Advice for entrepreneurs from titans of industry, Neal Froneman and Faan van der Walt

Top disruptors in their respective industries, Neal Froneman and Faan van der Walt joined the BizNews Power Hour to share on their entrepreneurial drive, passion for business and determination to succeed. Froneman, who is the CEO of mining giant Sibanye-Stillwater, started from the ground-up. “I put myself through university buying and selling used cars”, remarked the CEO. – Jarryd Neves

Neal Froneman on entrepreneurial spirit:

I put myself through university by buying and selling second-hand cars. The common denominator, I think, is the entrepreneurial flair. Many of my friends told me I have an entrepreneurial flair. I don’t think I really knew what it meant at that time, but being a disruptor you’ve got to think out of the box You’ve got to see the opportunity – many times you get told why it can’t be done – but if you understand your markets and your business properly, you’ve just got to be entrepreneurial, see the opportunity and create value. That is the primary focus. It’s not being different for the sake of being different. It’s creating more value than your competitor – that’s what sets you apart.

Faan van der Walt on being an entrepreneur:

The essence of being an entrepreneur is to never be satisfied with the situation [and] having the ability to see room for improvement in everything you do. Everyday when we leave work, we leave the space different to what we found in the morning. It changes overnight for the better. We have these goals and we work through people. I get a real kick out of trying something new, whether we fail or succeed – but at least we’re trying something and seeing the result. We’ve developed a good gut feel and usually, it works. But it’s become a science and it’s fascinating how we price cars, the data sets we’ve developed and what we can do with the bulk of the data we have. Now, we can start doing smart things and pricing vehicles and working out commission structures for buyers and selling vehicles in different ways, for example.

Neal Froneman’s negotiating tips:

First of all, understand the value of what you’re trying to buy. There’s a lot of perception that you get driven by ‘deal mania’ – that’s absolute rubbish. I think anyone that does this on behalf of shareholders, needs to know exactly what the value is, what you are prepared to go to – and at that point, pull out if necessary. That’s why doing deals in public is so difficult. Getting them done privately, where you say no many more times than you say yes, is very important.

Faan van der Walt on negotiating and the Transaction Capital deal:

At the end of the day, it’s not always about price. It’s about partnering with the right people. My brother and I (founders of WeBuyCars) still remain shareholders, to the extent of 25.1% – once this deal is approved by the regulatory authorities. We see it as a knee-up into a bigger market, into creating more value through getting this partner on board. The price is one thing, partnering with the right people is certainly important.

Faan van der Walt’s advice for young South African’s wanting to start a business:

The most important thing is to stay focused. We get distracted too soon and people want this instant reward. This business, although people only recognise it now, has been 20 years of grinding. For the first half, my brother and I did everything – we were the buyers of WeBuyCars. I visited every single suburb everyday, went into people’s homes and learned the hard way.

I remember, one day, a guy phoned me and I ended up in Johnny Clegg’s house – I bought his VW Kombi. All these great experiences. There are so many stories like that, helping people in situations that they’re unfamiliar with. You must enjoy that. If you don’t enjoy what you do or have a passion for it, then you’re dead in the water. So, have a passion for it and be patient.

Neal Froneman’s advice for young South African’s wanting to start a business:

It’s hard work. There are very few overnight success stories. It’s hard work and focus. All of those elements that we apply in our businesses as we run them today – role clarity and focus of each executive is critical to the success of the business.

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