Mentor 18 - Ig Olivier

MBOMBELA - When Emnotweni Casino manager Mr Ig Olivier said goodbye to his day job last year, the public was surprised that he was off to become a full-time farmer.

The change seemed too big: trading in glittering polished floors for dirt, the house always winning for a dependence on fickle weather. For Olivier the change was not drastic. He recently told Bring Change Lowveld winner Ms Phephsile Maseko during a mentoring session as part of the programme, that 
he and his wife had started farming 10 years before he decided to leave the casino business.

It takes seven years from planting macadamia trees to them bearing fruit, after all. He remained at his job for another three years, earning an additional income while getting the trees off the ground. In the process, Olivier has learned what it takes to succeed. Planning ahead is key, as is approaching every step systematically and logically. But the most important part is investing in the people who work for you. 

This week Olivier shares 10 things which he warns do not ensure success in themselves, but will certainly help you to achieve what you want.

1. Invest in your people
Firstly, employ the best people you can afford, Olivier says. "For people to grow they need to make decisions and be accountable. However, mistakes can be detrimental to your business, so start by giving them a small mandate where you leave room for errors. "In my life I have learned more from mistakes than from being spoon fed. In the beginning it costs time and effort to get them to think how you think, but they learn. "The more they know the more they support you and the more you can focus on an overview of business with various managers reporting to you from their point of expertise. Let them help you to run the business."

2. Allow small mistakes and let people grow
"Allow your employees to make mistakes. People want to be recognised and be involved in the decision-making process."
Start small, by giving someone the power to make purchases of up to R1 000. If they show responsibility, increase it. Do not solve problems for them, but give them ideas on how to do it. 
"Once you give someone responsibility, don't double check what they are doing. If you show trust in him, he is going to return the favour."

3. Work towards a dream
Olivier and his wife make dream charts. The first one, of what they wanted to achieve in the near future and in the longer term, they attained in five years, as opposed to the planned 10 years. "We put it up in a place where we walked past it everyday to remind us of our goals. Within five years we had put up our dehusking plant and bigger store rooms. It was hard, we didn't live generously as we had to save up a lot to achieve it, but we made it in five years. "If it is on your mind everyday, your mind kind of programmes itself towards it. Now we have a new map of how we want to expand our business. "It really assisted us in growing and getting where we want to be, today. The map keeps me on the right track to achieve what I want to." 

4. Draw up a business plan
Write down the idea of what you want to achieve. The next step is filling it out with detail - how am I going to achieve it? Write it down, step by step and in order of what needs to happen, and when. Once you have achieved one thing, move on to the next. "It is simple steps but it keeps me in check for what I want to do," he says. Include a financial overview and a wish chart in the business plan. "You have to know what your return on investment will be. When am I going to make a profit? When will I be able to pay off all these things in my business plan?" 

5. Keep a close eye on your finances
Keep a one-page financial statement with your income and expected expenditure, Olivier advises. Keep your eye on the surplus or deficit at the bottom. This achieves two things: it helps you to keep your costs in check and improve your income. It also creates history. Every year you check back on it and see how you horribly under- or overestimated your expenses or income. It helps you to improve and to learn the impact of outside influences on your business. "Say I want to buy a tractor, but inflation and the rand/dollar exchange has an impact on the real cost as opposed to what I estimated. "It also allows you to know what happened so that you can plan better in future. If importation laws change in your destination countries it can have a cost effect on getting your product on their shelves, therefore it is important to know the rules so that you are not caught unawares."

6. Don't forget about the simple things
Do not overlook the simple things. You can plan each step, but you still need the basics, such as additional labourers to plant the trees in Olivier's case. "Sometimes you will find these people from the poorest of communities, They need food to be able to handle the workload and most of the time they need an advance to be able to provide for their families. If you judge their progress on the first day you will be disappointed." 

7. Build a good reputation
People build reputations. Be it good or bad, it is out there. "Other people know those people don't pay well and tell each other. Build a good reputation. Once you agree on payment terms, pay people on that date or two days before, but never after. "People need cash flow to survive. Pay your suppliers on time and they pay you on time. One mistake and you have to start from scratch. Your word must be what is going to happen. If you have a problem, keep people informed."

8. Never stop expanding
"Once you get comfortable with what you have achieved, you will start to stagnate. "Don't always look at where you want to expand and where you want to go next. I always want to achieve the next thing. Sometimes expansion entails merely adding another process into the workplace to add value to your product. "Be careful not to expand your market footprint if you cannot keep up the supply, as it would lead to acquiring a bad reputation." Remember, sometimes the best ideas come from casual conversations. Jot these down so you do not forget them. 

9. Ensure alternative supply of raw materials 
It is important not to be entirely dependent on one supplier, where you need raw material to manufacture your product. Unforeseen events affecting your supplier can force you to stop production, so supplement your supply from somewhere else. "However, remember your reputation: will the quality of the alternative supply build it or not?" Olivier cautions. 

10. Remain creative
He says while the casino business is strictly controlled by laws and regulations, and farming is a scientific endeavour, one needs to still find ways to be creative in how you do business. Creativity can find expression in many aspects of the business - think marketing. He specifically used it to create alternative
sources of income while the macadamia trees he had planted were growing - they had a surplus trees and sold them to address cash-flow problems. 
And most importantly, never give up on your dream, Olivier concludes.

(Link to article)

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