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How SNG Built A Leadership Legacy

How a turning point in SizweNtsalubaGobodo’s (SNG’s) history became an opportunity to develop an entirely new strategy, allowing it to become the fifth-largest accounting firm in the country.

Monique Verduyn

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Victor Sekese

Vital Stats

  • 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

SNG-south-africaAnimated 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.

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“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.”

Monique Verduyn is a freelance writer. She has more than 12 years’ experience in writing for the corporate, SME, IT and entertainment sectors, and has interviewed many of South Africa’s most prominent business leaders and thinkers. Find her on Google+.

Lessons Learnt

Richard Branson’s ABCs Of Business

Throughout the year, the Virgin co-founder shared what he thinks are the essential elements to success.

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If there’s one thing Richard Branson knows, it’s how to run a successful business.

Throughout last year, the Virgin founder shared what he thinks are the keys ingredients to building a successful company with each letter of the alphabet, which he slowly revealed through the 365 days.

From A for attitude to N for naivety to Z for ZZZ, check out Branson’s ABCs of success.

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Lessons Learnt

How Reflexively Apologising For Everything All The Time Undermines Your Career

How can you inspire confidence if you are constantly saying you’re sorry for doing your job?

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I’m one of those weird people who gets excited about performance reviews. I like getting feedback and understanding how I can improve. A few years ago, I sat down for my first annual review as the director of communications for the Florida secretary of state, under the governor of Florida.

I had a great relationship with my chief of staff, but I had taken on a major challenge when I accepted the job a year prior. I didn’t really know what to expect.

Youth takes charge

I was 25 at the time, and everyone on my team was in their thirties and forties. I came from Washington, D.C., and was an outsider to my southern colleagues. I was asking a lot from people who had been used to very different expectations from their supervisor.

I sat down with my chief of staff who gave me some feedback about the challenges I had tackled.

She then paused and said to me, very directly,”But you have to stop apologising. You must stop saying sorry for doing your job.”

Related: 8 Valuable And Inspirational Web Series You Should Check Out

I didn’t know what to say. My reflex was to reply sheepishly, “Umm, I’m sorry?” But instead I immediately decided to be more cognisant of how often I said I was sorry. Years later, her words have stuck with me. I have what some may consider the classic female disease of apologising. When the New York Times addressed it, five of my friends and past coworkers sent it to me.

In it, writer Sloane Crosley got to the heart of the issue:

“To me, they sound like tiny acts of revolt, expressions of frustration or anger at having to ask for what should be automatic. They are employed when a situation is so clearly not our fault that we think the apology will serve as a prompt for the person who should be apologising.”

Topic of debate

I’ve talked at length with other women trying to figure out this fine balance. The Washington PostTime, and Cosmopolitan have all tackled this topic. Some say it’s OK to apologise; others criticise those who are criticising women who apologise. Clearly, I’m not alone in dealing with this issue. In fact, I’m constantly telling the people I manage that by apologising they give up a lot of their power.

Related: Want To Feel Empowered? Check Out These 17 Quotes From Successful Entrepreneurs And Leaders

Here’s the bottom line: Don’t apologise for doing your job.

If you’re following up with a coworker about something they said they’d get to you earlier, don’t say, “Sorry to bug you!” If you want to share your thoughts in a meeting, don’t start off by saying, “Sorry, I just want to add…” If you’re doing your job, you have absolutely nothing to apologise for.

That’s what I think. And I’m not even sorry about it.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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10 Quotes On Following Your Dreams, Having Passion And Showing Hard Work From Tech Guru Michael Dell

If you’re in need of a little motivation, check out these quotes from Dell’s CEO, founder and chairman.

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There’s much to learn from one of the computer industry’s longest tenured CEOs and founders, Michael Dell. As an integral part of the computer revolution in the 1980s, Dell launched Dell Computer Corporation from his dorm room at the University of Texas. And it didn’t take Dell long before he’d launched one of the most successful computer companies. Indeed, by 1992 Dell was the youngest CEO of a fortune 500 company.

Dell’s success had been long foreshadowed. When he was 15, Dell showed great interest in technology, purchasing an early version of an Apple computer, only so he could take it apart and see how it was built. And once he got to college, Dell noticed a gap in the market for computers: There were no companies that were selling directly to consumers. So, he decided to cut out the middleman and began building and selling computers directly to his classmates. Before long, he dropped out of school officially to pursue Dell.

Fast forward to today. Dell is not only a tech genius and businessman, but a bestselling author, investor and philanthropist, with a networth of $24.7 billion. He continues his role as the CEO and chairman of Dell Technologies, making him one of the longest tenured CEOs in the computer industry.

So if you’re in need of some motivation or inspiration, take it from Dell.

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