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Updated 26 Feb 2020

EY’s Azim Omar says your business needs a cause to be successful

What single characteristic unites South Africa's most successful entrepreneurs? They have passion and a purpose - and it's driving their successes to new heights. 

Nadine Todd, Entrepreneur, 04 April 2017  Share  0 comments  Print

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  • Player: Azim Omar
  • Position: Africa Growth Markets Leader at EY
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Purpose before profit

This is the critical deciding factor that we have seen amongst the most successful business leaders who have been nominated as finalists in the EY World Entrepreneur Award™ Southern Africa 2016.

Starting with a ‘why’ makes all the difference to success, because you aren’t just chasing profit, but a cause. Passion follows a why, allowing solutions to be found to even the greatest challenges.

Related: The fundamental importance of building a business that thrives without you

You need vision, but keep your feet on the ground

They dream big, but they know that goals aren’t reached unless you make specific decisions to get there. The winner of the EY World Entrepreneur Award™ Southern Africa 2016 was Super Group’s Peter Mountford.

When he was appointed CEO in 2009 the group had made a loss of R1,3 billion and there was talk of a takeover. As part of a turnaround strategy to become sustainable and achieve growth, Peter had to make some tough decisions, starting with disposing of all non-core and loss-making businesses within the group.

Within six years Super Group went from a R1,3 billion loss to showing a profit of R230 million, and the business as a whole does a turnover in excess of R25 billion.

The key ingredient to success at the EY awards programme

EY-awards -programme

In 2015 disruption was a key theme. In 2016 passion and purpose have dominated the business stories we’ve heard. This has always been a key ingredient of success, but as business and markets get tougher, it has become increasingly important.

Entrepreneurs with next level vision and growth

Margaret does the impossible. She visits every store once a week, in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town. She also holds artisan and baking classes, and builds up communities from grass roots level. That’s purpose. It inspires us, but it’s also a key indicator of what it takes to be a real success.

Behind every successful business and entrepreneur is tenacity, determination, innovation and the will to make an impact on society. You’ll never find money as a purpose when we evaluate the finalists in our awards programme.

You can’t buy success

That’s not how you’ll make an impact, because it’s a completely self-serving goal. The business leaders who focus on impact, who look out instead of in, and who have a desire to really be the change they want to see — these are the individuals who are building businesses greater than themselves.

Related: The three phases of creating a brand with impact

Finalists displayed the perfect mindset

One is the son of an entrepreneur who ran a stationery and clothing store in Zimbabwe before its economy collapsed. At the time, many business owners packed up and left. Kirit Naik didn’t.

Surely children still needed an education and stationery? If all the businesses packed up and left, who would support the community? Today he runs the largest stationery manufacturer in Zimbabwe with his two sons, all because he had a purpose.

Finalists who want to make an impact

Jurie Bester of Junit Manufacturing, wanted to use his family’s small clothing manufacturing business to make a real impact in his community.

He secured a contract to manufacture clothing for Woolworths, and with that was able to grow a factory in Utrecht outside Newcastle, KZN to employ around 700 people, and a further 1 700 people in Swaziland.

Jurie’s ultimate aims are to grow local employment and launch his brand internationally. Working in Swaziland is step one in understanding the challenges of cross-border business transactions.

Achieving your ultimate business purpose often requires linking a number of dots that work towards the same goals, but always, purpose remains paramount.

What is your definition of success?

Fatima Vawda, founder of 27four Investment Managers and winner in the 2016 Emerging category has helped 22 black fund managers to grow their own businesses and achieve their dream.

She’s grown from managing R500 million in assets under management and advisory to R55 billion. Her definition of success is to help others grow. This is how she lives her purpose and ticks her boxes.

Related: Translate brand and strategy into behaviours today

Ideas are one thing, but purpose is important

You’ll find the idea if you have the purpose. Our Exceptional category winners, Ran Neu-Ner and Gil Oved, co-founders of The Creative Counsel, live their values in every aspect of their business, but they’re also committed to growing SMEs and being one of the biggest first time employers in South Africa.

This purpose means they are constantly innovating, striving to be better and looking for ways to elevate their stakeholders and partners. And success is the result.

Nominations now open

EY World Entrepreneur Award™ Southern Africa 2017 nominations are open in the following categories:

  • Master: Honours individuals whose achievements have made them world-class entrepreneurs. Must be running an organisation with revenues in excess of US$100 million.
  • Exceptional: Recognises individuals who have shown exceptional tenacity and determination in building a successful and established enterprise with revenues in excess of US$10 million.
  • Emerging: Credits those individuals building businesses with high growth potential. The minimum revenue threshold for participants is US$3 million.

Recommend an entrepreneur or submit a nomination at

Submissions close: 31 July 2017

Terms and conditions apply.

Take note

Start with your ‘why’ and you’ll naturally find solutions to the biggest challenges you are facing, both personally and professionally.

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About the author

Nadine Todd, Entrepreneur

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