I have struggled for almost a week to put fingers to keyboard and write this piece. The passing of Nelson Mandela has left me profoundly silent and this for a communications specialist is somewhat paradoxical.
I am transported back to Tuin Huis in late 1994 when as a young business journalist I was fortunate enough to get a one on one interview with the new president. The only time that he could see me was at 5 in the morning. I grabbed the slot. I arrived rather shaky and somewhat intimidated as this was by far the biggest interview of my young career. In fact I was terrified. I sat with my note pad and 2 pens. Nothing else was allowed in with me. In those days journalist took notes the old fashioned way. At 5 A.M sharp a large man came into the room. My breathing stopped it was Nelson Mandela. Up until this point he had been a character of great worth and determination to me, an inspiration as a writer, but not real. But here he stood in the flesh.
“Morning my child, have you even had breakfast this morning?” said our newly appointed President.
I mumbled that I had not and he extended his hand and guided me through to the kitchen. He then proceeded to make tea and marmite toast for us. We sat in the kitchen and just spoke about business in the country and how we would and could encourage entrepreneurship. I never lifted my pen and did not take a single note. I was in awe of the ease at which he spoke. Calmly, articulately and so self assured, like a father sharing wisdom from a life time of experience.
He gave me a few pointers in life and business – they are simple, but so important
· Be respectful
· Be on time
· Be diligent
· Work smart not hard
· Always know what your competition are doing
· Be aware
· Be ambitious but mindful as greed is not a pretty thing
· Say please and thank you
· Be observant
· Listen more and speak less
I was privileged again on many occasions to meet and work with Mr. Mandela over the past 19 years. His keen sense and awareness of everything happening around him always struck me. He was observant and never forgot a name or what you had spoken about when he last saw you. He made me feel special and powerful (not in a boastful way but in a way that made me know that I had the power to achieve anything I wanted to).
I wanted to share some of the insights he shared over the years around business – there are so many but these for me were the ones that stood out:
- If your business is on the verge of closing, always remember: “Difficulties break some men but make others.”
- If you had a falling out with a business partner, consider this: Reconciliation means working together to correct the legacy of past injustice.
- Dealing with a perpetual grumpy co-worker? “Man’s goodness is a flame that can be hidden but never extinguished.”
- Business leaders, do you want to inspire your employees who are bogged down with work? Then say to them – “When people are determined, they can overcome anything.”
- Sometimes, partnership is the best way to dispel competition. If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.
The way that I can honor this great man is to do the best I can in the world I live in. To share my business insight with those who want to learn and to continue to develop this platform of BizRadio into a platform for all who want to know about business and don’t need to pay for it.
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