Alumni News 2020

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Living a life of purpose: What the MPhil in Management Coaching has taught me

Alumnet

Living a life of purpose: What the MPhil in Management Coaching has taught me

Alt text: Top View Photo of Girl Watching Through Imac
Source: https://www.pexels.com/photo/top-view-photo-of-girl-watching-through-imac-4144294/

  • August 24, 2020
  • Tags Management Coaching, Awareness, Journey, Alumni, Meaningful impact

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By Christine Wilke

MPhil in Management Coaching student

A few years ago, I made the decision to leave my corporate role and deepening my commitment to a life of purpose. This led to me joining World Vision International, an Evangelical Christian humanitarian aid, development, and advocacy organisation whose vision statement inspires me:

Our vision for every child, life in all its fullness. Our prayer for every heart, the will to make it so.

The shift from corporate to a non-profit organisations (NPO) is a transition story on its own, but the one prevalent theme was the constant level of uncertainty and increasing complexity that the global leaders I coached face. The increased fragility, economic, environmental, and political crises meant that this reality would only become more challenging.

I decided to do the Master of Philosophy in Management Coaching at the USB to improve my leadership coaching skills, as it has an excellent reputation in the international coaching community. The lecturers are international recognised coaches who successfully facilitate a mix of theoretical and practical learning during the course.

I gained an internationally recognised degree, while having the opportunity to reflect on my African roots and practices that are increasing been relevant globally. I believe that this has given me a much deeper perspective and enhanced my unique coaching approach, especially on how to support leaders to navigate uncertainty, complexity, and change.

But I got far more than I expected…

The strong leadership component, the emphasis on self-awareness and reflection, plus the rich dialogue with the lectures and my fellow students showed me my personal and leadership strengths. This was enhanced by the gift of coaching I received as part of the practical component. It was valuable to learn how it felt to be coached and to appreciate how coaching and self-reflection can lead to transformation.

Through learning experience and coaching I have transformed my relationship with myself and others. I have become a more conscious coach and how I have grown as a leader.  I did not expect that I and others in my organisation would be able to confidentially see me, as a global leader and that I would be encouraged to apply for more senior leadership positions.

I have become more resilient as I aware of the impact of emotions, how to understand the neuroscience and need for self-care.

The other unexpected benefit was that through the pressure of balancing a part time course and full-time global role, plus the sage advice throughout the course that I am better able to cope with stress and uncertainty. I have become more resilient as I aware of the impact of emotions, how to understand the neuroscience and need for self-care.

This resilience together with enhanced understanding on how to lead through uncertainty and improved coaching skills could not have come at a more opportune time. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has meant that all leaders have had to deal with an unprecedented uncertainty and change in their personal lives, with their teams and the community they work with. I am more able to lean in and support the leaders on how to practice self-care, supporting others, empower and engage their team, while make the changes required now and for the future.

I am now more confident to lean in and make a meaningful impact globally as a leader and as a coach.

I started this journey wanting to live a life of purpose and to support leaders cope with uncertainty and complexity. Through the MPhil in Management Coaching I have strengthened my coaching, but have also grown as a person, a global leader who is has increasing knowledge, skill and resilience to cope with the increasing uncertain world we live. I am now more confident to lean in and make a meaningful impact globally as a leader and as a coach.

 

About the author

Christine Wilke is the Senior Global Organisation Development and Change Advisor for World Vision International. She is based in Cape Town, South Africa, but supports and coaches leaders and teams virtually and in person across the globe. She is currently completing a thesis on Coaching a Team towards Effectiveness in partial fulfilment for the requirements for the degree of Master of Philosophy in Management Coaching at the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa.  She writes in her own personal capacity and the views in this paper do not reflect those of World Vision.

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Alumnus Seraj Toefy to drive entrepreneurship at USB

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Alumnus Seraj Toefy to drive entrepreneurship at USB

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Source: eric anada

  • August 24, 2020
  • Tags Entrepreneurship, Alumni, businesses, consultants

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A fitting description for Seraj Toefy of Cape Town is ‘Serial Entrepreneur’.  Having started Bespoke Media, a content marketing company in 2012, he has since started a few more. Ukondla Consulting started in 2017, is a corporate training business, CLIC Tech launched in 2018 and is a new content sharing platform and Krest Sign launched in 2020, an outdoor signage business. Toefy also consults to a London-based consultancy, Centuro Global, that assist businesses scale into different countries and regions.

In 2015, Toefy started lecturing Entrepreneurship on the Postgraduate Diploma in Business Management and Administration (PGDip BMA) at the USB and added a short guest lecture session on the MBA within the Strategy module.

Fast-forward to 2020 and he is now known as the Custodian of Entrepreneurship at USB.  Asked what this entails, he says: “In a nutshell, my mandate at the USB is to raise the awareness of entrepreneurship with the USB community, strengthen relationships with our external stakeholders and most importantly, offer support and encouragement to students and alumni who want to start their own business.

“When it comes to fitting all of what I do into my day, I tap into the lessons learnt while completing my USB MBA via the modular cohort.  As a student, we create time to study at night, over weekends, we work efficiently and rely on our classmates to work as a team on projects. I’ve just kept working at that rate and have partnered with key people in each business to ensure efficient and constructive business delivery,” he says.

Some of the highlights that Toefy is working on include:

  • Founder’s Forum: a series of webinars and (for now) digital networking events that features business founders. The first event looked at Your First 90 Days, and in August Founder’s Forum featured a panel of powerful female founders where they discussed Entrepreneurship: It’s a woman’s world.
  • SU LaunchLab Collaboration: The USB has been working closely with SU LaunchLab on several things. In September, USB will co-host a webinar with SU LaunchLab where we interview serial Silicon Valley investor, entrepreneur and author, Steve Blank. USB also have a fellowship programme with SU LaunchLab where we have current students and alumni working closely with the start-ups in the SU LaunchLab incubators.
  • Lion’s Den: 2020 will be the third year of running the Lion’s Den competition. It is open to all USB students and alumni who either run their own company or who have an idea for a new business. Last year the entrants went up against each other for their share of over R750 000 worth of prizes and all finalists had an opportunity to pitch to a panel of investors. Due to the ever shifting COVID-19 goal posts, a date for the final event has not yet been set, but entries will open in the last week of September 2020.
  • Small business consultancy: The journey from ideation of a product or service, to going to market can be a long, lonely, and daunting one. Now the USB offers students and alumni who wish to start a new business the opportunity to consult with Toefy and SU LaunchLab on their business. Get in touch with him to book your first session.
  • Business Showcase: USB will be running a business showcase where students and alumni who own and run their own business will be able to exhibit their products and services.  We are a strong alumni community, and we have many great companies among us, now is the time to support each other. A date of the event is dependent on lifting of lockdown restrictions.

“USB is world renowned for our leadership development and research, but we hope that in years to come, we will be recognised as an entrepreneurially minded business school that develops sustainable business founders,” says Toefy.

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Entrepreneurship network of self-sustainable growth

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Entrepreneurship network of self-sustainable growth

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Source: Lukas

  • August 24, 2020
  • Tags Entrepreneurship, sustainability, small businesses

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By Edith Kennedy

USB MBA alumnus

Doesn’t 2020 feel like we are living in an alternative reality?

This year started off on a good note and within a matter of days our worlds were turned upside down. It was hard to believe that everything as we know it suddenly came to a stop. There we were locked down in our homes with regulations to ensure our safety and precautions for staying healthy as if we had entered the 22nd Century through a wormhole.

And then reality came crashing down!

No, we were still on Earth but the way we had done things before COVID-19 were forever more a distant thing of the past. In the beginning we coped. After all, we have technology so those with smartphones could call loved ones and even FaceTime. Those that had been paid before lockdown went into effect, could buy as much toilet paper as their cars could carry. But slowly it dawned that those without the means to survive were not so lucky. How do you prepare for three weeks strictly house bound without resources or very little access to transport and shopping?

An extended lockdown knocked us even further into reality.

It made us realise that our businesses cannot operate under these new circumstances, which meant that for some there was no more income and a huge uncertainty about when they would be able to resume as normal, if at all. For others it meant jobs were lost, but bills still had to be paid and food put on the table. People were going hungry.

So what now? How do we negotiate our own lives, but also those around us who are struggling?

Over the last seven years I’ve worked with many entrepreneurs in low income areas and previously disadvantaged townships around Cape Town and other parts of South Africa. I’ve kept in contact with many of the USB’s Small Business Academy’s graduates and followed their business progress throughout the years. We have various WhatsApp support groups and through these we started talking about the need in these communities. There was huge concern from small business owners for their own business survival, but after discussing how some of them could get permits to deliver fruit and vegetables instead of catering or make masks instead of dresses, they expressed how lucky they were to be part of USB because there were many of their friends, family and other businesses who were not able to re-strategise and find a solution. They had already dealt with people who were knocking on their doors asking for help because their kids had not eaten for three days in a row or mothers who could not buy diapers for their babies.

We felt the urgency to do more than just survive, but to find a way to help the communities in which we operate our businesses.

It started off with one person getting a permit to buy fruit and vegetables from local community gardens and deliver them to two entrepreneurs who started making food for neighbours in Mandela Park, Khayelitsha and Westgate, Mitchell’s Plain. We appealed to friends and families, colleagues and even our international students for donations. For the insignificant amount of R150 we were able to put together a box of fruit and vegetables that could be taken to each of our kitchen initiatives who were feeding 20 – 40 people three times a week. Thus, the Community Feeding Network was founded.

More small business owners joined the network and it expanded to Mfuleni where the box of vegetables was divided up into smaller parcels to give to eight vulnerable families, but who still had the means to make their own meals. An onion, two tomatoes, half a butternut, two carrots, a bunch of spinach and some potatoes can go a long way to feed a family for a week. More boxes were delivered to Strandfontein to support 20 families in need. And recently we’ve added Blue Downs and Endlovini. We now support almost 200 people a week.

But merely handing out food is not going to solve the situation in the long run.

This coronavirus is going to have a much longer effect than we expect and there will be even more unemployment and consequences in years to come. So we started looking at finding urban farmers and backyard gardeners who could feed into the network. In turn they could make some money by selling vegetables to our procurers and kitchen initiatives. We asked each recipient of meals or vegetable parcels to contribute back towards the network by collecting any seeds such as butternut, peppers, tomatoes and so forth. The backyard farmers have started teaching some recipients to plant their seeds in plastic bottles and tyres to create vertical farms for small spaces. The recipients are also encouraged to regrow their garlic or leeks and other vegetable scraps so that they have a constant supply. Alternatively, they can help us build compost heaps to eventually feed back into the gardens.

But again, we did not stop there.

One of our entrepreneurs is now teaching the recipients how to make delicious recipes with vegetables and herbs. She is collaborating with her community garden to open up a community restaurant having been inspired by the fresh vegetables she collects for our kitchen initiatives. We have been in discussions with an organisation that wants to build eco-villages with 3D printed vertical garden containers. Of course we want our 200 recipients to provide the seedlings. And these are just a few of the potential entrepreneurial adventures that have popped up because of our ever increasing network of businesses and supporters. The circular economy is becoming a reality.

This wild ride of having to suddenly deal with loss and upheaval in the last few months had galvanised us into finding solutions at a much faster rate than we would have if COVID-19 had not interrupted our lives. Now we have had to deal with the stark reality that we haven’t done enough yet, that we should be finding ways to collaborate and work together to resolve impending calamities. There is so much more that we can do to work together towards creating entrepreneurs who can feed their families and sustain whole communities. From a simple solution, a network was born to help feed vulnerable people, but it has gone deeper and is on the way to solving a far wider economic issue as well.

This is the ethos of USB – we do more than just learn about business, we go out there and make real change!

*If you would like to get this network self-sustainable and grow to become a nationwide success, please contact edith.kennedy@erunway.co.za to make a donation, offer your expert advice or enterprise development support. Go visit our Facebook page: Community Feeding Network.

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Building a legacy of excellence

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Building a legacy of excellence

USB alumni sits on chair near table
Source: Christina Morillo

  • August 24, 2020
  • Tags MBA, alumni, women in business, leadership

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You must have a solid foundation if you’re going to have a strong superstructure.” – Gordon B Hinckley

When ZAS Petroleum founder Siya Maya, an MBA alumnus, puts her focus onto a project, there isn’t much that can stand in her way. This determination and ability to make her ambitions a reality is part of what gives her business a solid base. Started in 2015 after over a decade in the energy industry, ZAS Petroleum has established itself as level 1 B-BBEE, 13,5% black women-owned entity that specialises in the trading of crude oil and refined petroleum products.

Other elements that make the ZAS Petroleum foundation one to be admired is the fact that the family-owned and run business has values that are anchored in trust and goodwill.

“We are passionate about lasting relationships built on trust. On our quest to service our clients’ needs, we also have the personal goal of creating a legacy for our family and the many other families touched by our business,” says Director of Operations, Nkululeko Maya.

Business matters

Coupled with the above, Maya’s industry experience gives them an edge. Nkululeko has over 20 years’ experience in the energy sector, while Siya boasts 15 years of her own experience in the sector.

Education and staying abreast global trends and shifts are something the Maya’s take seriously. Siya has extensive experience as a business manager with petroleum trading and contracts management and she holds an MBA from the USB. Nkululeko holds a Master’s Degree in Quality (CPUT) and MDP from USB-ED.

“Ensuring that our management team was made up of individuals who are well educated, experienced yet dynamic and open to new ways of doing business was important to us because of how it would affect the strategy as well as the day-to-day running of the business,” Nkululeko adds.

Tangible value

When speaking of what their key differentiator is, the Maya’s are excited about what they bring to the table. “We have built a track record in the industry that cements our place as high performing, credible B-BBEE company that facilitates trade,” says Siya.  “We are positioned to supply consistent volumes to the market with multinational brands such as Lavin Energy Limited, BP and Chevron being part of our client base. We have the goal of expanding our business territory and partnering with more local refinery traders as well as global players.”

As 2020 continues to be the year for the unexpected, the ZAS Petroleum team is optimistic. “We are confident about the future of the business and are excited about ways that we can continue being contributors to the South African energy sector,” concludes Nkululeko.

For more information, click here.

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Dealing with grief and loss at work during COVID-19

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Dealing with grief and loss at work during COVID-19

Grayscale Photography of Woman Touching Her Eyes
Source: Juan Pablo Serrano Arenas

  • August 24, 2020
  • Tags COVID-19, social impact, grief, leadership

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By Prof Arnold Smit

Associate Professor of Business in Society at USB

In dealing with grief and loss in times like these, three themes have come to stand out:

  1. The variety of losses that we are faced with.
  2. Grief and our experience of it.
  3. Leadership during this time.

When looking at the South African economy, some industries, such as hospitality, wine and liquor, and travel and construction, have felt the pressure more noticeably than others. According to Adzuna, an online job listing site, there has also been a significant decline in vacancies relating to domestic and cleaning services, admin, property and hospitality and catering. It comes as no surprise that SMEs, women-led businesses, and informal traders that rely on active supply chains have also been badly affected by the lockdown conditions.

While the above-mentioned losses are more tangible – i.e. the loss of jobs, income, and security – we need to consider the existential losses, such as the loss of community, personal freedom, normalcy and meaning as well.

Most people are familiar with grief in terms of bereavement and confrontation with death. Currently, however, we are surrounded by a different manifestation of grief and loss at a scale not previously experienced by our generation. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are an entire society in mourning.

Although not everyone will lose a loved one due to COVID-19, it is important to acknowledge that the loss of predictability and stability is worth mourning. We are suddenly confronted with the impermanence of things, place, and routine. There is a disjointedness about almost everything that we took for granted prior to the pandemic.

Some frameworks help us to make sense of our experience, whether for those in real bereavement or those who grief about other kinds of losses. Elizabeth Kübler-Ross identifies the stages of grief as denial, anger, bargaining, depression and meaning.  John Bowlby chooses to view our experience as three phases – defiance and anger, pain and despair, and slow reorganisation of, and reinvestment in, life. These phases, or stages, are not, however, considered to follow a predictable linear path.

This moment in time requires empathetic engagement from leaders through self-awareness, being mindful of others and performing certain critical tasks. In terms of being self-aware, leaders should be self-aware, acknowledge their own experience by embracing it and taking responsibility for their own well-being. They should be mindful of the context in which their team members/employees find themselves, their experiences of loss and grief and pay close attention to possible symptoms of grief. Leaders are further tasked with providing stability and predictability in the workplace where possible, ensuring connectivity between employees, engendering dialogue surrounding loss and grief in order to empower those they lead, providing compassionate support where needed and stepping up to the plate when there is bad news that has to be shared or handled.

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Message from the USB Alumni Association - COVID-19: Wins, losses and opportunity

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Message from the USB Alumni Association – COVID-19: Wins, losses and opportunity

USB alumnus typing letter on laptop with white ceremaic mug
Source: Pixabay

  • August 24, 2020
  • Tags Leading letter, COVID-19, opportunities, losses, leadership

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By Dr Xolani Nocanda

Chairperson: USB Alumni Association: KwaZulu-Natal

 The coronavirus outbreak in December 2019 in China has not only affected public health; it has changed societies and economies around the globe. By March 2020 it was clear that COVID-19 had become a global health crisis; hence World Health Organization (WHO declaring it a pandemic. Hitherto there has been no convincing medical treatment for the virus, and many think a cure is possible in 2021. People are currently required to follow the stated COVID-19 protocols to prevent themselves from being infected. Following the COVID-19 protocols such as social distancing means that people should change their behaviour and lifestyles.

Changing people’s responses cannot be achieved overnight; hence infection and death rates continue to rise globally. Due to the pandemic societies are experiencing losses. Losses due to the pandemic cannot be avoided or reversed; communities are forced to face and deal with their losses. As the COVID-19 infection increases, companies experience an increasing number of sickness, consequently resulting in loss of productivity and later business. Despite the negative economic impact, new business opportunities exist. Businesses are required to learn to do business in the presence of COVID-19 while positioning themselves to take advantage of opportunities brought by the pandemic.

The USB Alumni Association Chapter: KwaZulu-Natal recently invited experts from academia and industry to discuss wins, losses and opportunities caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. USB’s Prof Arnold Smit addressed the impact of COVID-19 on leadership and how to deal with our losses. Maarten Ackerman, who is the Chief Economist and Advisory Partner at Citadel, focused on the economic implications of COVID-19, unpacking future economic outlook.

The first case of COVID-19 in South Africa was reported in early March 2020. By the end of March, the South African government declared a lockdown level 5 due to the rapid spread of the virus. The lockdown would delay the spread to better prepare public and private healthcare to cope with the number of infections. The lockdown would save people from rapid infections; on the other hand, it harmed the economy. Businesses were forced to shut down except the essential services. As the number of infections and deaths increases governments around the globe are faced with a hard choice between saving public safety and the economy.

The COVID-19 brought many losses, and these include loss of family members, friends, freedom, health, business, security, socialisation and meaning to life. Due to these loses society is feeling uncomfortable. The discomfort that society is feeling, experts define as grief. In lockdown level 5 people could not move around; during this time, South Africa recorded an increase in domestic violence, an indication of discomfort in society. Upon testing positive for COVID-19 people are required to quarantine for 14 days.

The isolation combined with fear of losses mentioned earlier would increase stress levels resulting in a mental health crisis. South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) is reporting an increase in the number of calls during the lockdown period. According to SADAG, people are dealing with anxiety and panic, financial stress, pressure, depression, poor family relations, feelings of suicide and substance abuse. Despite the grief that society is undergoing, the World Health Organization is warning people from substance abuse as a way to relieve stress. Health care professionals are at high risk of being infected since they work with COVID-19 infected patients daily. Health care workers can easily experience burn out, fatigue and trauma due to increased workload. A healthy coping mechanism is required for all. Society needs to adjust to a new normal, which involves co-existence with COVID-19.

Before the COVID-19 outbreak, many developing economies around the globe were experiencing weak economic growth. The situation has been made harder by the emergence of COVID-19. Policymakers need to address the current health crisis while finding ways to minimise financial damage. Before COVID-19 unemployment rate in South Africa was estimated at around 30%. During the lockdown, it was reported that an estimated 3 million people might have lost their jobs. Most job losses are recorded among the underprivileged communities. Hence there is an urgent need for governments to take action to protect the vulnerable population.

Global gross domestic product is expected to contract by an estimated 5%, while South Africa is expected to contract by 7% in 2020. Many think South Africa could reach depression, a gross domestic product contraction of 10% or more. Economic stimulus measures are needed to reignite economic growth. The South African government launched an R500 billion stimulus package. The money will be spread to support health in fighting COVID-19,  support municipalities for the provision of basic services, help people affected by COVID-19, provide grants to unemployed, support small businesses and prevent job loses. In line with other central banks, the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) has reduced interest rates, and more cuts are expected in future. To further inject liquidity into the market, the SARB is on a short-term bond-buying programme.

COVID-19 has forced companies to spend on personal protective equipment (PPE), cleaning and hygiene products to ensure the safety of employees. This unplanned expenditure at a time when production was already decreasing, could be adding financial pressure. Businesses that produce PPE and hygiene products do benefit in the short term, but they are a minority. Most companies, however, are experiencing losses due to increased absenteeism and skills-erosion due to deaths. Owing to COVID-19, companies are being forced to consider new ways of doing business. Business activities are becoming more digital, and employees are working from home. Many predict that technology will remain at the heart of business activities post the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 may not be around for many years. However, its economic impact will be felt for a long time. Investors are advised to stick to their investment philosophies focusing on the right assets in the correct type of investments. Businesses are experiencing losses, those that are suppliers in technology could be winners as most business activities are going online.

Leading during COVID-19 has been challenging for many, one must strike a balanced between the health of employees and profit. Leaders need to be mindful and understanding of people’s situations during this time, encouraging employees to follow COVID-19 protocols. Proposed coping mechanisms are:

  • If negative news affects, minimise exposure
  • Keep communication with family, friends, social media etc.
  • Stick to your entertainment ways, e.g. music
  • Sleep enough
  • Eat healthily
  • Exercise

Professor Abdul Salim Karim, who is the chairperson of COVID-19 South African government ministerial advisory committee, believes that Ubuntu will save South Africa from the COVID-19 pandemic. Ubuntu is an African concept meaning taking care of one another. To defeat COVID-19 South Africans need to take care of and protect one another.

Wishing all alumni a safe and thriving journey.

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Meet the USB Consulting Club

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Meet the USB Consulting Club

  • August 24, 2020
  • Tags Entrepreneurship, Alumni, Consulting, Management, Skills

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The USB Consulting Club (USB-CC) is a connective platform between the USB networks and the consulting industry.

  • Our Vision: To facilitate optimised engagement between USB and the consulting industry.
  • Our Mission: The Consulting Club platform connects the USB network to an extensive consulting business network, and provides access to implementable and measurable tools, to equip them for future consulting opportunities.

The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the importance of relationships, especially those with the potential to unlock new and supplementary value. The USB-CC aims to connect skilled problem solvers and value creators that will empower businesses in Africa toward success and prosperity for the future.

More about the USB-CC platform

This platform provides space for networking opportunities, information sharing and tools for members to engage with the consulting industry. Whether seeking practical experience in consulting, mentorship or guidance, the USB-CC supports its members in developing their core consulting competencies and building relationships.

Meet the team

  • Jaco Conradie – Chair (MBA 2020 MOD)
  • Pieter Daniel Theron – Secretary (MBA 2020 Blended)
  • Michelle Beukes – External Relationship Executive (MBA 2019 Blended)
  • Jessie Hurst – Internal Relationship Executive (MBA 2019 Blended)
  • Thamsanqa Ndlovu – Marketing & Growth Executive (MBA 2020 Blended)

The EXCO focuses on organising networking events and engagement opportunities with consulting companies. This will expose you to information and tools to better understand the management consulting industry. In addition, the USB-CC aims to build an ecosystem that connects the consulting industry with potential talent in our network, facilitating easy access for both. All of this is aimed at helping to ensure that USB students are well connected within the industry, and vice versa.

Become a USB-CC member and get invited to exclusive events

To learn more about management consulting and to participate in our events, please join us as a member. Members automatically receive club updates and get invited to exclusive events. Membership is free of charge.

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Exploring entrepreneurship: a tool to rebuilding the nation

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Exploring entrepreneurship: a tool to rebuilding the nation

Shallow Focus Photo of White Open Sigange
Source: Tim Mossholder

  • August 24, 2020
  • Tags Entrepreneurship, Alumni, businesses, leadership, coaching

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By Nicholas Lamohr

SBA alumnus

My journey started working in the digital and print industry. After spending 16 years as at the General Manager of successful print company, having acquired the necessary skills and knowledge essential for managing key areas of any organisation (Sales, Operations, IT and HR), I felt that it was time for a change. However, my career had reached a point where I needed to decide, stay in this lane; or take the leap. 

The thought of applying to a different company as an employee was not appealing to me. I recall many occasions in which I spoke to other business owners regarding the credentials needed to be an entrepreneur, or what was it like to start a business of your own. I found myself auditing their responses to see if I had what it took to take that step.

On one occasion, I set up a lunch appointment with a very successful business acquaintance I knew, to ask him if I had what it took to take the leap from employee to entrepreneur. This journey of trying to find validation and advice went on for a few years, until 2011, I started noticing a gap within the digital market by assisting small businesses.

I witnessed numerous small business requests for web-design being outsourced to other companies. I was extremely interested in pursuing this opportunity, and subsequently registered Linchpin-PM and studied web design. I “dabbled” part-time for six years, without any clear strategy or direction on where the business was heading. I quickly learnt that I enjoyed strategising with small business owners. Upon discovering this newfound passion, my focus shifted from creating the product to the process of helping them improve/develop better strategies to assist their business to be more relevant, customer-centric and profitable. Adopting the vision of Hillsong Church, our mission became that of “helping SME’s to rebuild our nation”.

In March 2017, we decided to resign as a GM and pursue running the business full-time. The start was rough! We had no start-up capital, no proper business plan, and no proper strategy. By the grace of God, we were able to navigate our first year full-time and cover most of our bases.

 

From SBA into the Lions Den

In 2019, a friend recommended that I participate in the Small Business Academy (SBA) programme at the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB); where they provide business skills to 21 entrepreneurs from low-income areas of the Western Cape. The trajectory of my business and personal development was instantly changed from the first time I stepped into that classroom. We all had to introduce ourselves, say where we came from, and what type of business we had. Let me just say that at that moment, my empathy level has forever been changed! What was obvious, is that the legacy of apartheid still deeply affects many entrepreneurs who come from previously disadvantaged communities.

The SBA programme has enriched me with a world of knowledge and skills I needed. I developed better business practices, and by implementing what I learnt, I transitioned from an employee to an employer. Resilience and perseverance became two major qualities I have acquired during this process. There have been many relational and financial setbacks, and as a “young” entrepreneur, you learn to evaluate, evolve, and strategise daily.

The SBA programme also provided each student with a mentor and I started a wonderful partnership with the great Morne Nigrini (USB and Stellenbosch alumnus). Morne convinced me to enter the USB’s Lion’s Den Programme; competition entrepreneurs get the chance to pitch their business ideas in the den to a panel of investors – the industry lions.

With the SBA Programme nearing its completion, I undertook the parallel journey into the Lion’s Den competition. To enter, each contestant had to submit a two-page executive summary of a business and a shortlist would be made to see if your idea/business made the cut. I was already in a process of re-structuring my business (as part of the SBA Programme) I submitted my application, thinking that nothing would come of this. I later came to learn that the calibre of people who participate in the Lion’s Den competition are current MBA students or USB alumni and that more than 50 entries received on average.

I made the shortlist of 40 people. To say that I was elated and surprised was an understatement. At this stage, I still knew very little about the competition, or the process required; however, I recall sitting in that auditorium, my nervousness visible to all. “Game face, Nick” I kept telling myself, but I’m not sure it worked. I was intimidated by the calibre of people in the room. Lawyers, doctors, industry guru’s with MBAs; and here I am, trying out this “entrepreneur thing” while currently in the SBA Programme.

What I learnt that day was that the process of being in the Lion’s Den competition gave contestants the exposure to pitch to experienced Venturepreneur (D’Niel Strauss), and stand a chance to receive business development incentives for best pitch. D’Niel’s coaching through insights into the pitching and presentation process was amazing! My first pitch was the most validating. I did all the graphics and presentation work myself, delivered the pitch in a very raw manner, and received his brilliant feedback. I belonged here. I belong here.

With the amazing guidance and support of former contestant and USB alumnus Jacquis Tolsma, I ended up in the final of the Lion’s Den competition. Unfortunately, we did not win, but from the feedback of many people there and some of the judges, I delivered the best pitch. The culmination of my 2019 year at the USB was achieving the highest mark overall in the 2019 SBA programme.

The nature of our business had changed; with the new emphasis to provide SME’s with digital skills, strategic thinking and digital innovation to any business exploring the digital landscape. I believe in the potential, beauty and authenticity of SA, and the rest of Africa!

 

Navigating 2020

The global COVID-19 pandemic has presented the world with some interesting challenges. It is estimated that 91% of the formal business entities are SMEs. These SME’s also contribute between 52 to 57% to GDP and provide about 61% to employment.

I have witnessed and experienced the uncertainty and impact that the pandemic has had on every aspect of our nation, let alone economically. Stories of businesses closing, people losing jobs and protests erupting have all been too common during this time. The biggest challenge has been the Lockdown Experience; loss of income and fear of the unknown, how long will our cash reserve keep us afloat?

Being a movie lover, I cannot help but use a quote from the movie Rocky Balboa: “You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!”

So, what advice can one offer during this time? I have adopted the “glass half-full” approach. I would encourage you to do the same. We have used this experience to re-position our business services in helping SME’s navigate this journey, by building E-Commerce platforms, providing cheaper E-Learning solutions and more. All SME’s require strategically digitising their business and services, especially now that most people must work from home. Businesses have had to suddenly adapt to a new way of doing their work and this is what we found is our strength. We can help businesses make those changes without the stress most people are experiencing during this time. It has added a new dimension to our business and we are striving to help our clients see a way forward to also survive the challenges of the new COVID world.

Your industry and business lens may need to differ during this time. Do not use the same lens you did before. Life has presented us with an opportunity to evaluate, adapt and change; it is up to you to make the adjustments needed.

I leave you with the words of the Zig Ziglar: “You can get everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.”

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The legacy of entrepreneurs

Alumnet

The legacy of entrepreneurs

Close-up of Hand over White Background
Source: Lum3n

  • August 24, 2020
  • Tags Entrepreneurs, opportunities, leadership

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By Greg Khoury

My great grandfather, Maroun, came to South Africa to seek fame and fortune as a diamond miner. Like so many of his generation, he had heard stories of diamonds lying in the veld, waiting to be picked up. With his head filled with big ideas, he and his brother boarded a ship bound for Cape Town to stake a claim in Kimberley. I can only imagine his disappointment, when he got there, having walked from Cape Town, and finding that De Beers had already taken over the mines. Unperturbed, he headed to Johannesburg to be a gold miner.

Upon arrival in Johannesburg, having walked from Kimberley, he discovered the Randlords had taken control of the gold mines. A peasant immigrant and his brother from a tiny village in Lebanon would never be able to overcome the barriers to entry required for the sophisticated mining operations the Witwatersrand required. The year was 1902. The Second Boer War had just ended, and South Africa was not yet a thing. He was stranded in a foreign country with no money. His grand plans for success were in tatters. He then did what poor immigrants across the world do. He started his own business.

Sourcing fruit and vegetables from the surrounding farms, Maroun and his brother sold the produce from a wagon to the hungry miners and their families. They did this until his brother died from the Spanish Flu around 1919. Faced with this personal loss and a raging pandemic, my great grandfather pivoted his business model. He secured premises in Pritchard Street across from what is today the South Gauteng High Court.

Khoury Trading was formally founded around 1920 and he sold dry goods, fresh produce, and fresh-cut flowers until his death more than 40 years later. The business passed to his sons, my great uncle and grandfather. The family traded from Pritchard Street until the building was demolished to make way for a new building sometime in the ’60s. The business relocated to Multiflora in Jeppe Street where they changed business models becoming one of the largest fresh-cut flower wholesalers in the city. In 1975 they relocated to the new Multiflora complex in City Deep.

My great uncle and grandfather have both passed and the business transferred to my great uncle’s son who continues to trade today and still sells fresh-cut flowers. The business has changed names, locations, and business models over the years but has traded as a family business for over a hundred years.

The South Africa of today would probably have felt very familiar to my great grandfather. He arrived in a country struggling to find a new identity. The South Africa of the turn of the century faced rampant corruption and political uncertainty brought on by the social upheaval of the Second Boer War and then the First World War.

As he grew his business, he had to deal with the 1918 Flu pandemic and the economic collapse that followed. He was not a well-educated man and could barely speak English. Some of the racist legislation and policy that would form the backbone of apartheid was being formulated at that time. As an immigrant from the Middle East, he would have had to deal with the hurdles this created in his day to day life. He never became a miner and he never made a fortune. However, he was a successful entrepreneur and created a legacy.

Maroun’s legacy was not just his business. He was a leading member of the local community and church. He supported and raised a family who in turn raised their own families. His extensive family now extends to a fifth generation, all of whom have contributed to the building of his adopted country. His decedents are doctors, engineers, bankers, scientists, and the list goes on. They are all ordinary people. Some of them are even entrepreneurs themselves.

Entrepreneurs do not only create businesses; they create wealth and capital that lasts generations.

Entrepreneurs do not only create businesses; they create wealth and capital that lasts generations. Not all the capital they create is money. They uplift their communities and create employment. They drive progress and create opportunities for others. I doubt Maroun ever envisioned that his ox wagon stall would create a business that would last a century or that his family would extend to great-great-grandchildren who continue to contribute to his adopted homeland.

Which is why now, more than ever, South African needs entrepreneurs. Like Shadrack. He is a former work colleague, friend, and now a business partner. He worked for the company for 17 years before being retrenched last year. He worked in the company warehouse, and before that as the company security guard.

Entrepreneurs drive progress and create opportunities for others.

He is a long-distance runner with more Comrades silver medals to his name than I can count. Shadrack is an honest and humble man. He has a broad smile and makes friends easily and loves running. His plan, when he received his retrenchment notification, was to head back to his family home in Limpopo. During a catchup call earlier this year, he started telling me about his poultry farm. He took the money he received from his pay-out, bought a small second-hand truck and brick making equipment. He made bricks and built his own chicken hock. He started a micro-scale poultry farm supplying live chickens to the surrounding community. Chicken is a popular source of protein and if done correctly can be very profitable. He has big plans to scale his business to keep up with demand. His plans include more hocks and a small slaughterhouse. He is as passionate about his chickens as he is about the Comrades.

The pandemic has been devastating for small businesses and small business funding. Access to capital for a micro-scale farm in rural Limpopo is impossible. But that has not stopped Shadrack. A small loan was all that was needed to get him enough materials to restart his building cycle. He is currently making bricks to build his second hock. His role in the community is more important than just as a supplier of chicken. Families in the area, especially the elderly, are heavily dependent on employed relatives sending money home.

Since that source of income has dried up, many are solely dependent on SASSA grants and pensions. Shadrack supplies chickens on credit. He delivers near full-grown, live chickens to his customers so that they can slaughter when they need the meat. They pay him once their SASSA grants are received. It is an innovative idea. By sending out the chickens once they are of a certain size, he can save money on feed and shorten his cycle time to getting more chicks into the hock. His customers can get the chickens to the full size and have fresh meat when they are ready. He is supporting his community while building loyalty with his customers.

At the same time, he is planning the expansion of his business and looking to employ someone to help on the farm. With so much in common, I am sure Maroun and Shadrack would have a lot to talk about if they had ever met.

When we think of entrepreneurs, and entrepreneurial success, our minds often turn to Jobs, Musk, Gates, Bezos, and the like. These are exceptions. Entrepreneurs are often nobodies. Poor people with big dreams and empty pockets. They face the day to day hazards of life and struggle to make their businesses succeed. Their well-laid plans derail. They fail and face wars and pandemics, political and social upheaval, and turmoil. Often, they are immigrants or refugees in strange countries. They are unemployed or unemployable.

Entrepreneurs all have something else in common though. They all have the drive to succeed.

Entrepreneurs all have something else in common though. They all have the drive to succeed. They face challenges head-on. They pick themselves up when they fall and carry on. They innovate and change their business models. They lead themselves and those around them with their vision, honesty, and the belief that what they are doing can only succeed. And they always find opportunity no matter how bad the circumstances are. They never stop dreaming. They create jobs and wealth and support their communities. They become the backbone of our economies.

Perhaps the most important lesson they can teach us is about courage and staying the course. Getting on a ship to head to a war-torn country takes enormous courage. You are in it for the long haul. The same is true for running an ultra-marathon. You do not simply put on your running shoes to jog 80 plus kilometres. I do not believe there is a magic recipe for entrepreneurial success.

But maybe if we can capture some of that entrepreneurial spirit, we can weather the current storm and forge a better, brighter future.

But maybe if we can capture some of that entrepreneurial spirit, we can weather the current storm and forge a better, brighter future. Nelson Mandela said, ‘Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell and got back up again’. The current crisis will pass and, in its wake, a new generation of Marouns’ will build the future.

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Capitec CEO recipient of USB’s Alumnus of the Year award

Alumnet

Capitec CEO recipient of USB’s Alumnus of the Year award

  • July 14, 2020
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Capitec CEO Gerrie Fourie was named Alumnus of the Year 2019 by the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB).

The award is the highest honour given to alumni of USB on behalf of the Alumni Association and formally recognises alumni who have excelled as responsible leaders in the private or public sector, or in an entrepreneurial venture.

Prof Piet Naudé, USB Director, says: “Gerrie has played a key role in expanding Capitec’s role as a socially conscious financial institution and this resonates well with USB’s vision to create value for a better world. His achievements are testimony of his significant impact on the global business environment.”

Fourie has been with the financial institution since it was established in 2001 and has been in the CEO position for the past six years. Under his leadership Capitec received JSE Top 100 Company Awards in 2018 and 2019 and received a top spot for South Africa’s Best Digital Bank in 2019 in the annual InSites-Consulting report on customer satisfaction with digital banking services in South Africa. He was also named the 2019 Business Leader of the Year by Sunday Times.

Asked about what this award means to him, Fourie says: “Receiving an award from an institution like the USB is a great honour and privilege and always inspires me to pay the gesture forward. No man is an island and an award like this comes with the dedication and support of my wider team who diligently work alongside me to create the Capitec of tomorrow.”

He did his MBA degree at the business school and says, “the MBA helps me to view the business holistically as well as understand the intricacies of the different parts that together make a successful business”.

In an interview with the CEO Magazine last year, he said the following on his leadership style: “Ultimately, to keep people inspired, all you have to do is make sure they understand the reason behind what they’re doing.”

Previous winners of the award include Dr Shaun Vorster, Vice President: Strategy and Business Integration for Programming at Expo 2020 Dubai and Vuyani Jarana, former CEO of South African Airways (SAA).

The award will be presented at a gala event at a later stage.

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