What people think of Peter Holgate

Peter is an outstanding consultant. When working for the BDC, I had to look for Consultants to ensure we could provide the best service to our clients, and from the moment I interviewed Peter, I knew he could become an invaluable asset to our roster of consultants.  I had the opportunity to work with Peter in several engagements and I can certainly say with no hesitation that I was always pleased with the results he delivered. Furthermore, I know first hand how pleased our clients always were, after working with Peter. He was always able to show value to them in each of those engagements. I widely recommend Peter if considering him as a consultant to work with and with no reservation, I can honestly say that it would be an honour to work with him again.
Tomas Reyes LinkedIn Tomas Reyes Senior Manager (BDC) http://www.bdc.ca/en/Pages/home.aspx
The direction Peter Supplied to our company greatly contributed to the following areas managing our hyper growth, increased profit and strategic corporate structure. Peters in depth knowledge of businesses and all its facets helped fast track us in the direction we wanted to go, in addition to all this, he is a great person to work with.
Seth Fruson LinkedIn Seth Fruson President (Crusade Security) /http://www.crusadesecurity.ca/
Peter Holgate founded AlbaGas, an industrial gas distributor in 2001 and built a successful business having no previous experience in the industry. The company survived the economic downturn and continues to grow and develop in a highly competitive market. Peter’s ability to quickly determine the strategic and critical success factors in a business and execute to a plan has enabled him to build successful businesses in a variety of different segments. Peter is an astute, experienced businessman with a broad range of skills and has successfully started up and operated businesses as well as offered sound and professional advice to companies facing a variety of challenges
Michael Hellyar LinkedIn Mike Hellyar Managing Director (Air Products & Chemical Industries) http://www.airproducts.com/
Peter developed a financial model for us which was very useful in planning and raising money for our manufacturing facility. This helped change our thinking and contributed to our success. I was particularly impressed by Peter's ability to listen and accurately discern what our needs truly were.
Vikram Vij - Wikipedia Vikram Vij Restauranteur, Chef, Author http://www.vijs.ca/
From The Blog

Gifts from my Mother

Blog - Gifts from Mother
Gifts from my Mother.

My mother died on Sunday night, the 28th of April, 2013. It seems strange to say these words, almost ethereal, but I know they are the truth. I have chosen not to travel back to South Africa for her funeral as these religious ceremonies conflict with my intense atheist belief that death is the final end and therefore the purpose of the funeral is not to send the dead soul off to some nirvana but rather to provide closure for the living. The singing of hymns and other deity worship activities would in any case conflict with my Mother’s rejection of Catholicism and her dismissive retorts towards what she regarded as insipid happy clappers. As I am estranged from my father and do not have a close relationship with my sister I will find closure and a way to honour her memory without the cost, expense and family drama a long and arduous trip around the world would require. This prose is how I intend to give words to my feelings, make sense of my grief as well as provide my children with a sense of who their remarkable granny Pat really was.

Patricia Maureen Holgate (nee Leamy) was born in on the 13th of November, 1936 in Johannesburg to a father of Irish heritage, John Martin Leamy. Her mother, Herculina Johanna Visagie (affectionately known as “Hettie”), from a Dutch background converted to the prevailing Catholic ideology. I never met my maternal grandfather, but my mother was very proud of a father that had become the General Manager of Simmer & Jack Mine (then the largest gold mine in the world) while having the rare distinction of qualifications for both career tracks in mining – that of a mine captain and mine engineer. My sense is that he had a greater influence on her than her mother. His influence extended to her upbringing as a weekly border at a Catholic convent as well as her sharing his uncompromising insistence that if you are going to do a job, you had better do it right.

The focus of ambition

My mother always expected my sister and I to achieve a lot. It was an explicit expectation that we achieve everything we were capable of. She had studied law and ran the technical library for Metal Box. Having married an exceptionally intelligent man who was a Chartered Accountant it is no surprise that hard work, education and drive were part of the implicit rules that drove us.

She was not one for any of the noveau riche social climbing ambitions of private schools and detested those who put on airs and whom she felt were acting above their station. When I once suggested that I might send my future children to a prestigious private boarding school, such as the one my father had attended, I was promptly lectured on how such an action would be an abdication of my parenting responsibility and how it had failed my half-brother Quentin. Needless to say my sister and I both went to local government schools and appear none the worse from the experience.

At school however, my sister proved the diligent one, never missing a day of class in twelve years and becoming a school counselor (a leadership role in her matric year). I must have disappointed her tremendously when I barely scraped through high school, unable to enter the university courses I wanted due to my poor mathematics and science marks. In fact, her threats to send me to the Krugersdorp Reform School if I didn’t sort myself out were made with all seriousness and were instrumental in me even finishing high school.

ADHD was not understood when I attended school and my mother’s admonishments to improve my marks and her dedicated oversight and the extra tutoring she arranged did not seem to help. Usually there was an escalation in pressure after a visit to the school principal where she had to justify why my school results were so dramatically divorced from the IQ test results. In hindsight, I can understand that what she regarded as my laziness, impulsivity and lack of responsibility comes from a time when this disorder was not understood. Perhaps her suggestion that I switch from an academic track to a technikon trade might have been a pragmatic solution.

I did internalize a lifetime of watching her admiration for success and achievement and as an army conscript I began studying towards the first of my degrees. My sister has taken her studies to the highest level and this was a source of tremendous pride for my mother. She never stopped mentioning how proud she was of Claudia’s achievements in being an emergency paramedic, world traveler, educator and scientist.

Despite some rocky patches I did manage to grow one of my businesses (Albagas Ltd) into the fourth largest distributor of separated packaged industrial gas on behalf of Air Products and Chemical Industries in Africa. Just when I thought I had achieved something of substance in the business world my mother sent me an email mentioning that Elon Musk had just sent a rocket ship into space with his company Space X and asking how my career was progressing. The implication was obvious. She set the bar incredibly high and while I doubt I could ever have met her expectations, it still powers the ambition behind my entrepreneurial endeavors.

The pleasure of music

I have memories of my mother playing a piano she had inherited. The upright machine had once held beautiful extending candelabras and only small scars existed where they had been removed. The tin backing produced a heavy furniture piece with a beautiful sound and my mother played Beethoven sonatas, Grieg melodies and popular music of the time such as Caravans by Barbara Dixon.

Even before we started school I went to the Yamaha music academy in Illovo. Alas, my desire to play soccer or cricket outside with my friends instead of practicing my scales lead to many tears (mine) and frustration (hers) as none of the threats, bribes or tiger mom tactics worked. I stopped practicing piano in short order and only resumed it a few years ago, when as an adult I could more clearly appreciate the pleasure of ever increasing mastery that my mother attempting to teach me.

My mother was not one to waver on what she felt was important and did not give up with inculcating a love of music simply because I was recalcitrant to practice piano. Instead she switched tactics and took us with her to performances by the Johannesburg Symphony Orchestra. In her mind, educated people appreciated the beauty, sophistication and pleasure of listening to, and performing, classical music.

My mother had a beautiful voice. Even though she was a smoker for much of her life, her pitch perfect sound was passed on. I recall listening to her sing hymns at Sunday Mass without the usual temerity of those around us. My initial embarrassment soon gave way to an appreciation that singing guided by diaphragmatic power was the only option if one chose not to remain silent. Before my voice broke I was required to solo at school assemblies and she diligently encouraged my singing practice and took me to weekly Bel Canto lessons on Saturday mornings.

We always had classical music playing in the house growing up. In pre-electronic days the long playing LP’s of Dvorak, Hummel and Greig were interspersed with my fathers Tom Jones hits. Shortly after I had destroyed most of the LP’s by using them as exploding Frisbees on the living room wall cassette tapes were invented. Surreptitiously borrowing and listening to Mahler symphonies, Tchaikovsky ballets and Hummel Trumpet Concerto’s invited me into the world of music.

In her later years, she bought a multi stacking CD player that would randomly select a track from a dozen CD’s. By this time her classical music collection had numbered in the thousands thanks to the genius of CD burning technology. It was always easy to buy her a present, provided we scoured her selection to ensure we did not buy a duplicate disc.

A few years ago I decided to learn how to play the piano. Inspired by the movie “The Pianst” I decided to teach myself Chopin’s Ballade No 1. In honesty I also wanted to impress my mother that her faith in me had not been misplaced and that I could accomplish the extra ordinary. I understood that going from nothing to a performance level piece of music would be tough, so I undertook to learn two Chopin nocturnes first. “If you can read music you can learn to play any instrument” sounded silently in my mother’s calm voice as I struggled to make sense of what each written note represented on the keyboard.

I sent her a copy of my first recital piece and her response was encouraging, asking me to send her more recordings of my playing. I regret that she did not live long enough for me to play her the full Ballade in G. Every time I play it will be a silent dedication to her memory.

The first gift – a love of language

Learning to love an activity is not something that can be forced. You cannot force somebody to love art, music, mathematics or language. My mother had a love of reading and a prodigious command of the English language. Before the days of Google we had an English Oxford dictionary sitting on the bookshelf. It gathered dust as my mother was able to elucidate concepts, provide synonyms and add context to words that we were required to learn growing up. The 100% mark I obtained on all my spelling tests were as a result of her teaching me novel ways to link and understand word meanings, structure, roots, prefixes and suffixes. The only time we ever accesses a dictionary was when my mother decided we were being lazy and that it was time for us to learn to find out ourselves.

Her book club provided a source of much pride and pleasure. She loved hunting for the best books to share with the other club ladies and when it was her turn to host the cakes, savoury scones and herb breads set the bar on hospitality. No disturbances were permitted when the session had started. We were happy to wait patiently, knowing that the overflow of cakes and other goodies would soon require consumption.

Calling her an avid reader does not really do her hobby justice. In fact she often read a book a day, sometimes devouring a thousand pages in one sitting. Spy novels, complex plotlines, horror and exceptionally well-written stories filled the shelves and cupboards of her domain. Eventually she decided that it didn’t make sense to hoard the mass of books and began to rotate through and keep only those she intended to read twice. As that pile grew too large, only the most recent books were retained as her voracious appetite searched for, and devoured, newly discovered authors and interesting genres.

My first real reading was from her selection and included light entertainment such as Higgins, Le Carre and Clancy. Once I was hooked on that, she provided me with slightly more substantive books and before I knew it I was delving into the likes of Coetzee, Achebe and Brink.

Her love of language did not stop there. Crossword puzzles, language games and cryptic clues melted before her gaze as she dismissed most attempts to present her with a challenge as routine.

One of my proudest moments was sharing with my Mom that I had aced the GMAT exam – scoring in the 98th percentile on the language component. I could not have accomplished this without her gift.

The second gift – applying generosity

My mother essentially died penniless. This was not due to her inability to work, save or some desire for aesthetic poverty. Rather it was that her kindness and generosity ensured that others were looked after first.

One of my fondest memories was when my mother won the lottery. Not the full row of winning numbers but a ticket that paid out about R75,000. She gave my sister and I about 25,000 each and kept a third for herself. I used my share to pay out my car loan and it had felt as though I had really been the lottery winner.

Shortly before her death, my Mom wrote to me and asked me to pay for some of her expenses. I arranged a transfer of this money through David Bayliss and wrote to her saying that I was happy to help this time but I did not want this to become an ongoing issue as I have many children whose needs I feel should come first. I think it must have taken a tremendous toll on her pride to have to ask me for help in the first place and I regret that I put a boundary in place that did not reflect her generosity. I will honour her by ensuring that I continue the tradition of giving freely to all of my children.

The expectation of courtesy, etiquette and integrity

I recall the first time I swore in front of my mother. It was also the last time I did so. No brook was tolerated when it came to standards pertaining to integrity, manners, etiquette and courtesy. We were raised with expectations that we behave properly at all times. My Mom held herself to a very high standard and expected the same from us. Every day rules such as closing the door behind us to not saying “hey” because “hay was for donkeys” were part of our upbringing.

Dinner was served at 6:30pm. Every day and without fail. It didn’t have to be said, it was just expected that we would be on time. Meals always had meat, even when we went through lean financial times during a failure of one of my father’s business endeavors in insurance. My mother expected us to sit properly at the dinner table, eat with manners, use our “please” and “thank you” and eat quietly. I did not eat quietly. There was lots of conflict around my noisy eating. Noisy eaters now grate me terribly and I understand her anger.

My mother lived a life of integrity. She never betrayed her promise and never engaged in illegal activities. She expected the same from us.

The gift of loyalty

My father is an alcoholic. My mother referred to him as a functioning alcoholic. I never differentiated. Growing up I endured the embarrassment of my father not picking me up in the evening from friend’s homes only to be told he arrived there after midnight and woken everyone up while drunk. I ran from home numerous times to escape my father’s drunken rages and learnt at an early age that hiding atop the compost heap would prevent a beating with a belt or riding crop. Never having friends over because the embarrassment of my drunken father arriving home sloshed and vomiting all over the place was a memory I would rather forget.

My mother was aware of this and explored the idea of leaving him. She decided that the cost and financial risk was too high. Did her Catholic upbringing play a role in her sticking it out I wonder? Did the fact that she was already four months pregnant with me when she got married play a role? In her day the idea of out of wedlock children as well as divorce were simply unthinkable. She stayed and they spent the rest of their lives sleeping in separate bedrooms.

She played the role of peacemaker. Whenever there was conflict she would remind me that he was drunk when he was insulting or rude or belittling. She cared deeply for her flawed husband and never stopped hoping that her kindness and care would reduce his alcohol consumption. During his sober periods she seemed to be more complete, more present and definitely happier. She never stopped cleaning up his puke, making sure he ate the best breakfast she could convince him to stomach after a night of heavy drinking, making him dinner even though it was seldom eaten and ensuring that he had his daily multi-vite and prostate medication. She forgave him his dalliances with other women and always put his safety first by insisting that he rather sleep over somewhere than drive home drunk.

She was loyal to a fault. Like many entrepreneurs I have gone through up times and down times. During one of the downtimes I needed financial help and I asked my father for money. She encouraged him to support me and together they were very generous. When I asked for a deferral on repaying the money they had loaned me they were very supportive. When I discovered that my father, in his role as company accountant, had siphoned off millions of Rand from my industrial gas business and was using my own money to not only advance me financial life support but also live a life of profligate spending I was livid. Not only did I now have to sort out the missing cash flow that had essentially crippled my gas business but I was also expected to repay them for my own money. Despite knowing that my father was a stranger to honesty in his dealings she refused to accept that I did not owe the full amount. Sadly this was where we left off on our final email communication.

When push came to shove she was there for him. When he was arrested for drunk driving, she called the experts, found out what needed to be done and smuggled a loaf of bread into the holding cell so that his blood alcohol results would be lowered. If someone ever challenged him, she would be the first to defend him. She acknowledged his strengths and downplayed his weaknesses. She deserved a better man but she gave as though she already had one.

The gift of perseverance

My mother did not enjoy a lifetime of good health. Various reasons contributed to this including rheumatic fever, inactivity, a love of chocolate and osteo-arthritis. After smoking for much of her life and after several attempts to quit she finally decided to simply do it. She stopped cold turkey and never smoked again and, unlike many an ex-smoker, she was not critical of those who were still addicted.

Surgery became necessary and body parts were replaced. Entire shoulders and knees were made bionic. Stents were used to keep the carotid artery flowing to the brain. Oxygen was administered continuously to ensure that damaged lungs did not stop providing the necessities for life. Skin cancer was kept at bay by diligent sarcoma removal.

She had a stroke as well. Much of the intellectual vigor disappeared and a recognition that written words did not match the words she meant to convey were deeply distressing for a woman who prided herself on good grammar and exceptional spelling.

Despite her obesity, despite her physical pain, despite her difficulty navigating stairs, she persevered. I will recall her perseverance in the face of such tremendous physical suffering as the standard by which I will have to measure myself when I grow old.

Expressions of kindness

My Mom loved her garden. It was her pride and joy. Watching the birds, reporting on how the different areas of the garden were doing and agonizing about the lack of rain were common topics in our telephone conversations. She loved sitting on her patio seeing which birds had come to eat the food she put out daily for them.

Meow Tse Tung, our first cat lived to the ripe old age of 19. Eventually his kidneys failed but not before he had conquered an empire stretching ever further each night. His return, along with attendant scrapes and torn ears turned a former dog lover who reminisced about her show dogs into a cat lover. Her tears when the next replacement tabby died were honest and heartfelt.

Despite the formality, my Mom had a soft spot for Adele. She continued to remain in contact with Adele even after our hostile divorce and during the early stages of our separation even sent money to help Adele get by. The irony of Adele spending tens of thousands of dollars later suing me in court for an unnecessarily expensive and hostile divorce was ignored. My frustration with my Mom disclosing my personal details to Adele during our divorce did not interfere in her kindness towards Adele. Later, when Adele discarded Justin by having him locked up in the Children’s Hospital Psychiatric Ward my Mom viewed it more from the perspective of pity for Adele rather than questioning her parenting competency.

As an avid bridge player, my Mom would often clean up house, trumping everything in sight and winning the maximum bids. She occasionally played competitively, but most of all she enjoyed playing with her regular friends and scooping up the individual one cent coins that were the standard currency. I have learnt the value of cultivating lifelong friends and recall how my Mom used to phone and talk to her sister (Elizabeth) and sister in law (Alison) daily.

The gift of fairness

The stokie slipper that was supposed to hit my bum caught my bare leg as I ran past her. My sister and I had done something that provoked a spanking response. I cannot recall the infraction, only that she was on the warpath and we were both in trouble. As I ran downstairs in our Gallo Manor home, I heard my sister getting her dues and then I caught sight of some purple chalk. I gently ran the purple chalk over the raised edges of the slight welts left by the slipper tread to create what appeared to be a very severe mark on my leg. Complaining to my mother that she was unfair in how she punished me compared to my sister and showing her the now angry looking result on my leg, she promptly went upstairs and gave my sister a more severe spanking. Fairness in all aspects was the standard.

While today’s parents may cringe at the thought of spanking a child, my parent’s generation held no compunction when it came to dishing out physical discipline. My mother related the story to me of how she and her sister Elizabeth (known affectionately to everyone as aunt Liz) became such good friends. During one of their common bickering sessions my grandfather gave them each a belt and instructed them that, with his full consent this time, they should proceed to lay into each other and get out their nastiness. When they refused to hit each other, he gave them both a sound belting and they never again indulged in bitchy bickering. My mother and her sister used to talk on the phone daily. My heartfelt sadness goes out to my aunt at the loss of her sister.

The gift of strength

Not physical strength, although my Mom was certainly no shrinking violet, but rather a strength of personality. My Mom never felt the need to kowtow to anyone and her directness could be very intimidating. It is telling that my ex-wife, Adele, was so intimidated by my Mom that she could not bring herself to call her Pat and despite my Moms insistence on being called Pat, continued to refer to her as Mrs. Holgate.

I don’t want to eulogize and pretend that my mother was a saint or that I would recommend her life as a case study for exceptional parenting. She was co-dependent with an alcoholic. She was consistently critical and very judgmental. Her pride sometimes got in the way of her doing the right thing. She would tell you that she was not an attached mother and I can count on my hand the number of times I received a hug or physical affection. She was not a role model on how to live a long and healthy life. She enjoyed driving expensive cars even though finances were often precarious.

Nonetheless, she was my mother and I carry her gifts inside of me as my real inheritance. I will honour her memory and do my best to learn from her mistakes and pass the gifts she freely gave me to the next generation..

Source: Gutenberg.

Contributions by South Africans

Screen Shot 2013-12-13 at 1.07.59 PMCONTRIBUTIONS MADE BY SOUTH AFRICANS

After a quarter century, this small generation of South African immigrants has risen to break through, en masse, into such key leadership roles that they’re changing the US. YouTube, PayPal, SolarCity, epigenetic cancer therapy and intelligent Mars robots exist only because of these expats: one of them has led the transition from PCs to cloud computing; another leads the US’s top business school; and another is replacing the space shuttle. But they’ve done it as individuals, and – with the notable exception of commercial spaceflight pioneer Elon Musk – almost invisibly. In December, the Silicon Valley Business Journal made a remarkable statement regarding four of their first five winners of the US’s high-tech chief executive officer awards, which feature competition from the likes of Google’s Larry Page. It said: “Here’s something interesting about our executive of the year awards, something that hadn’t occurred to us at the time that these four executives were selected – they are all originally from South Africa. In Silicon Valley alone, South African-born high-tech chief executives include Vinny Lingham, founder of Yola and Gyft; Willem van Biljon, co-founder of Nimbula; and Pieter de Villiers, founder and chief executive of Clickatell, the world’s largest online text messaging service. And these weren’t even among the award winners. Those include Gauteng brothers Lyndon and Peter Rive, who have built the US’s largest provider of residential clean energy, and Paul Maritz, the outgoing chief executive of cloud computing giant VMware, who was schooled in KwaZulu-Natal.

South African immigrants in the US number only 83 000 – a “small number even for a big city”, says Professor Nancy Foner, an expert on immigration achievement at the City University of New York. So small, she says, that there are almost no figures or studies on their impact. Yet new South African networking organisations, such as the Sable Accelerator in California, are springing up as South Africans are suddenly appearing in front of microphones as chief executives and university deans and scientific research team leaders.Apart from well-established South African communities in places such as San Diego, or the tight group of professional golfers in Florida, South Africans don’t network the way they do in the United Kingdom. Instead, mutual recognition often happens like this: “Hey, that guy running the University of Notre Dame seems to have a Saffer accent. Come to think of it, so does the dean of Stanford Graduate School of Business. Ja, and what about the guy who was in charge of California’s High-Speed Rail Authority? And with a name like Mahlangu-Ngcobo, that elections judge in Maryland has gotta be from home.” Some are fairly well known. Pik Botha’s grandson, Roelof, has been ranked as high as 22nd on the Forbes Midas list of venture capitalists, ­having funded the launch of YouTube in 2005. Among the celebrity conscription-dodgers, singer Dave Matthews probably heads the pack. Reportedly worth R2-billion, Matthews was recently declared the US’s most successful touring act of the decade.

Remarkable anonymity
But most have risen to the cutting edge of American business with remarkable anonymity.
Former Illovo schoolboy Steven Collis, almost unnoticed, has taken the reins of healthcare wholesaling company AmerisourceBergen, listed 29th on the Fortune 500, with 13000 employees, and annual revenues of an almost ridiculous R600-billion.

It’s the same story in science.
The single greatest breakthrough in cancer treatment in recent years – epigenetic therapy – has been credited to Stellenbosch’s Peter Jones, who now runs a major research centre in California. And another South African, Dr Liam Pedersen, has grabbed what could be the most exotic job in the US. He leads a Nasa research team to develop the brains of “intelligent” space robots that will explore the solar system in search of extraterrestrial life. And to test his “autonomous navigation” systems, Pedersen (42) gets to test the robots in places like Antarctica and alpine lakes in the Andes. In terms of sheer impact for Africa among transplants, it’s a draw between expats Dr Trevor Mundel and Nomvimbi Meriwether. A former Soweto businesswoman, Meriwether – now owner of Meticulous Tours travel agency in Washington DC – is the co-founder of a multimillion-dollar health and basic education charity in Southern Africa, the Meriwether Foundation.

Astonishing over-achievement
She told the Mail & Guardian that her fundraising clout in the US enjoyed a major boost in December when her daughter – South African-born Nana Meriwether (27) – won the Miss USA crown.”We are meeting governors, presidents, billionaires, so the plight of [South Africa's] most vulnerable ­children is being heard where it counts,” she said. Mundel, from Johannesburg, has been appointed as president of global health for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation with a grant budget of about R130-billion, and a brief of nothing less than to eradicate polio and malaria from the Earth. But it’s when you consider a professional field as specific as immigration law that the astonishing over-achievement of this group becomes clear. Bernie Wolfsdorf – another conscription dodger – has been named “the most highly rated immigration lawyer in the world” for the past three years by the peer-reviewed International Who’s Who of Business Lawyers, and South Africa’s Daryl Buffenstein is a former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. In the same field, Chris Wright, a transplant from Johannesburg, is described as “Hollywood’s go-to lawyer” – somehow securing “genius” work visas for everyone from Piers Morgan to Playboy playmate Shera Bechard. The “O-1″ work visa is normally reserved for foreigners of “extraordinary ability”, including Nobel prize, winners, but Wright has controversiallyexpanded its use to include celebrities. South African lawyers have not yet broken through, as a group, as judges in the US’s highest courts, the way they have in, say, Western Australia. But Margaret Marshall (68), a former student leader at Wits, recently retired as chief justice of Massachusetts, where, in a landmark case in 2003, she was the first justice in the US to grant gay couples the right to marry. Compared to the US’s business world, expatriates have under­achieved in Hollywood itself, but its modest breakthrough artists include Charlize Theron, District 9′s Sharlto Copley and Stelio Savante, who both co-produced and cracked a role opposite Matthew Perry in the comedy The Whole Banana last year.

Building and innovating
The poster-child for the 1980s immigration generation is Musk, the founder of Tesla Motors and SpaceX – the rocket company charged with leading the replacement of the space shuttle. In an earlier interview, he told me he left the country in 1988 because the South African Defence Force promised to be “an amazing waste of time”. John Affleck-Graves, executive vice-president of Notre Dame, Collis and Wright were among those who told me they credit their education for much of their success, but offered few other clues as to why South Africans had risen so sharply. Professor Foner says white South Africans, in particular, had “invisibly” risen to the top.”South Africans [in the US] have gone unnoticed, especially the majority who are white, for whom there were few cultural barriers, if any,” she said. “But I have noticed that South Africans move right into elite circles in the US, immediately, and look where they’ve gone.” Donovan Neale-May, founder of the Sable Accelerator, says the 1980s South African immigrant generation was unique in that they did not take advantage of contacts and mobility through “ethnic communities” in the US, “as, say, Indian entrepreneurs have done so effectively”. Instead, Neale-May says the conscription-avoidance generation had simply outcompeted American professionals with a multitasking combination of management talent, drive and pioneering vision.

Overwhelmingly white phenomenon
South African emigration to the US has been an overwhelmingly white phenomenon. According to the Migration Policy Institute in Washington DC, only 14% of South African immigrants – about 11 000 – are black.
And they’ve had to travel a far more difficult road, says Foner. Yet a number of black South Africans have made New World leaps that are, if anything, closer to the purest form of the “American Dream” than their rich white countrymen. Among the exiles who remained in the US, Mahlangu-Ngcobo is one who has emerged as a national force in both government health policy and theology. She has testified on healthcare for the government’s Congressional Black Caucus and, during the violent tumult in Liberia in 1997, she led a workshop there on violence against women. The author of nine books – including research works on Aids and gender equality – Mahlangu-Ngcobo lectures on public health, and has founded both a US church and an international ministry. Gift Ngoepe, the first black South African to be offered a professional baseball contract, is one of a more recent immigrant generation to the New World.

Unlikely sporting story
He discovered baseball when his mother took a job as domestic worker at the Randburg Mets clubhouse. A tiny room inside it later became his home, and he simply practiced against a wall until he was noticed by coaches and, later, a US mentor. Now, he plays professionally as a shortstop within the Pittsburg Pirates organisation. Richman Mahlangu (49) has a similarly unlikely sporting story, but, in pursuing it, has carved out a classic, John Steinbeck-style American tale. He fled apartheid itself at the same time that Musk and others were fleeing conscription. Mahlangu’s “hook” into the US was a sports scholarship, after he literally discovered the sport of tennis when he found a broken tennis racket on a dusty street in Durban’s Lamontville township in the 1970s. He says that, as with Ngoepe, a local professional coach was so taken by his diligent practice with that racket that he offered free lessons, and, eventually, an introduction to a US mentor. Living in Las Vegas, Mahlangu has since achieved neither riches nor professional-level excellence in his sport. Instead, he has coached his two sons to the point where, last year, they were both recruited for scholarships by Ivy League universities. His youngest son, Yannik (17), has held a national rank of ninth for his age group and his eldest, Nicholas – now on his way to Harvard – has starred with Andre Agassi in a TV ad.

Is there ever a need to criticize?


Despite the usual counter arguments that constructive criticism is useful, criticism is actually nothing more than a failure of leadership.  A chronic, debilitating and dismal abdication of reason. A search through the academic literature reveals the horrific psychological effect criticism has and now there is compelling evidence to show that criticism elicits the same endocrine response as being physically threatened.

Why then is criticism so pervasive and accepted?  It appears that the problem begins in childhood with parental criticism taking hold in the psyche of those who graduate to adulthood.  Habits are hard to unlearn and habits adopted at the earliest age harder still.

So what are the alternatives in the business world?  Surely there must be a need and purpose for criticism?  The most obvious example is performance reviews which are generally as well liked as a splitting migraine headache (and probably just as painful).  I propose that you adapt Jack Welch’s approach which consists of two parts;

Firstly, this is what we like about your performance and secondly, this is what must improve in order for you to remain with this firm.

I catch myself being critical and recognize that it slips into conversation without asking.  However, I now have some options that I use more frequently instead of being critical.

1) We tried that before and it was not successful for us (much better than saying your idea stinks) – thank you to Warren Buffett for that one

2) I really liked the original idea

But most importantly, if you want to drive a team to the types of performance success they are capable of, the only means of doing it is through inspiration and the only way to create inspiration is to catch people doing good and recognize the hell out of it.