‘Meet the Boss’ is a How we made it in Africa interview series in which we pose the same 10 questions to business leaders across the continent.
Jacques Taylor, managing director for sub-Saharan Africa, John Deere Financial
1. What was your first job?
My first job was an enquiries clerk at a commercial bank in South Africa. I was 20 years old.
2. Who has had the biggest impact on your career and why?
I think from an early age the person who has had the biggest impact was a colleague and a friend by the name of Jacques Troost. He was working for the same commercial bank and he became a bank manager at the age of 24. With me joining the bank at the age of 20, that was basically the goal that I set for myself, saying that I want to be a bank manager at the age of 25. And he inspired me.
3. What parts of your job keep you awake at night?
The size of the opportunity and the limited capacity and resources to take full advantage of the opportunity that sits ahead of us.
4. What are the top reasons why you have been successful in business?
I think the reason why I am successful in business is, for me, it’s more than a job. For me it’s a passion. I want to be able to look back 10, 20 years from now and see my name in a write-up somewhere that talks about the green revolution in Africa.
5. What are the best things about your country, South Africa?
Obviously the climate, the diverse cultures and the fact that there is still room for you to be creative from a business point of view.
6. And the worst?
I think the worst part of the country for me is maybe more [the] uncertainties, particularly around security.
7. Your future career plans?
I think I have a passion for Africa and I have a passion for emerging markets. From a career point of view, I would love to be in a position to work outside of Africa, to maybe gain more experience in other emerging markets. But I do see myself coming back to Africa. I think, for me, it is home.
8. How do you relax?
I am a part-time farmer. Most executives will go to the golf course on a Saturday. I find my time on the farm really, really relaxing. That is the way for me to connect with myself, but also to stay in touch with the industry in which I operate.
9. What is your message to Africa’s young aspiring business people and entrepreneurs?
The business environment in Africa is a clean canvas. There is so much opportunity. You have to be creative and you have to have an entrepreneurial spirit. You have to believe in yourself and you have to be persistent to make it work.
10. How can Africa realise its full potential?
I think Africa sits with so much potential in terms of natural resources. If we look at the demographics over the next 10-20 years, we will sit with a huge, huge working population, or working class, across Africa. So we have natural resources which are scarce across the world, and we sit with a large working class population. So if we could just combine the two and improve our inefficiencies across the continent, I think Africa can be a major player in the world economy.
Jacques Taylor is the managing director of sub-Saharan Africa for John Deere Financial. John Deere is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of agricultural machinery. The company’s sub-Saharan Africa headquarters is situated in Johannesburg, with regional offices in Kenya and Ghana. Its agricultural equipment is sold through independent dealers across 48 African countries.
Prior to joining John Deere, Taylor was working at Standard bank, and relocated to Lagos for three years to head the agricultural division at the bank’s Nigerian unit, Stanbic IBTC.