11 years ago on 1 December 2007, I was travelling from Harrismith to Joburg in a rented bakkie with my mom next to me. It was the start of my new life. I just finished my articles and wanted to begin the hustle in the city of gold. If you had asked me then, what would make me happy, I would have told you “Money, money and more money!”
Harrismith wasn’t the only thing I was leaving behind. I said farewell to a life with many tears and struggles. A life where mom and dad got divorced, lost everything, where we slept on mattresses on the floor. There were nights when we had nothing to eat, when my mom would cry herself to sleep and where I would try to reassure her that “I’m not hungry, anyway.” I too cried so many times because of money. Or, rather obviously, the lack of it.
11 years ago, in my mind, money meant one thing: happiness. So I chased it.
A decade later and I’ve had an incredible journey as an entrepreneur. I’ve created successful businesses, been on the cover of Entrepreneur magazine, a shark on on M-net’s Shark Tank SA and, this year, the author of the most sold business book in the country, “90 Rules for Entrepreneurs”.
In December 2016, I sold our business (The Beancounter) to JSE listed Transaction Capital and committed to giving my undivided attention to the group for 5 years. It was my first time in a big corporate structure and, even though all my energy went into 2 new projects, we still grew revenue 40% in the last 12 months in the core business. With the incredible minds, capital and entrepreneurs at Transaction Capital, I have no doubt that we would have created the next billion-rand company in the SME space.
But this post is to announce something quite unexpected: we are no longer a Transaction Capital company – I have decided to buy back the initial business. The deal was finalized in the beginning of November through a cash buy-back and we have parted ways as friends. The way the exit was handled is a testament to the company and their leadership, and my decision to enter into it in the first place. I also remain a shareholder in my personal capacity.
The last chapter of my business career is a chapter with many lessons and decisions, none of which I regret – neither the initial selling nor the buying back.
In this post, I don’t want to focus on the transaction itself, but I want to share my biggest learning from it, as well as what we plan to do next:
The 22-year-old Marnus may have been disappointed, because he would eventually learn that money is not everything. Yes, there is more to life than struggling to make ends meet and worrying about paying bills but there are also many things that money cannot buy.
And everyone is different. Some people are incredibly happy in corporate jobs, while others can’t stand it working for someone else. Some want to spend time with their families, others want to create the next big thing. Some entrepreneurs can’t operate without colleagues next to them. Others can’t imagine a world where they need to ask permission.
Everyone is different.
Working in the corporate world… just wasn’t for me. And it wasn’t for my team. We want to be free, we want to spend time on the things that matter to us. We want to go home, knowing that we are happy, and that we’ve made a difference in our own unique way.
(I’m not saying you can’t get that in corporate world – but the rules are different and those rules don’t make sense for us.)
If there’s one thing I want you, the reader, to take from this, is that you have to know what kind of a person you are, so you can make the right decision, and not waste time chasing things that aren’t important to you. Or, even worse, things that stop you from doing what you need to be doing.
So where to from here?
There were essentially 3 parts to the puzzle, and we have taken back two of them:
1) The Beancounter – an accounting firm that provides outsourced accounting services to SME’s at a fixed monthly fee.
2) sme.africa – a platform and community that is helping established business owners with tools and information to grow and manage their businesses.
Our commitment is to help the entrepreneur, the business owner and the franchisee by becoming their trusted professional ‘friend’ and we want to create an amazing platform for our employees to learn, grow and become the best versions of themselves.
I have ditched my suit and fancy shoes for t-shirts and sneakers and I will be on the ground working with my teams to help as many business owners as possible. I’m not always able to answer every email or message but, through sme.africa, I believe we can shoulder some of the weight of every business owner who becomes part of our platform.
I will also continue to use my online channels to share information and knowledge and we have a couple of great projects lined up for 2019.
Today is the start of my new life. I just finished my corporate career and want to use the rest of my life to connect, experience and help others to succeed. In a world that’s becoming so hard, I’m making it my mission to be nicer, to give more credit, to always see the good in people and to make business a happy place where we help others succeed.
If you see me anywhere, please come and say hello and let’s celebrate being happy, not money – money will follow.
Remember: money makes a difference but only YOU can decide what will ultimately make you content and satisfied.
A huge thank you goes to my incredible team, all our clients, supporters and everyone at Transaction Capital for an amazing journey thus far!
Much love from a happy and content Marnus