Close Category: Interviews

August 28, 2013

Radio 702 Discussion: Social Business Africa Report

Today I had the privilege of being on Radio 702 discussing the insights discovered in Cerebra’s 2013 Social Business Africa report, powered by Fuseware. Jenny Crwys Williams and Andy Rice left no stone unturned in the discussions, and we talked about the methodology, content and insights extensively. Twitter and the SMS line were pretty busy, showing just how many people out there are interested in these kinds of hard hitting stats and discussions about social media.

To listen, click below:

August 21, 2013

Interview with Emile Langenhoven, Owner of SA Startup Coin It

Mike: You’re the founder of Coin It, a coin recycling business based in South Africa. Tell me a little about yourself and your business story to date?

Emile: Coin It Coin Exchange (Pty) Ltd was founded in 2012 by Willem Nieuwenhuis and I, the founding partners in the business.

I have an educational background in Information Technology. I studied at Athlone Technical College in Crawford, Cape Town (now College of Cape Town), pursuing Electrical Engineering studies and the Cisco Certified Network Associate certification. I then studied at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, attaining a National Diploma in Information Technology. In 2009, I became an entrepreneur, founding SA Kiosks cc., a precursor to Coin It!. After a couple of years of learning more about the industry, I was approached by Willem Nieuwenhuis, who proposed pooling our collective resources to create a bold new venture, and Coin It! was born.

Willem Nieuwenhuis resides in Kwa-Zulu Natal and has a Bachelor’s Degree in Optometry. He currently owns two Specsavers franchises, a Chicken Licken franchise, a medical centre, does commercial letting and owns a smallholding. Willem also has a commercial pilot’s license and does air charters for his company, Coastal Air. A successful and passionate entrepreneur, Willem identified the need to manage coins in the South African market and started doing research on the product. When he was ready to launch the business, he did a Google search for “Coin It” and found that the name had already been taken, as well as the idea. He contacted the company via their website and set up a meeting with me. The rest, as they say, is history.

Mike: What are your most important values in your business career?

Emile: I’ve always been driven to serve my community. I think it’s genetic. My grandfather and father served their communities as public officials. I’ve volunteered my time in various leadership roles and always felt a sense of duty to my community. In the same way, I feel a sense of duty to my customers and will always strive to do more than is expected of me, ethically and with integrity.

Mike: Can you describe a typical work day in the life of Emile?

Emile: Currently a typical working day is divided into admin and manufacturing. I spend half the day at the office doing whatever marketing, finance, sales or communications that needs to be done. I then spend the rest of the day at the factory where my machines are being manufactured, which is something I was extremely unprepared for and had to learn many hard lessons.

Mike: How do you manage to keep the balance between work and play with the crazy schedule that comes with being a startup founder?

Emile: This was difficult for me initially. For the first 2 years life was all about my business. I breathed, ate and dreamt my business. I had to consciously decide that I needed a distraction and found it in mountain biking and hiking. My wife had a huge part to play in this because she loves the outdoors, so we often go mountain biking or hiking together.

Mike: What would you say are the top three priorities in your business?

Emile: A quality product, great customer service and good communication internally and externally. I guess anybody can make a quality product, but without good customer service and communication, you don’t have a good business.

Mike: What sacrifices have you had to make, if any, to ensure business success?

Emile: There’s a lot of comfort in working a 9 to 5 job. Your life is very structured and you know how many days leave you have, when to go on holiday and when to get back to work. When you become an entrepreneur, it’s not as easy to plan ahead, especially in the beginning stages. For example, my wife recently went to Peru on a 3 week trip which we had spoken about for years. I had to make the decision not to join her and her group so that I could take care of my business. Sometimes these are the short term sacrifices an entrepreneur needs to make in favour of long term goals.

Mike: What is your most and least favourite thing about being in your position, honestly?

Emile: My most favourite thing is to build the systems within my business. I studied systems analysis and design and business analysis which are complementary subjects when building a business from the ground up. I take great pleasure in creating the systems and processes within the business and seeing the business develop from an idea.

My least favourite thing is the bureaucracy or the paperwork, as I’m sure many entrepreneurs will agree. The red tape government impose on small businesses to remain compliant is revolting (I use the word deliberately) and needs to be reduced.

Mike: What is your favourite way of celebrating business successes?

Emile: I would say getting together with friends and family and celebrating the victory. They understand more than anybody what challenges had to be overcome to obtain success and they provide support when times are hard.

Mike: What is the most difficult thing you have ever had to do in your business?

Emile: There isn’t a specific thing that I can call the most difficult. Being an entrepreneur, you run into various barriers and challenges which have varying degrees of difficulty. But if I were to choose, it would probably be the initial decision to buy a machine from Denmark just to test the market. I wasn’t sure whether the concept would actually work and took the risk of putting myself into debt and use a large part of my savings to prove that it would.

Mike: What do you think the biggest misconception about being an entrepreneur in SA is?

Emile: Success is not achieved in a 2 hour Hollywood movie or in 350 pages of a book. Many people see this and believe that success as an entrepreneur can be achieved quickly. Even a tenderpreneur has to go through some ups and downs to land the fat contract (but that’s another story). What I’m trying to say is success is not achieved overnight. There is a lot of hard work, sacrifice and perseverance that’s required.

Mike: What is your best piece of advice for would-be entrepreneurs?

Emile: From the start I’ve met and spoken to many people about my business. Most of them told me that it would not work. They couldn’t conceive the magnitude or envisage the future of my business the way I could. To quote Adam Savage of Mythbusters, “I rejected their reality and substituted it with my own”. You need to be stubborn that way about anything you are passionate about, otherwise it isn’t worth doing.

One last thing…I’ve created and use the following axiom: When everybody is looking left…look up. Be original and unpredictable.

September 15, 2012

The Social Media Landscape Report – CNBC Africa Interview [VIDEO]

I recently had the privilege of appearing on CNBC Africa to discuss my thoughts on social media, in relation to the report Fuseware and World Wide Worx released last week. Have a look below:

March 8, 2010

Interview with Internet Rockstar Glen Allsop

Glen Allsop

Recently I had the great opportunity to interview Glen Allsop. He is known for many things, but mostly because he has established himself as one hell of an internet geek and SEO guru that knows exactly how the web works and what people want from it. His latest development is a website that helps people better understand the concepts behind viral marketing online.

Me: Glen, you are well known in the SEO and internet marketing world. Can you please tell us a bit about your history and background?

Glen: Sure. I guess my geeky background started when I was 15 and watched one of my friends at school build his first website. We were using Lycos Tripod Sitebuilder at the time and I thought it was amazing. I decided to build my own and just really liked the idea of having my own content out there for the whole world to see.
Since then I’ve “matured” and started building sites on my own domains, learning SEO and testing everything that so-called guru’s share online. My work has been featured in the book DJ’ing for Dummies, the Guardian newspaper and a few DJ’ing magazines.

I recently returned to South Africa (your home) where I used to work with clients like Land Rover and Hewlett Packard. This time around though, I’m working for myself and focusing on some new projects.

Me: Describe your typical, or should we say atypical, work day?

Glen: Good question. Honestly? I have absolutely no schedule at all. I do set an alarm, but that’s about it. Usually I just write down a list of things that I could work on today, and just pick the one which feels best for me. Most people say that you should pick the most important task first, but doing the most important task is often a forced effort.
Forced action, I’ve found, rarely produces the best results. Thanks to a friend of mine who is wildly successful, I’ve started to work on whatever I’m inspired to work on that day, and then I’ll get to it. Surprisingly, the results that come from this kind of action are pretty amazing.

Most days are spent checking the stats across my sites and buying websites. One or two days a week I’ll write an article for ViperChill, but mostly I’m just looking for new sites to buy.

Me: What are some of your most important personal values that you always stick with?

Glen: I think it’s important to give everyone a chance and be open to ideas from others. However, I’ll never implement a suggestion (without testing it for myself) from someone unless they’re really successful in that area of their life. It doesn’t make sense to take relationship advice from someone who’s had multiple divorces.
Still though, I’ll happily test the ideas and thoughts of anyone, no matter what their background is. I’ve made some great friends and really improved areas of my life thanks to this.
I’ll also only work on things that align with me internally. I could be making far more money than I am (for example, promoting tons of products on ViperChill as an affiliate) but that just doesn’t feel good to me. I also don’t work in industries that I don’t know or care about. I want everything I do to be putting value out to the world, as I only have one life to do it.

The final one is something I’m working hard on and that is keeping my ‘world’ to myself. It’s hard to explain, but basically there are always going to be people who try to tempt you down one route or expect you to be a certain way. I see the world as my own reality, and let people fit into that. Rather than letting people dictate what I do and how I spend my time.

Me: You’ve done so much in so little time. Where do you see yourself in 3-5 years, now that the snowball is fully rolling for you?

Glen: I’ll try and say this without sound arragont or over-confident, but I’m just going to be honest. As long as I’m alive, I have no doubt I’ll own a nightclub, be a multi-millionaire and run a Technorati Top 100 blog.
Again, I know that sounds cocky, but I really believe I’m on the right path. Whenever you feel good about your life and what you’re doing, things start to happen. A friend said to me that you don’t have to worry about the action involved in achieving things, you just have to get your mindset right — feel congruent that you deserve and can achieve what you want.

This really aligns with me and there are just so many examples where I’ve loved what I’m doing and it results in success. I use a lot of my money now to support charities and send children in Bangladesh to go to school, but I would love to build my own school from scratch as well.

Me: That really is inspiring! What are the biggest sacrifices you have had to make to get to where you are today?

Glen: My first sacrifice that I believed helped me grow a lot was moving away from all of my friends when I was 16 to a college that was quite far away. I had a very close group of friends and I was the only one who left that social circle so I could pursue courses that weren’t offered elsewhere.
This helped me a lot socially and really opened my horizons a bit. You’re generally with the same people for at least 8 years in the school system (in the UK, anyways) so it was nice to break away from that.
My biggest one though, without a doubt, was moving to South Africa from the UK at 18. I didn’t know one single person (not even my employer) and was pretty scared about all of the things I heard regarding crime.

Both risks (or sacrifices, if you like) helped me get to where I am now, and I wouldn’t change that for the world.

Me: Now that you’re past all of that, what are you favourite ways of celebrating your successes?

Glen: I don’t really celebrate what I’ve done because I don’t think of myself as a success. I know I’ve done well for myself and carved a lot out of nothing, but it’s really just the beginning. The people I surround myself with are far more successful than I am in terms of finances and maturity.
I know it’s important to always appreciate where you are in life and love the moment right now (it could be our last, after all) but I’m still stuck in the mindset of wanting more of this or more of that.
Once I buy my nightclub I think I’ll feel more like i’ve achieved something with my life. It will be a physical result of my work and then I’ll continue to focus on giving back (with articles, building schools, giving to charities).

I think as soon as you start to see yourself as something special your Ego just gets in the way of continuing to do great things.

Me: You’ve often said you hate the term “internet marketer”. What’s your official one line bio?

Glen: I’m awesome.
Don’t take that the wrong way though, I think most people are pretty awesome (you too, Mike) ;)

Whenever someone asks me what I do, I say that I help people to quit their day jobs. I like that answer.

Me: What are your most and least favourite things about working online?

Glen: The two things I love about working online are being able to work from anywhere, and being able to reach a large, targeted audience. I hate being stuck in one place and making my living online means that I don’t have to be. Similarly, an offline store or presence just wouldn’t allow me to reach the people that could really benefit from what I put out there.

There’s not much I don’t like about the internet, apart from that I find it really distracting at times. I think it’s turned a lot of us into robots as well, constantly updating this or that site, constantly looking to see who’s talking about us. I’m trying to cut that out more and more though.

Me: What single piece of advice would you like to give to entrepreneurs that want to enter the same industry as you, especially in South Africa?

Use moneybookers because you’ll get nowhere with Paypal in this country ;)
Seriously though…  I say this a lot but that’s because it’s true: build something around what you love. It’s easy to get so caught up in the get rich quick schemes that look so lucrative online, but they are usually just full of fluff by people who only make money by teaching.
I was stuck in the cycle of looking for ‘tricks’ and ‘secrets’ for years, but didn’t find any. It wasn’t until I just kept building sites that genuinely interested me and didn’t let other people convince me I was wasting my time (that’s a big one) that things started working in my favour.

It’s not hard to find the knowledge to make money online, it’s putting it into action that people usually miss. You’ll learn so much more by doing something than anything I can teach you or anyone else can. Be willing to make mistakes, but don’t be willing to stop.

What a fascinating individual! He worked hard to get to where he is today, but still openly helps anyone who asks him (including me). You can find him on Viperchill. Its interesting how this contrasts with my previous interview with CEO of Concargo David Kruyer.
November 1, 2009

Interview with the CEO of Concargo, David Kruyer

Concargo

I recently had the pleasure of having a lavish supper and great conversation with David Kruyer, the CEO of transport and logistics company Concargo, that specialize in logistics in South Africa. He has many insights and stories to tell, which he describes in colourful detail and humour.

David KruyerStartup CEO: You are a major player in the transport and logistics industry, can you tell me a little about yourself and your background?

David: I started with an American company, selling newspaper subscriptions from door to door which I eventually took over, and ran a crew of about 15 sales people. It was very successful in this country, but unfortunately their Visas expired and they had to go back home.  They then transferred me in 1975 to the United Kingdom where I worked in London for the Daily Mirror doing public opinion surveys, and six months later came back to South Africa to do my national service. After the national service I joined a company called Allied Publishing and was involved in the transport and distribution of newspapers. In 1985 I joined the courier business DHL for a year, then left them after I was headhunted by Thomas Nationwide Transport, an Australian company. I went to work for them for a few years, then left in 1987 and started Ace Express Couriers. I registered Concargo at the same time as Ace Express, and operated the two companies in parallel, where one was bulk and one was courier of small parcels.  There was a guy that purchased some airplanes in an Armscore tender and came to approach us in 1992. He wanted to take the courier business into the air and I thought it was a good time to sell my equity in Ace Express. My restraint of trade limited me to transport a limit of one ton, and that’s what Concargo became.

Startup CEO: Transport and logistics must be a tough gruelling industry,what made you go that route?

David: I find transport so challenging and so interesting, there’s really not one job the same as the next. There are so many destinations, there are so many configurations, there are so many variations – and all of those challenges just make logistics interesting. And obviously, its also a lucrative business to be in.

Startup CEO: What are some of the dangers you see in the future of your industry?

David: The dangers I see are in terms of the cost of fuel, but its really the only thing I can imagine. Obviously we have to look for greener efficiency, alternative power but I don’t foresee any specific dangers. I see a lot of growth in the industry and in South Africa.

Startup CEO: What are the most important values in your business?

David: The most important value is, honestly, the client. Its about making sure you are communicating with the client constantly from cradle to grave, from beginning to end, so that there is no misunderstanding about whats happening and what you’re doing with the client. Service has its pitfalls, and you don’t always have a smooth transition or smooth transactions, but while you are communicating and you’re telling the truth, everybody stays in the loop and everybody stays happy and you have a reasonable resolve.

Startup CEO: So would you say the customer comes first or the employees come first?

David: I would say the customer comes first.

Startup CEO: What sacrifices have you had to make to ensure business success?

David: I would put it down to time – I would have spent more time with my family, or my younger family. Time is a sacrifice, but its a self-driven sacrifice. I would have to say that only one out of 50 individuals give freely of their time, the rest watch the clock.

Startup CEO: You have often mentioned about how much you value innovation. Tell me a bit more about how you innovate within Concargo?

David: The way I innovate within Concargo is about constantly coming out with concepts and ideas. Putting them with the board of directors, or even with second line management, where they can contribute to improving the concept. We’re coming out with a new e-marketing strategy on almost a weekly basis, and acting on it and implementing it.

Startup CEO: Its interesting, because many other players say that e-marketing is dead, obviously you have driven that concept and ensure success there.

David: In terms of our business, we are targeting people of like mind and other logistics companies that need to outsource. The information we are giving in e-marketing is valuable to them – information that their companies haven’t taken the time and trouble to put together to keep people informed, and to educate people about how logistics works.

Startup CEO: You’re going to like this question. What is your favourite way of celebrating business successes?

David: My favourite way is to have a party, and make sure that all the staff are included and understand why we are having a party and making sure they benefit from the success of this, because they are a part of the success of this.

Startup CEO: What is the most difficult thing you have ever had to do in your business?

David: I would imagine the most difficult thing is having to downscale, but once you do it once, the second time is very easy because you realize how that protects what you have. As easy as it is to scale up, you have to react fast and scale down sometimes.

Startup CEO: What would you do if you had all the money in the world and could do anything you wanted?

David: I would still work in Concargo and make it one of the really serious players in the market. We’ve always been viewed as a transport broker, but I prefer to see it as logistics consultants and transport managers – managing the fleets and sweating the assets of others. There’s a niche for marketing, and there’s a niche for the vehicle owner. Unfortunately those two mixes are not always found in one company.

Startup CEO: Your wife also works in Concargo. What role does she play, and what is it like working with her?

David: Beverly controls finance. She makes sure not just Concargo but in the other companies that are run, that the transfers of moneys remain under our control. She also sees what the flow of business is, and she is able to bring certain things to my attention. We have always worked very well together for the last 20 years.

Startup CEO: Give your best piece of advice for would-be entrepreneurs.

David: Don’t hesitate.

Startup CEO: What is your most and least favourite thing about being a CEO?

The least favorite thing is having the responsibilities of protecting everyone’s jobs, and the coolest thing is that I can make all the decisions if I want to, but I don’t operate like that. I do empower because you can’t be on top of everything that’s going on, and you have to rely on the advice and experience of your management team.

Well there you go guys – a great talk with a fascinating man. What do you think?