MBOMBELA - Sonpark Centre is testimony enough of its owner’s success. As part of the Bring Change Lowveld mentorship programme, Mr Kobus Jacobs, a professional town planner and valuer turned developer, took mentee Ms Phephsile Maseko under his wing for an afternoon, to share some of the lessons he has learned.

As Sonpark can attest, Jacobs believes in dreaming big. He advises this, as well as sharing your dreams with others - tell them before you change your mind and try to back out of making it a reality. He also cautioned that one should take the time you needed to consider all options and opportunities carefully, so as not to let a good one pass you by.

Jacobs’ 10 lessons for business and life
1. Dream big and tell other people about it
“I once had a dream to drive through Africa on a motorbike and I told everybody about it so that I could not back out. In 2010 I realised this dream and rode 16 000 kilometres through 17 African counties from Cape Town to Morocco with my son. It took us 52 days. Realising this dream gave me a great sense of achievement.”
Jacobs said Sonpark was a similar dream which he conceived in 1994. It was a big dream, and he knew that if he kept it to himself, he could pull out.
2. Create your own destiny
“My father once told me that another man’s mercy is one hell of a mercy. Therefore, be independent of other people’s decisions and mercies to create your reality.
“If you are always working for somebody else, you are at that person’s mercy. If you depend on someone else’s opinion, you are at their mercy. You must be in control, you must call the shots. Let other people work for you.”
3. Never let knowledge stand in the way of common sense
Take care that knowledge does not deter you from taking an opportunity life offers you. Jacobs has 11 years’ worth of tertiary education, but says many times he has wanted to work things out too meticulously - his education got in the way.
“Continue to improve your knowledge in your specific field, but take care that knowledge does not deter you from using the opportunities life offers you because you think too much about everything that can go wrong,” he said.
4. Break through the barriers of rejection
“Never let a 'no' make you lose sight of your ultimate goal. Every 'no' is closer to a 'yes'. Determination is the key to success.”
Jacobs shares how many times he had, as a town planner received a, “no” from council, saying he couldn’t do something. He kept on, and again they said no, and again, until “no” turned into “maybe”, and then one day it was “yes”.
5. Opportunity only has hair on the forehead
When opportunity comes to you, grab it as it comes. Once it has passed, you cannot grab it from behind.
“Be prepared and when an opportunity presents itself, invest your time to consider it properly. Use your knowledge and gut feel. Don’t grab anything - evaluate it thoroughly.
“In my particular field of business I have more regrets about property deals that I have not done, than those I have.
“At times I was too busy, I didn’t really investigate it. When I look back on my life now, there are 20 opportunities I let pass that I regret.”
6. Invest in income-generating properties
It is important to understand the difference between income-generating and income-consuming properties.
“It is nice to have a beach house or a house at a game farm, but if you have a bond, and not getting a positive income stream every month, it is costing you money.
“If it is not income-generating it can kill you financially. Strive to invest in properties that will generate income which will be higher than your total bond responsibility. These properties are like diamonds - they don’t lie around where everyone can see them. Dig deep to find that special one.”
7. Buy “nice-to-haves” in cash
“There is a difference between bad debt and good debt. Once your business starts doing well and you are credit-worthy, do not fall into the trap of 'rewarding' yourself by buying luxury, non-income generating items such as jet skis, boats , bikes, or hi-fi systems on
“If you cannot buy a luxury item cash, you cannot afford it. A necessity like a bakkie which is used for transport to do business is good debt. Any other short-term finance should not be longer than three years.”
8. Make to-do lists every day
“Work with a plan. Make a list of the important things you have to do the next day and then work through them diligently. You will be astonished at how much ground you can cover in one day.”
For added efficiency, Jacobs recommends handing out the work on the list to your employees first thing in the morning. “Do not procrastinate. Follow the do-it-now principle on a daily basis. Not tomorrow, do it now.”
9. Non-negotiable rules in business
• Be truthful and straightforward in all your dealings. People must know you don’t have hidden agendas
• Surround yourself with loyal personnel of which one must have a strong financial background
• Don’t step on other people while you are climbing the ladder of life
• Always ask for a discount or favourable terms of payment
• Remember, cash flow is king
• Use and invest the money you earn wisely
• Make your needs known and then follow up on them
• Why is there never time and money to do a project correctly the first time, but there always seems to be time and money to correct a project that was not planned and executed correctly from day one? Do them right the first time!
• When entering into negotiations, make sure to wear both your belt and suspenders. Be prepared
• When you enter into a contract, lead it diligently yourself. Do not make assumptions and be as cautious as a serpent.
10. Strive for balance and realise that everything you have is by the grace of God
Always make sure that you keep a balance between your professional and personal life.
“I have three children and when they were at school I hardly missed any sport or cultural activities in which they participated. I leave the office early three times a week to participate in sport myself. I do not let other people or appointments get in the way of being fit and active. I see this as part of being a balanced and successful person.”
He adds, “I am merely a custodian of the businesses and blessings in my life. It is my responsibility to create wealth, jobs and opportunities for all those around me.”

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