Grant Greeff talks about closing down his first business during Covid-19 and venturing into a new one.
Grant Greeff is one of the country’s brightest young accountants. At age 28, he made SAICA’s list of Top 35 Under 35 to Watch.
At the time, the University of Cape Town graduate was being honoured for the way he grew his college side hustle into a fully-fledged, thriving event hiring company.
After qualifying as a CA(SA), one of life’s biggest challenges is getting a foot in the door and nailing down a career path. Grant chose to give his side hustle his full attention. In the years that followed, Grant’s business continued its impressive growth trajectory, and he soon had 33 permanent staff members in his employ.
But during last year’s national lockdown, Grant had to make one of the most difficult decisions in his life and career: closing down his business
The pandemic brought the hospitality industry to its knees. Restaurants, pubs, and hotels had to close, and live events such as conferences, music festivals, weddings, and celebratory gatherings were deemed as superspreader events.
“Closing down wasn’t the hard part,” he says. “It was letting down the team I was supposed to protect.”
As a business leader, Grant’s passion for people is his driving force. During the liquidation process, he focused on helping his employees find new jobs. “I am really grateful that we were able to connect about 75 percent of staff to new employment opportunities,'' he says.
Venturing into new opportunities
Even though the past two years haven’t exactly been a carnival ride for the young CFO, he is taking the life lessons and has moved straight into another promising business venture, Alto Growth, which went live this month.
He partnered with a well-established fellow CA(SA) and a technology solutions specialist to help South African businesses step into the digital era, while providing CFO services to a wide range of clients.
“There are so many solutions available that it can be overwhelming for business owners,” says Grant. “They need help going paperless and reducing the amount of time and resources spent on manual tasks.”
The other side of that coin is the scarcity of time and resources. “As a business owner, it’s tough making the time to research and test solutions, so we are positioning ourselves as an implementation partner,” Grant explains. Alto Growth will help companies to develop a digital-centric strategy while guiding the implementation phases.
Diversity is key
Diversity in business has been a topic of discussion and debate in the past couple of years. It also happens to be a passion point for Grant, and a big part of his vision for Alto Growth.
“It’s important to have diversity in the business space,” says Grant. “The company make-up needs to reflect the demographics of our country and close the gender gap.” He says diverse teams means having a diverse set of skills and experiences needed to solve problems in today’s business environment.
He also highlights the importance of having team members with different strengths. “I find certain functions of a business to be energy drainers, and in that instance, I need someone who has the energy capacity to handle those functions,” says Grant. “There is that balance between myself and my partners, which gives me the optimism and positivity I need to tackle this venture and hopefully come out on top.”
Grant’s new venture comes after nearly a year, and some time spent as CFO at Drone Ops Group. The Johannesburg-based drone company offers modern solutions to traditional industrial challenges, such as surveying, mapping, blast monitoring, industrial inspections, security, and surveillance. Grant is leaving his former place of employment on excellent terms. “They will be one of our first clients at Alto Growth,” he explains.
Confidently approaching risk
Taking on another business venture having had to liquidate his first company – and while securely employed – takes courage. But Grant says each option carries a different type of risk. ”When we find employment, there is also a risk to that. There are a lot of uncontrollables that come with being employed,” he says.
Grant also rejects the popular narrative that being an employee is a significantly lesser achievement than owning a business. ”In the employment game, we take a lower risk when it comes to financial success, but there are lots of other risks that are not financial, like culture fit, leadership and direction, and entrusting yourself with those leaders to make the right decision.”
When it comes to owning your own business, he says: “The risk here lies with accountability. The responsibility to grow your team lies with you.” He also explains the more daunting risks like reputational damage and losing money that shareholders have invested. “I think it’s less about the money and more about the fear of failure for not making it work financially from a societal point of view.”
He says the current models for success and failure are unfortunately linked to being rich or poor. Grant believes the metric for success isn’t necessarily financial. “For me, success has very little to do with money. It’s about the team, the culture, the association, and ultimately the type of community you build around that.”