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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.

We-recommend-tickWe recommend: It’s Passion that Drives Louise Carver

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.”

We-recommend-tickWe recommend: How Sumting Fresh Reinvented Itself

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.

We-recommend-tickWe recommend: Entelect CEO Shashi Hansjee’s 4 Life Hacks and 1 Little Quirk That Deliver the Dough

“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

(Podcast) ‘Bizarre Foods’ Andrew Zimmern: ‘I’m Addicted To The Hustle’

How this week’s ‘How Success Happens’ guest overcame personal struggles and built an empire.

Dan Bova

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andrew-zimmern

I didn’t know what to expect when we scheduled an interview over breakfast with today’s guest Andrew Zimmern. As you may know, the chef, writer, restaurateur and TV personality made a name for himself traveling the world and eating some, well, bizarre foods on his hit travel/food show, Bizarre Foods.

Turns out our breakfast was pretty normal – we didn’t dig into a fresh plate of scrambled brains or anything – but the conversation was anything but typical.

Over the past couple of years, Zimmern has built a true empire around his name with books, TV shows, restaurants (including his new Twin Cities joint Lucky Cricket), and a production company, but as he very candidly told me, the road to success has not been easy. He has gone through a lot of personal pain on his journey, and he says it is a daily endeavour to keep himself moving on the right track.

As Zimmern explained, over the course of his life, he’s had problems with substance abuse, depression – even homelessness – and he was very open about sharing the lessons he’s learned along the way about coping and finding redemption. We also spoke about his dear friend, Anthony Bourdain, and about the struggles of feeling overwhelmed that most of us face.

Related: Gareth Cliff Shares His Tips For Starting Your Very Own Podcast

But don’t get me wrong, he’s really funny, too! There’s nothing “normal” about Andrew Zimmern. Hope you’ll enjoy our conversation, thanks for listening.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Lessons Learnt

How BrightRock Is Disrupting The Insurance Industry With These 2 Pivotal Strategies

Developments in technology, and clear communication are positioning BrightRock to disrupt their industry and transform the consumer experience.

Monique Verduyn

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brightrock

Vital Stats

  • Players: Sean Hanlon, Leopold Malan, Schalk Malan, Suzanne Stevens
  • Company: BrightRock
  • Est: 2011
  • Visit: www.brightrock.co.za

BrightRock was started around a dining room table in 2011 by four people with years of industry experience and — importantly — a diverse set of complementary skills.  They wanted to make changes to an industry with an age-old methodology by allowing customers to co-create a solution that precisely meets their individual needs, and adjusts as those needs change. Today, BrightRock is the fastest-growing insurer in the intermediated individual life risk market. It also provides underwriting management services to funeral parlour businesses and, more recently, has entered the group risk insurance market, offering its needs-matched approach to employees.

The founders of BrightRock, established in 2011, knew the life insurance industry all too well, and they found its methodology wanting. “Traditional life insurance lumps all the individual’s needs into one policy,” says CEO Schalk Malan.

“It’s a methodology that has been around for centuries. We started afresh and looked at how we could design life insurance based on individual requirements. Our cover is designed to exactly match each specific financial need. Because there is no waste, it’s more cost efficient and sustainable. And if circumstances change and our customer needs more cover, it’s easy to get it because needs-matched design enables the policy to change in line with changing needs.”

1. Embracing digital technology to provide needs-matched insurance

Suzanne Stevens, marketing executive director at BrightRock, points out that this type of innovation achieves efficiency (cost savings) and effectiveness (higher returns). “By harnessing digital technology, we have made our operations more efficient, and aggressively lowered costs by up to 30% for our customers. Every rand they spend with us works harder for them. That’s the benefit of a solution designed around the customer.”

BrightRock’s founders took a similar approach. ‘We ditched legacy thinking in favour of creating a product that is intuitive and easy to navigate. An enormous amount of time and effort went into writing and designing that system, and creating the optimal customer journey.”

Related: How BrightRock Is Rocking The (Industry) Boat In Only 5 Years Since Launch

Unlike clunky legacy systems, BrightRock’s platform is modularised, and was built according to the agile principle of rapid delivery cycles. The result is a technology stack with longevity, that is also flexible enough to be tweaked when needed.

“The advantage of the technology available today is that you can plug things in and pull them out as required,” says Suzanne. “That’s one of the enablers of a truly disruptive mindset. To step away from accepted norms and find new solutions requires curiosity and creativity, as well as a lot of courage to go up against large incumbents in the market. There is always resistance to new technology, although we are fortunate in this country to have one of the most innovative insurance sectors in the world.”

2. Effective communication is critical

These disruptors have set themselves above the rest through one surprisingly simple tactic —  effective communication. They agree that it simply doesn’t matter how world-changing your product or service is if you don’t communicate it to the right audience at the right time. New companies that fail to communicate their remarkable new development will quickly be pushed aside by other disruptors. Without a clear communication strategy that reaches the audience in the industry you’re trying to disrupt, you’ll set yourself up for failure. A key question to ask when you are developing your communication strategy is simply whether people understand what you do.

“Because the premise for our product was fundamentally different from anything on the market, communication and clear messaging were critical to convincing our clients to put their trust in us,” says Schalk.

“It was especially important to educate insurance advisors so they would understand what we were doing, why we were doing it, and how it was better than the other options available. That was key to disrupting the individual life market.”

Currently, BrightRock employs 380 staff, has experienced 40% year-on-year growth, and has an annualised premium income of more than R1,3 billion. The company has recently entered the group risk environment with a similar offering that addresses many of the same shortcomings of traditional group risk products. “The inefficiencies of the structuring of group products has meant that, to remain competitive, insurers have cut the benefits offered to employees, undermining their sense of financial security. Change is needed, and we believe our needs-matched philosophy positions us to change the group risk market too.”

‘We ditched legacy thinking in favour of creating a product that is intuitive and easy to navigate. An enormous amount of time and effort went into writing and designing that system, and creating the optimal customer journey.”

Unlike clunky legacy systems, the BrightRock’s platform is modularised, and was built according to the agile principle of rapid delivery cycles. The result is a technology stack with longevity, that is also flexible enough to be tweaked when needed.

Related: BrightRock’s 5 Entrepreneurial Tips For Start-ups

This iterative, modular approach typically begins with defining the strategy and programme plan upfront, delivering a core capability fast so it can provide benefits immediately, and then continuously improving with regular, incremental capability improvements to achieve the objectives of the strategy. It’s an approach that fosters closer collaboration between stakeholders, improved transparency, earlier delivery, greater allowance for change and more focus on the business outcomes.

“The advantage of the technology available today is that you can plug things in and pull them out as required,” says Suzanne. “That’s one of the enablers of a truly disruptive mindset. To step away from accepted norms and find new solutions requires curiosity and creativity, as well as a lot of courage to go up against large incumbents in the market. There is always resistance to new technology, although we are fortunate in this country to have one of the most innovative insurance sectors in the world.”

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Lessons Learnt

The 9 Obsessions You Need To Have To Become A Self-Made Millionaire

Here’s how to stay focused on your millionaire goals.

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elon-musk

The ones who succeed weren’t handed a golden ticket; it wasn’t chance that helped them cultivate their fortune. To reach millionaire status, you must be driven to reach your dreams. You must be obsessed in order to be successful.

These are the nine obsessions that give every self-made millionaire an edge in creating success and wealth.

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