Jannie Mouton: A Defining Moment in Leadership

Jannie Mouton, founder and chairman of PSG Group Limited, learned an important lesson early in his career. He was fired from the stockbroking firm he helped found with several partners and ran as CEO for nearly 13 years.

“I had to start all over again. Looking back, it is one of the best things to happen to me. Because I’ve realized that there are dangers like that in life. You can have a set back. I almost call it a defining moment in my life,” Mr. Mouton said recently from his office in Stellenbosch, South Africa.

Mr. Mouton says he then got invaluable advice from his family. It forced him to assess his own leadership style and to make a plan. That plan led him to found PSG Capital, which is now the largest shareholder of one of South Africa’s fastest growing banks, Capitec Bank Holdings Ltd. PSG Group has other investments in financial services, banking, private equity, agriculture and education. PSG Group has a market capitalization in excess of 40 billion rand ($3 billion). Mr. Mouton has also structured his business to enable him to live in South Africa’s wine country, a dream of his.

Mr. Mouton talks about his leadership journey and the 20 important lessons he’s learned along the way.

Q: What has enabled you to become the leader that you are today?

From a young age I had this drive to do something. At one stage I was overambitious in my life and not enough people oriented. That’s why I think things at the stockbroking company went wrong. I was too dedicated to the performance instead of realizing there are people. Today, I’m totally relaxed and people can talk. I’ve learned that lesson

Q: What is your leadership style?

I am a non-executive now. At one stage I was an executive. I think I’ve been a bit calmer than say 20 years ago. I think you change because you’ve learned something in life. I learned a hell of a lot in life. The fact that my style wasn’t right, I was fired.

Q: What are the traits you think are necessary to be a good leader?

I realized in my life I will never be a Steve Jobs. You have to work according to what your talents are. To a certain extent, you must have a plan and you must have the determination to execute the plan. You must listen to criticism from friends and family and the outside world. I often say I prefer a company to be listed. Why? If a company is unlisted you think of excuses to tell your friends and families and who has invested. If you are listed, you are in the public eye. And they will write about the company’s performance. It puts a bit more pressure on it. Like running the 100 meters in front of the pavilion in the spotlight and not in the back of the pavilion in the dark. You will try a bit harder in the front.

Q: Why is Africa a good place to invest?

There are unbelievable opportunities in Africa. There are more opportunities here. We never had a chance to start a Capitec Bank in Europe. It’s been done. There are opportunities here in South Africa. There are opportunities in other African countries. But governments must make it easier business wise. You also have to appoint the right people for the right jobs. The opportunities are there.

I drew up a plan in November 1995. It still guides me today. That was the beginning of my life.Jannie Mouton, PSG Group Ltd.

Jannie Mouton’s 20 Leadership Lessons in 20 Years

Lesson 1: Being Fired. It’s a defining moment that forces a person to confront what went wrong. You must never give up.

Lesson 2: Read and study. If you read you will identify more opportunities in life.

Lesson 3: Analyze yourself. Build on your strong points and eliminate your weak points.

Lesson 4: Analyze the environment. Focus on opportunities.

Lesson 5: Formulate your plan. Write down your vision and return to look at it.

Lesson 6: Execute your plan but be willing to adapt it and to change it at times.

Lesson 7: Value your friends and loyalty.

Lesson 8: Connect with loyal shareholders.

Lesson 9: Monitor and measure your own performance.

Lesson 10: Compare your venture with other similar companies.

Lesson 11: Maintain internal focus. Sell non-core investments and place attention on core investments. Appoint the right CEO for each core company. Put in place a good strategy.

Lesson 12: Communicate with the outside world. Maintain good relations with the press, be honest and transparent and have a program to keep investors informed.

Lesson 13: Mr. Market. Be a long-term investor.

Lesson 14: Seize opportunities.

Lesson 15: Funding must be long term.

Lesson 16: Understand market requirements and regulations.

Lesson 17: Believe in yourself. Invest in the company you work for.

Lesson 18: Your team. Employ people who are better than yourself or who have complimentary skills.

Lesson 19: Focus.

Lesson 20: Give back to society.

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