Throughout his career, Alphonso Brand CA(SA), a 2014 Top 35-under-35 finalist, has learnt that mistakes should not be permanent − they are part and parcel of business growth. As CEO for the past twelve years, this attitude has helped him grow the BFS Group of Companies to new heights.
Looking at his achievements to date, Alphonso credits three key factors: hard work, perseverance, and a good support structure in family and personnel. ‘Your employees need to be on the same page, which comes with many challenges, and I believe that they must grow with the business. The unfortunate reality is that some do not necessarily have the drive or commitment to grow together, but for those who are willing to share your vision and work together to reach those milestones, they must be rewarded accordingly,’ he says.
Alphonso believes that in personal and business growth, ‘the key milestones set should be reachable within a reasonable time; otherwise you lose focus along the way. Small steps, but many of them.’
What are some of the business mistakes you made in the past ten years?
I tend to overcapitalise on property as I want to have satisfied tenants and I like it to ‘look nice’! This results in a longer repayment period and a lower ROI; however, I also believe it is important to make things aesthetically appealing, especially in small rural towns where things tend to deplete due to a lack of investment.
I also can be impulsive with things like removing certain lines from our shelves (menus, etc), which leaves me with a red face. I then need to revert to the way things were or put them back on the shelves (which irritates the employees).
What were the key lessons from these mistakes?
Some mistakes you don’t really fix − you accept the knock resulting from the mistake and you move forward. What I have found is that I need to apply more patience in my decision-making, as this helps to reduce the mistakes made. One of the biggest mistakes I made was not rectifiable and I had to write it off and move on. I believe that when you make such a mistake (and they are easy to make) it is important to move on from it as soon as possible. There is no good in crying over spilt milk.
What is one business tip you would like to share?
There is always a solution irrespective of the challenges ahead. Be as independent as can be (electricity, finance/funding). Unfortunately I have learned the hard way that integrity is not a given for all.
How did being a finalist change your career?
It gave me acknowledgement and reassurance that what we are doing is good and that we are moving in the right direction.
What are some of your career highlights?
Expanding the group in the existing markets and increasing our footprint in new business areas − which is quite exciting, as there are many more to come.
We started a private school which showed growth of 302% within the first three years. I was one of the founders and the school opened its doors in January 2017 (Futurum Akademie). We subsequently sold the school in 2020, which (in my view) was also one of the biggest mistakes made since 2014.
How did your outlook on business and life change in the past ten years?
The opportunities in South Africa remain – you need to look past the obstacles and carry on. You need to become as independent as possible and not rely on government support.
Did you achieve all the goals you set for yourself in the past ten years?
My goals tend to change as I go along. But, yes, I am content with where I am at and thankful for what we have managed to achieve.
Your one piece of advice to young CAs(SA) about being a CA(SA)?
The designation is a means to something greater. Pursue your dreams and follow them with honesty and integrity! It’s never the wrong time to do the right thing.
One thing Alphonso is looking forward to in the next ten years is spending more time with his family, focusing on his kids as they grow older and become better leaders. As a parting shot, he advises the next group of finalists to ‘Operate with integrity. It’s a scarce and expensive commodity.’
A true #differencemaker!
Alphonse has remained a #differencemaker through the years. He is currently involved in the following community projects:
- Andalusia Clinic – a stepdown clinic (sub-acute) as part of their old people’s home. He is on the board of trustees managing the clinic to the benefit of the community.
- He is part of the management of the community policing forum (CPF) which, in correlation with SAPS, monitors and ensures the safety of their community.
- Until January 2023 he was chairman of the school board of Futurum Akademie.
- He is a board member of Vaalharts Water User Association, the largest irrigation scheme in the southern hemisphere. He served as chairman of the audit committee for three years and remained a member of the board following his resignation from the audit committee.
Mpho Netshivhambe, Publications Administrator, Brand