Local businesses: turning customers into fans

Paying it forward

Sharing knowledge and transferring skills enriches all the lives of the people involved and contributes to a transformed, diverse work community.

The Mentee

Sibusiso Wanda

The Mentee

Q: How did you and Dave first meet?
A: We were sitting at the same table at the gala dinner of the golf day – which was the first event I’d ever attended like this – and Dave invited me to meet with him the following Monday, where he’d explain what short-term insurance was all about and the opportunities in the taxi industry. I’m the type of person who’s curious and always willing to learn. I had started experiencing the downside of selling life insurance, so I went to see him that Monday to get a view of another business. Dave explained short-term insurance and how to build income with it, and it made a lot of sense.

Q: How did that first meeting lead to Dave becoming your mentor?
A: You know what, I never realised that he was my mentor until recently when it was pointed out to me. For me, it was just that I was encountering problems and would turn to him for help. I wanted to build my business so I would go to him and say I’ve got this idea, how can we do it?

Q: From your experience, how can mentorship play a role in transformation?
A: I grew up in a township where our role models were those guys who stole cars or that guy who broke into places. When it comes to business, in the township, your perception is that once you have a business you become rich overnight because you see the people who get tenders and then buy a big Mercedez-Benz. You can’t just give a person money and call it transformation. They are going to abuse it because the only role model they know is the guy who become rich overnight through tenders. But having Dave as a role model has meant that if I come across some challenges in business, I have someone who has already been through it and can guide me. It’s very important to have proper mentorship when it comes to transformation because in business, it’s a journey.

Q: Tell us about your business journey.
A: When I first met Dave, I took his advice and ended up losing my house. What happened was that I was doing life insurance and getting paid a lump sum of commission upfront, but when I changed to short-term insurance, it took time for me to build the income. It was so difficult that I almost gave up. I lost a house; I lost everything, but I kept pursuing the vision. Now I’ve got a house that is fully paid – and it’s a better house than the one I lost! So, I’m happy that I stuck with the advice he gave me.

Q: What kept you going during the rocky stages?
A: Speaking to Dave was all the motivation I needed to keep going. I’d tell him things are tough, that they are bad, and he’d say, “Just keep your eyes on the goal.” At the first meeting he told me that it was not going to be easy. Just talking to someone who understands what you are going through, because they went through it too, that’s what kept me going.

Q: How did Dave help you solve some of the challenges you faced along the way?
A: I always say being a business person is a very lonely journey. Most of the time, you’ll find that your expenses are bigger than your income. At no point did Dave ever say, “Sbu, you’ve got this problem, here’s the money.” I’d tell him that things are tough and that I can’t cope and then he’d say, “I’ve been through this. This is what will happen – but you are going to succeed.” He’d give me practical examples. For example, with my panelbeating business, I wanted to buy a property and he suggested that I invest in land and build my own shop according to my specifications. He can advise on things like that because he’s been through similar challenges, so he knows what he’s talking about.

Q: How did being a broker lead to you starting a panelbeating business?
A: I deal mostly with taxi businesses in Durban and was frustrated with other panelbeaters that were overcharging my clients. This would affect their premiums, making them unaffordable. They didn’t understand my clients’ business. If my client gets into an accident and their vehicle is sitting at the panelbeater, they don’t have an income, which means they won’t be able to pay the instalment on their vehicle or their insurance premium. So, I thought let me open my own panelbeating shop.

Q: And throughout all of this, you’ve maintained a relationship with Santam?
A: What makes me so confident with Santam, especially with the taxi business side, is Santam’s track record. You don’t have to worry about a client not being paid. For me it’s just peace of mind to know that I’m dealing with a company with a proven track record. I deal with clients on a face-to-face basis and the taxi industry, you know, can be a dangerous one. I’m not willing to go back to my client and say: “Your claim can’t get paid because of whatever reason.” I deal with Santam because I’ve got peace of mind that I’m dealing with a company with a reputation, and I know the claim is going to be paid.

Q: Has your experienced inspired you to become a mentor to others?
A: 100 per cent! I’m especially inspired to mentor the youth about business. I always tell them, it’s not about money. Most people think to start a business, they need big funding. I tell them you don’t need money, you need your idea to be good; then you need money to grow your business. To start a business, come up with a brilliant idea; try to solve a problem. When it comes to brokerage for the taxi industry, where Dave led me to, I found that even though this is an industry dominated by black people, there were so few black brokers – I saw this as my niche market, where I was able to go to the client and explain their policy to them and be in touch with them.

Q: Why is it important to you to mentor others?
A: If I mentor someone and that person is successful, I have contributed towards eliminating unemployment. Once I mentor a business person and they become successful, they can employ two or three people so I contribute to decreasing unemployment and the crime rate. This is very important to me.

The Mentor

Dave Gould

The Mentor

Q: When you and Sbu met at the Santam golf day, did you have the intention of finding a mentee?
A: Not at all. I find that this kind of thing just happens if you have a heart for it. I could sense that he was not afraid of hard work, which is why I was drawn to him.

Q: How has your experience positioned you as an ideal mentor for someone in Sbu’s position?
A: I’ve worked in the short-term insurance industry for 26 years, the first 14 as the Managing Director of an insurance brokerage and the past 12 as the Managing Director of VUM. VUM provides business insurance for the emerging market with a special focus on taxi insurance. I’ve learned that when it comes to entrepreneurship, heaps and heaps of patience and perseverance are needed, way more than you ever think you need when you start out. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Q: What is the value of mentorship?
A: It’s so important to our country. We old white guys need to transfer our intellectual capital to the next generation quickly, for our country’s sake. I’ve mentored people in the past and with Sbu specifically I gained a very close friend. I’m most proud that he has persevered through the tough times and is now a shining beacon of hope in the community.

Q: What advice would you give to brokers wanting to be mentored?
A: Be prepared for a long journey together and a fair amount of pain – but it’s worth it in the end. And also, never be late or miss a meeting.

Q: What is your view on transformation in the insurance industry?
A: Companies like Santam are trying hard to create an inclusive environment but much more still needs to be done for black Africans in order to make a real impact.

Watch Dave and Sibu tell their story

The reviewer

Mentorship with Santam

Devaan Parbhoo

Manager: Learning Design & Leadership Development, Human Resources at Santam

He sees mentorship as a vehicle to catalyse the growth and development of people. “We see it as a vehicle to match people to individuals who have expertise not for a short-term goal but for a long-term goal. I see mentorship as a behaviour-change tool,” he adds.

Devaan explains that mentorship is a critical component of Santam’s growth, which is why it is a focus internally too. “Within the company, we are changing the culture of how we transfer skills. We are investing in mentoring to ensure we unlock the best in our people and in doing so, liberate the best in our organisation and transform the organisation to be future fit, ultimately delivering a delightful customer experience.”

Santam is developing a leadership community that will comprise around 60 senior and executive managers. One of its core purposes will be to mentor individuals with high potential who are considered top talent as a means to shape the future of what Santam.