Derrick Tshivhase grew up in Soweto in the turbulentapartheid years. He describes himself as someone who came from the “generationof stone throwers”. But fortune was on his side and his entrepreneurial talentswere recognised by Barlow Rand’s Small Business Advisory Service. With itssupport, Tshivhase built his business, a one-man show, into a sustainable andhealthy enterprise that is eager to compete with leading industry players. WhenTshivhase started LumaCon Air Conditioning he wanted one outcome – to be a topplayer in the provision of heating and air conditioning solutions. “I started LumaCon in 1986 and itstabilised four years later,” he says. “Up until 1994 it was almost impossibleto get government contracts, but I didn’t give up.” His focus at that time wasdirected at black professionals including lawyers and doctors, as well as blackretailers, while he waited for the political tide to turn in his direction. “Iattribute my success during those difficult times and up until today, to selfreliance, being totally self driven and refusing to give up no matter howdifficult things become.”
LumaCon has secured contracts includinga R13 million project for Modderbee Prison and one for Polokwane InternationalAirport worth R5 million. The company employs 30 full-time employees excludingspecialist sub-contractors. Like any start-up, it’s had its ups anddowns and Tshivhase had to face many obstacles along the way. But a strong mindand an even stronger will to succeed put him on the road to success. The most difficult hurdle he overcamein the business arena was his own complacency. “When things are going well youassume that they will always go well,” he says. “I was looking for a propertyin Limpopo when an estate agent showed me afarm which I fell in love with.” He took two years off, put his staff incontrol of LumaCon and tried his hand at farming. The company suffered withouthim at the helm and it took him two and a half years to get it back on trackagain.
Tshivhase describes himself as anindependent thinker and says he wants to keep it that way. True to form, heisn’t afraid to express his disappointment about the small business sectoreither. “South Africa has in the last 15years failed dismally to develop and sustain a vibrant small business sector,”he says. “In the 90s the buzz was all about bringing the small business sector,particularly black business, into the mainstream of the economy. “In my opinion, the country has failedto do this. In my time as a farmer, this view was reaffirmed as I had to facethe fact that it was impossible to produce poultry – broiler chickens in mycase – profitably with the constraints inherent in the supply value chain.” Monopolies are seriously hampering andsabotaging the development of a competitive economy which canaccommodate more players, Tshivhase believes. “More participants in the economy willimmediately result in employment, poverty reduction, economic growth, pricedecreases and the lowering of inflation,” he adds.
Tshivhase says that LumaCon plans togrow its market share and become a competitive industry player. “Five yearsfrom now I see myself achieving my dream, which is to be among the top airconditioning companies in southern Africa. Iknow that to get there, I’ll have to change my business model. “One of the biggest challenges is toget every staff member putting their shoulder to the wheel. The changes I planto make to my current business model will include employing project managersand farming out labour to sub-contractors.”And if you are wondering how thecurrent downturn has affected LumaCon, don’t. “It’s not a problem for usbecause we are not participating in the recession,” he says with a wide smileand a twinkle in his eye.
- Company: LumaConAir Conditioning
- Player:Derrick Tshivhase
- Contact:+27 11 656 4422, www.lumacon.co.za
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