Lebo Poonyane and Nick Binnedel

Lebo Poonyane and Nick Binnedel
GIBS Full Time Entrepreneurship challenge winner
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Thursday, December 3, 2009

GIBS MBA Entrepreneurship 60 second challenge

Q&A with Lebogang Poonyane

Tell us a bit about yourself
Up until now I have worked as a Structured Lending Specialist for a major South African bank. In this role, I look after a sizeable client portfolio of high net worth individuals, with a specific focus on structuring debt transactions for these clients.

Prior to my current position I worked for a diverse range of organisations, including ABSA, Deloitte Consulting and Cell C. I also founded and managed XTRALARGE Entertainment, a promotions and marketing agency.

I am a big believer in the value of entrepreneurial and financial education, and support many youth programmes focused on entrepreneurship and financial education. My varied background in Finance, Marketing and Consulting provide the perfect foundation for the establishment of my company, Ditlou Property Ventures (DPV), which I intend to focus and strengthen as part of the GIBS Entrepreneurship MBA.

When and how did your entrepreneurial dream begin?
As far as I can remember I have always tried to do things myself and for myself. I enjoy “creating” things and seeing them flourish. As a youngster, I always needed to find ways to have more money in my pocket because I needed “stuff” and my parents were not necessarily going to just give me all the money I wanted.

What is the general reaction to declaring “I want to be an entrepreneur!”?
Most times people are congratulatory and I have found that many people actually want to be entrepreneurs. The problem is that most people appreciate and value their comfort zone more than they do their dreams. That’s why many people end up as employees and not entrepreneurs.

Why do you think more successful entrepreneurs are necessary – especially in South Africa?
Now, more than ever in our country’s history, successful entrepreneurs are needed. The recent economic recession has affected many industries and resulted in unprecedented numbers of job losses, locally and abroad. Entrepreneurs create!! Entrepreneurs create businesses from opportunities which they spot. These businesses in turn create jobs. Those that are hired are able to feed their families and uplift their communities. Entrepreneurs are the only way that the economies of the world will bring themselves out of the current recession. History shows this to be true. Some of the world’s most successful businesses, such as Microsoft and CNN, were started in recessionary times.

Do you believe entrepreneurship should be included in career guidance at high schools? Why?
Definitely. The days of “studying hard so you can get the best job, with the best perks” are over. Corporates are no longer paying the kind of salaries that they used to for skilled staff. Also, many corporates have moved away from policies of providing attractive pension fund benefits to their employees, mostly because this practice is very expensive. Employees are really not doing themselves much of a service by being loyal to any corporate. At the end of the day you, the employee, are fully responsible for your well-being.

The school curricula has become irrelevant for the times we live in. Schools should be places where learners nurture the kind of real-life skills and competencies that will allow them to compete effectively in the economy, in addition to building the learners’ confidence.

Can one become an entrepreneur or is one born an entrepreneur?
That question always puzzles me because it doesn’t make sense. It’s true that some people are born with an innate talent for something, be it music, art, business, etc. However, these talented people, like everybody else, still need to “work” on their talent in order to reach their full potential. All people are born with the ability to learn. I believe that entrepreneurs can be trained. So ultimately, anyone can become an entrepreneur if they are willing to put in the work and learn.

Giving up your job for a year is a huge and very brave commitment. How do you feel about this? Was it a difficult decision?
Yes it is, but it’s necessary. I feel that giving up my job is a small sacrifice to make in order to fulfil my dreams. The decision was a pretty difficult one to follow through, however it was a decision I had made even before I began working for a corporate. Hopefully I don’t ever have to go back to a job, but instead create jobs.

Who is your entrepreneur role model? Why?
There are so many for me, all for different reasons. Internationally: Donald Trump, Steve Jobs and Sean Coombs
These gentlemen have built successful businesses by using their personal brands as a foundation for their success.
In Africa: Strive Masiyiwa, founder and chairman of the Econet Group and Wale Tinubu, CEO, Oando oil company.

These two gentlemen entered into businesses in industries that were largely undeveloped at the time, and have been able to maintain their performance over the years. Doing business in Africa is not always easy, but they have weathered the African business storms pretty well.

Locally: Brian Joffe, executive chairman of the Bidvest Group and Ndaba Ntsele, Founder of Pamodzi Holdings.
These individuals started their companies from the ground up and diversified their income streams so much that the companies seem recession-proof.

Do you feel that there is enough support in South Africa for burgeoning entrepreneurs? If not, what more do you think could be done and will you aim to make a difference here?
There are quite a few agencies which are meant to support burgeoning entrepreneurs in the country. The problem I have found is that they are not run by entrepreneurs and thus their policies and ethos are not necessarily focused on true entrepreneurship and what is really required to build a successful business. I think that most of these agencies need to become more flexible with their requirements, especially when it comes to lending money to entrepreneurs.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Wonders what music means to peoples lives...

Interestingly, without music i think i would be a totally different person. I cant imagine a day without the sound of music - particularly the BOOM of that Hip Hop music!!.....

Ironically, its been proven (apparently) that music improves IQ..not so sure how true this is thou. What i am sure of however is that i a day without music would be a complete disaster for me.

What about u?

Go Music!!!

Monday, September 21, 2009

What role does education play for successful Entrepreneurs?

This question has been bugging me for a while...i consider myself a serial entrepreneur (or rather an individual with way too many ideas, some of which people think are crazy), but looking at my history and the number of "successful" ventures" that have launched from inside my head to actual consumer value i tend to doubt myself. But. I have come to the conclusion that want to become a huge entrepreneur - meaning that i want to build a business/es that are extremely profitable and make a "real" quantifiable difference in my society. So, i dont want to waste my time working on businesses that wont scale up. 

This is where the question of "education" comes into play for me - do i need to educate myself to certain point in order to be able to deal with the intricacies of building big business (whatever that business might be) or can i depend only on hands-on experience and other peoples skills?  

Which then brings another question to mind - Are entrepreneurs born or can entrepreneurs be trained? What type of entrepreneurs are the most successful?  
There`s a vast library of material focused on the "drop out" entrepreneurs that have revolutionised industries ( ala Steve Jobs, Michael Dell, etc.)...but i`ve found that these are a handful only. The majority of so called "drop-out" entrepreneurs either supplement their entrepreneurial experience with self-study (mainly because the traditional school system is too lethargic and slow for them) and succeed this way. Those that do not supplement their education, on average, become business failures or have difficulties scaling up their businesses substantially.  

Thus, i personally decided to follow the "educated" -street and formal - entrepreneur route because i believe that theres wisdom captured in history. Thats why i am currently doing an MBA (Entrepreneurship) at a reputable business School, The Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS).  Traditionally, business schools are not structured to cater for Entrepreneurs (but for middle managers trying to climb the "man's" ladder), but this is not the case with GIBS (atleast thats what i think). In a nustshell, the school was built by an entrepreneur and thus has strong entrepreneurial foundations.  

Thus, my conclusion  - if you want to build it large and successful, invest time in your education - but make sure its relevant to your business. Learn about what other successful (and some not so successful) entrepreneurs have done to propel their businesses - the business models, the industries, the individuals mind set, etc.  

But most importantly, do the business!!! Learning should facilitate the business growth, not stop you from doing the business. 

Much success. 
LP