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.