Entrepreneurship is said to be the answer to unemployment challenges and slow growth, but to foster entrepreneurship we ideally need business leaders and owners who don’t give up.
In this article, Lyle takes us through his journey and experiences of quitting his well paying job and starting his own venture from scratch.
Lyle Malander may today run a successful firm offering business advisory, recruitment services and financial advice to large and mid-size entities but there was a time — when he had to make a tough decision to move out of his safe corporate environment and start a business.
Lyle is a qualified Chartered Accountant and the Co-Founder of Malander Advisory.
My name is Lyle Malander a Chartered Accountant from South Africa. I am a Director and co-founder of the Malander Group of companies.
One of my mottos is that Your past doesn’t define your future, meaning that where we come from shouldn’t determine where we are going.
I was born in Cape Town and being coloured in South Africa, meant that I came from a previously disadvantaged background.
I grew up in and around the Cape Flats and was surrounded by poverty.
My parents never had access to proper tertiary education growing up and opportunities to grow financially were very few and far between.
That being said, I will always appreciate the efforts my parents made to give me a good upbringing and seeing them struggle to has always been and continues to be a huge motivation for me.
Becoming a Chartered Accountant
Growing up I never considered myself to be a smart kid, but I always challenged myself to improve.
Also, I always wanted to be a medical doctor, as it was a respected profession that makes a difference in people’s lives.
My dream of becoming a doctor came to a crashing end when I realized that I can’t stand the sight of blood, which could have made me a terrible doctor. So studying to be a doctor was completely ruled out.
That is when I decided to opt for Commerce. In fact, when studying at University I didn’t really know what a Chartered Accountant was until I had to choose a course to study at University.
That is when I did some research and at the time CA seemed like one of the most prestigious business degrees available, and boy was I right.
In my honours year at University, I was a below-average student and I made it into the final exam by the skin of my teeth.
It wasn’t an easy road to qualifying, and I think I was a bit too social at University. I must admit that I did not believe that I could pass that year, but I never gave up hope and I gave it my all and managed to pass.
It just proves that anything is possible if you put in the right amount of effort.
I did my articles at one of the Big 4 firms in Johannesburg and finally qualified as a Chartered Accountant.
Quitting my Job and Starting an Advisory Business
After finishing my articles, I went on Secondment to Chicago, USA through the same Big 4 Firm. Thereafter I came back to join the same firm in an advisory division.
I worked for about 2 years before deciding to quit and start my own business.
I have always had the desire to make a difference and one of my career goals was to become a CEO of a large listed entity.
One route to get there was to work my way out the corporate ladder, the other was to try and start building a large listed entity from scratch and I guess I subconsciously went for the latter approach.
Once I had my goals clear, the easiest place to start at that point in time was with an area that I was familiar with, which was Accounting, hence the birth of the idea of the Advisory business – Malander Advisory in 2015.
In chatting to my now co-founder, Shaveera John, she immediately stated that she wanted to join the business and that made the decision easier.
We were now two Chartered Accountants jumping into the unknown.
Here is our Growth Timeline
Funding our Venture
- My co-founder, Shaveera John and I started the Malander Advisory business with no real savings. We had cashed out our pensions from our brief corporate career and started the business armed with two laptops.
- We started a business in October 2015 and at the time, our business consisted of a logo, two laptops and two Chartered Accountants. That’s it.
- We did not incur any unnecessary costs and we didn’t rent any office space in the first 3 months in which we operated.
Getting our First Clients
- I would say we got clients through engaging with people we have had personal business connections with first and building on that.
- We definitely had to prove ourselves in every project and we did, and still do, treat every project we do as our first as consistent and quality delivery is the cornerstone of what we pride ourselves in.
- This then gave us the opportunity to expand our client base through positive delivery and word of mouth.
Renting an office space
- In January 2016, we made our first big decision and rented a small 2 person office in a serviced office space.
- Being a risk-averse Chartered Accountants, we did not want to enter into any long term obligations and the serviced offices ran from month to month, which was perfect.
Hiring our first employee
- In January 2016 we also hit the milestone of hiring our first temporary employee, as we had just won our second client, albeit small, it was a step in the right direction.
- This was at a time when we still very much in an infancy stage, but we did not have the capacity to service any more clients and if we were to grow, we needed to increase our capacity and as scary as the decision was, it was a risk we had to take.
Our Big setback – No Clients Lined Up
- Our first big setback came in May 2016, when a project we were working on came to an end and we had no clients lined up.
- We suddenly realised that we were spending so much time working in the business, we had neglected to work on our business and build our client pipeline and the frantic search for clients began.
- Soon after we were fortunate to have signed another large entity as a client and the rollercoaster began from there.
Focussing on business development
- We were conscious not to make the same mistake twice and continuously focus on business growth.
- We did all this while maintaining service excellence.
- Needless to say, this involved many many sleepless nights.
Starting a recruitment Business
- We experienced good growth in the latter part of 2016 and therefore decided to expand our business through the introduction of our Human Capital recruitment business.
- This was done to save recruitment costs by bringing the function in-house, but also to expand the service offering to our growing list of large and listed clients.
In 2017, we continued to grow our large and listed client base.
- We were lucky enough to have been presented with an opportunity to do a project in London and jumped the opportunity to expand our reach.
- In May 2018, we identified an opportunity in the United Kingdom and opened our London office. A major milestone for us as we were now taking our brand global.
- It was a daunting prospect, as both myself and my co-founder have never been spent time in London before, but we always had the desire to grow a global brand and this was a step in the right direction.
Expanding into Multiples Businesses
The business naturally evolved into a group of companies, through identifying business opportunities and ways of improving our current business.
- We started out as a Chartered Accounting and Financial Advisory firm, and about 8 months into the business, we had managed to win some good clients and needed to increase the size of our team.
- Our recruitment service line was started as we had experienced significant growth and we had the need to find talented and ambitious individuals within our own business.
- We soon realised that we had the ability to help our clients identify and recruit talented individuals who suited the culture of their business, resulting in the birth of Malander Placements.
In addition, we have since also started a Digital division ensuring that we have the capabilities internally to support our own business, as well as the businesses of our clients within the 3 core business support functions being Finance, Human Capital and Digital and IT.
- In 2018, we have also started a new entity, namely M-inent Solutions, with a core focus of providing cloud-based accounting, Digital marketing and recruitment solutions to Small and Medium-sized entities.
- The core value of this business is to create a collaborative network of entrepreneurs, whilst assisting entrepreneurs to grow their businesses based on the learnings we have had in growing our own.
Did I Doubt My Decisions
I always viewed myself as a very positive individual. I think if you don’t believe in yourself, you can’t expect anyone else to believe in you.
Although I did have an element of doubt deep down, I always remained positive that things will work out.
In Starting the business, we said that “If the business doesn’t work within 3 months, we always have the option of moving back into a corporate career”, and this was the premise on which we started the business.
In business, we make mistakes all the time, but I believe the key is to make these mistakes as learning opportunities and make sure that you don’t make the same mistake again.
Hiring the wrong people
- I can recall many mistakes we have made, for example, we have had situations we have rushed to hire people and it turned out that the person just wasn’t the right fit for our business.
- All this had a direct impact on the employees happiness and opportunity to succeed, as well as on our ability to deliver to our clients, however, we have always managed to swiftly rectify this.
- I think the key is to understand that the hiring process should not be taken lightly.
Working with clients who did not pay
- Another mistake we have made was doing work for clients, who demonstrated financial difficulty, yet we continued to do work as we didn’t want to impact relationships or “lose revenue”.
- In the end, we never got paid for work that was done leaving us in a very difficult financial situation.
- This did, however, teach us to be more vigilant when taking on client projects and assess our clients with a higher level of scrutiny.
Had to prove ourselves
- In our Malander Advisory business, we provide large and listed entities with services that include assisting with year-end and Stock exchange reporting, finance function optimisation and assistance in getting ready for audits, which generally means we get involved with very complex and technical projects.
- Being a young person in an Advisory role has had its fair share of challenges, as you are sometimes viewed as not having enough experience to tackle the big problems large and listed entities face within the finance and accounting space.
- Although we are a young team, we have been fortunate enough to have had experience in many complex transactions and projects, which works in our favour as we have accumulated a wealth of experience.
The decision to move out of a safe business environment and start a business wasn’t an easy one.
Being a Chartered Accountant, we tend to be risk-averse and the thought of not having a stable income was daunting.
Here are a few guidelines which I followed:
1. Find Your Passion
- For young professionals looking to start their own business, I would recommend that you find your passion and understand what drives you.
- Forming a business and incorporating an entity is the easy part, but running a business and trying to grow a business can take a significant amount of sacrifice, so be prepared for that.
2. Importance of Building a Personal Brand
- I think in the professional services space, building a business starts with building a personal brand before building a business brand.
- Throughout articles and my brief corporate career, I always tried to work hard and prove myself, no matter what the task and similarly my co-founder Shaveera, did the same. This then leads to building a personal brand and reputation which made it easier to win clients.
3. Technology in Finance
- Technology is playing an ever-increasing role in finance and is improving the efficiency within the finance function.
- I think for us as finance professionals, it is important for us to upskill ourselves in a manner that allows us to work alongside technology and embrace the change.
- For example, in our M-inent solutions business which is focussed on providing services to SME’s, we provide a comprehensive business support function that harnesses the power of technology.
- In this way, we provide our SME clients with not only an accounting benefit but also assist them in growing their business through digital marketing services.
Now It’s Your Turn
Have you ever considered starting your own business?
I am happy to help and I could be reached on LinkedIn at Lyle Malander.