Taking entrepreneurship to an exponential level
In this year’s Top 35-under-35 competition’s Lead category, judges were looking at how an individual uses their leadership skills, not only within business but also within their personal spheres to influence and inspire. A true leader creates value, motivates, disrupts, and fosters growth.
Louw Barnardt (34)
Co-founder and Managing Director at Outsourced CFO
2022’s winner, Louw Barnardt CA(SA), co-founder and managing director of Outsourced CFO (OFCO), proved himself to be an outstanding and exemplary leader.
‘It was incredible to have such a great pool of young, talented CA(SA)s making such an impressive difference in their respective fields, together,’ says Louw about the Top 35 competition. ‘I have always strived to be the best leader I can be in my field. Having a category win is amazing!’
Louw started the award-winning finance firm, Outsourced CFO, with fellow Top 35 chartered accountant Dana Pretorius at the end of 2013.
‘I’ve wanted to become an entrepreneur since the age of six and have been passionate about it ever since. I realised I loved the idea of creating something from nothing,’ remembers Louw. ‘I’ve also grown to love the idea of a business making a bigger impact as it scales, than any one individual can in their own capacity. A big business can touch so many different lives.’
Be hungry for knowledge and never stop learning
His father, also a CA(SA), was a major inspiration in his life choices. ‘The CA(SA) route is such a great way to gain so many years’ worth of experience in such a short space of time. It gives you such a good framework to understand finance, tax and the way business works.’
According to Louw, if you see through three years of articles, you have learned from many different companies and industries and have seen more than 100 years’ worth of financial data! ‘It gives you so many reference points on what works and what doesn’t when you want to start your own business.’
Under Louw’s leadership as managing director, the company has grown from two desk spaces to seventy people in just under nine years, posting more than an average of 50% growth per year.
All the sacrifices they have had to make along the way to success have been well worth it. ‘Not only was it a lot of stress and hard work,’ admits Louw. ‘Starting out, we had just about no capital. We had to make enormous salary sacrifices for many years – choosing against corporate salaries to create something we believed would be meaningful and impactful.’
Sacrifice is worth it in the end
Within OCFO, Louw has spearheaded the creation of the leadership and strategic frameworks on which the company is built. He co-created OCFO to not just be a business built on integrity and flawless ethics but a meaningful place of work with an incredible culture and huge capabilities to accelerate the careers and personal growth of all of its employees.
Outside of OCFO, Louw and his team have set up Founders Foundation NPC, a non-profit vehicle that runs various programmes and initiatives for young and previously disadvantaged entrepreneurs who are starting on their journey. Together with corporate partners, they have helped to secure more than R80 million in funding and have supported more than hundred and fifty entrepreneurs with financial mentorship.
OCFO has been named a Xero Partner of the Year finalist (2022) and is counted among the Fast Company Most Innovative Companies in South Africa. Their team has helped raise well over a billion rand in growth funding for entrepreneurial companies.
Outsourced CFO now serves clients from over 25 different countries around the world, and their staff operates from six provinces in South Africa and three continents around the world. They have worked with more than 1 000 companies over the past nine years and have made a significant impact.
‘It has been an absolute privilege to be part of Outsourced CFO’s leadership team and to raise up a team of leaders who are now leading the organisation.’
Business is a vehicle for change
Louw has been recognised as a Top 35 chartered accountant in 2015 and 2016, a Top 3 finalist for Young Professional of the Year in 2016, and the Sanlam / Business Partners Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year winner (EOY Awards 2018).
He has been included among the Fast Company Top 20 under 30, the Fast Company Most Productive People in Business, and Insights Success magazine’s Top 40 under 40.
He is also one of the youngest members of the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation, among three hundred South African founders that form part of their global network of over seventeen thousand million-dollar companies.
Louw sees the Top 35 competition as a fantastic platform to reach a wider audience and share your message with the world. ‘This category win is a really good milestone and a great process of reflection on how far OCFO has come, as well as an inspiration for the future.’
He recognises there are a lot of problems in the world that needs solving and therefore it is important to him to challenge the status quo. ‘Every business ever created was made to solve some problem. As a society, there are still many problems to solve – a lot of which we have created for ourselves. Business is such a good vehicle to make a difference, to create meaningful change, and improve people’s lives.’
Become an unstoppable force
Louw is fiercely passionate about entrepreneurship as a force for good. ‘It is a mechanism that can make a meaningful difference in people’s lives and change the way the world works. This is my calling.’
Starting out, OCFO’s mission was to create a company that can touch the journeys of 10 000 entrepreneurial companies and build a team of 1 000 professionals. ‘This is still one of the major goals we are striving toward.’
His advice to young and aspiring CAs(SA) is to be hungry to learn as much as you can. ‘The CA(SA) route teaches you how to absorb a lot of information and how to think analytically and critically and how to redeploy your mind. Also, follow your dreams and be patient. Great things take time.’
He also wants to challenge CAs(SA) to develop valuable skills outside of the profession. ‘This includes marketing, sales, software development, and networking. These things are important and powerful. Never stop learning and learn as much as you can to become an unstoppable force!’