Rolín Nel is the CEO and founder of Kaross Travel, a Gauteng-based travel agency specialising in bespoke personal and corporate travel.
1. Tell us about one of the toughest situations you’ve found yourself in as a business owner.
Doing the undoable for clients on a daily basis, and hoping it is enough.
And the moments when you realise you have done everything in your power for a client, but a problem is not solved due to, for instance, mistakes made by third parties.
I have faced such situations and they include a visa being denied for a high-profile political figure. Through this, I have learned that, basically, some things are outside of your control, even though you have done everything you can. And how to diplomatically convey this to a client without shifting the blame.
2. Which business achievement are you most proud of?
The fact that I never completed my university degree but managed to start — and grow — a successful business, all in four years.
3. Describe your greatest weakness as an entrepreneur.
Admin is not my strong suit, which includes tasks like invoicing and reconciliation. I outsource this.
It is important to identify your shortcomings and then outsource those tasks to people who can do them better. You need to admit you can’t be good at everything and that you can’t do everything yourself.
4. Which popular entrepreneurial advice do you disagree with?
It is tempting to disagree with the saying: “The customer is always right.”
There is, of course, truth in this, but I have learned the key is to find that golden thread between being authentic, honest and diplomatic, while also standing your ground and guiding your client to a way forward, that’s in their best interest. This seldom equals being a pushover.
5. Is there anything you wish you knew about entrepreneurship before you got started?
It is much harder to run a successful business than some people make it look.
There are many practical things you need to learn. It is not as simple as having a product and service, and selling it. You have to learn, for instance, how to structure your billing systems in a transparent and honest way, but still in a way that is profitable and feasible in the long run.
Through this, I have learned it is better to build lasting relationships than to make a quick buck and having to get new clients constantly.
6. Name a business opportunity you would still like to pursue.
After the political shift over the last two years, I suspect Zimbabwe will make a big comeback as a top travel destination, and with that comes untapped business opportunities. I would love to explore new luxury travel destinations for clients in that country, and potentially open a brand there.
‘The journey so far’ series is edited by Wilhelmina Maboja, with copy editing by Xolisa Phillip, and content production by Justin Probyn and Nelly Murungi.