Five Business Lessons From “Man Of The Moment”- Glencore CEO Ivan Glasenberg

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VENTURES AFRICA - Glencore International Plc. CEO, Ivan Glasenberg is headlining on a daily basis at the moment, as the world waits on tenterhooks to find out whether the proposed Glencore-Xstrata merger will be given the go-ahead. Glasenberg – who boasts a net worth of $7.3 billion (Forbes, 2012) – has proven a tough and shrewd negotiator. Taking a look at his career to date, there is much to learn from the South African born billionaire.

Opportunities arise far and wide

On graduating from the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa with a Bachelor of Commerce and a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting, Glasenberg moved to the USA, to pursue an M.B.A. degree at the University of Southern California. Graduating in 1983, he returned to his native South Africa where he was immediately recruited by Mark Rich & Co., where he worked in the coal and coke commodity department selling South African products to overseas clients.

Glasenberg stayed with the company, accepting a two-year placement in the company’s Melbourne office in Australia, followed by postings to Hong-Kong and Beijing. He remained loyal and moved to whichever corner of the globe needed his expertise the most, and by the time the company was rebranded in 1994, Glasenberg was the newly-named Glencore’s director of the coal and coke commodity department.

As Glasenberg’s career demonstrates, opportunity may arise anywhere in the world, sometimes on the opposite side of the world. It is important to grasp these opportunities, as the experience they provide gives an added value such that your career will be powered forward from strength to strength based on the international expertise you can provide.

Stick to Your Guns

As Glasenberg is showing the world at the moment in his deal brokering of the Glencore-Xstrata merger, when you really want something, you should stick to your guns, negotiate, and negotiate again until you get what you want.

Having made an initial all-share offer back in February this year, seven and a half months later the transaction looks set to get the go ahead imminently. Having run into trouble with stake-holders over the original recommendation that Xstrata share-holders should be awarded 2.8 shares per Xstrata shares held, Glasenberg has not given up the deal but has continued to discuss and compromise, currently offering 3.05 Glencore shares per Xstrata shares held – an offer widely expected to be accepted by Xstrata’s board.

Tenacity personified, Glasenberg has played the long game, knowing full-well that in business, there is no room for giving up.

Make yourself Available

Glasenberg maintains an open attitude towards networking, and believes in having the time to listen to everyone that has something innovative to suggest. This is a CEO who definitely does not sit in an ivory tower, but likes to remain in touch with the global arena. While making friends in high places wherever he goes, Glasenberg importantly finds time to engage with his employees.

Jim Cochrane, chief commercial officer and executive director at mining enterprise ENRC, describes Glasenberg saying: “The thing about Ivan, he can fly in and meet presidents of countries but he also talks to the guy on the trading floor.”

Colleagues and associates describe Glasenberg as an approachable, open-minded man who is available to everyone in his company. Despite being rumoured as having a fiery temper, employees have maintained that: “this is a guy that picks up his own phone”.

Be Fit and Competitive

Glasenberg has always been competitive in everything he does. From an early age he invested significant time in excelling at all of his endeavours. He keenly believes in the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle – running or swimming on a daily basis. Glasenberg abides by the belief that without a healthy body and physical stamina, one cannot be prepared to take on the gruelling world of business acquisitions. Glasenberg is renowned in the sports world, for having been a champion race walker representing both South Africa and Israel in his youth. It is no doubt this active, committed and competitive attitude is what has formed him into an entrepreneur capable of taking a global market by the horns.

Remain Private

Glasenberg is a very private person, and maintains a separate life out of the media eye. He is married with two children- a family which Glasenberg keeps safely away from media coverage. This is an important lesson to learn: life has many different aspects, not all of which need publicity. In a world where the media is ever-more hungry to glean gossip and photographs of everybody who is anybody, it is worth-while to expend some energy in maintaining a segment of life which is not available for public scrutiny. It is highly likely that the down-time that this privacy affords Glasenberg is what enables him to be such a calm, cool negotiator in his role as CEO of a multi-billion dollar company.