Viewing clients and employees as family the secret to success

Ms Phepsile Maseko and Mr Pieter de Jager.

MBOMBELA – Most of the time when Lowvelder gets invited to attend a conference – whether hosted by the corporate sector or government – the venue is indicated as Ingwenyama Conference and Sports Resort.

So what makes this establishment one of the most preferred accommodation and conference facilities in the Lowveld? According to Mr Pieter de Jager, the owner of Ingwenyama and Mr Martin Tychsen, general manager of operations and De Jager’s right hand, the answer is simple: they are a family. Whether you are an employee of Ingwenyama or a customer, you are considered family.

De Jager and Tychsen discussed their secrets to success with the mentee of Bring Change Lowveld, Ms Phephsile Maseko, last week.

Enjoy what you do
De Jager says entrepreneurs should enjoy what they do, otherwise leave it. It is as simple as that.

It takes hard work and dedication
He warns that you have to be prepared to put in the hours to reap the rewards. He adds that it is important to know your prospective business inside and out or to partner with somebody who has more expertise in a certain field where you may be lacking. Ingwenyama grew from humble beginnings and De Jager stresses that it took 23 years’ hard work.

“The 15 first years weren’t easy. We started small and added on as the needs arose. At first we identified the need for more rooms. Then we realised there was a need for more conference facilities, which in turn necessitated a bigger kitchen. As demand grows, your whole business grows. If there is a demand, it is easy to go to a bank and show them the figures.”

Be unique
Ingwenyama offers not only accommodation but has sport, conference and leisure facilities which is a big contributing factor to its success. “It is the service that you give to people that brings them back and then the demand just gets bigger,” De Jager says.

Teamwork and team members
Tyschen says, “Put the right people in the right places, who know how to do, what they have to do. Quality people who are passionate about what you want to achieve as a business will always be successful. That’s actually the hardest part and quite a process.”

He says prospective employees market themselves in terms of what they want you to see, but as soon as they start working for you, their true colours start to show. “You should strive to have a team which carries its weight. Promote a team culture. Once employees take the responsibility to carry their weight, it makes administration so much easier and success follows.”

Marketing is everything
Interestingly, Tyschen notes that it is harder to market a product, service or establishment which already has an established name. “So many people watch you and want to be better than you. You hardly see Ingwenyama advertising in magazines. Why not? You can always make yourself look good in a magazine, but when people come here, they can get a different perception. With today’s world of smartphones and mobile devices, the consumer spends most of their time shopping for specials and following social media and this is where we need to be operating.”

Stay humble
Tyschen clearly has admiration for De Jager and is of the opinion that he is successful because he remains humble. “He has always been humble in all of his achievements. Too many people start a business thinking they are going to get rich and they often forget where they started. De Jager is working for longevity, for his family. Are you creating a business or a legacy?”

Work towards the same goal
De Jager and Tyschen say it is important that all staff members within any business – from the owners to the cleaners, work towards the same goal or vision.

If you live the culture and product, the staff will follow. If you are just here to get a salary, that is what your staff will do. If you are willing to wash a dish or serve people, your staff will follow you through thick and thin. If you sit in your ivory tower and are not able to “lower” yourself to do what regular staff members do, they won’t believe in your or your business’ vision. You want to lead from the front. You have to put in the hours.

All successful businesses have visionary leaders who are not afraid to step out of the ordinary and try new and fresh ideas to grow their businesses, and these leaders are backed by passionate and loyal staff who want to achieve the same as the leaders.

Value input and delegate
De Jager admits that, once he decides on something, he implements it as soon as possible, but not without discussing it with his team first. “I will always get their ideas. And as management, you need to be open to what others think. The more ideas you can generate, the quicker you can start implementing them. It’s a team sport. You can’t do everything yourself.”

Meet everyday
De Jager and Tyschen say management should meet everyday. “If you implement proper time management, this shouldn’t prevent you from getting through all your work,” Tyschen says. They suggest various department heads to have meetings with staff on at least a weekly basis.

Have proper controls in place
“If your controls are strong and you’ve got all the boxes ticked, you’re going to achieve success.
You have to be strict and disciplined on these controls, especially when it comes to finances. If you don’t look at the financials on a daily basis, you don’t have a business. Every little cent must count.”

  • Read what other mentors in the Bring Change Lowveld programme have to share: 

Gerhard de Bruin (Nelspruit Brake & Clutch)

Hotel Numbi & Garden Suites’ Willem Fick

Riaan Loubser and Gerald Danilowitz (Unigrad College)


Sandra Jacobs (Innibos)

SW Engelbrecht (Sappi Ngodwana Mill)

Dr Mathews Phosa

Henri Pieters (Stabilis)

Nick Elliot (Ulusha Projects)

Kobus Jacobs (Sonpark Centre)

Construction entrepreneur Thuli Mashaba

James Aling (HL Hall and Sons Properties)

Oupa Pilane (Guma Group of Companies)

Realtor Dirk van Rooyen

Bring Change Lowveld founder Ettiene Pretorius

Attorney Leon Doyer

Nicolene Smalman
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