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Liberty Life: Chris Oosthuisen

It’s a savvy manager who sets up a Liberty Life Agency and posts record sales the first year

Juliet Pitman

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Chris Oosthuisen of Liberty Life

Chris Oosthuisen is no stranger to taking on a challenge. The professional rugby player turned insurance salesman holds three business degrees, the latest of which is an MCom, where his thesis focused on the gap between what managers see as motivational and what salespeople really find motivational. He also single-handedly opened up Liberty Life’s first agency in Bloemfontein in January 2005 – just over a year later, in March 2006, he was awarded the insurance giant’s prestigious Gold Branch Manager of the Year award.

Achieving sales targets in such a short space of time after start-up requires loads of energy, hard-nosed business savvy and, most of all, a great sales team. The latter is something Oosthuisen knows a thing or two about – he followed a simple yet highly effective four-point strategy in handpicking the individuals who make up his winning team: recruit the right people; develop them; motivate them; and retain them. The first point is the most vital, according to Oosthuisen. Gathering the right people for the team is the first step to creating sales superstars. Training a salesperson takes time, energy and money – things you don’t want to waste on the wrong people. “I look for people who have entrepreneurial spirit, an internal locus of control, people who are enthusiastic and driven,” says Oosthuisen. He also looks for people who can handle rejection – “you have to develop a thick skin in sales.” From a developmental point of view, his approach is two-pronged. He ensures his team are technically well-versed in the products they sell and he focuses on the softer side of personal development. “Development of the person and development of product knowledge are like two legs – it doesn’t matter how fast one can run if the other can’t keep up,” he says.

Motivation is also high on his priorities list. Oosthuisen is looking to create what he calls “discretionary effort“ in his team; that little bit extra that people put in at their own discretion, when they are not asked to. “When people do this, they surpass ordinary standards and start achieving peak performance,” he says. He tries to get to know each team member personally in order to understand what drives them to succeed, so he knows where to focus his motivation. Finally, retaining staff means get-ting rid of “bad apples“ and creating positive experiences for those who remain. “I try to catch my staff doing something right instead of something wrong. And I try to give back to my team and their families to show them I appreciate their efforts,” he says. In the business that he’s built, Oosthuisen is a great believer in the importance of a company culture. “Building a team culture is so important,” he says. “It comes from the manager, from the top down, so I see the laying down of that culture as a very important part of my job.” Part of the culture he tries to instil is one of mutual support. “Sales is a tough job and you need the rest of the people in the office to lift you if you have a bad day,” he explains. “That’s also why you need to have the right people in your team who buy into the culture and who offer support and motivation to their colleagues.”

Oosthuisen believes that the key to being a good salesperson lies in one of his favourite quotes: “Successful people have a habit of doing what unsuccessful people don’t like to do.“ As he explains: “These are things like phoning leads, something no salesperson likes to do but is so necessary.” When questioned about his own success as a sales manager, his own ‘X factor’, Oosthuisen is philosophical: “I think being a good sales manager is more about people skills than technical knowledge,” he says. Other than that, he attributes his own success to hard work and getting the basics right. “You must prospect, pick up the phone and call people, you must see people as often as you can.” It’s a simple recipe, but it works.

Juliet Pitman is a features writer at Entrepreneur Magazine.

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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.

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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

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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.

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“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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