The Growth Mindset That Has Taken This Local Company Global
When Wayne Zwiers launched Black Beard, global expansion was part of the plan. A disruptive mindset, focusing on talent and teams and developing strong leadership has driven growth. Here's what you can learn from Black Beard's journey.
- Player: Wayne Zwiers
- Company: Black Beard
- Visit: Blackbeard.xyz
Black Beard was launched with a clear focus: To solve business problems through leading technology and productive delivery.
Because the founding team understands that problems require smart solutions, the business focuses its energies on leading technology, pushing boundaries in AI, AR, machine learning, robotics & game development (phaser.io) by taking standard development formats like .net, PHP, and JAVA.
This is how co-founder Wayne Zwiers believes Black Beard will become a global leader in technology operating out of South Africa, the first step of which was achieved in mid-2018 when the business expanded to Dublin.
"Our vision has always been that of a global technology business and we therefore focused our efforts and innovation not only on local opportunities, but on opportunities on a worldwide level. Being agile in our thinking and not just in delivery has given us the advantage to meet such rapid growth," says Wayne.
Dublin is home to one of the world's fastest-growing tech scenes, and houses the European headquarters for a number of multinational companies, including Facebook, Twitter, eBay and Goldman Sachs.
The move to Ireland means Black Beard can service its European partners out of Dublin, which is an attractive gateway to the European Union.
Ultimately, Black Beard's "why' is to harness disruptive innovation and technology to bridge the gap between the "haves' and the "have nots.' Further global expansion into London and Eastern Europe is on the cards, and Wayne aims to grow his team from 25 people to between 50 and 100 people by the end of 2019.
We chatted to Wayne about his growth mindset, lessons learnt, and the foundations that are helping Black Beard achieve this growth.
Q. What is the most impactful business advice you've ever received?
"Hire the best talent that you can afford." I believe that true talent is able to deliver high value, high impact work – individual execution is absolutely critical for success. Recently I was honoured to receive the Top Tech CEO award at the Africa Tech Week awards and it really resonated with me that I am where I am today because of my team.
Q. What have you learnt with regards to getting the best results through people and teams?
I believe that trust, openness and flexibility – in the true sense – are key components of getting the very best out of teams. I don't think it matters where people are, as long as they are delivering value.
Q. How do you train people to think about outcomes and be more proactive?
The word "train' is problematic for me: I believe it is more about helping people to enhance individual productivity. Here, having a shared vision (and shared values) is essential.
Q. What advice would you offer around achieving excellence while also tolerating mistakes?
The critical component here is value: it's not about how long one spends on a task, but the outcome or end result achieved. Importantly, mistakes are our greatest teachers from both a leadership and staff perspective. At Black Beard, we've always learnt the most from our mistakes, and we share those learnings with clients.
Q. Do you believe that leaders are fundamentally different from other people?
We all have a role to play – so it's less about leaders and more about teamwork. At Black Beard, we adopt a task team approach whereby collective knowledge is shared. We vote in our task team leaders, so it's a collective decision.
Q. What leadership lessons have you admired that have influenced you?
I believe in the approach of setting up an ecosystem that is self-managed. It's an approach whereby people decide where their skills and expertise fit best, in order to deliver value. I have seen this ethos at Spotify, which promotes continuous improvement, transparency and trust, and iterative development.
Q. Are you purposeful in your self-learning?
To me, there is serious merit and value to be found on social networks and social platforms. It simply depends on where you look. I also value accelerated learning platforms such as Udemy and Blinkist.
Q. Which business books have had the greatest impact on you?
To begin with, I would say Exponential Organizations by Salim Ismail, and Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler. These two books delve into the rate of technological change and contain key insights into what future business and society will look like. On the local front, I really cherish 90 Rules for Entrepreneurs by Marnus Broodryk. This is an invaluable day-to-day playbook or "code' so to speak for entrepreneurs.
Q. Where do you see the most significant changes in your business journey?
One of the most significant changes is that business development and business modelling today is far more organic and fluid than in years past. As a result, the entrepreneur's playbook looks vastly different.
You need to look at the bigger picture and ask questions like: "Where do you look for energy sources?' "How do you deal with the daily barrage of information and communications?' "What's on-time and off-time?' I envisage a future whereby we will flick a switch to turn all of our devices and platforms to "home' mode, and in the morning, we will "switch' everything back onto "work' mode.
Q. What single piece of advice would you give your younger self on career development?
Don't sweat the small stuff. I have learnt to work with the universe, not against it. There is something to be said for "going with the flow…'
Q. What would you train your kids from a young age on when it comes to business lessons and why?
I would focus on qualities such as resilience, emotional intelligence, applied learning and anything that builds character and grit. It's also important to hone interpersonal communication skills in an increasingly virtual, digitised world.