A birthday is a time to reflect – even in your own business

Today business cannot afford to be complacent when it celebrates numbers of years in business. Manage forward. Anticipate crises. Do business in the present.

It’s our birthday this month. We were formed 24 years ago on a wave of optimism and the promise that we would make a difference. 1999 is a long way back, it’s a long time ago. We were literally on top of the world then; Nelson Mandela had just stepped down after an incredible single term in office, South Africans had conquered Everest. That’s when we opened our doors.

It’s all a lot different today, which is why birthdays are so important, because they give us the chance to pause and to reflect. Sometimes we are like hamsters on a wheel in our cage. We are so busy running that we lose sight of where we are going, but it’s even more important to pause and think where we have come from.

If you’re 24, then 24 years is a chunk of time, if you’re older than that, you blanch when someone says it is a long time. But it is. We’ve lived through the financial crisis of 2008 and the highs of the soccer world cup. The first on African soil – in 2010. We’ve survived Covid 19 – and being shut down.

lucia mabasa birthday

Looking back

When you look back you realise how the yin is incomplete without the yang. Good follows bad. The summer sun beats down after the winter chills. Joy will eventually dry tears. You realise too what you learnt along the way and how it helped you cope in the next crisis.

We often say there was no playbook for the pandemic. There wasn’t. No one had worked remotely – ever – on the scope and scale we all had to after lockdown was imposed in March 2020. But we all did. We learnt to reach out and rely on staff, some of whom needed a hug which we couldn’t give – only virtually. We learnt, once again, how staff really are at the bedrock of everything we do. And how the health of internal relationships is the bedrock for solid external relationships.


“Understanding how we survived is key to successfully making the
most of the gift of the present
and the opportunity of the future.”


It is humbling to think back to a time when there was no clear map to get through what we just had to endure. Yet our staff, down to the last person, all accepted pay cuts rather than lose a single one of their colleagues. It’s an overwhelming privilege to have been able to pay them back in kind for all that loyalty. Every single cent that they were owed – once the economy returned to a new normal.

There are so many other lessons I carry in my heart. I remember too the absolute terror of hearing how rival firms were being forced to close at the height of the pandemic, because the work simply dried up. I would wonder if the same thing would happen to us. But it didn’t.

Remember the core definition of why you are in business.

When I look back, I realise that the lessons of the financial crash of 2008 were vital for what was to come in 2020. It’s the same lessons that apply to all of us: The first is not to get distracted – irrespective of the temptation, but to stick to your knitting; keep doing what you’re great at.

The next lesson is to remember the core definition of why you are in the business. Never compromising on customer experience is vital, maintaining relationships is just as important – we have clients who have been with us since we first opened our doors. And then there’s listening to criticism. That’s right. Creating a space where people can tell you that you got it wrong, where you admit it, own it and fix it. It’s one of the hardest things to do, but when I look back it has been a key pillar that has underpinned our stated desire to be authentic, honest and excellent.

But you need to find the time to push pause and think about all of this. Sometimes when you do, you realise that you have been going nowhere on that hamster wheel – and you have to make that decision to get off. That takes courage, even more than getting out of your comfort zone and starting to reach into new markets, which in our case has taken us into Africa and Europe.

It’s the same humility that reminds you that even though you might have achieved much over the last two decades and more, there is still much you can learn, especially in African countries who have overcome their energy challenges while our national grid is busy imploding. But it’s also about being confident enough to know that when you go to countries in Europe, even though they might appear more advanced in our minds, we have done much that we can be proud of here in South Africa and have much to share for those willing to learn.

The road ahead is exciting.

It is something that we have found out recently, but none of it would have been possible without taking the time to just stop, think, reflect and appreciate. The road ahead is exciting. There is no doubt that there are challenges ahead for all of us as individuals. Us as South Africans and as citizens of the world, but equally we all know that we have been through unimaginable times and we survived.

Understanding how we survived is key to successfully making the most of the gift of the present and the opportunity of the future. For us, the calibre and commitment of our staff has been vital to that journey. We literally are the living proof of Ubuntu, we are because of them, we would not have made it through Covid without them all digging deep, making sacrifices and still going the extra mile despite it.

It’s been a privilege to use this birthday month to take stock and recalibrate. I hope you’ll do the same for your company – do it on your own birthday too, it might be the greatest gift you give yourself all year.

Lucia Mabasa expresses an expert opinion in this article

  • Lucia Mabasa is managing director of pinpoint one human resources, a proudly South African black women owned executive search firm.
  • pinpoint one human resources, an executive search specialist, provides critical c-suite, specialist and critical skills solutions across industries and professional disciplines, in South Africa and across Africa.
  • Visit Bizcommunity, an executive search specialist, to find out more or read her previous columns on leadership; avoiding the pitfalls of the boardroom and becoming the best C-suite executive you can be.

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