There is something admirable about those who buck the trend, and with a deep commitment to a cause beyond just profit.
Daniel Kibel is one such example. He wants to build the biggest trading company in Africa, but in an era when most businesses are going online to make profit, Kibel has gone offline.
He says he wanted to help people make smarter investments, so in 2012, he founded CM Trading, a brokerage firm helping people invest on various trading platforms, from cryptocurrencies to commodities.
Soon after, he discovered word-of-mouth is king. While other trading companies were investing hugely in online advertising, CM Trading went offline.
“We were simply being recommended by our business referrers in South Africa and then all around the southern African area. Since then, we have added online advertising, but still word-of-mouth is our largest business generator,” Kibel says.
It has paid off. In just six years, CM Trading has grown to operate in Africa, the Middle East and Asia; employs 140 full-time staff and many part-time staff and was named the best performing broker in Africa by Africa Investor in 2017.
“The most important path to success is through learning. The market in Africa has changed drastically over the last few years – so we need to constantly evolve and constantly do better… We saw a gap in the market. All the foreign brokerages were trying to impose their own way of working onto South Africa. To us, it was clear, you needed to understand the country, to understand the people and give them a different experience,” he says.
Kibel spent more than a decade as an employee in the industry until he decided to build a business of his own.
“It seemed like the natural progression and the right time. My partner and I began working together in 2001 and have held various senior management positions at some of the largest online financial trading companies.”
The good thing is Kibel has always wanted to be an entrepreneur.
Partnerships are one of the biggest cornerstones of a successful business, he says.
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“We work with partners everywhere and we listen to them – let them lead us rather than the other way around…”
Kibel has also faced difficulties in the business that steeled him for future growth.
“Being owed money and not being paid, not having enough cash to pay the bills but, somehow, getting through numerous sleepless nights. Otherwise, running a business is very often putting out fires.”
Hard work and good relationships helped them keep their doors open.
“To make sure we succeed, we keep up with reporting. You have to know your numbers at all times,” he emphasizes.
He has also made some mistakes.
“I think sometimes we can be so engrossed in day-to-day work – we don’t always see the wood for the trees. Because we are so busy, we may have taken our eyes off the ball regarding certain trends. We were late into the crypto market, for example.
“We really work hard and for us, this is personal – so sometimes I may have been too involved in the small details rather than looking at things on the macro level.”
Kibel says his biggest lesson from 2018 has been to always listen to his instincts.
“When I get a gut feeling about someone I should act immediately, and not say ‘ok, let’s give this a chance’. There were a few deals and activities with people that didn’t sit right from day one and, more often than not, my fears on the scruples of these individuals were proven correct.”
When adversity and doubt knock on the door, Kibel advises entrepreneurs to always act through their moral compass.
“I truly believe that even in the most difficult moments, this moral compass pushes us in the right direction…
“There is always doubt, but assuming things have been thought through properly and the right feeling is there, you have to jump in the water. Even if it is really cold at first,” he says.
Cold or hot, this entrepreneur isn’t about to give up.