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Q3 2023 - (released November 2023)

SA's quarterly Private Equity & Venture Capital magazine

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From The Editor's Desk

by Michael Avery

In the world of private equity dealmaking, success often hinges on a delicate balance of vision, strategy, teamwork and adaptability. Drawing inspiration from unexpected sources can illuminate new paths to success. One such source is the back-to-back World Cup-winning Springboks rugby team, whose journey under the guidance of head coach Jacques Nienaber and South Africa’s Director of Rugby, Rassie Erasmus, holds invaluable lessons for dealmakers seeking to navigate the cutthroat world of dealmaking.

Ever since Rassie gained infamy for publishing “that” video, following defeat to the Lions in the first test in July 2021, the Bok ‘brains trust’ realised that there’s far more to gain by respecting the referee, rather than railing against marginal decisions. And the Boks were almost sickly sweet to the officials in France, but this clearly paid off – consciously or subconsciously – as the referee in the final, Wayne Barnes, seemed to blow many of the 50/50 calls for the Boks. Navigating complex deals and negotiations requires a foundation built on trust and adherence to established protocols.

The Springboks' approach to handling injuries and crises holds insights for businesses dealing with unexpected challenges in M&A. Losing Bongi – the only recognised first choice hooker in the squad – in the second minute of the final called for calm heads, and Deon Fourie, a retreaded flanker, entered the gladiatorial arena and delivered in the heat of battle, because the unexpected had been planned for. Swift and composed decision-making in high-pressure situations is essential for both worlds.

M&A leaders can learn from the role of a rugby scrum-half in understanding the strengths of all team members involved in a deal. Quick, adaptive decision-making is a shared demand in both domains.

In the South African context, the Boks offered up probably the single most important lesson for business leaders and dealmakers alike: the importance of diversity in team building.

Erasmus cites the rise of the first black Springbok captain and now national hero, Siya Kolisi, and a host of first choice elite players in their positions – from Bongi Mbonambi to Trevor Nyakane, and from Cheslin Kolbe, Kurt-Lee Arendse, Lukhanyo Am, Marvin Orie and Ox Nche to Damian Willemse, Grant Williams and Jaden Hendrikse – and the transformation of the team as an achievement he ranks higher than winning the World Cup. In his book, Rassie, he points to his creation of the Elite Player development programme inside SA Rugby as the key to this talent being given a pathway to rise to the top.

The Springboks' approach to team composition aligns with the significance of diversity in building successful M&A teams. Harnessing the strengths of individuals with diverse backgrounds and skill sets enhances the depth and effectiveness of dealmaking teams.

Beyond these on-field parallels, the Springboks' success story offers a trove of wisdom for private equity dealmakers.

Obviously, a clear vision and well-defined strategy are crucial in mergers and acquisitions, and examples of successful M&As driven by a strong vision and strategy abound.

The Springbok team’s mantra has always been, “let the main thing stay the main thing”, which has meant a strategy of focusing on doing whatever it takes to win rugby matches. But it has been done under the banner of “Stronger Together” – a vision and a call for all people to unite for the greater good.

So, in this rare moment in South Africa, let us bask in something that is far from the broken reality of our daily existence of blackouts and water shedding, and a reminder of what can be achieved if we embrace our diversity and nurture our talents to ensure that the best rise to the top.

Thank you Bokke, for the gift of hope. 

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