CAPE TOWN – While many great chief executives CEOs spend years mastering the art of true leadership, Louis Pulzone, founder and group CEO of the LFP Group, had to get to grips with it almost overnight.
As a young, passionate and inventive spirit, Pulzone was not always your “conventional leader”. For starters, his now multimillion rand company came from literally nothing.
Born and bred in Kroonstad, Louis made the big move to Johannesburg and in 2013, he founded LFP Training. During the day, he recruited learners and saw potential clients for his new business, LFP Training and at night he worked as a waiter at the Spur in Bright Water Commons in Randburg.
At this stage he lived in a one-bedroom apartment in Randburg with his eldest son. As a family-orientated person, Pulzone wanted his family to be involved in the legacy that he was about to create, so he convinced them to move to Johannesburg.
Pulzone soon realised that to make the LFP dream come true, he had to surround himself with the right people. He identified and invited a few talented industry professionals to meet with him and shared his unwavering vision. Pulzone was passionate about education and transformation and believed in the difference that it could make in alleviating unemployment in South Africa. Louis asked these hand selected individuals to join him under a tree – across from a building which he one day hoped to own.
The rest is history. Today, the LFP Group owns the exact building (and two others in the area) that the team stood facing in its initial meeting. The LFP Group is South Africa’s leading provider of BEE aligned skills development training solutions and compliance services and they are also the country’s largest privately-owned FET college.
In addition to its facilities in Gauteng, the LFP Group has also opened in KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape. To date, the company has trained more than 9 000 people by partnering with 700-plus clients and has provided R180 million in stipends to learners.
The secret to his success?
Pulzone believes that success is meant to be shared and passed on. He is never complacent and sets the tone for innovation in the industry. Rather than looking to what its competitors are doing, the LFP Group holds itself to the highest standards possible and boasts a staff compliment of 200 employees who each bring their own unique skill set to the company.
1. Is LFP Group your first business you started-up?
Yes, I’d worked for companies in the training and education fields previously and identified a gap for an innovative solution to benefit both businesses and society.
2. What gave you the business idea?
Having worked in the industry, I saw first-hand the inequality that existed and knew that education could be used to bridge this gap. I registered LFP to provide learnerships for unemployed and disabled persons by aligning these to the BEE Codes of Good Practice. Here, clients were incentivised with BEE points and a more productive workforce, whilst the greater population had access to quality education.
We started as training consultants and later moved to deliver on these initiatives ourselves. I think that the capacity to innovate has always been a big part of my natural being and I was soon able to identify what was lacking. Back then, I just wanted to implement credible training solutions that aligned to the BEE codes of Good Practice. With BEE being a relatively new and underrated policy back then, the buy-in was slow initially but today we have made great in-roads and are making an impact in SA.
3. How is the business doing?
The company has evolved over the years. Today we are 200 team members strong with offices around the country and LFP Training is SA’s largest privately owned FET College. We have expanded beyond skills development initiatives and have introduced various new compliance service offerings to our portfolio. We’ve worked with about 700 clients and have provided learnerships for more than 9000 unemployed and disabled individuals.
4. Did you always want to be an entrepreneur?
The short answer to this is yes. I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit and constantly challenge the societal norm. I did all the ground work to get here and put it all on the line.
5. What made you choose this career path?
I am an advocate for the industry and I’m so passionate about what we do. We are constantly innovating and challenging ourselves to think bigger. I have a background in the industry and this helped to set the path towards this journey. I am constantly inspired and my team helps to bring our bold vision to life.
6. What's next on your list to achieve?
It’s about changing perceptions and continuously innovating to build an all-inclusive economy. We understand our role and encourage corporate SA to view BEE as a revenue growth possibility rather than a ‘grudge purchase’. Our vision is now set to connect these concepts in such a way that the entire economy benefits from it. We truly invest in the industry and understand the benefit of companies having access to tools and information. We recently introduced a free, no obligation BEE Management Tool which anyone can use to analyse their BEE scorecard and strategically plan for the future. We also offer the industry’s first free BEE app, BEE-Connex.
7. What would you say to someone who wants to be an entrepreneur?
I believe that anybody can make it, regardless of the economy; you just need to be fully commit, and be prepared to work hard and sacrifice. Understand what you are getting yourself into, understand your industry, understand your service or product and add more value than anyone else. Listen to people as much as you can and learn from as many people as you can meet. I believe that a good leader knows how to serve his or her company, people and clients. You need to be open to criticism so that you can better yourself, and you can never stop learning from others.
8. Please explain what your company does?
We are the leading provider of BEE aligned compliance solutions. We initially made our mark by offering BEE aligned skills development learnerships but have since expanded to offer a comprehensive compliance service portfolio.
9. Would you say you need a degree to get started?
Not at all. You need grit and determination to get started – everything else will follow.