Vere Shaba, an award-winning green building innovator, made a big mistake when she entertained an offer from a Spanish company.

The entrepreneur, who is the director of engineering consulting firm Shaba Green Building Design and Engineering, always wanted to be a green engineer and worked hard to get there, but she got sidetracked (and lost a friend) when she chose to sell a product from the Spanish company instead of focusing on her business goals.

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  • Is this worth my time?

“If you remember why you started out in your career or business in the first place, you will know when to say no. “No” is a complete sentence; it doesn’t require justification or explanation. And, you will say it in full confidence, unashamedly, when you keep track of what originally motivated you,” says Shaba.

  • Have I got all the legal documentation?

A practical lesson she learnt was that a non-disclosure agreement is not a partnership agreement. She emphasises the importance of working with people whose core business is to advise on specific matters, like a good lawyer. “Don’t rely on Google,” she cautions.

  • Is this the change I want to make through my business? 

Her experience also taught her that everyone is out for their own self-interest and that this is OK. “It may seem contradictory, but if more people acted in their own self-interest – with self-love and self-worth – we wouldn’t have such a broken society. You can still be kind, but play by the rules of the capitalist game and score. The more businesses that win, the less unemployment we’ll have in South Africa. We need businesses to win.”

Click here to listen to Vere Shaba tell her story.