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Kirgo Group: Ilan Kirkel

Childhood lessons contribute to entrepreneur’s business success

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Ian Kirkel of Kirgo Group

There is a widely forwarded story on theweb about how everything one needs to know was learnt in Kindergarten. Thesource of this inspirational piece is a book by Robert Fulgham and includes theadvice to play fair, flush, and take a nap every afternoon! For thetrailblazing founder and CEO of the Kirgo Group, Ilan Kirkel, many of theentrepreneurial lessons he needed were leant at the family dinner table, yetwere equally important to his business success. Growing up in anentrepreneurial family laid the foundations for 27-year old Kirkel’s drive tosucceed and his outlook on many of the challenges faced by young entrepreneurs.

A self-described “opportunist” and“deal-maker”, Kirkel embarked three years ago on his mission to create afinancial services industry leader. He gained experience in a number of fieldsbefore “finding his niche in the commercial and industrial property sector” andthen joining his father, Ron Kirkel, in his property business. After a numberof qualifications, Ilan Kirkel accepted an invitation to join another propertygroup in KwaZulu Natal before making the move to Johannesburg. Afterdemonstrating award-winning performance in a new role at a large financialinstitution, and further studies, Kirkel set about forming a set of integratedbusinesses serving the demanding needs of high net worth individuals andcorporate clients. Kirgo Capital, Kirgo Property Finance and Kirgo Realty are aset of niche “boutique” businesses that clearly capture some of Kirkel’s earlydinner table lessons about focus and specialisation. Kirgo Capital, an authorised financialservices provider, includes a corporate finance and deal-making platform thatcan make an initial investment and add strategic value at different points inthe business’s development. The finance business is complemented by a PrivateClients distribution channel offering all-embracing financial planningsolutions, including investments, risk and fiduciary services. Another important lesson learnt early on isthe value of differentiation and sustainable advantage in a competitiveenvironment. As with many entrepreneurs, Kirkel is facing off against some ofthe most experienced rivals in the business – and is holding his own. As asingle contact for all services, with unequalled response speed, and ahandpicked network of trusted partners, the Kirgo Group is designed to win atits chosen strategy. Kirkel’s public campaign to assist stretched investors andconsumers to consolidate and manage their debt has also distinguished his firm.

Differentiation is also about innovation.As a home loan facilitator and mortgage originator, Kirgo Property Finance isproviding evidence of how to do things differently by individually tailoringsolutions for each client’s property finance needs. Kirkel’s strong views onthe benefits of second mortgages and bond switching have raised a few eyebrows,but highlight the innovative approaches his team has adopted. Dinner table stories also helped shapeKirkel’s informal management style. He clearly doesn’t like the word “boss”,although he has created an organisational culture of performance by encouragingeveryone to succeed and grow with the firm. This view on personal developmentincludes Kirkel’s own use of mentors. He believes that the support, guidanceand direction received from his more senior mentors have contributed to his ownand his firm’s success thus far. Kirkel has used his ad-hoc, yet regular,mentor discussion sessions to clarify some of his ideas, challenge some of hisbeliefs, and answer some of his questions. He has also found the personalrelationships very valuable. Relationships are key to Kirgo Realty’sauctioneering, valuations and property management teams. Kirkel has built anexperienced and skilled team, many members of the South African Institute ofAuctioneers and South African Estate Agency Affairs Board. Fulgham’s book on Kindergarten lessons alsosuggests that warm cookies and cold milk are good for you. Given Kirkel’ssuccess thus far, and the commitment, plans and energy of his team, he may soonshow everyone how strong relationships and innovative practices can be even betterfor you. Contact: +27 11 444 6025; + 27 8611 KIRGO; www.kirgogroup.co.za

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