There are still opportunities despite the negativities. That’s why future growth will come from entrepreneurs, believes newly appointed president of the Durban Chapter of the Entrepreneurs Organisation (EO) and director of B-BBEE compliance software company, Mpowered, Bruce Rowe.
“Whilst we will likely experience a bumpy road between now and the elections next year, there’s a lot of positivity, we just need to look for it. Regardless of the electoral outcome, growth must come from the entrepreneurial sector. That’s where job creation can really happen. Entrepreneurs thrive in chaos and disruption and that’s the environment in which we’re operating now,” he explains.
Rowe suggests that the private sector has the opportunity to step in and find answers as to how we fill the gaps that the government and municipalities are unable to fill as intended.
“We must all make a difference somewhere. We have to accept weaknesses such as electricity and water supply and find ways to overcome the consequences of these in our own microcosms. If we can do that for ourselves and the people around us, then we can make a difference,” he says.
This has proved true for Rowe, who turned Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) which was creating considerable ripples in the market during the early 2000s into a business opportunity through Mpowered. He launched the company’s first software solution in 2008 – in the midst of a global recession.
“By 2007, the codes had been gazetted and there was a lot more clarity around B-BBEE compliance. Whilst we had some basic technology in the business, I hired my first software developer and we started building our compliance information system that launched in 2008, and that is what we’ve been doing ever since,” he says.
Asked to pass on some tips to entrepreneurs who wish to walk in his footsteps, Rowe suggests:
- Avoid the entrepreneur’s curse of focusing on too many things at once. Keep it simple. Implement an “entrepreneur management system” like EOS or Scaling Up.
- South Africa will face a lot of chaos and uncertainty between now and November next year. Keep your head down and continue doing what you’re good at. Post elections, everything should simmer down and normalise into a lesser state of chaos – and remember, where there is chaos, there is opportunity.
- There are most likely great people in your business that can do what you believe only you can do. Take some risk and give them a chance as this is the way towards spending more time on your business, not in it.
Rowe’s journey with EO began in 2014 when he was invited to join the Johannesburg chapter by a friend. Although he knew he’d be relocating to Dubai, he still applied and was interviewed virtually in January 2015.
“I made a commitment that I would come back from Dubai to Johannesburg once a month for a week and I would tie in my work commitment with my EO forum. So that’s what I did. For the first four years of my membership of EO, I was commuting from Dubai. I never missed a forum. When I moved to Durban, I stayed in my Johannesburg chapter. When Covid hit, we became a virtual forum and it worked really well for us,” he says.
Last year, he joined the Durban chapter, moving straight into a board position due to his three years’ experience in a similar position with the Johannesburg chapter.
“Last year I attended the EO Regional Leadership Academy in Turkey. As an outcome of that and as part of my own journey of defining my personal purpose and vision, I decided to apply for the president role,” he explains.
“A key thing for me was wanting to push myself to become a better leader. I felt there was no better way than by leading a chapter of successful entrepreneurs, really pushing me out of my comfort zone to lead this incredible board and chapter. That’s what I wanted to do to improve myself,” he continues.
Rowe views EO primarily a learning organisation. “Whether I am at forum or having a coffee with another member or I am at any EO event, I am always learning from other brilliant people. I like continuous learning and improvement and EO has provided an ideal platform for me to do that. I have applied many things that I have learnt into my business and into my personal life.” I have also come to realise that, through the global EO network, you can do, see, experience and learn anything you want to.