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Cycan: Bryan & Zi Hattingh

Leadership solutions team proves that entrepreneurship requires resilience

Monique Verduyn



Bryan and Zi Hattingh of Cycan

Risk is a word that inspires fear in the hearts of many, but Bryan and Zi Hattingh believe that risk must be viewed in context, and that to avoid it entirely is to under-perform, under-achieve and minimise opportunities. Having built a self-funded, highly successful niched IT recruitment services company which they started in 1987, the two sold it 11 years later.

But the deal went sour, and they were forced to start again from scratch.“We had developed a holistic IT resourcing group with a number of service lines and value-based offerings that placed it way ahead of its time back then,” says Bryan.

The Bryan Hattingh Group, as they named the business, had 85 employees and over 300 professional services contractors, as well as a joint venture partnership with IBM, at the time that it was sold.

Their success was attributable to elements that still underpin their business today. “Most recruitment services are volume and transaction based,” says Bryan. “We built our business around a career management model that depends on long-term relationships.

Our focus is on value transfer, whether it’s in executive appointments, executive coaching or business transformation.”The decision to sell their successful business was motivated by their wish to turn the company into a fully-fledged medium-sized business that was no longer “family run”.

“Our goal was to capitalise the business and take it into the global arena,” says Zi. “We were approached by a number of companies, including one of the largest resourcing organisations in the world.We went with the offer, even though it was not the best one, because our strategies appeared to be aligned. We could not have been more wrong.”

After the sale, the Hattinghs tried to conclude a management buyout, but were turned down. They worked out their contracts and left. What followed was a pernicious legal battle which went on for four years. Meanwhile, Bryan and Zi set about creating a new entity, Cycan,that was birthed from the lessons they had learnt.

“We had lost our business, our money and our brand,” says Bryan. “But we took strength from the fact that we had built an excellent business, and we were going to do it again.”The two funded Cycan, a leadership and strategic talent management business, with their own money, cashing in the investments they had left following the disastrous deal.

They soon added executive search and coaching to their portfolio of services and rapidly developed a reputation for being at the top of their game.

Today Cycan is a member of the World Search Group, one of the world’s top 20 executive search alliances which, on investigating Cycan, welcomed the company as “an epitome of 21st century executive search and coaching practice with much to teach the world.”

This year Cycan achieved 100% year-on-year growth compared to 2006, and plans for global expansion are well underway. Cycan identifies and accesses the best possible – and usually inaccessible – talent and facilitates a process that helps them qualify what they want for themselves.

“We then find congruency between their requirements and those of our clients,” Bryan says. “All our appointments are leadership appointments. Across all industries they have been proven to deliver financially and with passion and commitment to the companies they work for. Our success rate is upwards of 98%.”

The company’s biggest challenge today is finding the right talent internally because Cycan depends on people who are genuinely interested in others. It’s a challenge they have addressed particularly well with succession planning. “The key to escaping the rather limiting owner/manager trap is to make yourself dispensable,” says Bryan.

“To do that you have to hire people who share your vision and your passion, and who are able to challenge you at every level.”Zi concurs: “One of the most important things you can do when starting a business is to identify your exit strategy.When the business no longer needs you, you are free to add much more value to it.”

Cycan is still run according to family values such as caring and respect, but it is managed by a seven member exco, it has a board of directors, and is black-empowered.“Our objective is to enrich the lives of everyone we touch,” notes Bryan. “It’s an attitude that permeates the company from the executive team to reception desk.”

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+.


25 Of The Most Successful Business Ideas In South Africa

Find out who’s making waves in numerous industries and how they managed to differentiate themselves in local and international industries.

Nicole Crampton



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“Disruption is all about risk-taking, trusting your intuition, and rejecting the way things are supposed to be. Disruption goes way beyond advertising, it forces you to think about where you want your brand to go and how to get there,” says Richard Branson.

South Africa has its fair share of innovative and disruptive businesses taking both local and international industries by storm. From cutting edge space technology to reimagined logistics, and innovative business models, here are 25 of the most successful business ideas in South Africa:

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Colin Timmis Says ‘Position Yourself For Success By Starting With The Numbers’

People pay first who they feel pressure from, so people will pay you when they feel pressure from you.






Entrepreneur Colin Timmis founded South Africa’s first cloud accounting practice in 2011, Real Time Accounting. Then, a few years after being appointed as South Africa’s first Xero partner Colin became Xero Country Manager South Africa. Xero is the emerging global leader of online accounting software that connects small businesses to their advisors and other services.

Related: Pat Pillai On How He’s Helped Over 5000 Entrepreneurs Using 3 Key Steps

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Two 20 Year Olds Reshape Entrepreneur Landscape With New Social Investment Platform

The Merge vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

Merge Connect




Vital Stats

It’s no secret that finding the right investor for your venture is a challenge that most entrepreneurs face. The current process of finding investment is one that is outdated, and limits entrepreneurs due to a lack of time, and network that is needed to find the right investor. But, this doesn’t have to be the case in today’s digital society, says Zander Matthee and Brandon Bate, co-founders of Merge.

“By making the Internet the middleman, we are able to connect with each other much simpler and faster than before” was Zander’s response. “We have taken advantage of this, and have created a digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors” added Brandon.

Merge is a social platform that connects entrepreneurs and investors. It aims to simplify, refine and accelerate the process of finding investment for entrepreneurs, and the process of finding investment opportunities for investors. From idea to developed, the platform allows entrepreneurs to present a brief outline of their venture to a network of all investor types. While doing this, entrepreneurs are able to browse through, and connect with investor profiles that suit their requirements.

Related: 8 Codes Of Success That Helped Priven Reddy of Kagiso Interactive Media Achieve A Networth Of Over R4 Billion

From Private Investors to Venture Capital, and everything in between, Merge allows all investor types to join. Investors have the opportunity to personalise their feed to suit their investment preferences, and will be able to connect with innovative businesses – that are looking for investment – at their fingertips. Only once there is a mutual interest in each other, are users able to enter a secure private chat where they can discuss further and share documents under the protection of a digital NDA.

The two boys became good friends during their time in high school at St Stithians Boys College. However, it was only in their last year, 2016, that they decided to pursue their dreams and create the platform. They didn’t know how to code, so rather ironically, they needed some form of investment to get the platform off the ground.


“We knew we had a mountain to climb, but we believed in our vision and that we were really trying to make a difference, and if we could get others to see that, they would be onboard.” said Zander.

Related: Lessons From The Rich And Famous: Manage Your Money Like Oprah To Avoid Going Into Debt Like Nicholas Cage

Chris Peters is one of these individuals that bought into their vision, and became Merge’s first investor. As a successful entrepreneur and part time investor , Chris saw how much value the platform could bring to all entrepreneurs and investors alike. His marketing and strategic background gave him insight into how Merge could play a vital role in a lucrative space, Brand involvement.

“Entrepreneurship and SME development are two key factors that drive economic growth in developing countries like South Africa. That is why brands are currently getting involved, and looking to support entrepreneurs through various means. We have built a platform that allows these brands to successfully market, and execute on the programmes they have created to assist entrepreneurs.” said Chris

Merge was created to assist all entrepreneurs and investors in finding exactly what they are looking for, regardless of age, race, sex, financial position or social status. That is why anybody can sign-up as an entrepreneur. As long as you are determined and willing to work for your dreams. For too long has the investor space been seen as an “elite club for the select few”, and Merge is here to change that. Whether you’ve gotten your bonus at the end of the year and looking for new investment opportunities, or are an active investor, you can sign-up. Whether you’re currently working, or a retired industry leader, you can join as a mentor.

Their vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

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