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Carel's story on... partnering with the right people

“Being an entrepreneur is part of my DNA and I struggled with that as an employee.  I was never really comfortable with just following the rules.  I don't like the bureaucracies and structures and I get frustrated when you have great ideas that can't break from these frameworks”.  

Having always had an entrepreneurial spirit, Carel experienced discomfort when his professional life began and he entered the role of employee after completing his degree in psychology. Starting out in finance he later entered the realm of HR, a perfect compliment to his education as well as his growing passion for the human aspect of business. He realises now that his employment experiences were all stepping stones in the journey to get where he is today. 

Having spent a few years upskilling, Carel was ready to start his own venture, and although daunting, he was faced with an opportunity to collaborate with a labour lawyer with his complimentary HR services.  Over time Carel continued to see opportunity and grew his HR service offering.  A second opportunity through collaboration with his network in the finance space opened up, and what had initially started as a simple referral relationship, later became a fully fledged venture.  The business has gone through many transitions and their latest move to assist international businesses in offshoring some skills to South Africa, Carel became the CEO and co-founder of a business that is an Employer of Record partner, seamlessly bridging UK and EU businesses to the vibrant South African talent pool. 

As this venture took off so did the whole ‘employer of record’ movement and their competitors were giants, one of which was a true unicorn and valued at an unimaginable number.  Carel was unwavered by competition, to him it was clear what made them valuable and it was in the fact that they were not a SaS business, not global, but a niche, South African based Employer of Record that knew their territory like no other. 

“We are an ‘all hands on deck’ business, serving our clients from a very personal point of view.  This is how we have always handled business.”.

Carel looks back on his personal frustrations as an employee and today is determined to give his very own employees the opportunity to explore their ideas.  He is very open about how he sees his employees as better than him in their fields and includes and helps them feel more entrepreneurial and empowered within their roles.  He understands the ongoing need for the business to remain flexible and adaptable to an ever changing market and this is one way to address that.  Furthermore, Carel is clear on his personal strengths and weaknesses, admittedly struggling in administrative areas and bringing in the best people to plug in this gap while focussing on his areas of strength typically in his big picture thinking.  

“It's great when you have a team where one person is good on the bigger picture thinking and another strong on connecting the operational dots.  Finding these complimentary skills is what makes the business work.”

On the ground Carel speaks to the importance of getting the basics right like cashflow.  Having good ideas is one thing but if you are not generating enough cash flow to keep the engine going, the business simply ceases to function.  Bringing in strategic partners into the business to facilitate a loan facility at affordable rates is one way in which they have mitigated the cash flow risk.  He believes marketing and sales is another challenging area of business where it takes time for a business to grow organically.  Ten years into the game,  he reflects that early on Founders need to be extremely proactive with regards to how they grow through sales with the minimal funds they have at their disposal. He reminds us to have a ‘win some lose some’ mindset where for example some outbound sales may have threatened their reputation while others converted into real business.  He believes this is all part of the process of entering the unknown.

“Early on you really have to knock on doors, go to conferences, put yourself out there as much as possible and embrace the ongoing learning experience.  We tend to take a shotgun approach, trying a few things, and by means of trial and error, and we pivot quickly as we learn.”

From his own learnings, Carel advises Founders to take care to partner with the right people in business from co-founders to clients to suppliers, investors and talent.  He looks out for grit, aptitude and an alignment in values as the perfect combination to guide people making decisions.  His co-founders are all aligned in their values and dedication to balancing their personal and professional lives making for a constant state of fulfilment amongst them.  This is truly a human-centred team where if any one of them are taking strain, someone always jumps in to say "take some time, I’ll cover for you.” In doing this, it makes their mission all the more achievable (and enjoyable).  What his business is doing for many South Africans is reversing the so-called ‘brain-drain’ in allowing South Africans the opportunity to access international roles whilst being able to stay in their home country. Being proudly South African, this is a ‘why’ we wholeheartedly salute!

“Solving niche challenges Founders face”.

Illustrator: Lisa Williams (Instagram: @artist_llw)


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