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Thebe Investments: Likhapha Seliane

Likhapha Seliane, CEO of Thebe Investments, talks to Juliet Pitman about early lessons, the importance of people and getting through tough times.

Juliet Pitman

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Likhapha Seliane of Thebe Investments

Youtook up the reins as CEO almost two years ago. What have you found mostchallenging about being in a leadership role?

A role like this revolves so much aroundworking with people and I have learned a lot in that respect. Ours is acompetitive industry that is full of strong-minded people who have firm ideasabout what they think should be done. This is supported by the culture of theThebe Group, which is very entrepreneurial and encourages people to takeinitiative.

For me as a leader, the challenge has beento strike a balance between providing talented people with freedom and a degreeof autonomy, and making sure that they are all going in the same direction. Themeans can be different so long as the end is the same. My role is to point tothe destination, and to make sure that everyone is going there, even if theyget there in different ways.

Isthere a particular person or event in your life that has inspired or influencedthe way you do things today?

When it comes to people, there are so manywho have inspired me but I think if I was to pick one it would have to be ReuelKhoza, with whom I have worked for a long time. I have learned so much from himabout leadership, especially how to be patient with people. It’s from him thatI learned that listening is far more important than speaking when you’re a CEO.He taught me to listen to people – whether they are employees or clients – andto only speak when necessary.

Then if I look back on my life, I think wasalso influenced by my father, who wanted me to become business-minded from anearly age. When I was a schoolboy he’d try and keep me as busy as possibleduring school holidays to keep me out of mischief. He’d buy me a bag of orangesto sell and I’d get to keep the profit. So I guess I’ve really been tradingsince I was a young boy.

Whatdo you believe are the hallmarks of a good leader?

To my mind, the success of a good leaderdepends on three things: having a very good idea of what you want to achieve,having good people to be able to execute that idea and having a bit of luckalong the way.

Whatwould your advice be to business owners about getting through tough times?

Getting through tough times often relies onbeing able to keep good people so as a leader you need to calm the waters andremind people not to panic. Then you also need to make sure that you canidentify your business’ risks and manage them as closely as possible.

Remaining close to the coal-face is not,however, only relevant to difficult times. As a business owner or leader, yousimply can’t run things by remote control. You have to be hands on and knowbetter than anyone else what’s going on in your company.

Yourtake on the current market conditions?

I think opportunities abound at the moment.Wealthy people make money during such times because they focus not on thedifficulties that the market presents, but on such opportunities. If you have alittle bit of cash, now is the time to invest. There will definitely be arecovery. The equity market has always recovered – it’s just a matter of time.

Juliet Pitman is a features writer at Entrepreneur Magazine.

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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

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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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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

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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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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

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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:

Leadership

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.

Infrastructure

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.

People

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.

Strategy

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.

Finance

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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