MBOMBELA - People have choices. At work, as in life, each individual can choose to live a principled life, and to help others. These are the basic tenets on which one businessman has built his company's culture.


He agreed to participate in the Bring Change Lowveld mentorship programme on condition that he could remain anonymous.
He recently gave the programme winner Ms Phephsile Maseko a mentoring session,sharing with her his journey from the top to the bottom,to where he is now - on his way to the top again.

Yet, he makes a point of not defining success in terms of only the superficial; money. "As you get older you think, 'Am I just here for my own gratification or do I serve a higher purpose?' Reflecting on this changes your perspective on life."

This week he shares 10 key insights with Lowvelder readers.

Don't chase money for money's sake
Use money properly and responsibly. "Government can't correct social problems on its own, business and individuals need to stand up and make a contribution. Society is stable when we all do well and the foundation to that end starts with everyone having the opportunity to be employed. Employment is a huge contributor to fixing social ills."
His company has partnered with one of the orphanages they support by lending them expertise in management and financial planning. This support helps outside donors see an organised system and be more open to making donations.
He has realised that his business is not only his - it belongs to the employees and society it assists and employs. His position is to serve everyone from the shareholders to entry-level employees as best he can.
"If everyone was prepared to help a little bit, society would look a lot different."

Strive to be the best, not the biggest
Optimum size in relation to your market and the resources at your disposal is the key. Spend time on constantly striving to improve all aspects of your business.
"You can get caught up in chasing being the biggest. I want a business where people are happy and come to work because they want to. A motivated team is a strong team and will whip a 'big' team any day."

Develop a culture of respect
"We are strict, we have high standards, but I try to be a coach and mentor, not be my employee's boss. There is a huge difference and the results are also very different. "You need to lead people to do their jobs as best they can. Create a team environment, where people don't cover themselves in order not to get into trouble. If we help each other to achieve a collective goal we all do better. "You need leaders to lead people in the right direction, to show people how to work together. When people work here for 10 or 15 years or more, to me that is success." If someone makes a mistake, find out what caused the mistake and help the person do it in the way you want it done. Learn the different ways of communicating among different management levels and cultures - with some you can be more direct, with others you need a more indirect approach. "Getting it right yields great rewards."

Photographer: Ludwig Sevenster

Business equals relationships
Relationships are critical to business, so cultivate good ones. "The trust emanating from strong relationships builds the business - the intangible human capital you sometimes can't put your finger on.
"Establishing a relationship of trust builds loyal customers who will stick with you, because they know you won't let them down. Put in the effort to build relationships."

Financial management and control
Determine the financial indicators you need to know on a daily, weekly, and a monthly basis, which would allow you to monitor your business. Set up a system to give you that information so that you can make the right decisions timeously and correctly - if information arrives too late its useless.
"You are the captain of the ship. You need to point the direction, plotting a course around the storm. A budget, a detailed financial plan of where we are going this year, is a crucial part of the business." Control is important when you work on low gross-profit margins in a volume driven business like his. This calls for extremely organised disciplines in especially finances and being strict on debtors.

Management and leadership
Any manager is a coach, not a boss. "You are only as good as the team that plays for you, but not only do you need the best players, you need the best players in each position. This is when an employee is not a cost but an investment.
"You need to get your players motivated to do their jobs. My managers are a part of my team. He must be paid for what he does, not for coming to work."

Look after your suppliers and customers
To assist you in sorting out the quality and continuity of supply, treat your suppliers well and cultivate a good relationship. "See them as your partners, because they are your partners. The better they do, the better you do. "Once you get to know your customer and understand their needs, it is easier to ensure that you give them focussed and personal service."

Quality, quality, quality comes first
Quality is the silent marketer. "If people have a positive experience with a good product people will buy it again. If you skimp on quality, even once, it could take years to get people's confidence back."

Principles by which his company operates:
1 Take ownership of your attitude - it determines your altitude. Manage it because it has a massive effect on
your results and those around you.

2 Avoid sarcasm. It cuts deep, especially when used as a weapon. It poisons relationships and is a sign of weakness and disrespect.

3 Being difficult is against the law - we work together and help one another.

4 Your tongue is a powerful weapon, be careful how you use it. Like the rudder of a ship it can change your
life. A small comment can cause a massive problem or build a beautiful bridge.

5 Be cool. It is cool to be nice and friendly and helpful and kind.

6 Build bridges. Don't wait for others to build a relationship - invest time and effort and you will be amazed at
the returns.

7 You are allowed to make mistakes. It is only bad when someone doesn't admit or take responsibility for his/her mistakes. If you admit it and fix it quickly, there won't be a problem. All that is expected is that you learn from them.
8 People are your most valuable asset. Protect your people. It is for your own good to ensure that everyone
around you is OK.

9 If you are a good leader and coach and you will get the best out of those you work with. Follow a
Christ-centred leadership style.

10 Be a good trustee of what you control on behalf of share- holders. People, property and capital resources have been entrusted to you to manage and control the business for the benefit of those who own them.

Don't define yourself by what others think
"My spirituality is a big part of who I am. I try to live my belief system out into the world. I get no satisfaction in public approval. I like personal relationships, that is the level where I like to operate. A lot of people may not understand this, but the glory and credit of my success goes to God."

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