Imagination is the new currency 

Imagination is the new currency 

Screen Shot 2016-07-12 at 8.55.40 AMA sophisticated pill bottle that harnesses the internet of things by glowing when medication is required; a gaming concept that customises the game to the beat of the song that you choose; a unit to process sewerage in a way that harvests methane, water, biomass and nutrition for growing food; public sleep cubicles that address the rampant levels of sleep deprivation affecting society; n unsnoozable ankle alarm bracelet that only turns off once sensing consistent foot movement; subsidising coffee on campus to establish a new advertising platform on the cups themselves, and so the ideas keep rolling in.

These examples are a small sample of the over 4,000 ideas from the last few years that have been submitted by Candidate Allan Gray Fellows at university as part of the Allan Gray Fellowship. These ideas, known as ignitions, are part of a holistic intervention to instil what we call intellectual imagination in these individuals – an ability to see the unseen, challenge the status quo and suggest that things could be done differently.

And this imagination has power as these somewhat wild, sometimes almost ridiculous ideas have planted the seeds of future impact. For these ideas represent the first steps in a long-term process that has so far led to a current portfolio of Allan Gray Fellow businesses valued around R600 million.

But despite these numbers, in the pursuit of developing entrepreneurial capacity there is often the question – why start in the realm of the imagination? Why start with the mind? Surely this is not tangible enough, lacking the practical application of actually getting things done.

In fact at the Foundation in our first few years we fell for the logic of the same argument and initially developed an approach that focused heavily on entrepreneurial action – on training for practical application.  In doing this we lost the opportunity to catalyse people into greater entrepreneurial mindset first. For in truth once the thinking is right, once the imagination has been sparked, all the other elements of practice are pursued with significantly more passion and commitment.  There is certainly time for the learning and perfecting of practical application but this application is limited if it hasn’t been preceded by a full exploration of the possibilities of imagination.

In time we found support for this approach for getting the thinking right first, from one of the world’s most respected enterprise developers in Y Combinator founder Paul Graham. He explains to prospective entrepreneurs at university, the doing part of entrepreneurship is the easy part. “What you should be spending your time on in college is ratcheting yourself into the future. What a waste to sacrifice an opportunity to solve the hard part of starting a startup—becoming the sort of person who can have organic startup ideas—by spending time learning about the easy part [the doing].”

New York Times columnist, Thomas Friedman takes it even further when suggesting the future will be most decisively categorised by dividing countries, not by high and low growth, but into high imagination enabling countries and low imagination countries with the latter failing to develop their people’s creative capacities and abilities to spark new ideas and industries.

Even mainstream education has recognised the central importance of imagination when at the beginning of this century ‘Evaluate’ was replaced by ‘Create’ (including the sub action of imagine) at the pinnacle of the hierarchy of Bloom’s Taxonomy for learning objectives within education.

We have all become increasingly aware of the opportunity that exists in our moment in history where we can start to harness the exponential technologies to address some of the greatest challenges of our era.  Where it is no longer naïve to believe that a single initiative might touch over a billion lives. We really are only limited by our own imagination. Let us therefore not be limited in that imagination!

 

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Selecting for Entrepreneurial Success – an insight into the Foundation’s selection process

Selecting for Entrepreneurial Success – an insight into the Foundation’s selection process

 

2012 Fellowship Selection Camp
2012 Fellowship Selection Camp

In 2012, the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation initiated a process to formalise its selection processes for Scholarship Selection at Grade 6 (Allan Gray Scholars) and Fellowship Selection at Grade 12 and first year university (Candidate Allan Gray Fellows). This led to the creation of so called “Success Profiles” that captured the selection requirements at each stage of the Foundation entrepreneurial development pipeline, culminating in the development of a Success Profile or Profiles of a High Impact Responsible Entrepreneur as described by the Foundation.

“A principled individual who creates and / or personally owns all or part of an enterprise that offers a product, service or business model that is highly innovative, differentiated, and scalable which results in adding substantial economic value through offering the public great value for money and in doing so, results in the creation of meaningful jobs, profitable enterprise and stakeholder value.”

The Success Profile methodology provides a framework through which an applicant can be considered from a holistic perspective. Taking a holistic approach to assessing an individual is the best means of predicting future performance

The Success Profiles developed and created by the Foundation capture the combination of knowledge, experience, competencies, performance standards, personal attributes and measures for potential that describe the targeted and articulated set of expectations for Scholars, Candidate Fellows and Fellows. This will enable the Foundation to align its selection and development programmes.

Success Profile Objectives

The Success Profile methodology has three main objectives: 1) To develop and validate a beneficiary Success profile and validate the Foundation’s beneficiary success benchmarks at Scholars, Candidate Fellows and Fellows, 2) To align the Selection benchmarks of the targeted beneficiaries to the expected future performance and 3) To review the current beneficiary development programme and its implementation in relation to the Selection benchmarks and Success Profiles.

Success Profile Methodology

The Success Profile Methodology is supported by research which shows that taking a holistic approach to assessing an individual is the best means of predicting future performance. Traditionally, organisations mainly focus on competencies, experience and technical skills when selecting for specific roles and do not include areas such as values, interests, personality and emotional maturity. Taking this holistic approach to assessing an individual is therefore a much more valid and reliable method of predicting future performance.

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The specific methodology followed in reviewing and refining the criteria specified for each dimension of the Success Profile can be summarised as follows:

  1. Start with the end in Mind. Clearly define the Success Profile for a High Impact Entrepreneur
  2. Separate long term performance drivers from short term performance drivers.Short term performance was defined as successful completion of the programme and long term realising the vision of High Impact Entrepreneurship.
  3. Separate trainable and non-trainable components

In applying the approach as described above, it was imperative to the success of the overall programme to clearly define the profile of a High Impact Entrepreneur as it becomes impossible to identify markers for long term performance without a profile to which it is linked.

Since adopting the Success profile Methodology in 2012, a number of changes and refinements have been implemented across the Foundation’s three primary programmes, such as the refinement of the application form scoring criteria, the development of parallel assessment activities across selection phases, and incorporation of new psychometric tests for measurement.

All this work has resulted in the Foundation having the following seven Success profiles:

  1. Scholarship Selection at Grade 6,
  2. Candidate Fellows Selection at Grade 12 and 1st Year University,
  3. Acceptance into the Fellowship at Admissions into the Association,
  4. High Impact Entrepreneur profile 1 – Conceptualisation of Ideas,
  5. High Impact Entrepreneur profile 2 – Securing Capital and entering the market through a start-up,
  6. High Impact Entrepreneur profile 3 – Managing the stress of Organisational Growth, and
  7. High Impact Entrepreneur profile 4 – The Conductor / Architect who can orchestrate profile 1 to 3.

This has certainly set a solid foundation in terms of Success Profile methodology, however, this approach requires continual refinement and improvement in order for the Foundation to remain cutting edge. Future projects involving the Success Profile Methodology includes a review and critical analysis of all the Success Profiles adopted, reviewing the comprehensiveness of the three programmatic Success Profiles against the desired outcomes specified for both short term and long term performance, reviewing the degree of alignment between the three programmatic Success Profiles, ensuring that all criteria specified meets best practice guidelines and finally to ensure that all criteria specified is research based.

By Carl Herman

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A tale of (an Orientation event in) two cities

A tale of (an Orientation event in) two cities

Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 9.03.03 AMOn 13 February and 20 February 2016, our Candidate Fellows attended Orientation events in Johannesburg and Cape Town – at the Sci Bono Discovery Centre and Belmont Square respectively.

The purpose of Orientation is to admit new Candidate Fellows into the Fellowship Programme and provide a formal induction into the Programme and its activities. Orientation also provides new Candidate Fellows with an opportunity to maximise their Fellowship and university experience.

A natural transition from our selection processes, the Foundation has hosted 11 Orientation events since 2006. After application forms are assessed and shortlisted candidates interviewed, applicants then attend Selection Camp, after which, successful applicants are telephonically informed that they have been accepted onto the programme. At Orientation, these students are formally awarded the Fellowship and receive certificates.

We asked our Personal Leadership Programme Officers, Jehan Chikte (abbreviated JC and  representing the Mother City) and Chris Maiketso (abbreviated CM and representing the City of Gold) to share their insights about Orientation.

1.How many Candidate Fellows are the Fellowship Programme in 2016?

CM – 100 for the Gauteng region

JC – 164 for the Western Cape region

2.  How does the Orientation enhance Candidate Fellows’ experiences in (or about) the Foundation?

JC – Orientation allows Candidate Fellows to interact with one another and build community at a regional level. In addition, the event provides an opportunity for Candidate Fellows to interact with Foundation Talent and exposes them to the different functional areas of the Foundation. A special awards ceremony is also held to acknowledge Candidate Fellows who have excelled beyond the mandatory requirements of the programme by making the most of the iShift Cognician and Ignitions programmes.

3. What made the 2016 Orientation unique?

CM – Being part of the Fellowship programme is a once in a lifetime opportunity for new Candidate Fellows. A fun-filled Orientation programme, with stimulating information sessions, gives them an opportunity to create memorable experiences with their peers.

JC – A refined curriculum was introduced that aligned the different programmes to the common goal of developing and enhancing the Candidate Fellow’s entrepreneurial mind-set. 2016 saw the largest cohort of Candidate Fellows since the inception of the Foundation. This year also saw the introduction of the Foundation’s new Social Media Policy as well as a refined Disciplinary Policy.

4. Give us a taste of what Candidate Fellows can expect from the new curriculum

JC – The new curriculum is better-aligned to the Learning Outcomes and Success Profile developed by the Foundation.

CM – Candidate Fellows can expect an improved curriculum which will further reinforce their personal leadership skills and entrepreneurial mindsets.

5. Why the inclusion of a session on diversity and social media policy at this year’s Orientation?

CM – Young people are really active on social media and are part of a diverse community. The inclusion of the diversity and social media session was to sensitise our Candidate Fellows on the sensible and responsible use of various online communication platforms.

JC – The Foundation encourages Candidate Fellows to be more aware of the impact of what they share and associate themselves with on social media as well as make them aware that they are affiliated to, and are ambassadors of, the Foundation therefore what they share could have implications on the Foundation too.

 

6. What is the significance of the venue?

 

JC

 

Belmont Square is the perfect fit in terms of what we need and what they offer as a conference centre for the number of Candidate Fellows in attendance. The venue is modern, fresh and close to UCT, where our largest Western Cape cohort studies, so it makes it easier to travel.

 

 

CM

 

Education is the cornerstone of the Foundation’s activities and the Sci-Bono Discovery Centre is Southern Africa’s largest Science centre, affiliated to the Gauteng Department of Education to support STEM education and to help build South Africa’s STEM capacity. The venue is also easily-accessible for our Wits and UJ students.

 

 

 

 

 

Social or commercial entrepreneurship?  …that is question…or is it?

Social or commercial entrepreneurship? …that is question…or is it?

Through various interactions with people and programmes in both the commercial and social entrepreneurship arenas in South Africa, I’ve often wondered why a distinction is still made between the two types. This is mainly because most social enterprises are expected to have viable and sustainable income generation sources to fund their social initiatives with minimal dependency on grants and donations; whilst there is, an equal and opposite expectation that viable, commercial enterprises will demonstrate their commitment to social development through business practices that honour the Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) codes and the optimisation of the triple bottom line.

The amended BBBEE Codes of Good Practice were issued by Dr Rob Davies, Minister of Trade and Industry in April 2015 and came into operation in May last year. In particular, the annual value of enterprise development contributions (which, for the purposes of convenience for this post, we’ll deem contributions by established and profitable companies to start-ups) is 1% of the Net Profit After Tax (NPAT) of the former companies. Similarly, the annual value of all socio-economic development contributions by these companies is also 1% of NPAT to social initiatives.

Whether 1% of NPAT is an adequate private sector contribution for both enterprise and socio-economic development has been the subject of many spirited debates which won’t be contributed to in this post.

So, assuming that the aggregated 1% NPAT of all qualifying commercial enterprises to social development, is a comparable proxy for the financial sustainability of social enterprises then why is entrepreneurship still preceded by the qualifiers “commercial” and “social”? Abridged from the Houston Chronicle I found the following four main reasons:

 

Criterion Commercial Entrepreneurship Social Entrepreneurship
Initial investment sources Venture capitalists who invest on the basis of the company’s leadership team and the managers and staff that support it Philanthropists who gauge the viability of a project based on the individual at the helm
Perceptions of value Value lies in the profit the entrepreneur and investors expect to reap as the product establishes itself in a market that can afford to purchase it Value lies in broader social benefit to a community or the transformation of a community that lacks the resources to fulfil its own needs.
Profitability measures and company structures Always structured to make profits that benefit stakeholders such as shareholders or private investors Activities often structured under charitable trusts and non-profit organisations
Approach to wealth creation The business’ success is gauged by market cap size and how much wealth it creates – for the most part wealth creation is an end in and of itself Wealth creation is necessary, but not for its own sake. Wealth is rather a tool to effect social change and the degree to which minds are changed, suffering is alleviated or injustice is reversed represents the business’ success.

GIBS, which offers the Social Entrepreneurship Programme, reports that social enterprises in South Africa are often registered as both for and not for profit companies meaning that they can access both donations / grants and commercial funding. Surprisingly, GIBS has found that the consequence of this approach is not a shift away from the mission of the organisation, but instead a focus on it.

“[Social entrepreneurship] is a blend of for and not-for-profit approaches, which balances the value and trust of social organisations with the efficiencies and profit motive of business. Within this is a conflict that challenges our cultural interpretation of charity – to make money out of social services is interpreted as inherently wrong and counter-intuitive to the mission-focus of civil society.”

civil societyIn recognising the unique position of entrepreneurship in South Africa continued, innovative responses around both the challenges and opportunities faced by social entrepreneurs in South Africa are not only encouraging but have the potential to render the commercial vs social entrepreneurship question irrelevant.

Applications for Singularity University South Africa’s Global Impact Competition close on 15 March 2016 so don’t delay- apply today! The purpose of this competition is to foster successful start-ups that will positively impact a billion people in the next 10 years.

The 2016 SEED Awards are open for start-ups that integrate social and environmental benefits to solve pressing local issues. Entries close on 21 March 2016.

Fellowship opportunity to map your future

Fellowship opportunity to map your future

Screen Shot 2016-01-26 at 8.53.27 AMOur 2016 Fellowship applications for Grade 12 learners and first year university students opened with a bang last week Monday. Under the theme, Map your future, we’ll be selecting and supporting exceptional students who’ll be leading the future through their entrepreneurial potential. On average we receive 2 000 applications annually from the best and brightest that Southern Africa has to offer.

In order to know where you’re going, you need to know where you are. So what direction is your life is taking?  Where are you going?  Are you on your way to a meaningful life and, if so, how are you getting there? These are some of the questions that could be churning in the minds of many young people which is why we believe that a solid education is the best starting point for any entrepreneurial journey.

South African citizen, Sandrine Mpazayabo, came second overall at Settlers High School last year yet she struggled to get a bursary and worried about how she would fund her Law studies at UCT this year. She persevered and was successful in each of the three rigorous phases of our application procedure – proof that it takes much more than a stellar academic record to be selected for the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation Fellowship. Sandrine is just one of 100 successful Candidate Fellows who had to work hard to stay on course and follow her entrepreneurial compass. Will you do the same?

Upon the successful completion of her university degree, and our in-house entrepreneurship programme, Sandrine will join the likes of Danisa Nkuna, Dinika Govender, Doug Hoernle, Melvyn Lubega, Siya Xuza, Gcobisa Sotashe, Arushka Bugwandeen and other intrepid Fellows in our Association.

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Looking at this “map of global problems” may make the average person feel overwhelmed and despondent. This is why the average person won’t see the entrepreneurial opportunities to solve these problems. Inefficiencies abound but once you are equipped with the entrepreneurial toolkit from our Fellowship you’ll navigate around and through problems, turn them into profits and make the world a better place, which is what all of our Felllows are on their way to doing.

Watch this video to learn more about the Fellowship experience and download an application form from our website right now to start charting the path to your awesome future.

 

 

Three Interesting Entrepreneurship Trends for 2016

Three Interesting Entrepreneurship Trends for 2016

We may be nearly halfway through the first month of 2016, and chances are it’s a little late to extend a “Happy New Year!” greeting so I’ll say thank you for reading our first blog post for for the year.

For many of us a new year is a time for making resolutions (those life changing things you make on 1 January and generally disregard until 31 December), reviewing the year that was (personally I think 2015 should have been called #everythingmustfallyear) and looking ahead with optimism to the year ahead. So what might 2016 hold for us entrepreneurially? Here are three thoughts based on some of the trends.

  1. The animals will roam the street

unicornNot in real life, of course. Just in the lingo. From gazelles, to skunks, dolphins, butterflies, and the mythical horse-like creatures that made their appearance to such an extent that 2015 was dubbed the “Year of the Unicorn”. You’d be forgiven for thinking that the world of entrepreneurship is a zoo. In an earlier post, we spoke about the long-term economic impact that producing just one billion Rand turnover company (the so called African Lion) would have in South Africa. Once rare companies (startups valued at more than $1 billion and called unicorns) are reported to be so common in Silicon Valley that concerns around the sustainability of their growth instead of the usual preoccupation with their market caps are being raised. The unicorn may be under threat of extinction, but it’s only a matter of time before another creature emerges in the ever-changing world of animalpreneur lingo.

  1. But the kidpreneur will rise

kidpreneurJust ask Bruce Whitfield. Last year the business radio anchor launched the first kidpreneur challenge which carried a cash prize of R10 000 and encouraged South African children of school-going age to be entrepreneurial. The rationale for the challenge being that the sooner we get kids interested in entrepreneurship, the sooner we’ll have a generation of South Africans for whom building a business is as viable an option as getting a job. This year will be all about harnessing the generally disruptive and creative nature of children towards enterprising activity.

  1. And we’ll have a feminine future

This might appear a predictable prediction but there are numbers to support it. Last year’s SME survey reported that 78% of women-owned businesses were profitable, compared to 70% for men. Sadly this percentage would be even more impressive if there weren’t such huge gender imbalances in startups not only in SA but the rest of the continent too. As conditions gradually become more conducive to women having flexi-time in their corporate careers and having the adequate support to set up and run their businesses, then the picture will improve not just in service-related sectors where women entrepreneurs tend to be over represented. Both female employment and financial independence get a boost from women entrepreneurs because women tend to hire women.

Hindsight is a perfect science so we’ll only know how right (or wrong) these trends are at the end of the year. So until then we’ll take it one blog at a time. Good luck for all your endeavours this year!

 

How was our blog in 2015?

How was our blog in 2015?

Our blog was launched on 19 February 2014 and every Tuesday (and occasionally on Thursdays) since then we’ve posted articles that have helped our readers explore how entrepreneurship can shape human potential for the greater good. These posts are categorised according to the following groups:

  • Advocacy Days
  • Case Studies
  • Entrepreneurship Conferences
  • Fellow Stories
  • Foundation
  • Guest Writer
  • Opportunities
  • Pillars
  • Social Commentary
  • Thought Leadership

The articles in each of the above categories have had varying success but you can only imagine our joy when we hit our 100th blog post – during Global Entrepreneurship Week no less. The milestone was a pleasant coincidence and cause to celebrate and reflect. Collectively, these 100 posts have had approximately 90 000 page views from a growing pool of nearly 1,700 subscribers. Here are some other celebratory stats about our blog:

  • Talent with a penchant for chocolate

Earlier this year we had an internal staff competition for Talent to guess the exact day and time when we would hit the 1 000th subscriber mark. Our Scholar Development Officer, Jason Pentz, walked away with the top chocolate prize when he, uncannily, guessed 12h39 on Monday 20 April. The correct time was actually 12h41 on Monday 20 April. We had two runner up prizes for Linzi Isaacs and Thabelang Rabotapi – they both guessed 14h30 on Monday 20 April. The worst guess (which earned her a boobie prize for being far off the mark) went to Rebecca Pillay when she guessed that we would have 1 000 subscribers at 21h00 on Wednesday 29 April at 21h00!

  • Mysterious Disney Magic

This Shape the Future post about how Walt Disney embodied our Pillars had the most views (7,800 to be exact). We’re still trying to figure out why this post was so popular because no other post in the Shape The Future series was as popular.

  • GEM gems

We posted two commentaries on the annual Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) Report. These posts deserve special mention because they were the 2nd and 3rd most-viewed with over 5,000 views each. Interestingly if you google “2014 South Africa GEM report” our blog is listed second only to the official GEM website!

  • Much-a-tweet about Fellows

A story about one of our Fellows (Alumni) Akosua Korangteng had the most tweets of all. 121 in total.

  • Most Retweeted

This post on the importance of mentoring had the highest retweet rate – 78 times in total.

  • Who likes excellence?

A case study on the impressive African Schools for Excellence had the most likes on Facebook – 291 in total.

  • And now for the not so popular (#hide)

The least viewed post (with 191 views) was a Shape the Future post on Arthur Nielsen. Clearly Market Investigating is not as enchanting as Disney!

We’re very proud of the repository on the entrepreneurial development process that our blog posts have allowed us to create. We look forward to continue contributing, like we have with the GEM Report commentaries, to the entrepreneurial culture in South Africa.

Thank you to everyone who has read, subscribed, recommended, forwarded, liked, tweeted, retweeted, and #taggged our posts. Let’s keep the blog ball rolling in 2016 and beyond! Happy Festive Season!

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Countdown to Global Entrepreneurship Week

Countdown to Global Entrepreneurship Week

We’re less than a week away from the world’s largest celebration of the innovators and job creators who bring ideas to life, drive economic growth and expand human welfare. From 16 to 22 November we’ll all be inspired to explore our potential as self-starters during the annual Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW).

Millions around the world who have never considered launching their own ventures will soak up advice and inspiration from the world’s entrepreneurial heavyweights. GEW is more than just an awareness campaign. It’s a platform for connection and collaboration that engages all players in the entrepreneurship game to strengthen ecosystems around the world. 140 countries now celebrate GEW each November. The number has grown from its initial 77 when the initiative was launched in 2008.

A simple search on the GEW activities’ database shows a phenomenal increase in the number of activities in South Africa between 2013 and 2014 – from just 12 to 127! Out of 36 African countries participating in this year’s GEW, South Africa has the second highest number of activities after Algeria where participants have a choice of 168 activities to choose from. Uganda and Nigeria have 48 and 28 activities listed, respectively.

This year however, the number of our activities has taken a dip from the 127 in 2014 as there are currently only 96 activities listed from the likes of Shanduka Black Umbrellas, The Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship, The Hookup Dinner and Microsoft BizSparkAfrika to name a few. This fall mirrors, worryingly, the data on our 2014 Total Entrepreneurial Activity (TEA) published in a report by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) earlier this year. The 2014 GEM found that our TEA fell from 10.6% in 2013 to 7.0% in 2014 – a fall of 34%. Relative to our population size, this translates to approximately 1m fewer entrepreneurs than in 2013.

What can we do about this?

The Foundation believes that economic empowerment through entrepreneurship is critical in South Africa. So we’re pleased to announce that, following the success of last year’s inaugural Make-a-R100 challenge, we’ll be encouraging entrepreneurial thinking, once again, during this year’s GEW through our Make-a-R100 challenge. It’s a simple challenge:

  • Find a product or service to sell
  • Make R100 (or more) profit
  • Upload photos to our Facebook page.

The idea with the most likes on our Facebook page wins R5 000! Tag your friends, family and colleagues. Follow @allangrayorbis and share the #MakeAR100. Challenge closes on 22 November 2015. Who knows? Your idea could become a multi-billion rand, high impact business that alters the country’s socio-economic landscape.

We’ll be watching all developments keenly when #GEW2015 kicks off next week Monday.

The ball is in both our courts – Marisa and Luthando’s mentoring journey

The ball is in both our courts – Marisa and Luthando’s mentoring journey

1Marisa Kaplan began her career at Allan Gray in 2007. She then had a stint as a Consultant at Bain & Company in 2012 but returned to Allan Gray in 2014 to her current role as Analyst. She has proudly mentored eight of the Foundation’s Candidate Fellows over the years. This year, she’s mentoring Lauren Hess, an Honours student at Stellenbosch, and Luthando Lulu Mzilikazi who is completing her Finance Honours degree at UCT.

Given her current mentees, it would be convenient to assume that Marisa’s passion is in mentoring young women, but she believes that anyone can be a mentor and be mentored since “we learn different things from different people”. She fondly remembers how her, now 95 years-old, grandfather, who holds two Masters degrees, enrolled for the same courses are her when she was completing her undergraduate degree so that the two of them could compare notes and discuss lectures at home.

Marisa borrowed a page from her grandfather’s book in more ways than one. She loves learning, reading and challenging herself. From Luthando she’s seen how indispensable confidence and a bubbly personality can be for the career and personal opportunities that one is presented with. Marisa admires the ease with which Luthando engages with others and how she makes an outstanding impression on everyone she meets. Her chances of meeting Marisa, however, were initially very slim and Marisa, apparently, didn’t make much of an impression on Luthando.

Marisa believes in letting her mentees guide the relationship while she avails herself to assist as requested. Luthando’s demanding schedule, however, made it difficult to have the first meeting and even at that first meeting, she was uncertain about her compatibility with Marisa. This is because Luthando expected to be paired with an industry mentor in her preferred career, Investment Banking  and not a Management Consultant. Luthando wanted guidance from someone with first-hand experience in Investment Banking in order to help her evaluate her chosen path. Luthando was pleasantly surprised when Marisa helped her to reframe her career choices and she soon realised just how little she knew about Investment Banking! Luthando now has offers for jobs that she didn’t even know existed and that she would not have considered applying for were it not for Marisa’s advice.

Respect, honesty and punctuality remain non-negotiable for Marisa and Luthando. The latter regrets not having made contact with Marisa sooner and she hopes that Marisa will remain her mentor beyond 2015. Marisa always encourages her mentees to seek out other mentors so that they have varied insights but she remains keen to support Luthando in the next phase of her life.

Luthando realises that careers are not, or should not, necessarily be the sole basis for pairing mentors with mentees as she and Marisa also share a common love of tennis. Marisa uses the analogy that both on and off the court she endeavours to play against people who are better than her as that’s the best way to learn. Luthando has heeded the advice and surrounds herself with people who are smarter than her, personally and professionally. With a mentor list that also includes Wendy Appelbaum, Wande Madikane (her internal mentor at the Foundation) and Trevor Manuel, it’s easy to see why Luthando is serving nothing but aces!

The real bottom line – purpose driven business

The real bottom line – purpose driven business

IMG_7477The Foundation’s mission has been summarised as creating responsible entrepreneurs for the common good. Often people express surprise that the promotion of entrepreneurship can be linked to the common good.  But we have become convinced that having noble intentions is not just a nice to have but essential for significant and sustainable success.

As Mr Gray says: ‘Acting in society’s interests can be and is good business. Over 40 years ago Allan Gray was founded with this conviction and ethos, yet has managed to prosper in South Africa’s intensely competitive field of asset management.’ As he further explains in a recent interview, “Making a profit has never been an end in itself, but a consequence of pursuing a sense of purpose; to really want to make a difference, not only for clients but all other stakeholders, from employees to the community, the taxman and society at large. It is only if the client is satisfied that the firm is enabled to help more and more clients. Maximising shareholder value is a crazy philosophy because it’s short term; it’s not sustainable.”

In fact such is the strength of this belief, that the Allan Gray Centre for Values Based Leadership has been established to provide further intellectual momentum and broader understanding of this conviction that a business cannot only exist for profit. There needs to be a larger purpose.  Talking about these two, making money and making a difference, Lisa McLeod points out: “Creating a culture of purpose is how you do both!”

Recently venture capitalist, Anthony Tjan made the following observation: “It turns out there are many ways to make a billion dollars: real estate, investing, gaming and entertainment, retail, technology, and good old-fashioned inheritance. But the most interesting (and most respected) businesses and personalities are also the ones with the strongest and most authentic purposes behind them.” This should not come as a surprise because creating an exceptional business is hard work and in order to put in that amount of effort one needs to be answering the “why” question for a business (why are we doing this?) Only answering the “what” question (what does our business do?) is not sufficient to sustain the level of commitment required to build a great business.  As business author Gray Hamel states in his book, “What Matters Now” says: “A noble purpose inspires sacrifice, stimulates innovation and encourages resilience.”

Yet it is not only resilience that purpose inspires to support the emergence of exceptional enterprise, there is a further dynamic that makes purpose essential to the process. If your intention is to build great things, it helps to be driven by a spirit of significance. As Paul Graham states “The startup founders who end up richest are not the ones driven by money. The ones driven by money take the big acquisition offer that nearly every successful startup gets en route. The ones who keep going are driven by something else. They may not say so explicitly, but they’re usually trying to improve the world. Which means people with a desire to improve the world have a natural advantage.”

Finally we have moved into an era where we now have the tools and technology to pursue purpose in previously impossible ways.  We are able to move out of the “red ocean” of competition and controlling of scarce resources to the “blue ocean” of new ideas and building new things.  These possibilities enable purpose to drive new innovation and shape the future.  In fact Aaron Hurst in the Purpose Economy, suggests that after the agrarian, industrial and most recent information economy we are now moving into the purpose economy, embracing community and creative endeavour.

These shifts remind me of the words of Vivek Wadhwa from Singularity University at the Global Entrepreneurship Congress last year: “This is the most innovative time in human history – when entrepreneurs can do what only governments could before – solve humanity’s grand challenges.”

Now there is a purpose worth making the bottom line.