Aggressive, clean-cut business objectives. That's what the CEO of a successful medium-sized company recently shared with me about the business he leads.
It's impressive when someone makes deliberate bets on the future based on a strong sense of where things are and where it's heading. Statements such as: "This is where we are now. This is where the world is going. This is our customer. This is our competitor. This is our key advantage. This is what needs to happen over the coming months to get from here, to here."
This leader had strong views on these topics and clearly articulated them, not in a boastful way, but in a monotone, calm way. It was impressive. Probably the most exciting thing is just how determined they were to compete internationally, but basing themselves in South Africa because they see it as part of their competitive edge. It was a refreshing change from the typical negativity.
The experience made me realise the opportunity for South African companies to be ambitions. You can be entirely local but focused on winning globally. Being based here can even be part of why you are stronger; not weaker. This is not blind loyalty but a simple business decision.
Of course, there are some well-known examples of local companies playing a global game - in some cases relocating their head office eventually, but not before making an impact worldwide. Discovery, SABMiller and Anglo America are well-known corporate examples. Still, many medium-sized companies are doing the same, such as Cochrane (not the interview I refer to earlier), who started the ClearVu brand and installed the fence around the American Capitol building.
There are many reasons why companies achieve international success, but I will argue having a clear vision, and a strong sense of the competitive environment plays an important part. Those statements I listed above.
As we head into the new year, the question I ask myself and those around me is: do you know what you are trying to do? If you do, the sky is the ceiling.