Diary Of An Under 30 CEO: Entrepreneurial Lessons From Herman Mashaba

Herman Mashaba

VENTURES AFRICA - A more difficult goal for this Diary is to maintain its key features of motivation and inspiration whilst providing a platform for genuine entrepreneurial trials and tribulations, triumphs to be celebrated, and remain relevant. Interestingly there is no lack of desire and will to create sustainable enterprises across the continent; rather it’s more to do with the mentality ingrained into young minds at an early stage of development to aspire to become the best employee in the world, rather than the best creators and innovators that inhibit us.

Compounding our misery is the fact of high youth unemployment across the continent; it has become such a major impediment, in other words, this chronic illness in our various economies has left us at a crossroad, and created a state of depression and despair among the young populace.

This is the last of a two part article on the entrepreneurial lessons that Herman Mashaba provided in his autobiography.

Be in charge of your destiny, take pride in ownership

Fundamentally, the lack of many young entrepreneurs is a result partly of the facts that I alluded to earlier. Furthermore, when one realizes the reality that we have placed so much faith and trust in bureaucrats, then you realize that we will be stuck in this vicious cycle for the foreseeable future. To reiterate, in a capitalist system, the role of government is to create conditions conducive for economic growth, and that are favourable, whilst enabling business to succeed. While the role of business is to create wealth, which in turn can benefit the communities through job creation and development of the various economies. Of particular concern is the over reliance on governments to play all the key roles, it’s the duty of entrepreneurs to be in charge of their destinies by identifying opportunities, and playing a vital role in halting stagnation and eliminating unemployment in the process. From a personal perspective, bureaucrats will only provide political rhetoric and unfortunately most of the time won’t create jobs to curb the high rates of unemployment. One thing that is certain is that unemployment on the continent has a better chance of being reduced by small-to-medium enterprises than by governments. Be in charge of your own destiny.

The below extract states that:

“I didn’t just want the gold watch when i retired from SuperKurl in twenty-five years’ time; i wanted to own the gold mine. The business of survival is so overwhelming that it becomes impossible to focus on anything else; it slows one down, keeps things stagnant, so that it becomes almost impossible to change direction, resulting, eventually, in defeat. ”

Mindsets should shift from an over reliance on governments and more on taking action that revolutionizes business, whilst creating opportunities for others and changing the way we think and live.

A cruel fact is that even with what kind of progress, something crucial is that governments will never be able to turn every poor person on this continent into a rich person, they don’t have the ability, capacity and enough resources for this exercise to be accomplished.

Big corporate companies are essential, however are not the lifeblood of developing economies

In as much as we aspire to be employed by the big corporates, their challenge is that they are not the lifeblood of sustainable economic growth in the developing economies. A look at all sectors will make one realize that the small-to-medium enterprises are the ones which are absorbing most of the workforce because of the rapid growth in their business activities. Therefore, it suffices to state that we need more of these small-to-medium enterprises on the continent to provide the cushion for the rapid growth of the various economies on the continent.

The appetite for risk-taking is very high among owners of small-to-medium enterprises due to the fact that they seek growth and expansion of their businesses, which is a strong strength of their size relative to big corporates. With a sustainable business model SMEs can take advantage of the pitfalls of the big leading companies, through providing a valuable service. It’s incredibly important for SMEs to continuously build upon their growth to avoid stagnation, whilst at the same time developing other revenue streams.

Herman Mashaba had this to say in the following extract:

“The Colgate-Palmolive venture taught me that the large corporate structure is not the only viable model in a vibrant capitalist economy such as ours. Big corporate companies are essential, but emerging small-to-medium businesses are the lifeblood of sustainable growth in a developing country.”

Motivating factor for entrepreneurs

In the following extract Herman Mashaba states that:

”Connie and I were enjoying a lot of socialising and travelling, and so money was not the sole motivator for me. I wanted to own my own company. Wealth creation has to be the single motivating factor for any executive. It is only when your business is profitable that you can employ people.”

Obviously, the long-term goal of starting any business is to make a profit otherwise there is no need to be in business. However, to become profitable you need to firstly identify a human need and reach out to meet it. If you want to be a successful entrepreneur you need to try to find solutions to problems and be able to create opportunities for yourself.

Steve Jobs once said, ”we don’t sell gadgets; we sell comfort to people so they can live life easier.” Even if there are already other products on the market, have a product that improves and meets expectations and not prioritize making money as the sole objective. If you can’t take pride in ownership of the means of production then the entrepreneurial spirit doesn’t exist within you.

“The key to being an achiever is using every possible experience to enhance your business. Achievers seek solutions from a diverse range of possibilities, and don’t settle for second best,” says Herman Mashaba as his winning formula.