CFO Merusha Govender – the aunt who sold her ‘ferrari’

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CFO Merusha Govender – the aunt who sold her ‘ferrari’

Mar 15, 2024 | Interviews

The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari is a self-help fable written by Robin Sharma. It tells the story of Julian Mantle, a successful lawyer who suffers health challenges due to his stressful lifestyle. Following this wake-up call, Julian sells all his possessions, including his beloved Ferrari, and embarks on a spiritual journey to the Himalayas to transform his life.

Merusha Govender is not a lawyer and she doesn’t own a Ferrari. She is however a chartered accountant who parted ways with a high-end car in a manner similar to that of Julius Mantle.

‘Today marks the 3-year anniversary of being car-less,’ Merusha wrote in a LinkedIn post titled Don’t judge me for the car I don’t have in January 2019. ‘I remember that fateful day when I handed over the keys of my shiny white BMW Convertible. I was heart-broken as I watched the new owner rev the engine so hard that I was worried it will set off all the dogs in the neighbourhood.’

The news of Merusha selling her car made her parents sleepless with worry. They couldn’t understand how their last-born child who is a chartered accountant with an MBA from Wits Business School was in such deep financial trouble that she had to sell her wheels. It took a while for them to understand that Merusha was actually financially stable. Her decision was inspired by the realisation that she could not only save R10,000 per month in car payments if she moved to an apartment two kilometres from work but also save two hours a day avoiding stressful traffic.

‘The idea of being able to buy ANY car under R1 million but choosing not to was the most liberating feeling I have had since I finished my articles,’ Merusha wrote. ‘In other parts of the world not having a car is acceptable, in fact because of the good transport infrastructure it’s considered irresponsible to the environment to even own one. In South Africa. the norm is get a vehicle as soon as you earn your first pay check. That vehicle was your badge to say you made it. In the last three years, I learnt that true happiness lies within. If you keep trying to compete with fake lives on social media and owning a vehicle so people think you (have) arrived, then you (are) never going to be happy or find financial freedom.’

Personal mastery

Much of Merusha’s perspective on life was influenced by her MBA and the five-day personal mastery course she completed as part of the elective course modules. It helped her learn about self-reflection and becoming self-aware. This unlocked her perspective on how she viewed herself and interacted with people around her.

‘Before the MBA, I had struggled to manage people,’ Merusha explains. ‘I was a 25-year-old chartered accountant working at Wits University struggling to supervise people twice my age. In my role as the chief operating officer of The Origins Centre Association linked with the university, I was tasked with supervising a team of highly educated staff members holding PhDs. It was only after completing a personal mastery course that I realised the type of manager I wanted to be and set-out to improve my management style.

Merusha believes that knowing yourself is an important ingredient for success. Knowing who you are and what is important to you will help you make the right decisions. ‘Time and money are scarce resources and you therefore need to be careful not to waste either of them on the wrong things. Understand your core values and use that as a guide to make all your decisions.”

‘Becoming a chartered accountant provided me with the technical skills I required but also enabled me to get my foot in the door,’ Merusha opines. ‘But after pursuing an MBA it gave me a competitive advantage. It not only improved my CV, it also enabled me to develop an entrepreneurial mindset.’

Merusha’s first business was a business park coffee shop she bought in Sunninghill which her parents managed for her. Having your parents as your employees may seem strange to some but amazingly the trio made the venture work. Prior to working in this business, her dad was an accountant while her mother worked in customer service.

Consequently, he was more interested in cutting costs while her mother would argue for further investment to improve the customer proposition. It was a healthy balance. Merusha’s parents have always been her strong support system. Since her childhood they have not only supported her through her journey but also tried to always unlock various opportunities along the way to ensure she always had options to choose from.

Group CFO

Today, Merusha is the group CFO and part owner of DL Group of Companies. The group specialises in providing services and equipment to clients in the beverage and refrigeration arena with a footprint that spans 17 African countries and employs 400 people across the continent. Merusha joined the company as head of finance in December 2014 with the goal of becoming finance director within a year.

‘I kept pressing the CEO Travers Shaw to give me the FD position and he turned around and asked me why I was not thinking bigger by pursuing shareholding in the company. That was the first time someone had a bigger dream for me than I had for myself. Because I loved what I did and the company’s ambitions, I followed through and I am quite happy with where I have ended up,’ Merusha beams.

‘Other than being responsible for finance, I also oversee the HR function which I enjoy because I am passionate about people. At a certain level you are no longer responsible for actually doing the work but rather inspiring people to get the job done. People often ask me how it is working with all male business partners as the only woman and youngest exco member in a company that services the beer industry, yet I don’t consume alcohol. I believe it is about having the right people in the room with complimentary skill sets and it helps that all my business partners are true gentlemen,’ Merusha says.

‘The industry didn’t matter to me, our purpose is supporting our customers by ensuring superior end user experience, whether that is ensuring a draught beer, ice cream or cup of coffee is at the right temperature. One of the reason for our success is that we have the same core values and we all believe we building a legacy that is bigger than any individual,’ she adds.

Among the things Merusha loves about DL Group is that they share her passion for wanting to make an impact. The company over the years have supported several business start-ups with support service functions and mentorship. Merusha herself does her part by publishing articles on finance matters like Don’t judge me for the car I don’t have on LinkedIn. Her insights resonate across generations, evident in her publication of The Money Adventures of Aunty Marshy & Ty in 2020. It is a simple colourful book designed to help parents teach their children about money.

Health is wealth

Like Julian Mantle in The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari, Merusha (Aunty Marshy) has come to realise that it is important to take care of yourself because ‘good health should not be sacrificed in the pursuit of career success’. During the Covid lock down, Merusha was given an opportunity to have a reset and decided to find her work-life balance again which meant focusing on her physical well-being. After three years of being on this journey, she managed to shed 35 kilogrammes  through understanding herself and her body. Shefound an eating plan and exercise routine that not only was effective but suited her lifestyle.

This new health journey has given Merusha a renewed lease on life; from jumping out of planes sky-diving to jumping onto planes to explore other countries. She is set on making every day count.

“Spring has passed, summer has gone and winter is here. And the song that i meant to sing remains unsung. I have spent my days stringing and unstringing my instrument.”

― Robin S. Sharma, The Monk who sold his Ferrari

 

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