Mawere Business Class: ‘You need 90pct guts and 10pct capital’

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WHAT is a businessman? What does it take to succeed in business? What is the role of political actors in business success? What is the purpose of business? How is wealth acquired and sustained?
The above are questions that often visit the minds of ordinary persons. The art of business tends to be personalised often in negative terms. On 18 July 2015, I was in the company of students at Orange Primary School celebrating the birthday of the late former President Mandela’s birthday
The idea of doing 67 minutes of service in honour of the late President Mandela came from Mr Lucas Mukoto and his partner, Ntabiseng, when they visited my office looking for a representative of the National Association of Federated Chamber of Commerce (NAFCOC) who used to be a tenant at the building. They were responding to a promise made by a representative of NAFCOC that loans could be made available.
I told them that NAFCOC had moved to another office. They told me that they had a contract they were executing that had come to a halt because of working capital problems. We then discussed the business challenge and I was able to get them a solution. They were so grateful and could not believe their problem could find resolution in such a quick manner. I told that of the amazing power of grace and that all I had done was to do what was meant to happen and that I deserved no praise.
They left my office with the money they needed. They then wanted to thank me personally.  I refused any praise but it occurred to me that the best way to recognise me in the enterprise that only the creator could have played a hand in is that they should use the Mandela Day to pay forward. I asked them to identify a school where I would join them to celebrate the day.
I also told them that through the 1873 Network, I was also a patron of a project to raise awareness of the role of corporate firms and their actors in addressing the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment. The project seeks to empower members with knowledge about business.
In addition I informed them about the National Independent Business Correspondents Associations (NIBCA) organization, a not-for-profit institution established to provide a platform for business actors to exchange ideas, experiences and insights, which they joined. After a day, I received a call from Lucas with the Principal of the Orange Farm Primary School requesting more details about the initiative to celebrate Mandela Day at the school.Advertisement

We agreed to proceed with the project that we termed “Diversity” whose aim was to raise awareness that it was not sufficient to stand against xenophobia but to stand for something.  Both the 1873 Network and NIBCA stand for raising awareness about the positivity of diversity and the universality of humanity. Indeed, history will record that I was at the Orange Farm Primary School on 18 July 2015.
As part of the project, the school requested assistance in both financial and material terms. I promised that I will do my part to lead the charge to respond with material support. I am happy to announce that as part of the project arising from the Mandela Day event, Accenture South Africa (Pty) Limited (ASA) has agreed to donate 20 computers to the challenged school.
The donation will be handed over to the School on Thursday, 27 August 2015.  Accenture is a company that came into existence in the USA but is now headquartered in Dublin, Ireland. It is generally considered as a foreign company yet it was the first to respond positively to the request to bend the long arc of the universe towards justice and progress.
I must confess that after living in South Africa for 20 years, I had no idea where Orange Farm was, let alone the primary school. However, today, the people of Orange Farm consider me as one of theirs. I am not a foreigner to the pupils at Orange Farm Primary School.
There are always cynics in life who believe that the world will always be what it was forgetting that they have a stake in defining and shaping its personality and character. On my way to the school, I passed through a shopping mall where Pick n Pay is one of the anchor stores. I asked the principal of the school why he had not approached the stores and businesses in the community to address the challenges faced by the school.
He indicated that it was difficult to raise funds to which I responded that it is always difficult to imagine the impossible if one fails to see that the man in the mirror is always the problem. I asked both the teachers and students whether they knew the founder of Pick n Pay and they all said they had no idea. I then promised to come back to the school on 25 July 2015 to record a song in honour of Mr. Raymond Ackerman, the founder of Pick n Pay sang by the students.
The next challenge is that both the students and teachers did not have any lyrics of the proposed song. I then wrote the lyrics for the students and teachers. On 25 July 2015, I was surprised that the students not only had mastered the Ackerman song but had composed a song to honour me. The students referred to Mr. Ackerman of Jewish heritage, born on 10 March 1931, as an Economic Freedom Fighter for his role in fighting for the consumer and using Pick n Pay as a vehicle to create not only convenience for the consumer but optimizing the supply value chain model to the benefit of the consumer. The link to the video is here:
When I heard the students singing about Mr. Ackerman I knew we were on to something. I was so inspired about the ability and purity of young people to embrace knowledge without being blinded by an ideological limitations. It is often convenient look at the world in binary terms i.e. black and white yet the reality shows otherwise. I told the students that I will work with them to not only know about Mr. Ackerman but about 1,000 African entrepreneurs and businessmen and women.
The lessons learned from Mr. Ackerman are many but in this class I would like to share what Mr. Ackerman is famous for saying that if one needs to succeed in business one needs: “You need 90% guts and 10% capital.” The following are his own words which require no further elaboration:
“I had lost my job at Greatermans – I was turfed out for “being too difficult” (this is what they said, not the view I had of myself). It was a difficult time because I’d been striving to get the principles of customer sovereignty that I believed in across to people, and it didn’t work. So I’d lost my job and was struggling to recover from the experience. At that point I was analysing my life and trying to decide which option I should take. Should I emigrate, should I go into another company or should I go back to university?
It was then that I learnt one of my greatest lessons, and it came in the form of advice from an American who said to me: “You need 90% guts and 10% capital.” It was this piece of advice that prompted me to start my business.
What he was saying is that if you have passion, you’re most of the way there, even if you don’t have the money. And I knew I had passion for the consumer sovereignty principle – that’s what prompted me to go out on my own even though I had no money.
What was important about the advice is that it wasn’t just about the importance of passion, but also about dispelling the myth that you always need lots of cash to start a business.
It was a huge lesson to learn that you don’t need to have money. You need to have passion and a dedication to what you want to do. That situation changed my whole life. If I hadn’t decided to start on my own, where would I be today? I’d just be a big corporate guy.”
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I am convinced that knowledge holds the promise to a better life for all. We need to learn from all without exceptions. In the Pick n Pay story, we learn of the triumph of the human spirit and that poverty, unemployment and inequality can be best addressed by the market system.
The children at Orange Farm Primary School will witness the power of grace at work when Accenture, a so-called foreign business actor, will visit the school for its representatives to see the joy in the faces of both the teachers and students about the limitless possibilities that exist if we only chose to listen to the whispers of tomorrow.
If you find the above of interest, please join us at NIBCA, not-for-profit and non-partisan association of members established to promote awareness of the role of business in building societies that work for all.
NIBCA stands for the National Independent Business Correspondents Associations (NIBCA) an organisation established in terms of the laws of South Africa as a platform for members to share experiences, knowledge, ideas and insights into the supply value chain system and how plugging into the system can add value to the enterprise of life.