Jannie Mouton is the founder of the PSG Group, one of South Africa’s most successful investment companies with stakes in Capitec Bank, Pioneer Foods, and Distell, to name a few. A renowned businessman, he has over 35 years of experience in financial management and investment banking.
However, Mouton’s business and entrepreneurial career has not always been smooth sailing. In fact, in 1995 he was fired as CEO by his partners at stockbroking firm Senekal, Mouton & Kitshoff (SMK) – a company he co-founded and helped build for 20 years.
“It was a shock. I lost my company that I started, and I lost my friends,” he told an audience at the 2015 SAVCA Private Equity Industry Conference.
But most of all, Mouton lost his self-confidence, and admits to having kept his firing a secret from his wife, family and friends. “I was confused and depressed. And then I realised the future is in my hands and in my hands only.”
This was a turning point for Mouton, and forced him to take a long, hard look at himself.
During a one-on-one interview with How we made it in Africa, he acknowledged that in business and entrepreneurship, the risk of failure is high. He advises entrepreneurs and young business people to use failure as a time to reflect and be truly honest with themselves.
“You actually learn a lot if you analyse the situation, and ask: ‘Why was I fired?’ Or if you are a youngster, ask: ‘Why am I not making progress at the company?’ Sit back and think about it. You will have to learn a bit about yourself,” he continued.
“The most common mistake everyone makes is that, in their own eyes, they are great. But maybe not so in other people’s eyes.”
Here are Mouton’s tips for bouncing back from failure, and creating a sustainable, successful business.
1. Do a SWOT analysis
“It’s an old, simple thing they teach in business schools. You analyse your strong points, your weak points, and then look at the outside world to identify what opportunities and threats are there.”
And this is exactly what Mouton did when trying to figure out what to do after being fired. Through analysing his own strengths and weaknesses, while identifying the opportunities and threats that existed, he was able to get an idea of what he should be doing with his life, and how to go about achieving success.
“I realised I wanted to be an entrepreneur; working for myself. I wanted to focus on the financial sector because it was something I understood from my stockbroking days.”
He also realised he needed to adopt a decentralised management style as managing everyone directly had the potential of “frustrating people”. So he delegated and employed others to take on management roles.
2. Write down your dream and talk about it
Once you have identified your goal and vision, you should write it down, explained Mouton. “And it must be short and simple.”
Talking about it also helps with cementing the idea and building a strategy to achieve it. “You must know where you are going otherwise you go off the road.”
3. Hire competent people, build a strong team
“Choose competent people, place them in key positions, and trust their judgement,” he emphasised.
Building a strong team of smart, interesting people who you can work with is vital for business growth and success. “Surround yourself with interesting people who can make a contribution in life.”
4. Implement good corporate governance
Today, good corporate governance is crucial, he said. Business leaders need to focus on integrity, transparency, trust, and good, timely information.
5. Be decisive
Mouton also advises business owners to be assertive and make decisions. “Be decisive. Rather make the wrong decisions, but you have to make decisions in life.”
He added that entrepreneurs must also be able to communicate their decisions and goals to staff as well as other stakeholders in the company.
6. Be positive
It is important for entrepreneurs and business people to try stay positive, no matter how difficult things get. “Even though things are tough, you must be positive,” Mouton said.
7. Read and think
Finally, reading inspirational and business books has had the biggest impact on Mouton’s career. He especially highlighted the writings of Warren Buffet, which he discovered after being fired from SMK.
“And I’ve read everything he wrote.”