CEO Luvhengo Neswiswi says sustainability should be the ultimate goal

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CEO Luvhengo Neswiswi says sustainability should be the ultimate goal

Dec 29, 2023 | Sustainability

As a pre-teen living in Soweto in the 1987, Luvhengo Neswiswi once happened to stumble upon his father’s payslip. He might’ve been very young still, but he knew enough of the world to be dumbstruck by the fact that their family of ten had to survive on the R180 per week his dad was earning as a van driver. From time to time, his mother supplemented the family income by selling traditional brew, but still, to say that they were impoverished family would be to state the obvious.

When Luvhengo started thinking of his future, the career choices he considered were therefore driven by the desire to make as much money as possible and lift his family out of poverty. The few doctors he had seen in the community seemed to live fairly lavish lifestyles so Luvhengo set out to study medicine. Looking back, he realises this was quite ambitious given how poor the teaching in science was at Mavhungu Andries Secondary School in Venda where he studied at the time.

Then one day, as he was browsing through a copy of The Sowetan, he came across an advertisement a company had for a chartered accountant (CA). The remuneration was a whopping R80 000 per annum; it took Luvhengo some time to pick his jaw off the floor. A job that paid more than ten times his father’s salary? Whatever this CA thing was, he was going to become one!

Strategy

Today Luvhengo is Group CEO of integrated tourism group Tourvest. He previously served as Group CFO for over a decade.

When it comes to strategy, Luvhengo believes sustainability of the business should be the ultimate goal. In the tourism sector, this requires safeguarding the environment, which calls for green tours that protect the flora and fauna in the areas they operate. That said, the CFO must drive the profitability of the company because no institution can survive in the long term with a negative bottom-line.

The strategy needs to promote a culture that encourages people to thrive in their individual persuasions. The collective will only benefit if each person within the business has a sense of personal fulfilment. Lastly, the business should invest in innovation.

Technology has changed things completely, and your business needs to move with the times, or it will get left behind. The group’s strategy is designed to allocate capital to projects that incorporate technological advancement. ‘Our growth has been fuelled by the acquisition of businesses in the sector and integrating them. If we buy a business with the wrong culture, the likelihood of a failure in integration is very high and therefore our strategy is to avoid such acquisitions.’

Advice

Luvhengo’s advice to young professionals is to have a firm plan for what they want to achieve in life. Coming from a poor family, he needed to work hard because his parents did not have the funds or the credit standing to get a loan to pay for his education. In order to stay the course, he would write down affirmations that he read and reread as a reminder of what he wanted to achieve. ‘If you have a clear vision in your life, you can always refer back to it when you experience challenges. This will enable you to maintain your focus on the end goal, regardless of what you are experiencing at the time.’

Luvhengo learnt something quite profound from watching an interview of Warren Buffett, in which the American business magnate and investor asked viewers to imagine walking up to view a painting of your life. It is something that you had taken years to paint but what if it turns out you do not like it or are not proud of? The lesson is, as the driver of your own destiny, you can choose today what you want the picture to look like and you should start to paint it how you want it to look one day.

‘It is important for youngsters to know what they want, particularly now, because they have many more distractions than we had. You need to know where you want to go because knowing that will enable you to head in the right direction even if you chose a different route along the way.’

Being an accountant can be very stressful, particularly in the commercial environment. Luvhengo encourages professionals to find ways of relieving stress. He does this by running.  He finds that to achieve the best times, he needs to clear his mind of the issues he is facing at. This revitalises him and prepares him to return to the ‘shop floor’.

Teamwork

Regarding management, Luvhengo has learnt that teamwork is critical to survival, particularly in challenging times such as these. Another important element of good leadership is transparency – he believes management should be open to employees about challenges to help staff understand where the business is at and where it is headed. This will encourage them to go the extra length to achieve a common purpose, including making sacrifices when required.

‘Transparency goes beyond the company because we also have to deal honestly with our suppliers. During the pandemic, this honesty helped us get favourable terms for the hundreds of landlords who host our businesses.’

Finally, a good leader is visible and accessible to the rest of the team. Being present in the office chasing deadlines together demonstrates to your team that you are with them in the trenches and leading them from the front.

This article is an extract from the book Masters of Money – Strategies for Success from the CFOs of South Africa’s Biggest Companies available here – https://www.takealot.com/masters-of-money/PLID90121297?gad_source=1&gclid=CjwKCAiAyp-sBhBSEiwAWWzTnmLGsW3EWthrsEzrN69lcPhFqkxkQjPsxSF6CHoP2oj6-XRBtDB5gBoCfA8QAvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds

 

 

 

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