The journey so far: Debbie Merdjan, CEO, Camelot Group

Debbie Merdjan

Debbie Merdjan is the CEO of the Camelot Group, a South African health and wellness company that offers training, product distribution and runs a chain of spas.

1. Tell us about one of the toughest situations you’ve found yourself in as a business owner.

I had invested more than R1 million (about $68,000) in a new business opportunity, which was not doing well. Month on month, the business was showing a loss and our efforts to turn … [it around] were not working.

I kept hoping that the business would turn around, until, one day, I eventually closed the branch. It was the best decision I made, as stopping the losses took the strain off my other branches, which were performing. My biggest lesson was that I should have cut my losses much earlier.

2. Which business achievement are you most proud of?

Winning the 2018 EY World Entrepreneur Emerging Business Award.

3. Describe your greatest weakness as an entrepreneur.

… I am fearless and tend to take on many business opportunities. Some of these opportunities have been excellent and some have proven to be not so successful. From experience, I have now learned to do a thorough due diligence prior to jumping into the deep end!

4. Which popular entrepreneurial advice do you disagree with?

Value performance over loyalty. In business, sometimes, one has a loyal employee who has worked for the company for many years. [But] due to their long service and annual increments over the years, their salary package starts to exceed their job performance and input.

Often these employees are performance managed out of the company or fired due to pressure for the company to be profitable and show results. The replacement employee does not have the same commitment and experience. Loyalty is not something you can pay for; it is earned through a lengthy time working for the company.

I disagree loyalty can be replaced easily as the loyal employee [has] experience of the company’s intellectual property and a good knowledge of the running of the business.

Thus one should consider this before replacing an employee based on value performance.

5. Is there anything you wish you knew about entrepreneurship before you got started?

Not that it would have made a difference to my entrepreneurial journey, but knowing how to raise capital would have helped my growth strategy.