‘Meet the Boss’ is a How we made it in Africa interview series where we pose the same ten questions to business leaders across the continent.
Richard Harris, president, South African Business Council, United Arab Emirates (UAE)
1. What was your first job?
Carrying plates as a restaurant “runner” at age 15.
2. Who has had the biggest impact on your career and why?
My parents. They always encouraged me to pursue my dreams (and they still do).
3. What parts of your job keep you awake at night?
The fact that it is not only my employees’ wellbeing that I am responsible for, but also their families’ wellbeing.
4. What are the top reasons why you have been successful in business?
The desire to keep trying new things and the belief that anything is possible. I am also always thinking outside the box.
5. What are the best things about your country, South Africa?
The peoples’ “can do” attitude, Table Mountain, the fantastic food and superb wines, and the fact that every day brings new opportunities.
6. And the worst?
The negativity of those who have left South Africa, for whatever reason, and persist in trash-talking the country they still love and are proud of.
7. Your future career plans?
To continue growing my business from the platform I have created, looking at increasing our global reach from our existing base.
8. How do you relax?
Cooking, reading, golf and travelling.
9. What is your message to Africa’s young aspiring business people and entrepreneurs?
No thought or idea is too crazy – if it hasn’t been done yet, it does not necessarily mean that it can’t be done, just that someone hasn’t had the courage to do it. There are no shortcuts to success; put in the hard work and you will reap the rewards.
10. How can Africa realise its full potential?
It has to look at the perception that the world has of it in terms of credibility, and sort that out. Once that is done, look at building on the multitude of unique products and selling points. Produce local, think global.
Richard Harris is the president of the South African Business Council (SABCO) and has been living in the UAE since 2002. SABCO promotes and assists South African businesses entering or operating in the UAE, as well as advises UAE companies looking into investing in the South African market. Harris is also the owner of Leaders Insurance Brokers, Life Division, based in Abu Dhabi.