Fun whilst making money

Written by Mike de Villiers

Senior Consultant at &More Group

How to face the changing environment and challenges we face daily in Business in general but specifically SME’s.

Struggling to keep up with the everchanging demands of your business environment as well as the current market conditions.

Where and what do I need to do? Sounds familiar!

Nobody can ever claim to have all the answers to your problems but yes with my vast experience in many different disciplines in big corporate business, education, privately owned family business, my own business, incorporation of 53 associates, director of successful business venture and guiding and mentoring many middle to senior managers I have a few tried and tested strategies.

Over the years of trying many methods, using consultants, some of the best operators in South Africa and persevering the challenges after a brief analysis or audit of your business we can together develop a culture of excellence as well as a more robust sustainable business model that can adapt to this ever changing business environment.

What are a few of the areas I am experienced in:

  • Education which created the fundamental building blocks of Training & Development and my ability to identify the need for a different approach to leadership.

  • Through many challenges early in my career from Sales Management, Depot Management, General Management, Human Resources Management and Industrial Relations with huge focus on upskilling staff and the impact of leadership style.

  • SME’s and the importance of key measurement criteria to ensure deliverables performing at the desired World Class level whilst Management is focused on strategic issues.

  • Pricing, credit, cost of sales, customer service, communication and many other aspects of a business that could fall through the cracks require a different type of focus to rampantly adapt to the fast changing environment.

  • The hangover as to how we manage risk as we challenge the conventional boundaries of business.

  • Funds, or the lack thereof or the wrong timing of creating capacity can flatten your enthusiasm or could even flatten the business!

  • Staffing, the ability to keep talent and attract talent is in most instances not focused upon as you survive month end to month end!

  • Where you and your staff are as a unit/team in implementing the vision you have but alas never really reaches new heights or new direction.

  • Ability of you or your management team drawing out top performance of all the team players, yes even the one who is a “moaner”

  • The critical balance between discipline, motivation, willingness to go the extra mile and consistently applying a fair code of conduct within your business amidst a diverse and volatile workforce.

  • The monkey always present in business that really should be supporting being the government of the day

After many exciting events in my youth with regard to leadership development from attending Veld & Vlei (South Africa’s Outward Bound), Wilderness Leadership School under Ian Player, having success with rugby, sailing Hobie 16 with my wife competitively for 4 years and then taking on the challenge of being a teacher I decided to make a break and left teaching and allow my wife to enjoy the passion. From security to uncertainty!

The next 14 years with SAB I was fortunate to be part of many new initiatives as SAB challenged itself to become a World Class player in the Beer Industry. From Sales Representative, Sales Manager I made a strategic horizontal move into Depot Management 2 weeks prior to a 9 week strike, so yes I have well developed Industrial Relations understanding that worked and achieved great results amidst major transformation. Some of my most challenging years I spent managing the entire SAB Operation in East London during the volatile years from 1990 to 1994. Inheriting a staff who were despondent and a plant that had 2 years life left. Many challenges of radical change, being exposed to World Class Manufacturing and attending a short impactful course run by UCT GSB, learning the about the inner workings of achieving World Class Manufacturing my team and I extended the plant life by 10 years. The team’s average age was around 28 whilst I was 34 and my Sales Manager was 44.

Great learnings brought about new challenges and after being part of a very successful National Wage Negotiating Team for SAB off I moved to Bloemfontein as Operations Executive on the weekend of elections when South Africa was storing candles, baked beans and bullets. I was to manage the Distribution Network of own and external fleet across the about third of South Africa bringing beer to consumers in some of the most distant places in South Africa amidst huge social changes around the workplace.

Instead of moving to China or India with SAB life took a turn and I ended up working for incorporation of 56 associates back in Cape Town for about 4 years before taking on the challenge to manage a Family Owned manufacturing business being the only non-family member appointed as General Manager. Can you imagine working with minimal sharing of budget information, financial knowledge of the business and having to deal with family mistrust? Yet again focusing on the key drivers I developed over the years managed to shift the business culture into a direction where whilst manufacturing our products in Cape Town the Star newspaper acknowledged the Taylor Blinds as being the Best Supplier in Gauteng amongst stiff competition. Being the confidant of the owner, he and I navigated the impact of the Twin Towers disaster in USA and the impact on our operation and the impact on importation. With he branch in Johannesburg operating at a huge loss monthly as well as being dependent upon 1 customer for 85% of sales and shifting the strategy in a total different direction profitability came about suddenly. After attending the World Window Closure Trade Fair in Stuttgart Germany meeting all the international suppliers I returned to experiencing the power of the inner family circle and moved on to own my own small business for 10 years where I learnt how challenging it is to operate with banks changing the rules to the game of money lending and the lack of competitiveness of our unskilled labour. The shift within the country from expansion and growth to recession within the building industry I decided to close my business and move on.

For the last 8 years I returned to Education and managed an After School Centre looking after 600 plus children and 36 staff ending soon after the 2nd year of Covid when I had to “retire”. What an environment, challenging, fulfilling, rigid and untrusting I preserved and fulfilled one of my personal desires of ploughing back my business expertise into Education which has become more than just teaching and has many challenging years ahead. That I now discuss with my daughter and son-in-law who are both in Private Education in Gauteng as well as my wife who also voluntary retired but still has a foot in education.

What I thrive on is bringing back the fun in your business with your team unifies and focuses on “bringing it all together” and developing a “magic” that creates the flexibility of the business to overcome most challenges due to a change of approach. Building a business that has value to trade on to either a family member or a competitor. Contact me via &More on their new business support monthly offering and I will be there to see how we can be “connecting the dots of the customer experience” on all sides.

“If it is complicated it is wrong” John Seton Director SAB 1993

Mike de Villiers serves as a senior consultant at &More Group and is a leading expert in various sectors of business. Should you wish to make direct contact with Mike, please contact &More at or +27-21-201-6673.

&More Group is a business development and media production company based in Cape Town, South Africa. Pioneering the tomorrow of SME's locally in South Africa and Internationally.

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