Our history determines our strategy towards the South African economy

Jul 19, 2019 4:01:05 PM / by Pavlo Phitidis

The economy is in a terrible shape and its prospects are anybody’s guess. In this economy, we see some businesses growing at a blistering pace whilst others, in the same industry and sector, stall and struggle. Why?  We are seeing a consistent pattern of behaviour. In fact, there are three of them. When we look at the business owners that fall into one of the three behaviours, we notice a consistent line of logic that begins to make sense as to why they behave in the way they do.

It all begins with how our brains are shaped by our deeply personal histories.

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Locked and loaded by history

We are “trapped by the images of our past” - a phrase coined by Carl Jung, possibly the most insightful and prolific psychoanalyst. I believe it because I see it in myself and every day with the business owners we work with. By images he means experiences that have formed the architecture of how we see things and perceive today and tomorrow. The experiences of your past create the habits you operate with today. And these habits determine your behaviour, which results in the life you have and the business you are building and growing. It’s an inescapable reality with the only antidote being acknowledgement that it is so. This affords you perspective, and with courage, the choice to change behaviour for a different result in life or business.

The three dominant behaviours we are seeing at work include:


Aggression behaviours generate strategies that play into the future very actively. They are action driven, can be impulsive but mostly attempt to proactively shape the future. The most common mindsets we work with today are with business owners who have taken definitive views. For example, exiting their businesses with a view to exit South Africa and investing in growth to deepen value and earn a bigger market share.


The harsh reality is that most businesses are not worth nearly what their owners want or need them to be. The low valuations often result from the fact that few business owners understand the buy-sell process. As a result, they don’t build their businesses to favour premium prices and clean exits. Usually, they build their businesses to suit their lifestyle, management style and the circumstances they face in their business building journey.

If exiting is your approach, begin changing the way you build your business. It will take time but be sure you can demonstrate momentum in sales and co-ordinated delivery and fulfilment. In addition, you must have an able, capable, motivated team that leads and drives the business. Finally, the way you have built the business must demonstrate that you create value, represented by a healthy stream of dividends. All of this must be preceded by a clean, organised set of books and contracts that tie your suppliers, people and customers together.

Invest to grow

Problems are precious. A band of business owners we work with have realised and adopted this approach. The problems in our economy and society do three things. They freeze competitors like deer in headlights. They disable the corporates that have dominated our economy for so long. And they change the needs and wants of the customers you and your competitors serve.

Building a business that can respond fast to these realities opens remarkable growth in your business. It’s a very real opportunity to reshape the future of your industry and lead its development by being relevant to customers in the face of change. If built right, your business will ‘eat your competitors for lunch' and swallow whole and fast the  hors d'oeuvres that the corporates cannot respond to. Corporates have to remain generic providers of commodity services due to their investment into national distribution platforms. The fragmenting market driven by the changing needs of customers cannot be effectively serviced by them. These fragments are the hors d'oeuvres and for a growing business can generate massive revenues.


The most common defensive behaviours are where business owners double down on protecting their turf. We are seeing this in several behaviours.

Hold onto value

Whilst investing, these investments are not oriented to growth. They focus on customer retention through improving the value of their offerings, creating incentives and propositions for customers to commit to longer relationships and the like. We are also working with business owners to scale up and improve the performance of their teams by tightening business systems and capacitating their teams to operate them. A further strategy has been to simplify the business. During the last few years, some business owners chased cashflow by stepping into new terrains and unfamiliar territory. This took the shape of bringing in and building new products. Or  establishing new businesses alongside their primary business. Or wasting inordinate amounts of time playing the crypto markets, for example. In almost every single case, these behaviours served to amplify chaos and create even more uncertainty. Cleaning out these activities, simplifying the business and motivating your team has led to improved performance.

Cut back

A frequent defensive strategy we witness is a single-minded focus on budget. Cutting back on lead generation and conversion activities, restructuring again and again and again and a host of other activities give the feeling that you are doing the right thing. But often it's not. Tightening a business in this manner as an impulse as opposed to a very well-defined strategy simply creates a self-fulfilling prophecy confirming your mindset that things are indeed bad when in fact, they’re just tough times.


We sadly work with very few passive business owners. Passive means that they’re unlikely to cross our threshold. Action, be it aggressive or defensive, empowers you to move and right action will turn empowerment into positive results. Passive behaviours often rely on waiting for things to change or hope and prayer to lead your business to a different place. The reality is, passive behaviour is a death spiral. Think of it this way: Should you not be growing your business at inflation plus currency depreciation plus GDP growth at least, you are depreciating your business. These indicators mean you should be growing at least around 15-17% annually to simply stay where you are and 17-20% to get ahead. The signs are there that we are unlikely to see too much change from where we are. There is little in the political and economic leadership of our country to suggest otherwise. Passivity in behaviour around your business will most likely serve to make you a victim. Its not a good place to be nor strategy to hold. Reach out, find some help, get some help but do something.

Our history drives our future

Perspective is key in a changing environment. It helps you to see things differently and opens your mind and therefore behaviour to different approaches to securing growth when you cannot find it by doing what you have always done before. Do something different. Do it in small steps but do it. it will be uncomfortable. Your mind will caution you and you will feel out of your comfort zone. So, do it in very small steps but evaluate it based on objective measures, not emotion or opinion. That’s a key to change your behaviour from driving you, to you driving it.

We work across multiple sectors and industries but specialise in growth challenges faced by businesses generating annual revenues between R15m-200m. we see all these behaviours at play and working with us will shift your thinking, behaviour and results since we measure everything we do in numbers, not emotions. Reach out and we will respond. We’d love to see you succeed because in that lies our success.

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Topics: Winner Mindset, Business Success, Attitude

Pavlo Phitidis

Written by Pavlo Phitidis

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