CEO of NkonkiSizweNtsaluba 17 years ago, what followed was a baptism by fire. The firm had been headed up by Sizwe Nxasana, an innovative, powerful, and charismatic leader who was highly respected wherever he went.
With Nxasana’s departure for Telkom however, a shockwave ran through the firm – there was no succession plan to speak of.
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Today, Sekese leads what has evolved into SizweNtsalubaGobodo, the biggest black-owned accounting firm in the country, and the fifth largest overall.
A firm of around 1 200 employees, it takes in around 200 trainee accountants each year and is a hothouse for black chartered accountants, producing the highest number of successful black accounting candidates of all black professional services firms in Gauteng in 2014.
Building an institution
“By 1998, when I took over as CEO, we were a national firm with offices in all the major cities,” says Sekese.
“I brought the executive team together and said, ‘this is what has happened, so what do we do now?’ We developed a new way forward to ensure the firm was defined by the value we bring as a team collectively, rather than by the personality of one individual.”
Redefining a firm that was in its 14th year was never going to be easy. Although the firm’s reputation was a result of collaboration, the market had to be educated that it stood on its own feet as an institution like its bigger counterparts, regardless of who was at the helm.
Part of the long-term strategy was to grow it into the biggest black-owned audit, advisory and forensic services firm in the country. By 2011, when SizweNtsaluba VSP and Gobodo Incorporated merged to form SizweNtsalubaGobodo, that goal was well on its way to being achieved.
Leaving a legacy
Animated and energetic, Sekese calls SNG a purpose driven firm. “What I mean by that is that we continue to be influenced by our founders who launched the firm in 1985, at a time when black people were excluded from the economy. They wanted to create a vehicle that would help to emancipate black people. They resigned from their careers in the corporate sector to launch an entrepreneurial business that gave them none of the protection afforded by the corporate world. That desire to create a lasting legacy is what drives our strategy to this day. The merger has enabled us to have an impact not only in South Africa but on the continent too.”
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SNG, he says, attests to the belief that there is no-one better than an African to solve African problems. “We bring authenticity to the table, and develop unique solutions for indigenous issues.”
Sekese insists that political, business and social leadership gaps in Africa can only be closed when Africans are involved in creating leadership legacies, which SNG is committed to doing.
“Central to that commitment is quality of leadership. That’s why we launched the SNG Corporate Academy, which advises on strategy, innovation and people, to help turn organisations into high performing units. Talent management plays a huge role as we focus on the competencies we need to take us where we want to go. Succession planning is taken care of because we have identified all the competencies we need at top management level, and all the way down throughout the company.”
From transactional to strategic
Sekese admits that the aspiration to be the advisors of choice is a big one. “Because it’s difficult to force change in the market when you are competing with the big four, we started to expand our areas of interest by identifying quick wins. When we get a small contract, we view it as a way into the client’s world, and we make sure we excel.”
He insists that SNG does not get business because of its BEE status.
“We live in a world where change is constant, and while BEE is an issue today, tomorrow it may not be. We offer services that are completely over and above the market and colour of the firm. Also, BEE accreditation will not bring in business from the rest of the continent.
“Historically our involvement and relationships with our clients was at a transactional level only, just providing transactional services such as auditing and forensics. We have since elevated our relationships with our clients to a strategic level , wherein we are trusted business advisors helping them with their respective strategic journeys, over and above transactional services. Our trusted business advisor approach results in clients for life for the firm and ensures we are sustainable going into the future.”
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These inspirational self-made millionaires built businesses with nothing less than hard work and sheer determination.
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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1. Brendan Kennedy
- Company: Tilray
- Website: https://www.tilray.com/
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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