Some friendships last a few months, some a few years, and some are for a lifetime. Tyrone and I have been friends for more than 40 years!
When we graduated university and went our separate ways, I had little expectation that we’d end up working together later on. When he returned home to South Africa from his years abroad we joined forces and started what became a whirlwind for our company. Tyrone joined the team as the sole salesperson. He succeeded so quickly that we hatched a plan to “go big or go home” and decided to hire 50 salespeople. We put them through the most intensive sales training and bootcamp we could design for the next six months, hoping to end up with a “dangerous dozen” of the best trained sales people in our industry.
To say that things got a little hairy is an understatement. Things are likely to go wrong when you have that many trainees on the streets selling for you, and boy, did they! Thankfully, Tyrone is a master organizer and coordinator, and within a few months was running a highly effective team of salespeople. Many of those people have gone on to have very successful careers working for other companies or even starting their own.
One of the people in that cohort became our highest performing salesperson and, over time, a close and trusted friend to both me and Tyrone. Adrian Parsons came to learn the finer points of selling from us, but we ended up learning what a master salesman looks like in action from him. In my experience, Adrian has what many salespeople lack: extraordinary discipline to the sales process, combined with the charm, wit, IQ and the tenacity necessary to succeed in sales. He opened and grew an office for us in a new part of the country that became almost as big as the “head office”. I admit to loving sales, but I’ve never had more fun in my life than selling with Adrian in Cape Town. I saw him grow into the highest performer in our company, and I gained a new friend. Who could ask for more from work?
James Hine was a second person in the small group of people that survived the bootcamp and then thrived in our business, partly because of his salesmanship, but also because of his infectious good humor. With his constant smile, it’s hard to be around James and not want to do the same and then find yourself laughing soon after. I’ve long noticed that a sense of humor is the glue that keeps teams together, it reduces stress and that makes coming to work a joy. James, we survived the fastest car ride in our joint history and many more adventures together. I think all four of us are lucky to be alive, but I know the three of you have the extra good luck of now working together.
When I left South Africa, Tyrone set up his own business and soon Adrian and James joined as partners. Between the three of them, they have grown that business into a first-tier provider of employee benefits advice in South Africa and that business then became part of the JLT group internationally. It’s no surprise to me that their business is flourishing. Most growing companies are lucky to have one or maybe two superstars, but this “gang of three” is a formidable force and I’m always so excited when I get to return to South Africa to see them in action. I’ve spoken at a few of their company events, and I’m always impressed by the extraordinary level of trust that they have with their clients and the rave reviews of their service I hear when I ask about their company.
Today’s VIAL is to this ‘band of brothers’. Thank you for your loyalty, friendship, professionalism and trust while working together and for the opportunity to come and speak to your clients since living in the US. You’ve built an amazing company, and it’s always a highlight for me to return and not recognize your business because of how much it has grown and matured.
I often daydream about the fun we’d have if we all got to work together again, and I know I’m missing out on the fun you have each day. But often while sitting in Chicago, I take a pause to remember our good times and our friendship and smile at the joy of knowing each of you.