Mentor 9 - Henri Pieters


Photographer: Ludwig Sevenster

MBOMBELA - For Mr Henri Pieters, auditor at Stabilis Chartered Accountants, doing business is all about successfully managing opportunities, challenges and risks. To do this, you need to play to your strengths, but you also need a team who shares your vision and works with you to make it a reality. As a mentor in the Bring Change Lowveld programme, Pieters recently shared his expertise with mentee Ms Phephsile Maseko. This week he shares it with Lowvelder readers.

Pieters' 10 tips for running a successful business

1. Develop a clear vision for your business
Be clear on where you want to be and what you want to achieve. Once you have a clear picture of the end result in mind, you can define your vision. Everyone involved, from employees to shareholders must share this vision to work together to achieve it. "If you don’t have a vision from the outset, you won’t succeed," Pieters warned.

2. Develop a simple business model and implementation strategy
Once you have your vision, develop a clear and simple business model on how you are going to achieve it. Basic business principles like good corporate governance, accountability, ethics, transparency and branding and marketing should be priorities covered by your business model. Having a proper strategy to implement the business plan is the key to success. "All businesses, but especially new businesses have risks. You must know what they are and find methods to address them." There are uncontrollable risks such as the rand/dollar exchange rate, but also controllable ones like product supply. "Know your business risks and ensure you have the necessary checks and balances in place to mitigate the risks," Pieters said.

3. Be creative and adaptable
"We live in an ever-changing world," Pieters said. "You must be aware of what is going on in the world, in South Africa and the area where you do business - politically and economically. You must also stay updated on development in your industry and area of service and strategise accordingly. "No strategy is cast in iron, it is always changing. What worked yesterday may not work today. You must be creative and always explore new opportunities. "Strive to think with an entrepreneurial mind. Don’t be scared to try new things. Be a leader - once you look at your competition and copy them you have already lost. "Take calculated business risks. It is the key to continued growth and improvements in performance. Have controls in place to balance your risks, but if you are in a comfort zone and don’t want to take a risk, you will die a slow death."

4. Stick to your values and principles
A proper value system and principles is imperative and non-negotiable, according to Pieters. "Clients should know exactly what your business stands for and what your value system is. This is a key selling point and ensures the sustainability of your business in the long term."

• God must be the foundation of your business

• Maintain high ethical standards. Integrity is not negotiable. For example, paying a bribe is a short-term solution and you'll never get your integrity back

• Show respect for individuals, recognise effort and award employees accordingly

• Always strive to deliver the best possible service

• Lead by example in terms of working hours and privileges. Live your values. Work with your team.

5. People are important
"People are the most important asset of each business. Look after your people," Pieters advised. "You must have respect for an individual, treat each one fairly and with dignity." Monetary reward is not enough - employees need recognition in other ways too. "It is crucial to tell people you appreciate what they do and to thank them." Surround yourself with quality people - from your staff to friends outside of work. "Their positive energy will influence you."

6. Be positive
Your positive attitude and those of colleagues and employees are one of the most important values. "A client of mine once commented that you can never pay enough to get rid of a staff member with a negative attitude," Pieters said. "A positive attitude is a life choice in all aspects of one's life."I’ve seen it many times: average people with positive attitudes make a winning team. A positive atmosphere creates energy and a healthy environment conducive for doing business." He cautions that others will take their cue from the leader. "Irrespective of how difficult times are, when people see you are positive and strong it will influence them. If the leader is weak or negative it can have a disastrous effect on the business."

7. Know yourself and your limits
Know your strengths, what you are good at and build on it. Don't be a "jack of all trades, but master of none." "Everybody has weaknesses and it is crucial that you know what they are and acknowledge them. Put checks in place to balance these and surround yourself with people who can fill the gaps. "Never be scared or shy to ask for help - one is never too old to learn. Any business benefits from improvements in knowledge and skills, so always strive to develop yourself ánd your staff. "However, stick to your area of expertise. If you work hard in that area you will be successful."

8. Strike a balance between your work and private life
Pieters said it is important to look after your loved ones and spend time with them. "One of the golden keys to success is a proper work/life balance. To have a proper support structure at home contributes to a more positive attitude and more commitment at work," he said. "Encourage your employees to spend the necessary time with family, spouses, children and friends. Attend your children's sporting events and be involved with their school activities. "If people are unhappy at home it will impact on their work. "One can only be positive and happy at work if you are content with yourself and if you have the full support of your family and friends."

9. Be involved in your community
"No business can operate in isolation. Any business is dependent on the community it serves and has a moral and social obligation to give back," Pieters explained. This can be done in many ways, one of which is support and involvement with welfare or community organisations. "There are many people suffering who need help. You must be involved and motivate your people to get involved. Nothing is as satisfactory as giving back, especially in these difficult economic times."

10. Work hard and be committed
There is no easy way to achieve success. "The only road to success is work, work, work and commitment," Pieters said. "It is no secret that there is no easy way or shortcut to success. A committed, hard worker will always be successful. Motivate your people to work hard and compensate them fairly for their efforts."


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