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In Hindsight – wise money lessons I wish I could tell my younger self

A menterning collaboration in your 60s

with Gys


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Gys (left) and his team Hannes Hendrikse, Gavin Prowse and Cobus Viljoen.

Kim Potgieter

Kim Potgieter

September 20, 2023
Ever wondered if it’s possible to ignite a fresh business venture in your 60s? And uplift others at the same time? Meet Gys, who, instead of dreaming of retirement, found a compelling project that leveraged his lifelong wisdom, experience and business acumen to transform a business idea into a remarkable new venture.

Gys’s story isn’t about the second chapter of an entrepreneur’s journey but rather the harvesting and sharing of wisdom across generations for collaboration and growth. His latest project sees him partnering with a young man with a brilliant concept, brimming with ideas but limited in experience. Their mentor-mentee relationship bridges the generational gap, merging Gys’s 48 years of experience with fresh initiative. The result? A business that neither could have done alone, highlighting the magic of cross-generational collaboration.

Introducing Gys

Gys’s entrepreneurial journey began with a gift from his father – a combination woodwork machine on his 14th birthday. This gift sparked a lifelong love for woodworking, leading him to start his first business selling handcrafted wooden pencil boxes at a young age. His venture expanded to include a woodworking factory, wood-turning workshop, laminating board factory, and sawmill.

Now in his 60s, Gys has taken on an even more daunting challenge – combining his expertise with a young designer’s vision to create an innovative range of SA-manufactured saw-milling equipment. This may be his biggest challenge yet! The manufacturing of these machines is dominated by global players in America and Europe, and this new venture aims to develop a world-class product that surpasses all others.

Gys’s money and life lessons

Question
Tell us about your new business venture

Answer
We manufacture a range of saw-milling machinery, initially for use in the challenging conditions of Africa and eventually globally. While I don’t have any prior experience in the manufacturing of saw-milling machines, my extensive involvement in woodworking has provided me with a deep understanding of the industry’s challenges. Coupled with my business partner’s design skills, we’re developing a robust, low-maintenance machine that eliminates common problems.

Question
What prompted you to start a new business in your 60s?

Answer
Always looking for new challenges, I was drawn to this young designer’s idea and vision. Our menterning partnership goes both ways: I learn from his fresh, brilliant perspective while sharing my years of knowledge and wisdom. Together, we’re achieving what neither could do alone – developing a world-class product.

Question
What legacy would you like to leave behind with this project?

Answer
I am very grateful for the opportunity to mentor an exceptional young man, making a difference in his life and helping him realise his dreams. With this project, we aim to create jobs and, most importantly, improve the future of saw-milling in Africa and the world.

Question
What are your top 3 tips for others wanting to start a business?

Answer

  • Be passionate about what you do.
  • Work extremely hard.
  • Don’t spend your money before you’ve made it.

Question
Did you encounter any challenges that were new to you?

Answer
Despite all my experience, I realised that the learning journey never ends – I still needed help solving complex engineering challenges. I travelled across SA for over a year, visiting different companies and calling on experts to help me with what I didn’t know.

Question
How did financial planning fit into this decision

Answer
I brought my business insights and financial knowledge to this venture. Being in a good financial position allowed me to not draw a salary, fund the research and development, avoid debt and accelerate the business growth.

Question
Do you have any money tips for others wanting to start a business?

Answer

  • Be conservative in borrowing money.
  • Don’t overspend.
  • Live frugally.
  • Reinvest into your business
  • Save for a rainy day and diversify your investments.

Let’s talk about money

Question
What money habits have served you well?

Answer

  • Always save for the future.
  • Don’t invest all your assets in your business.
  • Diversify your investments so that you have a fallback when times are tough.

Question
What was your biggest money mistake?

Answer
Providing extended credit and selling on terms with customers.

In hindsight…what advice would you give your younger self…

“Recognise your shortcomings, ask for help sooner, and seek mentorship.” – Gys.

Gys is a testament to the fact that age is not a limit – but an asset. Starting a business in your 60s may seem daunting, but as Gys proves, with passion, hard work and partnering with the right person, it’s possible to bring a brilliant new idea to life.

Always remember, when it comes to your money and your life, be inspired, be brave, and be on purpose.

Kim

Click here to read Kim’s advice to Gys.

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