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One on one

with Lebo Gunguluza

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SPW Contributors

Sanlam Private Wealth

On making a million by 27, what we can learn from Superman, and his most valued possession.


At a glance
Lebo Gunguluza is an entrepreneur, turnaround strategist, inspirational business speaker and Dragon investor on SA’s Dragons’ Den TV show.

How would you describe yourself?
I’m a serial entrepreneur, a father, an activist for economic transformation, a motivational speaker and strategist. I’m also a visionary and the captain of my ships.

What essential money lesson have you learnt?
Cash is king. You should give some of your money to your debtors, of course, but retain enough to keep your business afloat.

What passion does money allow you to indulge?
I travel a lot for work, but money allows me to travel away from what I usually do. I like to travel to unique, peaceful destinations where I can learn about the world. The other thing in which it allows me to indulge is cars – I have seven.

Does being wealthy equate with being happy?
Not necessarily. I think it depends on how you acquire that wealth. If you’re passionate about what you do, yes. If you have good relationships with people around you, then yes. If you acquire it in a negative way, by robbing people, you’ll just have enemies and you won’t be happy.

What’s your fundamental wealth-growth strategy?
First find a product that society needs, with the opportunity to take it to scale. Template that and achieve scale. Second, in the technology space, provide a solution where information sits on your system. Keep improving the system and make it so people can’t get out of that system for a very long time.

What financial advice would you give your 20-year-old self and 60-year-old self?
To my 20-year-old self: be financially literate, learn as much as possible about money and leverage the finance you have. Start saving and investing early. To my 60-year-old-self: your money should be working for you by now, not the other way around.

Low risk or high?
It depends. In some areas, low, but generally I’d say high, because high risk means high return. But they’re always calculated risks.

What did you do with your first pay cheque?
I used it for a deposit on a car.

With whom would you most like to have a one on one, and what would you ask?
Richard Branson – I’d like to know where he learnt his financial skills.

Would you hire yourself?
Yes, and no. I wouldn’t hire myself because I’m very expensive! But I would hire myself because I have a long-term view when I get into a company, and that’s the value I bring.

What are your views on philanthropy?
It’s extremely important. Your legacy is based on how much you give back.

What gives you hope?
South Africa – our democracy is very vibrant and there’s always the opportunity to influence somebody, somewhere.

What makes you happy?
When my business can deliver excellent service or innovation.

Who or what inspires you?
People who can make things happen against the odds.

What is your greatest failing?
That I haven’t found a life partner to settle down with. I think it brings stability.

Which of your qualities do you most appreciate?
I’m a visionary, and I’m patient. I also see the process through to the end.

Which of your qualities do you like least?
My competitive spirit – I can be overambitious.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I would be more educated.

Which superhero would you choose to be and what power would you most like to have?
It sounds lame, but Superman, because he can get to the whole world in one night and has the ability to pull back to see the situation in its entirety.

What have you learnt from failure?
There’s no such thing. It’s simply an opportunity to learn something new or find out how to do it a better way.

Which talent would you most like to have?
I’d love to have a sporting talent – to be a great soccer player on the world stage.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I made my first million at 27. No one else thought it was possible.

What is your greatest ambition?
I’d like to be a billionaire by age 50 and then retire and become a full-time philanthropist.

What do you most value in a person?
Loyalty, integrity and honesty.

What possession do you treasure most?
My health. Without health you can be as ambitious and driven as you want, but it’ll be meaningless.

Have you achieved everything you want to achieve?
I’m nowhere close. I want to build a group that outlives me as a legacy for my children.

What do you still want to do with your life?
Travel a lot more. I’m fascinated both by people who live simple lives, and those who live complex lives. I’d like to understand both sides.

What do you fear most?
Losing sight of where I’m going, losing focus.

What is your single biggest regret?
That I didn’t finish my LLB. I did a B.Com, but I stopped my LLB to start my company. It would be very useful to have that legal training.

What book changed your life?
Conversations With God by Neal Donald Walsch. It taught me that it’s pointless to be fearful.

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