David White & Akhona Mahlati : Entrepreneurs - Creating Value


David White - CEO, BusinessFit

Akhona Mahlati - Director, BusinessFit

David White and Akhona Mahlati share a passion for developing entrepreneurs and speak about the value created in highly engaged work environments.

Undoubtedly, South Africa is becoming a nation of great entrepreneurs. In our BusinessFit Entrepreneur Development Programmes, we are meeting special people. People with great vision, purpose and passion. People that see their responsibility is to contribute towards the economy with innovative ideas - that are aimed at improving existing processes and systems, and creating employment opportunities.

From baking 'the world's best' snowballs (delicious confectionary) to marketing specific financial services, from TB/HIV wellness programmes to running health care and pharmaceutical outlets in undeveloped areas, and from professional photography to fashion... we have seen a lot, and we have seen magic. Entrepreneurs are taking their ideas to new levels, growing their companies, creating meaningful employment opportunities, and making huge contributions to the productivity of our economy as a whole. They are supporting unique needs in rural and urban communities, and are helping to provide essential and modern services. Certainly, we are seeing a rising tide, and this new wave of 'small business confidence' is
positive and encouraging.

A healthy small business community is necessary to maintain our economy. Most South Africans are naturally entrepreneurial. We as a nation are creative, fearless, and overwhelmingly determined. This belief in ourselves is our life blood and we are proud of the independence it brings to us. We have some entrepreneurial greats like: Elon Musk (PayPal, SpaceX, SolarCity and Tesla), Herman Mashaba (Black Like Me also trading in the UK), and Lynette Magasa (Boniswa Corporate Solutions - one of Africa's largest telecoms businesses), who are changing the world in their respective areas of focus. The many small business owners and leaders in South Africa are the backbone of our country's culture and economy. These entrepreneurs have identified their niche in the market and trade their products and services for financial reward. The income generated contributes value to the economy.

Entrepreneurial work environments
We are all potentially entrepreneurial in our work environments. We are aware of our ability to create value in the economy and derive profit for the organisations in which we work, but it is estimated that only 2% of the population recognise their entrepreneurial selves. As such, to create
motivation for other people to grow their confidence to enter the entrepreneurial space, we need to encourage and support small businesses as a priority in our daily lives and decision making and wherever possible, endeavour to include them in enterprise supply chains.

Entrepreneurs are always energised
When they wake up in the morning their first thought is of their passion. It is what makes them feel most alive and is what helps them to define their purpose and existence. Purpose is a true blessing and carries that unstoppable determination and tenacity to accomplish what it sets out to do. Entrepreneurism is like other disciplines such as sport, the arts, teaching, etc, where people stretch themselves towards goals and milestones that they are passionate to achieve.

Good people relationships
The true value in any organisation is its sustainability, and at the heart of sustainability is good people relationships. The best companies, the companies that thrive in all business climates, are those with engaged staff and work teams. These companies have people working together, driven by holistic and shared values, striving for common goals and outcomes.

Those entrepreneurs who are gaining financial reward from the markets in which they trade, have attracted people into their companies with similar values and beliefs. Entrepreneurs are often good at expressing their purpose and contribution to the economy, and their success comes from attracting the right skills and culturally attuned people to assist in operational and delivery processes.

Aligning beliefs and values
Aligning values is critical. Values help to align purpose, and in engaged organisations we see common patterns of behaviour driving actions and outcomes. Purpose and belonging are two critical aspects of engagement, and is the result of people enjoying and being enthused by their work. Their work helps them to identify who they are as individuals. They become experts in what they do,
and their day to day routines encompass the work activities they always hoped to do. They are doing what they truly love doing, and it comes to them simply and easily.

So, the entrepreneur has the 'why', and the reason often greater than money that drives his or her spirit forward, and the staff play a big role in 'how' the vision is delivered to clients. It is aligning beliefs and values
of the teams with common purpose that creates the energy needed to propel 'what' the organisation does forward.

In engaged organisations everyone understands the business of the business. They know where the company is going, they know how they personally contribute towards providing ongoing value to clients, and
they understand their personal and the company's financial constraints and objectives. By everyone understanding how the company generates money for the services it provides, it is easy for individuals and self-driven teams to value their contribution. As an example, credit managers no longer see their role as simply collecting company debt, but rather as an essential contribution to cashflow optimisation. Entrepreneurs  realise that in running a successful business, everything is connected. That is that every role in the organisation has a purpose, and that everyone in it is affected by each other's business mindedness and caring for the organisation. Entrepreneurs are focused on, and delighted by results, and not simply performing tasks.

Everyone is encouraged to contribute and be responsible for outcomes of activities, and to ensure ongoing value to customers and stakeholders is maintained. There is maturity in diversity, with every person valuing the wholeness that comes from an inclusive culture where people bring their whole selves to work, and not just their learned skills and experience.

Sharing the outcomes
In these engaged organisations, which are often led by forward thinking entrepreneurs, there is a natural willingness for them to want to share the success of the harvest. Gone are the days when shareholders pay staff as little as they possibly can, so that they can absorb the company profits themselves. Organisation sustainability and staff commitment comes from sharing the outcomes of the effort of all involved in producing financial value. This makes people feel welcome and important, and ensures that no matter the weather, the team will pull together to ensure the company's sustainability and ongoing success.

We are encouraged by what we see in the entrepreneurs we meet and work with, and by the positive effect they are having on larger organisations who often are desperately trying to recapture the youthful entrepreneurial culture they had when they first started.

To all entrepreneurs, we applaud you. Keep showing us the way towards growing sustainable organisations with strong business foundations and engaged company cultures; providing meaningful work opportunities to the benefit of the economy.

For more information about BusinessFit, contact Lindiwe Bhadi on Lindiwe@ businessfit.co.za
or 031 767 0625.

"Having worked with entrepreneurs every day, for as far back as our minds can stretch, we believe that entrepreneurism is a process of understanding and recognising our own (often submerged) talents, desires and passions - and aligning them with financial value. Certainly, for most people finding their entrepreneurial self is a journey and a discovery, and once found there is no turning back. It is like a little voice within that takes over, and becomes our confidant and advisor. We can of course be entrepreneurial, aware of our creativeness, in all circumstances, even if we are working in a large organisation. We just require encouragement through the organisation's culture and leadership."