At the tender age of 24, Marnus Broodryk was already a self-made millionaire. Yet he made his way up in the entrepreneurial world so inconspicuously that it is only now that he has really stepped into the spotlight.
Marnus is the CEO of The Beancounter, an accounting firm that has combined accounting and technology to support small- and medium businesses in the most effective way possible.
His face is best known as one of the business moguls, or “sharks”, on Shark Tank South Africa that is currently being broadcasted on M-Net. In this series upcoming entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to a panel of five business moguls in the hopes of clinching investors for their businesses.
However, it is Marnus’s passion and positivity that immediately grabs your attention and makes it obvious why he is so successful.
Marnus’s entrepreneurial savvy actually developed from need. Growing up in Harrismith in the Free State he washed cars and mowed lawns on weekends to pay his own school fees. At the age of 14 he started his own web design business to earn more money.
“I grew up with the idea that money is a bad thing and that rich people are cruel and heartless. That is not true. Some of the richest people I know today, are also the most humble and nicest people,” says Marnus. “Looking back on my childhood, I realise now that we have to talk to our children about this. Money is neither good nor bad. It is your attitude towards money that determines whether you will experience it as good.”
After finishing matric, Marnus had no money for tertiary studies and applied at a local accounting firm to get some work experience. The firm allowed him to work while studying part-time through Unisa and Marnus was well on his way to realise his dream of becoming a chartered accountant.
In the end, the life of a CA seemed too dull for this budding entrepreneur and at the age of 22 he headed for Johannesburg. With only his clothes and a double-bed on the back of a rented bakkie, Marnus was determined to do whatever it takes to become a success. And that is how The Beancounter was born.
For Marnus success came quickly, but not easily. He says he often had to work 14-hour days, always tweaking and refining his business-model to cater to his clients’ needs as effectively as possible. “Success is a rather relative concept. What is regarded as success by one, will not be seen as success by another,” says Marnus.
“Since my childhood, I had learnt to work very hard for everything that I wanted. And because I was willing to work as hard as I can, I knew I would be able to find what I was looking for. For me the definition of success is to be the best Marnus I can be and I have always been willing to give my all to achieve this.”
Looking back on this time of his life, Marnus doesn’t see any of the sacrifices. “I think when you are trying to make a business work and you are driven by these goals, it becomes a part of your life to an extent where it doesn’t seem like a sacrifice. It merely becomes part of who you are and what you live for.”
When asked which business women he looks to for inspiration, Marnus says Dawn Nathan Jones, the executive director of Europcar, and Santie Botha, chairperson of Curro and Famous Brands, have always been business moguls that he has admired and has learnt a lot from.
More than an idea
According to Marnus entrepreneurs worldwide, including South Africa, often have a misconception that business success is largely dependent on a great idea and adequate funding. This is however not the case, he says. “The most important thing is whether you can take your idea and develop it into a profitable business. Budding entrepreneurs get paralysed by their need for a great idea and start-up capital, but the most important thing is to start working immediately to build your business.”
Yes, he has made a lot of mistakes starting out and has learnt valuable lessons along the way. “As an entrepreneur you tend to see opportunities in everything. You want to solve everybody’s problems and start many businesses to do so. I used to do this in my younger years, but there comes a time when one realises that you need to focus. You can start ten mildly successful businesses or you can build one great empire. That was one of the most important lessons I have learnt – focus is everything.”
Marnus stresses that his success would not have been possible without a knowledgeable and passionate team supporting him. “You can only do so much on your own. In the end it is the team around you that makes the big things happen,” he says.
He says that he chooses his employees according to the company culture and whether the candidate will fit in well with the rest of the team. “We take our time in appointing new employees and potential candidates have to go through four interviews before we make a decision. Getting offered a position in the company has a lot to do with the person’s attitude and whether they will fit in at the company,” he says.
“We have an open-plan office and we do not hide stuff from each other. Effective and open communication is of critical importance. Every Monday we have a status meeting where we share everything that is happening and regroup on where we are headed. We do a teambuilding session once a month and all employees work according to a bonus scheme. If the business does well, so do the employees.”
Passion and hard work
Even though Shark Tank has really brought Marnus to the public’s attention, it is not his first exposure to television. He has already made several appearances on Winslyn, a programme aired on KykNet.
Marnus says he was thrilled to be asked to be part of Shark Tank since he has always been a fan of the American version of the show. Since he has always been so passionate about small- and medium businesses in South Africa, Shark Tank was a natural extension of his goal to support these businesses.
How does he know whether a business idea will work or just disappear into the masses? “The right person will always make a business work, even if it means that the idea has to be changed halfway,” he says matter-of-factly.
“The most important advice I can give to any entrepreneur, is just to start. Only when you have started your business, will you realise what it really is your clients want and how you can improve on your idea. A business plan only takes you so far and then you have to start working,” he says.
“Do something you are passionate about. You are going to be up at 05:00 in the mornings and be working and hustling till late at night. You will never be able to keep it up if you are not passionate about your business. Lastly, get the right people and consultants to help you in your business. We tend to do everything ourselves thinking that no-one else will be able to do it well enough. You will never achieve success this way – get the right people to take this journey with you.”
Foto credit: Mnet