No sustainable profits without sustainable society

South African companies that swop profit-at-all-costs for strategies that recognise the critical role of credibility and trust in their own sustainability, hold the key to the socio-economic transformation essential to secure the country’s position in the global market.

While these remain exceptions in a business environment fettered by a fixation on short-term financial gains local producer Shani Kay, whose work routinely showcases the concept of profit-with-purpose, believes that telling these stories will inspire more good practice.

Kay believes that broad based black economic empowerment in South Africa is generally perceived as a score card whose boxes need to be checked in order to maintain supplier relationships and government contracts. In its essence however, she describes BBBEE as really about enabling the broad and widespread economic empowerment of previously disadvantaged black people.

She points out that whilst an authentic engagement with BBEEE is still not the status quo, we are beginning to see the fruits of forward-thinking companies and the business benefits being yielded by sincerely embracing diversity.

“When you stand on a mountain you have a much clearer view of the city below and because of this distance, a much clearer understanding of the system, of what fits where and how it all maps together. And it is the same with long-term, big-picture thinking. When you take a step back, you look with a different perspective and you see, much more clearly, that helping to create a flourishing society is not simply a regulatory nor a moral requirement; it is quite simply the only way to ensure there remains a lucrative environment for business to operate into the future.”

So if BBBEE is fundamentally about economic inclusion, then Gradidge-Mahura Investments can and should be held us as a prime example of this approach.  

Driven by a vision of improved financial literacy and enhancing access to investment deals that benefit South Africans across the race, age and social spectrum – and set within the context that the average South African financial adviser is 52 years old, white, Afrikaans and male – Craig Gradidge and Kagisho Mahura set out, over a decade ago, to break that mould.

Today they head up a flourishing wealth management firm that went from managing R10million with an emphasis on young black professionals in year one, to an impressive R950million now, with a diverse and eclectic spectrum of clients attracted by their strong focus on relationships and value creation.

“At GMI we were quite deliberate in trying to do things differently to the way anybody else has done before that we were aware of,” says Mahura.

“So, the way we structured the business is that the client sits at the centre.  Everything we do, the obvious question is always, is it good for the client? It’s got nothing to do with what’s good for the advisor or good for the business because we know, if it’s good for the client eventually it’s going to be good for the business.”

Gradidge-Mahura Investments is one of the companies highlighted by Kay in #SAINC, a 20-part series airing on local TV channels and across social media throughout the year with the objective of changing the narrative in South Africa, and highlighting and celebrating the country’s successes and achievements.

Kay wants to help South Africa step closer to its true potential, and believes she can help shift negative attitudes by sharing stories about the role of business in the strategic delivery of global goals to positively impact the lives of real people.

She, like Gradidge and Mahura, supports an authentic approach to black economic transformation in South Africa as opposed to the unequitable version that has delivered the “BEE barons” of the years since democracy.

“We are starting to see many innovative business models and inclusive solutions that are delivering both profitable returns and societal value in synergy. And that’s essential if we want to achieve sustainable transformation rather than continue wrestling with a degenerating business environment in which profit will be increasingly difficult to make,” Kay stressed.

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Business Day TV: Tuesday 4th June at 16h00 & Thursday 6th June at 12h00

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