Usha Jivan, a strong woman in business who is one of South Africa’s most ambitious and motivated businesswomen, was recently interviewed by Africa Talks Business. This tenacious businesswoman, who is associated with the BEE SCORE, examines her past while giving us some amazing insight into her counsel to a budding businessperson. Usha has touched hundreds of businesses and livelihoods via her efforts and has years of experience in the BEE space. We feel very honoured to tell her story.
Read more here:
- BACKGROUND ON USHA AND HOW MY JOURNEY STARTED
I am an Attorney by profession and one of the founder shareholders of BEESCORE, a B-BBEE
Verification Agency. I am currently the shareholder and Managing Director of BEESCORE.
I initially practised as an attorney for 8 years in the fields of civil, criminal, and commercial law. I then
moved to academia and lectured in Criminal and Civil law. I spent the latter years of my academic
career lecturing Family Law at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal.
During this time, I published in law journals and co-authored several books, including Street Law South
Africa (Learner’s Manual in 2004) and (Educator’s Manual in 2005).
I also delivered papers at national and international conferences and contributed extensively to
community projects, including assisting at the Small Claims Court, providing legal assistance pro bono
to the community at large and convening several workshops in Port Elizabeth on alternative dispute
resolution and the proposals for community courts.
I reached a point in my legal career in which I spent 8 years as an attorney, and 16 years as a law
lecturer, when I wanted a change. The timing was perfect because I was on sabbatical leave to pursue
a PHD in law, and I was invited to a meeting by a colleague who was going to introduce me to a new
industry dealing with the concept of transformation and BEE verification in SA. I have always had a
passion for transformation, and this was how we started the BEE business, with 4 shareholders. Today,
I am the sole shareholder and MD of BEESCORE Pty Ltd, which was established in October 2006. We
were one of the initial batches of verification agencies who were accredited to conduct B-BBEE ratings.
The company is a 100% Black-female owned entity, situated in Umhlanga, Durban.
Whilst we service clients in Kwa-Zulu Natal, Gauteng, and Cape Town, we have expanded our service
offerings nationally and will undertake verification work anywhere in South Africa.
I have always been passionate about transformation, teaching, and training. This was a new
opportunity to apply my training skills in a completely new environment. I spend some of my time
training organisations who grapple with the application and implementation of the various elements
of the BEE scorecards.
I have also presented at several BEE and other forums on verification principles and requirements,
and the B-BBEE Codes of Good Practice.
- WHAT WOULD BE THE BENEFIT FOR THE SOUTH AFRICAN
ECONOMY/ENVIRONMENT/SOCIETY AS A BUSINESSWOMAN IN YOUR FIELD?
Creating employment for people, particularly for women. Beescore can proudly boast a black female
staff complement of more than 80% for the past 10 years. I am cognisant of the fact that we have a
huge unemployment rate in our country. The benefits to South African businesses and society are that
we have 16 years’ experience in the industry, and we adopt a practical and pragmatic approach to
verification. As a founder of Beescore, I am also an experienced lawyer who is regarded as an industry
thought leader and well regarded by my peers because of my innovative and logical interpretation and
application of the BEE Codes. This demonstrates our ability to create awareness of sustainable and
transformational B-BBEE, and, in so doing, demonstrates our commitment towards the ethical
application of the BEE Codes. True and successful transformation is the key to long term success.
3. WHAT WAS THE TOUGHEST CHALLENGE YOU’VE HAD TO FACE ON YOUR JOURNEY?
The biggest obstacle I had to overcome is one that is becoming increasingly relevant in an era of
constant change and the need to continuously upskill or reskill to meet ever-evolving business
demands. As a lawyer and an academic, my comfort zone and strength in the business was in
learning the new regulations and focusing on the more ‘academic’ aspects of building the business
such as internal documents and implementation of the regulations.
However, as we all know, there is much more to building a successful business. From hiring and
managing people, to managing finances and accounting, to focusing on business development and
operational goals. Areas of the business that required numeric proficiency or acute business
acumen were completely intimidating.
As the only woman on the management team, this completely limited the influence I could have
at a commercial level. However, the turning point was when I realised that I had to become
proficient in ALL aspects of running the business if I wanted it to be a success. Once I developed
the commercial confidence to challenge areas of the business that were not performing well, I
knew that I needed to shift my focus to areas that were not natural to me but would result in a
more successful outcome for the business. The culmination of these actions outside of my comfort
zone is a more streamlined and profitable operation, which is now run by women. As I reflect on
the way technology has rendered previously valued skills as almost obsolete, I can’t help but draw
a parallel between my need to upskill myself and the current need to do that in the job market
today. What I can say is that the process is initially intimidating and scary – but is ultimately worth
it if you want to run a successful and sustainable business.
4. WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE A YOUNG ENTREPRENEUR?
Make sure that you’re not stretching yourself too thinly – your studies are as equally important as
your business interests. Get into the habit of maintaining a diary and ensure that you arrive for
meetings in good time. Planning and preparation is of vital importance.
- Create a plan (but be flexible!) The most basic advice for entrepreneurs is to create a plan.
- Find a mentor.
- Prepare to make sacrifices.
- Be persistent and trust yourself.
- Execute and start your business.
- Identify a gap in the market.
- Know your audience.
- Never underestimate the power of a solid business plan.
- Road-test your idea.
- Embrace feedback and learn from your mistakes.
- Build a strong network.
- Have your finances in good order.
A great entrepreneur must be able to effectively communicate, sell, focus, learn, and strategize.
An ability to continuously learn is not just a key entrepreneurial skill, but also a very valuable life
skill. Growing a business requires a sound strategy based on inherent business sense and skills.
5. WHAT DOES SUCCESS MEAN TO YOU?
Success is often defined as the ability to reach your goals in life, whatever those goals may be. In
some ways, a better word for success might be attainment, accomplishment, or progress. It is not
necessarily a destination but a journey that helps develop the skills and resources you need to
thrive. While dictionaries may agree on a general definition of success, it’s ultimately a subjective
concept for different people.
For me, success also means to earn the respect of my clients, employees, peers, friends, and
industry bodies. It means living with gratitude and selflessness while fulfilling one’s targeted goals.
Working to overcome challenges in my career was a big part of finding my success. Understanding
my definition of success has helped me achieve my goal and feel fulfilled. Mitigating these
challenges has helped me advance in my career or personal life and feel more fulfilled.
I would like to see growth to get the business advance from an Exempt-Micro-Enterprise (turnover
of under R10m) to a Qualifying small Enterprise (turnover over R10m), and a national presence
with at least 10 to 15 employees. I would like to see exponential growth within the next 5 years to
reach my aim and purpose.
I might find that, going forward in my life, what success means to me may change.
Find Usha here – https://www.linkedin.com/in/usha-jivan-319ba734/