Purpose Before Profit

What single characteristic unites South Africa's most successful entrepreneurs? They have passion and a purpose - and it's driving their successes to new heights.

learn more about Nadine von Moltke-Todd

By Nadine von Moltke-Todd

Mike Turner Photography

You're reading Entrepreneur South Africa, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

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Purpose before profit

This is the critical deciding factor that we have seen amongst the most successful business leaders who have been nominated as finalists in the EY World Entrepreneur Award™ Southern Africa 2016. Starting with a "why' makes all the difference to success, because you aren't just chasing profit, but a cause. Passion follows a why, allowing solutions to be found to even the greatest challenges.

Business leaders who have a vision and purpose are also realists

They dream big, but they know that goals aren't reached unless you make specific decisions to get there. The winner of the EY World Entrepreneur Award™ Southern Africa 2016 was Super Group's Peter Mountford. When he was appointed CEO in 2009 the group had made a loss of R1,3 billion and there was talk of a takeover.

As part of a turnaround strategy to become sustainable and achieve growth, Peter had to make some tough decisions, starting with disposing of all non-core and loss-making businesses within the group. Within six years Super Group went from a R1,3 billion loss to showing a profit of R230 million, and the business as a whole does a turnover in excess of R25 billion.

It wasn't easy, but this is the strength of character and purpose that we see throughout the entrepreneurs that enter our awards programme

In 2015 disruption was a key theme. In 2016 passion and purpose have dominated the business stories we've heard. This has always been a key ingredient of success, but as business and markets get tougher, it has become increasingly important.

Allan and Margaret Hirsch, the founders of Hirsch's, are next level entrepreneurs when it comes to vision and growth.

Margaret does the impossible. She visits every store once a week, in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town. She also holds artisan and baking classes, and builds up communities from grass roots level. That's purpose. It inspires us, but it's also a key indicator of what it takes to be a real success.

Behind every successful business and entrepreneur is tenacity, determination, innovation and the will to make an impact on society. You'll never find money as a purpose when we evaluate the finalists in our awards programme.

You can't buy success

That's not how you'll make an impact, because it's a completely self-serving goal. The business leaders who focus on impact, who look out instead of in, and who have a desire to really be the change they want to see — these are the individuals who are building businesses greater than themselves.

Two of our finalists displayed this mindset perfectly

One is the son of an entrepreneur who ran a stationery and clothing store in Zimbabwe before its economy collapsed. At the time, many business owners packed up and left. Kirit Naik didn't. Surely children still needed an education and stationery? If all the businesses packed up and left, who would support the community? Today he runs the largest stationery manufacturer in Zimbabwe with his two sons, all because he had a purpose.

Another of our finalists…

Jurie Bester of Junit Manufacturing, wanted to use his family's small clothing manufacturing business to make a real impact in his community. He secured a contract to manufacture clothing for Woolworths, and with that was able to grow a factory in Utrecht outside Newcastle, KZN to employ around 700 people, and a further 1 700 people in Swaziland.

Jurie's ultimate aims are to grow local employment and launch his brand internationally. Working in Swaziland is step one in understanding the challenges of cross-border business transactions. Achieving your ultimate business purpose often requires linking a number of dots that work towards the same goals, but always, purpose remains paramount.

What is your definition of success?

Fatima Vawda, founder of 27four Investment Managers and winner in the 2016 Emerging category has helped 22 black fund managers to grow their own businesses and achieve their dream. She's grown from managing R500 million in assets under management and advisory to R55 billion. Her definition of success is to help others grow. This is how she lives her purpose and ticks her boxes.

Ideas are one thing, but purpose is so important

You'll find the idea if you have the purpose. Our Exceptional category winners, Ran Neu-Ner and Gil Oved, co-founders of The Creative Counsel, live their values in every aspect of their business, but they're also committed to growing SMEs and being one of the biggest first time employers in South Africa. This purpose means they are constantly innovating, striving to be better and looking for ways to elevate their stakeholders and partners. And success is the result.

Nadine von Moltke-Todd

Entrepreneur Staff

Editor-in-Chief: Entrepreneur.com South Africa

Nadine von Moltke-Todd is the Editor-in-Chief of Entrepreneur Media South Africa. She has interviewed over 400 entrepreneurs, senior executives, investors and subject matter experts over the course of a decade. She was the managing editor of the award-winning Entrepreneur Magazine South Africa from June 2010 until January 2019, its final print issue. Nadine’s expertise lies in curating insightful and unique business content and distilling it into actionable insights that business readers can implement in their own organisations.

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