The Leadership Lessons That Have Helped Bevan Ducasse Build a R100-Million Business
Bevan Ducasse launched wiGroup from a flat in Cape Town. Over the past ten years he's needed to grow into a leader who had a team of four, to a leader who can head of a high-growth organisation.
- Player: Bevan Ducasse
- Company: WiGroup
- Launched: 2008
- Claim to fame: Overall winner of the 2016 FNB Business Innovation Awards.
- Visit: www.wigroupinternational.com
When Bevan Ducasse founded wiGroup in 2008, his idea was to build a mobile wallet. He was too early for the market though, and after two years the business into becoming a transactional software provider.
Today, wiGroup’s turnover is just north of R100 million, the company has enjoyed 50% year-on-year growth for the past five years, key investors have come on board, including Smollen, Investec UK and Richard Branson, who is a shareholder in the business through Virgin Global.
Here’s how Bevan’s view of leadership has evolved as he’s built a business that has enjoyed exponential growth.
Q: How important is productivity in a high-growth business, and how is it achieved?
The only way I started experiencing superior productivity was when a few things came together. There are many key items that I believe are pivotal to create an environment for yourself or your team in order to be productive, but the three key areas I focus on are:
- Clarity. Is the outcome and purpose of what you want to achieve clear for yourself and then for the entire team? This binds everyone to a common cause and is often taken for granted; it’s rare to see everyone on exactly the same page in a team, across teams, and across departments.
- Focus. The number one productivity eater is a lack of focus. Noise in the system is, in my opinion, the largest eater of productivity in any person or team. If they’re working on one key thing at a time and finishing it off, it will be evident that this simple habit is the largest contributor to productivity
- Mind space. An element we’ve recently added is creating environments for yourself or your team where they have balance. When you or your team have the space to work uninterrupted, think deeply, reflect and strategize about what you’re doing rather than rushing from one thing to the next, you step out of the ‘busy’ cycle, and shift into a productive one.
Q: How has your leadership style evolved as your team has grown to over 100 people?
I’ve been through a few leadership approaches over the past ten years, starting with relying heavily on being an enthusiastic motivator and being directly involved in everything, to learning the approach of empowering people with clear and measurable objectives, and allowing them the freedom to run with it so that the business can scale.
The largest shift has been learning that the most important job of a leader is getting the right people on the bus and then creating an environment for them to thrive in.
Q: How do you train people to think about outcomes and be more proactive?
Assuming you have the right people in the team, they should naturally be proactive; however, training people to improve proactiveness and strategic thinking in my experience has been through constant communication, coaching, and walking the road with the team.
Where there are areas that have been overlooked or can be improved, I find that asking them where they believe they can improve is always better than telling, and then suggesting practical ways to be more proactive and outcomes-based creates an environment in which people can learn without feeling threatened.
Generally, this is a far more effective way of changing behaviour in the long term.
Q: Why should organisations avoid celebrating mediocrity at all costs?
This is one of the greatest leadership challenges I’ve had to work through: Finding the balance between pushing for perfection while being willing to fail. Through experiencing both, I’ve found that it isn’t about celebrating failure or mistakes, but rather to celebrate the learning we can gain from our mistakes.
It’s also important to not get into a habit of feeling like we celebrate mediocrity, as this must never be the case in organisations. We must strive for excellence. When there are mistakes that aren’t repeated, and the feeling is one of growth and learning through these mistakes, then I believe you’re heading towards exponential success as a team.
Q: Are leaders fundamentally different from other people?
We believe that everyone needs to be a leader, even if it is leading themselves, and therefore leadership is a crucial trait for everyone.
I’ve witnessed successful leaders of teams that are quiet and calm, and others that are energetic and enthusiastic. I’ve also seen leaders that are incredibly intellectual and others that rely more on instinct and raw logic.
Therefore, leaders can take on many different forms. That being said, great leaders, in my opinion, have to have a few key non-negotiable traits. They need to raise other people up and empower them; they need to be humble and take on the difficulties while celebrating the wins with their team.
Lastly, they need to be able to provide exceptional clarity of purpose, often in extreme complexity, and either provide or extract from the team practical steps in how to achieve these objectives. These last few skills are; however, not found in everyone.