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‘Accountants Are A Dying Breed

It is an unusual tale, even in the strange world of business. The tale of an African from a small town who left a well-paid job for the uncertain life of
an entrepreneur.

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It’s a hot summer’s day in Sandton, Johannesburg. As we meet, the sun blazes bright like Titan’s fiery wheels. Brightness has played a big part in Johan Botes’ journey to entrepreneurship. On this day, the future is even brighter; he has just opened an office in Fourways, Johannesburg, 254 kilometers away from Mokopane, in northern Limpopo, where he took his first breath in 1962.

“I am so happy that the company is growing from strength to strength and most importantly providing jobs for young people who deserve every opportunity,” he says.

Botes employs 55 permanent staff and 12 contractors in five countries. The average age is 27. The company merges accounting and IT to make businesses quicker and reliant on fewer staff.

“The drive and energy of our team is one reason we’re growing so fast. We recruit entrepreneurial, self-motivated people at a young age and embed them into our business. They’re adaptable, quick to learn and ready to work overseas independently. We’re very strategic in our recruitment process – we’ll only take people with the right cultural fit, business acumen, and energy level to succeed in a global workplace,” he says.

Building a successful business was hard and sweaty. For three years after high school, Botes came face to face with rifles and drill in the army as a conscript.

With teachers for parents, he was inspired to save for university fees. Hard work earned him a career as a chartered accountant, working for Deloitte, before going into private practice as an auditor and then returning to Deloitte for a five-year stint. Here he learned about the enterprise resource planning (ERP) market. Botes swapped his well-paid job to start Consilia Technology Investments – a company that provides technology for business – in 2012.

“First we started the business as Consilia Consult; after a year, we realized we are not a consulting company but a technology business and we changed it to Consilia Technology. We can take all your database services; optimize it to make the business work,” he says.

According to Botes, the management information system integrates areas such as planning, purchasing, inventory, sales, marketing, finance and human resources. He started the business after realizing that clients in South Africa were finding the existing high-end ERP packages expensive and complicated. He decided to build a business around Sage ERP X3 software – a solution designed to be more flexible and affordable.

“Our view is that accountants are a dying breed. Systems are taking over. You can automate almost all the accounting systems in a business today through, for example, barcoding and scanning. It changes the fundamentals of business completely. One of our clients is a logistics company that requires daily costs per vehicle everyday per component such as tyres, fuel and maintenance. We give them a report per vehicle in different categories so they can see which vehicles are making profit, without having to capture one thing. Everything is available on a phone, iPad or computer. You can sit in front of a TV and authorize payments,” he says.

Botes says that the immediate priority for Consilia is to bed down its businesses in its new offshore territories before looking at other markets.

“We’ve been cash-generative since the start and have not had to take on debt to grow our business. We believe that if we offer a skill that is in demand worldwide, and do good work at a good price, we’ll continue to grow strongly in the years to come.”

He says there is a market for businesses like his in the continent and entrepreneurs should take note and keep employees smiling.

“As a young person, to start up a business and get funding is difficult. Since we started, 21 people have gotten shares. They haven’t paid for them yet but they pay from dividends. They have three years to pay up. We give them a discount of 80 percent. If you show someone that you trust them and you give them something, they become involved and want to see the business grow. One of the young guys said to me no one in his life has ever given him anything,” he says.

The future seems bright for Botes.

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