The founder's spirit: Investec CFO and Yuppiechef co-founder at CFO Summit 5


What is the secret sauce that founders bring to a business? And how can finance help facilitate keeping the spirit alive in a growing company? Those were some of the questions explored by award-winning Investec CFO Nishlan Samujh, Yuppiechef co-founder Paul Galatis and Oracle's Armin Moradi.

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There is a unique type of organisation that is customer-driven, with a strong focus on sales and marketing and an energy that you can feel as you enter their offices. These businesses are benefiting from the founder's spirit. During CFO Summit 5 on 20 September 2017 in Johannesburg, finance leaders and industry experts discussed the blessings and curses that such a unique - often successful - culture brings.

While the number of organisations with founders at the helm are dwindling, Investec is a great example of a South African business with the founder's spirit, with co-founder Bernard Kantor still heavily involved. "Working with the fathers of the business I don't feel this overbearing force that sits over the organisation because you got to try and achieve exactly what's been predetermined," said Investec CFO Nishlan Samujh, who won the Compliance & Governance Award at the 2017 CFO Awards.

"It's about exploiting and exploring the roadmap. It's about understanding what we're doing, where are we playing, what's driving this organisation, where do we want to be positioned and that's not just for a founder to be determined. The fact that these individuals - the founders - have the ability to drive the navigation of the organisation is what keeps me engaged, is what probably keeps 8500 of my colleagues engaged."

Giving responsibility and motivating is what drives individuals and allows them to give more to an organisation, added. Yuppiechef's Paul Galatis. The company that he co-founded started as a flat business structure of three people, morphed into a team of 10 people and then to a team of 65. Letting go and delegating was a difficult process, Paul admitted. "People don't grow if you don't let them grow and step back and investigate new things and make mistakes."

According to Armin Moradi, Territory Manager Financials for Oracle, his organisation has instilled a culture of entrepreneurship, creating a dynamic team and teaching the 140,000 global employees how to think like a business leader.

"It's about running the business as if it were your own and this helps the business move forward. It increases talent retention and helps the business to be more scaleable."

Paul recalled that Yuppiechef made 200 sales in its first year. Each customer received a handwritten note of gratitude. Now, every time someone joins the company they are asked to write notes of gratitude and this has become the culture. "It's important to connect every new employee with the founder's spirit."

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