My wife and I recently moved our family to a nice, close knit community of 22 residential houses in an estate. And as is the usual thing with nice estates, we lived next door to a multi millionaire, who just a few days ago finalised the sale of his house and retired to a life of full-time farming. When we arrived a year ago, he introduced himself, and told me that he is a business man and a farmer, having been in the farming business for more than 50 years.
From the time we met our new neighbour to recently when I went to see him, to tell him that I’ll be having a party and might be making a lot of noise, I had not had much of a serious conversation with my neighbour. But the day I went to see him, relaxed in the comfort of his home, he spoke to me about business and success, and here are the lessons he shared with me, these are principles he’s lived by most of his life and in business:
He said: Witness, it is difficult to build anything meaningful without integrity. I didn’t come from a farming family, I studied agricultural science and started working in the farming industry as a young person. That is where I built a strong reputation as someone who can be trusted. You need to know that you attract what you are, if you don’t have any integrity, chances are you will attract the same type of people to come and work for you. Integrity means paying the loan when you said you would, it means paying suppliers as agreed, and it means doing whatever it takes to pay employees their due. Integrity means you have character, and your character matches your image and your reputation. Nothing fake.
Money can make you think you are above everyone else, and therefore you’d be tempted to make them feel like they are nothing: Don’t do it. Respect is part of the secrets of success along with integrity. Don’t seek to make money, seek out to be respected by everyone in your industry, from the guy at the top to the guy at the bottom. Employees want to work for someone who respects them, and if you are that person, they will do whatever it takes to help you win. Don’t be weak, but be respectful.
Witness, I spend most of my time planning. I have many employees in my manufacturing businesses and in my farms, I can’t afford not to know what I need to do next. I don’t operate by instinct alone, I’m not an animal, I also operate by planning exactly what needs to be done next. There’s no guess work in what I do, everything is deliberate. Planning is a daily, continuous thing. Plan your family, plan your business or career, plan your days, plan your weeks, months and years. Put your plan in action by doing this next thing:
4. Work hard (Hard Work)
You’ve probably seen me leave early in the morning and later on in the evening. I put in the hard work, and I have been doing so for the past 50 years. I am in my 70s but I still have it in me to work hard. Yes, I’m selling some of my assets and businesses to go live in my farm, but even there I’ll be working. Retirement is a myth. Witness, at your age you need to grasp what I’m saying because it will work for you. Put in the hard work while you can. When you’re my age you can have a choice of working or retiring; it’s your choice, but make sure you won’t be forced to work because you had been lazy during your younger years.
5. Continuously learn
Oom Piet, as I used to call him, pointed at a stack of books next to his T.V. and said: “see how much I’m still reading?” He also pointed at the book, open in front of him and said, being a business man is no easy task, that’s why I must keep learning new things. Don’t allow your past success to convince you that you already know, you don’t know, that’s why need to learn as much as possible. With every book you read, tell yourself that you are looking for the next business opportunity, or another income stream. Life is not easy, but it gets better with learning.
And with that, he looked at me and said, in his strong Afrikaans accent, “alright meneer (sir), I need to get back to my learning. Enjoy your party, I won’t be around this weekend, I’ll be at the farm. Don’t get too drunk”. I hope his lessons have impacted you as much as they have impacted me.
I wish you success.
CEO, Quality Growth International