DURBAN - Malcolm Gladwell in his book “Outliers” examines the secret of exceptionally successful people.
Gladwell states: “the real secret of success turns out to be surprisingly simple, and it hinges on a few crucial twists in people’s life stories – on the culture they grow up in and the way they spend their time”.
That Llewellyn Naidoo, a small town boy from Pietermaritzburg, is an outlier is without question. He started work at the tender age of 11 working as a taxi conductor for twenty rands a day and attending school thrice a week. Today, he is the CEO of Oaksure Insurance Brokers, one of the top Financial Intermediary Association’s (FIA) largest black brokerage in the country that employs more than 300 people.
He co-founded Oaksure with a friend, Steven Cory at the age of 21. It was not always a bed of roses for Naidoo who went from conductor, to working 20 hour days at a call centre to selling insurance. “I manifested what I have and I will do whatever it takes and work harder than anyone else to succeed”. He says. “I had borne many hardships, suffered profusely and faced numerous challenges and setbacks, but I was determined that I am not a victim. If anything, I use the negative experiences I had endured to overcome any limitations that would inhibit my burning desire to win.”
Entrepreneurs are born or made through their circumstances and he is the epitome of both. “When I was at school I sold flashing stickers for the Nokia 3310 that I had purchased at a flea market and re-sold it to all the wealthy kids at 900% profit. I went from stickers to cell phone covers to pizza delivery boy to building my own computers with individual components from Rectron that had exceptional capacity for gaming,” he added. “I did whatever it took. The turning point came when I realized that if I can sell two million rands in premiums for the insurance company I had worked for then I can do it for myself and pay myself recurring money. We started the company in my mum’s bedroom then moved to a garage and eventually acquired office space”. Today he has offices all over the country and mentors, coaches and provides systems infrastructure for young entrepreneurs to create their own brokerage companies.
“My personal motto is making money while changing lives” he states. “In starting the business we did not have a talent pool but we took in young people that no one wanted and trained them, creating a platform in the Insurance industry”. He now owns his own IN Seta college that educates unemployed previously disadvantaged young people.
“When you start a business, you learn very quickly to become a man and move rapidly through things that are holding you back. I had also learnt a very important lesson.” He states.
“That when you find yourself in a hole, the first thing you need to do is stop digging and find a way out. Life taught me that”.
“There are many barriers to entry for black entrepreneurs in the industry,” he continues. “They are excluded and don’t stand a chance even before they begin through daunting regulation, capital, qualifications, regulatory exams and onerous requirements. We are a success story because two best friends worked 24/7 to find our way. Our first interaction with the FSB when we wanted to register was positive as someone there took the trouble to walk us through the minefield of regulation and helped us fill in the application forms – after all we were all but 20 and 21 with big dreams. That our dreams had come true is purely due to hard work, resilience and determination.” That and because he is an Outlier.
Brenda Kali is the CEO of Conscious Companies and the Founder of the Conscious Leadership Academy. www.consciouscompanies.co.za.