What sparked your passion for entrepreneurship?
Black entrepreneurship isn’t a new concept. Both my grandfather and my mother were entrepreneurs, although for them it was all about surviving. I realised at a young age that in order for black people to achieve our true potential, we have to run our own businesses and create our own opportunities.
I’m encouraged by young black people today. They’re innovative and have a hustling mentality, which has removed the barriers of privilege.
What were your ambitions when you co- founded SizweNtsalubaGobodo in 1992?
One of the biggest downfalls of many black businesses is that once the founder leaves,
the company crumbles. We wanted to create a company that would outlive the founders and have a culture of professionalism and commitment. We also strove to establish a black accounting and business consultancy firm that could compete with the best in SA.
By recruiting people who were smarter than I was and putting in a lot of hard work, we grew the company to more than 800 staff members, with a footprint throughout SA’s nine provinces and a reputation that traverses both the private and public sectors. It’s now the biggest black-owned firm in the country.
In 2000 you founded investment holding company NMT Capital (formerly Amabubesi Investments). What were you hoping to achieve?
At the time, broad-based black economic empowerment [BBBEE] was dominated mostly by people in the political landscape. The aim was to create a space for people from professional and business backgrounds to secure investments with significant growth potential. We invest in and assist companies to grow the net worth of investors and shareholders in a sustainable manner. As the Chairman, I want to leave behind a legacy that the next generation can take forward.
What are your thoughts on current BBBEE policies?
While many people regard BBBEE as a panacea for our country’s ills, others blame it for our shortcomings. For example, some blame our poor education system, levels of corruption and crime rate on it, but it isn’t the reason for our problems.
Sure, BBBEE policies could be better implemented, but it’s a measure that aims to include members of society who were previously excluded, so it still has a huge role to play. Until SA has an integrated, balanced economic landscape, BBBEE policies will remain relevant.
Your family founded capital venture firm WZ Capital in 2014. What are you hoping to achieve with it?
There are many talented and skilled entrepreneurs who are failing because they don’t have access to funding or mentorship, so we want to be a catalyst for great ventures that will revolutionise the market. WZ Capital partners with start-ups or small businesses and offers them support through mentorship, market linkages, networks and financial assistance.
Venture capital is a very high-risk business and the failure rate’s high, so profitability
is key. For that reason, we’re seeking entrepreneurs who are serious about game- changing initiatives. We’re not interested in is that at least one of those entrepreneurs will achieve international success.
How much success has WZ Capital had in grooming entrepreneurs?
To commemorate the 40th anniversary of the 1976 Soweto uprising, our company set out to provide mentorship to 40 young entrepreneurs. I personally imparted my knowledge and experience to these incredible young people.
Last year we received many applications from entrepreneurs looking to partner with us. We narrowed them down using the following criteria: the entrepreneur must be passionate, the business must be scalable and the business idea must be game- changing. We’ve since partnered with 10 entrepreneurs and are aiming to help their ventures succeed. I really cherish restoring hope for young people because they have so much to offer.
READ MORE: Inside Sizwe Nxasana’s next chapter
You’ve served on several boards, including the National Energy Regulator, Basil Read and ELCB. What do you gain from doing so?
I believe in cross-pollination between the public and private sectors because we can learn from each other and contribute to the growth of the economy. I’m also a firm believer in good governance because without it, an organisation can’t succeed. That’s why I’ve tried to share my experience by serving on boards.
However, I’ve reduced the number of public-sector boards I serve on because I don’t always agree with the way their members are treated. Nowadays, if I’m invited to serve on a board, I consider the calibre of the organisation, the Chairperson and the board members before accepting.
How would you describe your leadership style?
My approach is all about empowerment. I believe in the exchange of ideas, so I encourage people to ask questions and o er their thoughts. I can be impatient. I’ve never understood why things that can be done today are left for tomorrow.
I strive to be a great leader, not a manager, so I don’t like rank, which is why I regularly walk around the office and engage with my employees. However, respect is a must: I don’t appreciate it when people become too familiar.
To what do you attribute your success?
I’ve been an entrepreneur for over 30 years and I’ve always worked with dedicated people who support me. Having the right team is crucial. Without hard work, success will elude you. Working only eight hours a day is a luxury I could never a ord. Whenever there’s work to be done, I just get down to it. However, I’ve always prioritised my health. I work out often and ensure I get enough rest because if you neglect your health, all other aspects of your life will suffer too.
What are your personal ambitions?
I come from a rural area called Tsomo in the Eastern Cape and I’ve helped to establish a school and resource centre for the community there. My dream is that there’ll be at least one person with a tertiary education in each household. I’m working towards making this a reality in the hope that job opportunities and economic stability will increase.
I’d also like to see a South Africa that isn’t consumed by corruption, laziness and negativity. My long-term goals include helping to accelerate the success of black entrepreneurs.
How do you unwind?
I’m a big lover of African football and I’ve attended many African Cup of Nations nals. I watch a lot of sport and I enjoy reading. I also enjoy travelling and hanging out withmyfriendsandfamily. DM
NTSALUBA’S ADVICE TO ASPIRANT ENTREPRENEURS
- You don’t have to be born into a great family to be successful. I’m grateful for my humble beginnings, as they made me work harder and pushed me to become the man I am today.
- Success lies in dedication, sacrifice and commitment. Money comes and goes, so your vision needs to be bigger than material wealth.
- Don’t disappoint or embarrass people who believe in you and never make promises you can’t keep, because that’s the easiest way to ruin your reputation.
- While entrepreneurship may not be easy and many are faced with a lack of resources and funding, it’s important not to give up because there are people who care about your su ering. There are organisations which can help with funding or mentorship, so do your research, be resourceful and make it work.
This article was first published in the February 2017 issue of DESTINY MAN.