Bring Change Lowveld: Oupa Pilane’s advice on being successful

Mr Oupa Pilane, one of the mentors in the Bring Change Lowveld programme, has devised a model with which he addresses the little things many an entrepreneur overlooks, and which can make all the difference between ultimate success and failure.



Oupa Pilane (47) was elected as the president of the Kruger Lowveld Chamber of Business and Tourism (KLCBT) during the organisation’s board meeting in 2016.

Nelspruit-born Oupa, who holds a master’s degree in public development from Wits University, is the owner and founder of Mbombela’s Ubuntu Kraal Guest House and currently holds the position of executive: municipal business intelligence at the Guma Group, where he provides integrated revenue solutions for municipalities.

He was also an advisor to Mbombela’s executive mayor and the spokesman for former premier, Mathews Phosa.

Oupa left the civil service to pursue his business career and has focused mainly on building relationships with local government and partnering with them in his role at the Guma Group, with business partner and group founder, Robert Gumede.

Thoughts from Lizelle:

    I find Oupa to be a very down-to-earth, vibrant leader. He is very involved with his business and his presence is always around! I can see that his staff respect him, and I think that we can learn a great deal from him on how to treat the people we employ.
    Oupa’s advice:

1. The most important part of any business is the people who work there
Do not focus only on your customers, and think that it will let your business grow. Your staff is one of the most important elements of a business. “Happy staff, happy customer.”

2. “Ubuntu” – humanity
Your business should have a human face.

Know who they are. Take one of your staff members home one day, just to see how difficult it can be sometimes for them to get to work and back.

3. Treating your staff like a “tool”
They can either make your business, or destroy it. Make them feel part of something bigger, and see how they will fight for your business.

4. Spend “quality” time
Don’t just throw money at every problem, or even as a reward. Sometimes it’s just about that extra effort. Doing something special for them, care about them, say thank you!

5. Involve them in the business
Listen to their suggestions. Sometimes they know your business better than you do. They see problems that you might miss, because you are not always there, or don’t work on the ground like they do. They see everything.

Share the business with them. Make them feel that they are also part of something bigger and that their opinion and ideas are important, of course up to a certain point.

6. Show a nice gesture
Take them out for lunch. This might look like a small gesture to you, but for them it means the world.

7. Charity starts at home
We are very quick to raise money for charities, but look at the people who spend eight to 10 hours with you every day. If someone is constantly late, investigate. There might be a problem with that person, something you can maybe help them with. It might be something small, but again just because you noticed and you cared, it means the world to them.

Try to make their lives a bit easier, if in any way possible.

8. Make them feel part of your business

If they feel that they are a part of something bigger, they will do anything to protect their jobs, and your business.

9. Be patient with your team
Being irritated with your staff because something is “common sense”, keep in mind it does not always make sense to them. You have an education, and you expect them to think the way you do. If they could think, and operate like you, most probably they would not have been in this position in the first place? They would have their own business, with staff working for them. So have a bit of patience!

They are the engine of your business. You are just the key in the ignition. You need each other; treat them with respect and dignity. Be patient and spend time and money to train and teach them. It could only benefit your business.


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