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Updated 27 Sep 2020

Divan Botha: Letting go for greater control

Presenter of Kyknet’s Winslyn, and entrepreneur Divan Botha, is a firm believer that a healthy business starts with a healthy entrepreneur. This means keeping physically fit, but also building a business that can operate without you so you can focus on being the best you. 

13 April 2015  Share  0 comments  Print

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Healthy self, healthy business

“I’m a firm believer that a business is only as healthy as the entrepreneur. While we’d love to separate the business from the owner, they’re really inseparable.  If you’re not healthy the business suffers because there’s a lack of inspiration, a lack of focus, you don’t feel like communicating as often as you should and so on.

Related: Are you a control freak?

"To stay body healthy, every Friday morning from 6am to 11am I cycle. It’s a non-negotiable time slot in my week and everyone knows not to bother me in that time. Then, because I do most of my work in the evening, I go to the gym for an hour and a half between 2pm and 4pm for a daily work out,” explains Botha.

How is a businessman like Botha able to take that kind of time away from the office for physical fitness? It comes down to an important lesson of control.

“There is a time when you start your business that you need to be very involved and hands on in all aspects, but there also comes a point when you actually need to step back from the daily running so you can focus more on your strengths in driving the business forward.

"It’s something that a lot of entrepreneurs battle with because they think – and in some cases it’s true – that if they step away from the business for more than two minutes it will collapse. This is not sustainable and not how a successful business is built.”

Letting go starts with empowerment

“The biggest time waster I had to overcome in my earlier years was trying to do everything myself, but I run a very different ship now,” explains Botha. He uses his chef as an example:

“What I’ve done to free up my time to focus on the strategic side of the business is to empower my staff to be accountable and to take action.

It started with some training with my chef, and I’ve given him a budget to run his kitchen. He came to me recently saying he’d like to hire someone and what should he pay them.

Related: Richard Branson: Delegate control of your finances

Instead of telling him what he should do or how much money the business had for hiring, I referred him to his budget and asked, “What would you like to pay him based on your budget and monthly expenses?”

It seems simple enough, but it’s had a profound impact on the business.

“Having someone responsible for their ‘department’ is especially important because they become hands on and understand how their decisions impact the business and ultimately impacts them – in this case there’s profit share for my chef so his ability to manage his own budget and numbers will benefit the business and him. They then become accountable for their actions and decisions and this frees you to focus on your own responsibilities.”

But what about mistakes?

“That comes down to company culture. Everyone makes mistakes, from the CEO of the biggest company, right down to someone doing a low-skills job. In my business we tolerate mistakes – it’s bound to happen – so long as you learn from them and don’t make the same mistake twice,” says Botha. “Mistakes are the best and quickest way to learn lessons.”

How to go about empowerment

Botha has two main mantras when it comes to empowering your staff: “Hire on personality. Skills can be taught later.” The right attitude is essential in making a successful hire. Ensure they’re driven, enthusiastic, eager to learn, and are able to learn from their mistakes.

Related: Show me the money: Get the most out of your financial manager

The second important element in making empowerment a success is to train, train, and train. “You can’t give you chef a budget and let him loose without training and wonder what went wrong when the wheels fall off.”

Make sure expectations are clear, that all parties are aware of their deliverables, and ensure they have the necessary knowledge to successfully action their responsibilities.

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