MBOMBELA - Most of the times when Lowvelder gets invited to attend a conference - whether hosted by the corporate sector or government - the venue is indicated as Ingwenyama Conference & Sports Resort.

So what makes this establishment one of the most preferred accommodation and conference facilities in the Lowveld? According to Mr Pieter de Jager, the owner of Ingwenyama and Mr Martin Tychsen, general manager of operations and de Jager's right hand, the answer is simple: they are a family. Whether you are an employee of Ingwenyama or a customer, you are considered family. De Jager and Tychsen discussed the secrets to success with the winner of Bring Change Lowveld, Ms Phephsile Maseko, last week.

1. Enjoy what you do
De Jager says that entrepreneurs should enjoy what they do, otherwise leave it. It is as simple as that.

2. It takes hard work and dedication
De Jager warns that you have to be prepared to put in the hours to reap the success. He added that it is important to know your prospective business inside and out or to partner with somebody who has more expertise in a certain field where you may be lacking. Ingwenyama grew from humble beginnings to the market leader it is today and De Jager stressed that it took 25 years' hard work. "The 15 first years weren't easy. We started with a small thing and added on as the needs arose. At first we identified the need for more rooms. Then we realised there was a need for more conference facilities, which in turn necessitated a bigger kitchen. As demand grows, your whole business grows. If there is a demand, it is easy to go to a bank and show them the figures."

3. Be unique
Ingwenyama has sport, conference and leisure facilities which are different to other hotels in that these often only offer accommodation. "This was a big contributing factor to our success. It is the service that you give to people that brings them back and then the demand just gets bigger," de Jager says.

4. Rely on the people working for you
Tyschen says: "Put the right people in the right places, who know how to do, what they have to do. Quality people who are passionate about what you want to achieve as a business will always be successful. That's actually the hardest part and quite a process."
He says that prospective employees market themselves in terms of what they want you to see, but as soon as they start working for you, they become "naked" and their true colours show. "You should strive to have a team which carries its weight. Promote a team culture. Once employees take the responsibility to carry their weight, it makes administration so much easier."

5. Marketing is everything
Interestingly, Tyschen notes that it is harder to market a product, service or establishment which already has an established name. "So many people watch you and want to be better than you. You hardly see us (Ingwenyama) in a magazine. Why not? You can always make yourself look good in a magazine, but when people come here, they can get a different perception. Besides, advertising in print media can be very expensive. Other mediums are cheaper and have a far better reach. You pay only R250 for a boost on Facebook and can reach up to 20 000 people in a certain area with that boost."

6. Stay humble
Tyschen clearly has admiration for De Jager and is of the opinion that he is successful because he remains humble. "He has always been humble and never looked for riches. Too many people start a business thinking they are going to get rich and they often forget where they started. De Jager is working for longevity, for his boys. Are you creating a business or a legacy?"

7. Work towards the same goal
De Jager and Tyschen says that it is important that all staff members within any business- from the owners to the cleaners, work towards the same goal or vision. If you live the culture and product, the staff will follow. If you are just here to get a salary, that is what your staff will do. If you are willing to wash a dish or serve people, your staff will follow you through thick and thin. If you sit in your ivory tower and are not able to "lower" yourself to do what regular staff members do, they won't believe in your or your business' vision. You want to lead from the front. You have to put in the hours. If they see you are out having lunches and leaving early, they are going to do the same.

8. Value input and delegate
De Jager admits that, once he decides on something, he implements it as soon as possible, but not without discussing it with his team first. "I will always get their ideas, but I won't necessarily follow them. But, as management, you need to be flexible towards what others think. The more ideas you can generate, the quicker you can start implementing them. It's a team sport. You can't do everything yourself."

9. Meet everyday
De Jager and Tyschen says management should meet everyday. "If you implement proper time management, this shouldn't prevent you from getting through all your work," Tyschen says. They suggest various department heads to have meetings with staff on at least a weekly basis.

10. Have proper controls in place
"If your controls are strong and you've got all the boxes ticked, you're going to achieve success. You have to be strict on these controls, especially when it comes to finances. If you don't look at the financials on a daily basis, you don't have a business. Every little cent must count."

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