I grew up in a business family, did a business degree and as one does went into business. My first job was at Accenture, which was quite a shock to the system. Having never coded before they sent me to St Charles to “learn” 5 computer programming languages in a week. It was like drinking through a fire hydrant and I learnt a lot of valuable skills, as well as what I didn’t want to be when I grew up. These learnings pushed me to evaluate life and who I was, and so after almost three years in the saddle, I took a backpack and a journal and travelled the world as part of an 8 month sabbatical. The experience changed my outlook on life. When I arrived home, I knew it was time to take a leap, so I gave Accenture 6 months notice and started a company with a close school friend (called Richdale strategies, very original as my name was Rich and his name was Dale :)). We raised some private equity to grow a small retail company and took on our first roles as directors. When we talk about the experience, we have largely forgotten about the pain and anguish and just remember the incredible learnings. After setting up offices in the United States I was asked if I wanted to move to Texas and run the office there. I have always made decisions based on heart conviction followed by logical thought, and going to Texas felt like going to Jhb without family and friends, and I just didn’t have the passion for the business to make that journey. This led me to throw all the balls in the air again and consider what was next. After considering a few avenues, I was having breakfast with a good friend and noticed that the breakfast was starting to feel like an interview. Within 6 weeks I was working at his mobile payments start up company trying to figure out how we were going to generate revenue. We never found the right answer to that question, but oh boy did we learn a lot about how not to. This failure led to a beer with Paul Kent, the former MD of Sureswipe and he has been my boss ever since.
What career did you envision for yourself prior to taking the helm of Sureswipe?
Oddly, at university I never pictured myself in business despite doing a business degree. I have always had a passion for wildlife and a desire to impact society in a positive way. Thus I thought I would end up doing something in nature with both wildlife and people. Maybe that is still to come…
How did the concept of Sureswipe first come about?
At the time, our sister company Healthbridge was helping doctors with their practice administration and noticed that they were battling to collect payments from their patients. Banks were charging between 5% and 6% for small businesses to accept payments and service levels were not great. This was the need, which created the business Sureswipe and we have been trying to make a difference in the lives of independent retailers ever since.
What do you think are the core factors of your business model that have made Sureswipe a success in a relatively saturated market?
The team, Paul and I have always shared the view that culture eats strategy for breakfast and I think this has been key to our success. We have hired individuals who have a passion for independent retailers and who want to make a difference in their lives. We have a saying at Sureswipe; that “we burn for independent retailers” and this is what unites us.
This shared purpose and alignment around a positive, can do set of values has enabled us to effectively implement our strategy, sometimes better than our peers. It has also enabled us to get through the tough times together and weather the growing pains that exponential growth attracts.
Added to this, we are not a bank. We are independent, we understand and focus on independent retailers and entrepreneurs and we focus on payment acceptance and the ecosystem around this. Understanding our clients and ensuring a focused approach has helped us utilise our resources effectively.
We also pride ourselves on a better, more agile, more personal service and we are constantly looking to add further value to our client base through other value added products including easy access to finance, cost effective gift and loyalty programmes and cloud based, Point of Sale Software.
What’s next for Sureswipe? Do you have any future plans to expand into other countries?
We recently concluded a very exciting deal where we brought on new shareholders in the form of Apis and Crossfin. The deal brings together 3 market leading businesses in Innervation, Sureswipe and Ikhokha and promises to positively change the payment landscape in South Africa. We are busy putting the finishing touches to our 5 year strategy and have lots to get excited about including further expansion, as Innervation is already in 7 African countries to date.
What are your passions and what inspires you in business and in life?
I am a passionate husband and dad. My faith and family are a top priority in my life.
I have always had a heart to support entrepreneurs, especially those who have not had the same opportunities or support in life.
I am also a passionate bird photographer and get recharged in nature (the more wild and deserted, the happier I get :))
What does productivity mean to you?
Prioritising the important and doing it with a dash of hustle.
How do you maintain peace of mind when under pressure?
Shucks, the question should be how do I sometimes maintain peace of mind under pressure as we all have our moments. When I am getting it right, I usually have a good balance in my day and week. I try and develop the right habits which include quiet time, family time, eating healthily, exercising and getting out to do some photography.
At the moment I am waking up at 5am to ensure I start the day well with quiet time, exercise and eat a healthy breakfast. This helps ensure that I rock up at work with the right mindset.
What is your business philosophy and leadership style?
I believe that business growth, which is driven by a meaningful purpose e.g. making a difference in society, is far more sustainable than one that focuses on a pure profit motive. Businesses should make a difference in the lives of their employees and clients.
As much as there is a lot of pressure in business, it is a real privilege to lead a business, and we have such an opportunity to change people’s lives for the better.
To honour this privilege, I am a firm believer in hard work, an exciting and ambitious vision, a well thought out strategy, detailed execution plans that are effectively measured and clear expectations on what is required from all team members. These are hygiene factors and critical for success.
But for me, people are at the centre of business success and thus, selecting the right team, building a foundation of trust within this team and aligning to an agreed set of values and expectations is far more important.
You can have all the strategies and plans in the world, but without winning over the hearts and minds of the people who work with you these are fruitless.
I hate letting people down and at the centre of this is the team I have around me. I want to create an environment where they can be their best and know that they are trusted and supported. Having many weaknesses (such as being a control freak) I don’t always get this right but I am constantly striving to give them my best and rock up in a way that enables, grows and encourages them.
Your favourite radio station?
I listen to podcasts and music on Spotify.
Favourite apps on your phone?
For time saving, I love my banking app, but for enjoyment probably Instagram as I use it for wildlife photography purposes.
What time do you wake up and what is the first thing you do?
5 am. Make coffee for my beautiful wife.
What books are you currently reading?
I recently read a Jack Reacher novel and a story about a man who brought aid to Mozambique called Death Defying Faith. And I’m about to start The Barefoot Coach by Paddy Upton.
Your personal mantra?
Not sure I have one, but I strive to be authentic and content/happy every day.