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Does CA training hinder or enable entrepreneurship?

- Wits University

The School of Accountancy held a discussion to explore the role of CAs in entreprenuership and how they can contribute to growing the economy outside of their training. 

Analysts have declared that economic growth and employment creation will be driven by entrepreneurs and innovators. Where do CAs sit given their reputation of being risk averse and display the opposite of the traits required from entrepreneurs?

Panellist and astute businessman Brian Joffe was the first to defend CAs and allied professions citing the likes of Donald Gordon and Sol Kersner who built business empires. He was joined on the panel by other entreprenural CAs -  Andile Khumalo a former investment banker with Investec Corporate Finance and member of the Takeover Regulations Panel, Mmaboshadi Chauke former partner at Deloitte turned actress and owner of a creative arts company; and Lyle Malander founder of Malander Group Companies which spins revenue in excess of R40 million.

The discussion was facilitated by seasoned broadcaster Tim Modise.

Responding to Modise’s questions on what is an entrepreneur, the panellists were in agreement that an entrepreneur is someone who wants more than the average returns, a risk taker and wants something different. 

“It takes an incredibly positive person to become an entrepreneur said Malander, who at 32-years has built a healthy business.

Joffe’s view on what is a real entrepreneur seemed to strike a chord with attendants. Using the concepts of return on investment, Joffe said entrepreneurs should aim for more than 10% on returns.

“Don’t go into business if you only looking for 10% returns because that you can secure from (investing your money in) the bank” said the shrewd businessman and founder of the Bidvest Group.

Probing the factors that have led to the success of the three panelists, Modise asked that they share their experiences and current obstacles.

Reliability and delivering on your promise, diversifying the client base and getting the price right were top most for Chauke.

Khumalo attributed part of his success to the support around him.

“The single biggest contributor in my journey has been social capital. (It’s) the amount of people that have supported me at every single point. There’s always someone who knows more than you.”

Financial capital continues to be a challenge for entrepreneurs.

Lyle Malander highlighted the challenge of leading people and getting their commitment to apply themselves at work so you achieve your vision.

“A part of the journey is to show the vision in a different way to different people,” he offered.

Returning to the unique skills of accountants Joffe said entrepreneurial accountants have an advantage because they are aware from the onset, based on training, how much effort they want to put in and how much returns they expect. “That’s what you get in this particular course that nobody else gets. You don’t can’t get in the arts, medicine or engineering. The ability to measure the return in accounting terms,” Joffee.

Attendants posed a range of questions from advice on raising capital, buying bad businesses and turning these into a success, the importance of sectoral background to success etc.