Having found himself unemployed and struggling to get his head around working for a corporate again, Jacques du Preez took the brave step of starting his own business. Provantage Media Group was born, and what a journey it has been for the out of home company and its founder.
From having dominated the MOST Awards Rising Star Award on the Media Owner side for a long period of time (winning it for four consecutive years), to spreading the reach of the OOH business across Africa, Du Preez’s leadership has been the driving force behind it all.
Quietly growing the business out of view of the industry (they don’t brag about their achievements often do they?) Du Preez has learnt a lot of lessons along the way.
Here are his takeouts as an entrepreneur:
Q: Why did you decide to branch out with your own business/venture, rather than work for other companies or corporates?
To be 100% honest, I was unemployed and battled to get my head around working for a corporate again. I then started consulting for few clients and then one thing led to another and I started Provantage in 2003 from my study at home.
Q: Give us a brief history of your media venture? What gave you the idea? How did it begin, and how has your business journey unfolded?
I found myself unemployed in 2003 and stated doing consultancy and project work for a number of clients, namely Kodak and Mague No1. I then decided to start Provantage. I started from home and build our 1st roadshow trailer which was the launch of our activation business. I also secured the promotional rights from SA Rugby for the 2003 World Cup Rugby which I sold to Clover and Simba and that is how Provantage was born.
In 2006 we launched Transit Ads and branded our first branded taxi fleet for Kellogg’s Corn Flakes. In 2007 we launched Taxi Tv which was the precursor to our very successful Transit TV network we have today. We launched a number of ventures between 2007 and 2010 that were not successful including Tavern TV, Provantage Events and Brandvantage, so it was really not all plain sailing.
In 2012 we launched Airport TV and Airport Ads and in 2016 acquired Outdoor Network and Golf Ads. In 2017 we acquired Global Outdoor systems and launched our Mall Ads business.
So, it has been a 16 year journey, with many ups and many downs but the business has in totality been very successful. We are one of the three largest OOH media groups on the continent and we currently employ a permanent staff contingent of 380 people in 11 countries.
Q: What challenges did you face as a media entrepreneur and how did you overcome them?
As a media entrepreneur, I faced numerous challenges. The major ones when you start are to establish yourself and to gain trust from landlords, clients, banks and suppliers. This was extremely tough, and the key skill was to remain positive and to build strong and sustainable relationships with all of them, which takes time.
Funding is another challenge and cash flow management is key. I can recall how we in the first years paid staff salaries from our respective credit cards. Banks was also very sceptical and difficult to deal with and I have over the years heard various opinions from them regarding our business. Then we are growing too slowly and then we are “over-heating” and growing too fast. Making sure you have a good reputation with the dreaded “Credit Committee” of the bank is key and so is having the right financial institution as a partner.
Empowerment and securing media rights and business was and remains a major challenge as an entrepreneur in South Africa. We have done so by being innovative and aggressive and forming strong and sustainable relationship in the various OOH segments.
To be successful, I had to become and stay extremely resourceful, have faith and believe in myself and our abilities and surround myself with the best people I could find and that has worked for me over the last 16 years.
Q: Has there been a moment of success that has really stood out for you and that is your favourite on your journey? To what do you attribute your success?
There have been many, and they are hard to isolate, but I think the last year was a highlight because all our businesses in our group have done extremely well. We have also successfully diversified our portfolio of businesses and this has been very rewarding.
Q: What characteristics do you think make a successful media entrepreneur?
Nobody is ever successful in isolation and we are all only as happy and successful as we are in our relationships. I think you need to be enthusiastic, hardworking, resourceful and tenacious. You have to also be an exceptional salesman and you should by nature be innovative and have the ability to visualise and identify opportunities.
Another key discipline is that you should spend a lot of time out of your office and with stakeholders, consumers and customers because that is where the answers and opportunities are.
Q: Your advice to young media entrepreneurs or those looking to start new media businesses?
Just start, as this is very often the most important step to success. Also, ask successful people for assistance and advice and you will be very surprised how much support you will receive. Focus is also very important as it is very easy as a new start-up to get distracted and to be everything to everyone.
Q: What next from you and your media company/venture? What can people expect? Exciting upcoming projects?
We are busy on so many fronts and with a lot of new innovations and ideas. We are busy diversifying our group into new territories and into new OOH segments and services. Technology and Digital OOH is involved in a lot of our new ventures and it is a really a very exciting time for PMG. We are re-engineering our existing businesses, as well launching new ones… it all takes a lot of energy and time… but at least life it is not boring!
Q: What, in your view, needs to happen to encourage more media entrepreneurs, and not just that, help them stay the course?
I think we have a lot of media entrepreneurs in the country! I am also not of the opinion that anything needs to happen and that anyone should keep entrepreneurs on course…. real entrepreneurs will emerge, and they will keep themselves on course… that is what resourceful people do
Q: How do you ‘pay it forward’?
I do Life Planning training sessions in our business where I encourage people and especially young people to improve themselves and to take responsibility for their lives. I also mentor a few people and give a helping hand where possible. A few years ago we also launched the PMG Academy which has offered formal training to over a thousand young people to date.
Q: What quote or passage do you think encapsulates you and your approach to business and success?
“Success is not final; failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts” – Winston Churchill – I really like this quote because we are all trapped in a society where everyone is addicted to instant gratification and instant results.
To create anything of value takes time, lots of effort, energy and the grace and unmerited favour of God.
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