Like most endurance events, the end is not as important as the journey itself: the goal setting, the training, the start, the development and, of course, the finish. Yuven Gounden spoke to Bok Pretorius about this philosophy, which has its parallel in virtually any other challenge or business process
When Cornelis (Bok) Pretorius completed his final BComm Accounting examination, he and two friends decided to backpack from Cairo to Cape Town down the East Coast of Africa. The 34-year-old Bok CA(SA) boasts that he completed the trip and passed his auditing examination simultaneously!
For Pretorius and his friends, this was the start of a learning curve and the best introduction to working life with its rewards and challenges. Today, Pretorius and his one friend are CAs(SA), while the other member of the triumvirate is an attorney in Maseru.
‘While on our dream adventure, I received my B Accounting final results in Cairo. I had to write a recess exam in auditing. While spending time on camel back and on the Nile River, I realised that I had to pass the exam in order to enrol for CTA, but that this could be the only time in my life when three best friends will have two months free to undertake a trip like this. I was able to make both dreams come true … I passed my auditing exam and finished my Cairo to Cape Town trip,’ says Pretorius.
Pretorius, who hails from Bloemfontein, attended Grey College and studied at the University of the Free State (UFS). While at UFS he played rugby for the university and the amateur Free State provincial side.
In 2001–2002 he worked abroad in London, Amsterdam and Scotland in roles such as office furniture fitter, site foreman, loading bay manager, and even forklift driver. Then he decided to pursue his university studies and chose the chartered accountancy profession.
It seems that Bok had an interest in animals when he commenced farming with Bonsmara cattle and had the challenge of completing his trainee stint in Bloemfontein.
‘In 2007 I wanted to go the training outside public practice (TOPP) route to becoming a CA(SA), but there was no company registered in Bloemfontein where I could complete my traineeship. I was farming part-time with Bonsmara cattle and could not afford to work elsewhere at that time. I started my trainee programme at a smaller auditing firm to obtain more exposure in different businesses. Late in 2007 Itumele Bus Lines (Pty) Ltd registered in Bloemfontein as an accredited company and I immediately put in my application. I had to take a penalty for changing companies and basically started over with my three-year traineeship. But it was worth it – I was finally in a business environment that I loved,’ says Bok.
‘In 2008 I passed the first and second board examinations, and finally completed my traineeship in 2010 to qualify as a CA(SA).’
Life’s journeys can prove to be somewhat unpredictable at times, and Bok Pretorius found this to be true when he entered the arena of the wildlife industry. But he is resilient, industrious and innovative, and had had the experience of the Cape to Cairo journey behind him. This helped him to communicate to operational people – especially in the agricultural sector – with sound financial business principles and cash flow forecasts. He has no regrets about this move and adds that the benefits and job satisfaction that he derives are great.
‘Creating the perfect harmony between your family and your spiritual, work and health lifestyles by living on a farm and raising two young boys is so rewarding. Forget about yourself and focus on the bigger picture. Hard work and being persistent, honest and reliable are the principles that I shall always live by. I used my financial management skills to streamline the various components of the business and make each component a separate structure, yet contributing to the bigger picture of developing the concern into a successful and sustainable game farming business. At the same time, I keep a watchful eye on the components – the lodge and hunting, veterinary services, taxidermy, and game farming – and ensure that each component is contributing to reaching the strategic goals. I am bent on playing a leading role in making South Africa a destination of choice,’ says Pretorius.
One would think that for someone like Pretorius, time will impinge on any other matters outside business and the arduous task of parenting. But Bok enjoys the support of his beautiful wife, Magdel, to help manage the Wintershoek Lodge and raise the boys. Leonard (2 years) and Josh (4 years) attend the local community school, which is funded through the Wintershoek Safari business venture and affords the workers the opportunity to educate their children while they work in close proximity to them.
His current job allows Bok the space to pursue his numerous adrenaline-infused ventures. Among his achievements are: Ironman South Africa (3,8-km swim, 180-km cycle race, 42,2-km run); Trans Baviaans mountain bike marathon (a 24-hour endurance race over 230 km); Comrades Marathon; Sky Run (65 km and 100 km); mountain climbing (Kilimanjaro); South African White Water Rafting championship; Cape Argus Cycle Tour and OFM Classic; Knysna Marathon; Four Peaks Mountain Challenge and Midmar Mile.
When Bok is not competing, he enjoys scuba diving, hunting, renovating houses, and singing. In 2002, he enjoyed running with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain.
But there’s always time for a good read, and Bok enjoys books on leadership and inspiring business stories. It comes as no surprise, then, that he looks up to people such as Nelson Mandela, John Maxwell and Koos Bekker, all of whom are exceptional and inspirational leaders.
Bok shares SAICA’s vision of responsible leadership to inspire the youth of the country in particular. He encourages youngsters to pursue the CA(SA) route – a route he’s clearly passionate about.
‘Being a CA(SA) gives you the key to open the doors you want in life. Some people say you are lucky because as a CA(SA) you get great opportunities – and luck is the moment that preparation and opportunity meet. The road to becoming a CA(SA) is tough and takes a lot of preparation, but tough times never last – tough people do!’
It seems that when Bok embarked upon his life-changing Cape to Cairo journey it was the start of exploring not only endurance challenges but also seeing any other challenge with this in mind. There can only be one outcome stemming from this philosophy – success!
Author l Yuven Gounden is PD: Communications at SAICA