Author: Jopie de Beer
I acutely remember both the trepidation and the intense excitement when we decided to start the business in January 1993. My mother (Dr Jopie van Rooyen) and I rented a small 3X3 metre space in Sandton with one computer, a desk, two chairs, an empty filing cabinet, and lots of hope and dreams!
The country was on the cusp of a new and exciting history, and we really believed that we could add value.
Never, for one moment, however, did we think of where we would be, what we would look like, or how we would keep ourselves busy 30 years on!
How proud we were when we moved into our own offices about two decades ago! And, of course, of all the conferences we hosted in South Africa; particularly those in the Kruger National Park that still have people talking. Over the years we were blessed with wonderful clients who became valued colleagues and even friends. With all the technological advances allowing JVR to scale, we are particularly excited about our ever-increasing ability to keep on making a difference to people’s lives.
The 30 years have provided us with many 'ups and downs’, opportunities and challenges, euphoria, and even despair. Ultimately, however, this journey has been incredibly exciting, satisfying, and insightful but could not have been done without outstanding colleagues and business partners.
To live through all the business challenges posed by various stages of development every second of every day, every month, and every year for three decades teaches you a lot!
Of business and falling in love:
I think starting a business is like having a love affair. The excitement, the dreams, the willingness to put everything into the relationship, the single-minded preoccupation, but also the anxiety and trepidation all forms part of a magical journey. Whereas however there is a time where things settle down in a love affair, it is not the case in a new business- particularly not in today’s world. There are enormous challenges- many of which may not even be of your own making or control.
Everything else may be in place, you are competent, you have good business ideas, great products, systems, and processes in place, possibly some funding and good people working for you. But, making sure that the business is financially sustainable can take its toll. It is a 24/7 job requiring your attention all the time. Entrepreneurs know those ‘tipping points’ where exhaustion kicks in and you want to fight, flee, disappear, or just be left to enjoy good solid derailment in your own unique way and in your own time. Knowing however that all of this will come back to bite you tomorrow!
The question is, when these challenges arise, what could possibly make a difference?
Back to the analogy of a love affair – after all the excitement hopefully, comes companionship. In the topsy-turvy life of a business owner, make sure you have people around you that understand you, feel free to challenge you, even debate your position, criticise, when necessary, make suggestions or even disrupt your thinking. If you are strong enough for such ‘companionships’ without becoming defensive, it might be one of your greatest assets.
Just to make money, although very understandable, is very seldom a sustainable business motivation. Hang on to the dreams you had when you fell in love with the idea of having your own business. Ask yourself about the value and meaning you derive from all the hard work. For some it could be serving society, bringing innovations to life, building scientific insight, or proving that it is possible to fly to Mars. Whatever works for you may be the ‘golden thread’ that helps you through challenging times. Hang on to that for dear life as a North Star in challenging circumstances.
For me, these principles have really been useful in the 30 years of building the JVR business.