Transformational Entrepreneurs

The words transformation, entrepreneurship and black economic empowerment are among those that we hear on a daily basis. These days it seems as if every journalist, radio and TV host, every trainer and certainly every politician are experts on transformation and entrepreneurship.  What do these words really mean?  When we combine the words transformation and entrepreneur we land up with transformation entrepreneur.

The reality is that there are not all that many transformational entrepreneurs around. These are those special people that are equipped to make any kind of transformation happen in real life, and not just talk about it or tell others what to do.

What are the attributes of a transformation entrepreneur? You and I could probably list many but from experience we list the following three attributes:

 1.  Leader transformation – cultivating value based personal confidence in the ability to move situations in a positive direction. Our research and understanding embraces the concept that we can only really help to transform others when we are transforming ourselves. To jump to the other steps first is counterproductive and often hypocritical. Many of us lose sight of the process of personal transformation that a Nelson Mandela went through mostly before he was released from prison. He did not just become the great leader he turned out to be before he was jailed at Robin Island. He worked very hard to become emotionally and mentally prepared for his icon performance. This applies to all people that really make a difference in our society. We need to firstly focus on our personal emotional, mental, physical and spiritual fitness. This requires a daily commitment!

2.  National transformation loyalty – A transformation entrepreneur needs to have a passion for our national transformation imperative to transform into a productive and value based society. This is the spirit of a Nelson Mandela, a FW De Klerk, a General Constand Viljoen, a Desmond Tutu and many others who transformed themselves first before tackling the big picture transformation process. Our constitution represents the spirit of such a transformation cause. But people who are not transformed personally tend to jump the respect and unity spirit of the constitution and focus on tunnel vision passions. Transformed individuals tend to oppose all kinds of racism and injustices in our society. They are values driven people.

3.  Black economic empowerment – For many good reasons black economic empowerment is a key element in building a successful South African society. BEE has failed in so many ways because of various factors, amongst which is the tunnel vision manner in which it is tackled by both government as well as political and social leadership. Hundreds of millions of rand, amounting to billions, have already been spent on supporting black economic empowerment directly. It is not readily made known how much of these efforts have failed, yet as a country we persist in doing the same things over and over again. Due to the fact that many of the BEE thinkers and policy makers are racially motivated due to the injustices of the past, they often fail to see the big picture that is required to bring about transformation at all three levels.

Lessons from history

As an elderly Afrikaner I remember that we went through a period in our history of reaching out for economic empowerment. Many parallels can be drawn with what is happening in our country today. The Afrikaner was at that stage almost exclusively a rural agriculturally based ethnic group who gradually developed into the professions of teaching, government, semi-government, politics, police, defense force, doctors, lawyers, scientists etc.

For most Afrikaners it was a tremendous cultural obstacle to move into business and entrepreneurial initiatives. The industrial revolution did not really strike the Afrikaner until years later. Many failed! Many are still failing who try to invest their pension money into business ventures that they are not equipped to handle. In the old days, long before the new South Africa, there was a clamour that the existing big business leaders like the Anglo Americans were not ‘allowing’ the Afrikaner entrance – sounds familiar, not so? The ability of certain ethnic groups to be more successful in businesses such as cafes, restaurants, and fruit and vegetable businesses are backed by cultural affinities and many years of experience. I would not dream of trying to run a successful fruit and vegetable business without a great deal of support from those who know how to do so. It is another kind of culture.

Key lesson learnt from BEE failures

Failure of BEE, amongst other reasons, is also a failure to recognise that business skills and success is NOT just a case of access to funds – it is much, much more. The three weekly Leadership Platform shows provide sharp reminders that economic success is a product of personal transformation, tremendous courage, tenacity and especially humility to learn from others who have walked that path already.

Successful BEE progress is to a great extent proportionate to our ability to exploit the valuable skill sets and experience of those who have succeeded in the past.

Those prominent people who are passionate about jumping straight into BEE projects without due respect for the immense cultural and experience gap that need to be crossed, may well be doing more harm than good.

The Big X factor

Our statute books and strategies at all levels are rapidly filling up with modern BEE policies to try to enforce the imperative of economic growth of the masses of our people. The Big X Factor is not an increase in more racist based legislature and policies, but the extent to which we as a country are able to mobilise the support and passion of those relatively few of us who are equipped to be transformation entrepreneurs. These are people who are not just talkers of transformation, but are able to partner and mentor those who wish to enter the world of entrepreneurship and business.

We need all the real doers to become more involved.

Do you recognize some areas in yourself or your team that need improvement? Email Louis on for more on creating “Leadership Fit” leaders that generate successful movement (performance) inside your organisation.




Louis has been fanatically endeavoring to uncover universal leadership principles and models for longer than most of us have been alive. He is an author, leadership expert, father, grandfather, and the Co-Founder of Leadership Platform.

Call: +27 (0)12 653 3022

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Leadership Platform is a specialist leadership development consultancy, focusing on creating measurable impact to the bottom line through the enhancement of leadership understanding and engagement.


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