The lesson I learnt from my life journey was that, I cannot create a tangible product, outside of who I am. This, I learnt during the year, when I was studying computer science, specifically, programming.

What you load into the system, is what you get out.

The business is driven by the value of authenticity and it is fed by certainty in who we are, along with our vision. What we feed the business in terms of values and ethical systems, will determine its outputs in terms of effective control and legitimacy. That is one life lesson I absorbed throughout that year of computer programming. I then combined it with a plethora of others related to authenticity, focus, decisiveness and which are mostly based on being true to your value systems (crediting my parents for most of those teachings).

The values that define how I view and respond to the world, are ingrained within my core being and help me to be stable in an ever-changing world of business. I am the constant that is ever resilient and resolute, even when markets or regulatory framework that govern the business change. I can adopt fluidity and agility in developing new strategies that predict and respond to markets dynamics, without losing the vision that is embedded within me.

Authenticity reflects what you will feed into what you create and the manner in which it moulds the outputs.

Your values systems will define your ethical culture. This lesson might be the only valuable reason why I had to spend that entire year studying programming because either than that philosophical output, I never passed the course. Instead from that experience I also learnt that failing to achieve your objectives is not an indicator of your overall capability or cognitive abilities. That failure instead gifted me with a confirmation of who and what I wanted to be. I changed the course of action, later obtained Master’s degree (Cum Laude) and consequently founded a business, which I am still running in the science sector.

This life lesson also taught me that business might not always be an exponential curve due to unforeseen circumstances. For example, global recession might affect your value chain, where even your best risk and business impact recovery strategies are unable to shield it from these external factors. Business will sometimes lose client base and human capital investments might not always bear the desired fruits. As a leader, I learnt that these turbulent times are an opportunity to rebuild and find new niche markets or new collaborations. It is never time to sink into condemnation, even though its tempting. Acknowledge, cry if need be, take time off, and come back with new tools/strategies to re-penetrate the markets and garner support from teams who believe in the business vision and brand.

Congruently, business taught me that symbiotic relationships, where there is respect, professionalism, care, and trust, make for great business partnerships. This lesson from business made me to be more appreciative of the value of ubuntu, where you are cognizant of the world around you and respect that the ecosystem within which you exist is to be nurtured and respected. You cannot just take from customers/clients or partnerships, you must add value to the business ecosystem. I observed that professionalism is about good mannerism and is not different from life values of just showing kindness to those you interact with by respecting diversity, caring for people’s time, through to just being the woman of your word.

I also learnt in life that I am a whole and a unique person, but I rely on social interactions to satisfy certain survival basic, psychological, and self-actualisation needs, as Maslow (1943) defined these needs. The life transactions are about supporting our life systems. That pattern needs to be respected and not exploited. For example, nature supplies us with natural resources such water and air. When I pollute the same air I need, then I am not being responsible and facilitating sustainable growth and development, where we all thrive, flourish while protecting people’s human basic constitutional rights.

So, in life, taking care of my surroundings and my environment, was a key survival strategy. I then adopted the same principle in the way in which I conduct business. I strive to: value my network; to respect business transactions; and to invest into an product development rather than viewing business deals as a way to make a “quick buck and dive”. Business is conducted with people by people. We all have all components of a human being. Therefore, some of the sayings such as “it’s nothing personal but business” can be critically revisited and contextually assessed for validity and their contribution or impact on brand development, stakeholder perceptions and value add towards establishment of an ethical culture.

My life also taught me that empathy is also a value that make relationships thrive, if all parties can respect and honour their roles of servanthood, in the relationship. This is key in establishing business collaborations which help us to cast our nets wide and far while sharing on each other’s networks and building capacity and momentum. In addition, if in business you are there to solve a problem and design tools systems to enable you to solve that problem, then it requires a bit of compassion/empathy to be moved to a point of saying “I can help, this is a solution I have for this need”.

Vulnerabilities and strength that might empower other women:

Be authentic. Be aligned with whatever had moved you, in the first place to start that business. Do not undermine your inner value systems but rather utilise them as foundational principles/ values upon which your business will be established. Values drive decision making. If you have unethical values, the quality of your decisions will reflect that. Be agile both in running the business and keeping your value systems in check. Guard your heart for everything you do flows from it (Proverbs 24:3).

Failure is an opportunity to identify new opportunities. Assume accountability, analyse, process, examine and learn the invaluable lesson it provides. Identify where the policies, strategies, protocols, implementation, and monitoring systems, had not delivered. Respond accordingly, rebuild with the new acquired skill set and insight.

Babalwa Fatyi, an MSc (Cum Laude) graduate and member of the Institute of Directors -South Africa, is a registered Professional Natural Scientist, registered Auditor as well Managing Director of Myezo Environmental Management Services (Pty) Ltd (Myezo).

Myezo is an advisory company, that provides services, cutting across various sectors and specialising in the mining sector. She has over 20 years of consulting experience in the application of integrated environmental management tools across various sectors, specialising in mining.

She has co-authored publications in scientific journals and is an author of poetry books, which promote sustainable means of unlocking the natural resource capital while we uphold co-existence principles. She has shared her sustainability insights at various scientific knowledge sharing platforms and is also spear-heading industry succession planning and unlocking human capital value through mentoring, as a founding director of a non-profit organisation dedicated to this conviction, Myezo growth and Development institute.

She has graciously received honour from many organisations including Black Business Quarterly Awards as well as Celebrating Excellence in Organisations (CEO) Global, where she was regional winner (SADC South), 2019 in the SME Sector.

Babalwa also a BA degree in Theology from the Global School of Theology, USA

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