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 No need to retire when business becomes a hobby


 After building up and selling a chain of cell-phone stores in Cape Town, Frikkie de Klerk spent seven months at home in retirement. He nearly went mad. I would drive out to the shops to go buy a Coke, just to get out and do something. An hour later I'd go again, says the 72-year-old serial entrepreneur. “I saw that if I kept on doing this, something was going to happen, and it wouldn't be good.

Eventually, Frikkie made peace with the fact that he simply needed to be involved in a business – it is both his hobby and his reason for getting up in the mornings. Today, Frikkie runs a thriving Supa Quick fitment workshop in Brackenfell with his son Abrie and has recently bought the centre in which the business is situated.

Strangely for such a compulsive entrepreneur, Frikkie started out rather late in life as a business owner when he retired from corporate life at the age of 55. But the colourful nature of his corporate career probably explains why he did not get out earlier. He cut his teeth as a young finance man in the rapidly growing empire of renowned South African tobacco entrepreneur Anton Rupert. In the first ten years of his married life, he says, they stayed in nine houses as they relocated from town to town and even country to country to help start up, turn around or run a wide-ranging series of ventures.

Later he ventured into corporate agriculture and ended up as CEO of a meat company, but he always yearned to run his own business. In 1997, when the tedium of a weekly commute between Johannesburg and Cape Town caught up with him, he stepped out of the corporate world and bought a small chain of electronic games shops in Cape Town.

At the time a great cellphone boom was sweeping South Africa, and Frikkie soon found himself the owner of a string of MTN shops – the largest chain in the Western Cape. The games shops, which Frikkie says he never really had a feeling for, were either sold or converted to cell-phone shops. It was when he sold his chain of MTN shops that Frikkie had his brief experiment with retirement.

Fortunately, Frikkie spotted the Supa Quick opportunity and convinced his son Abrie to join him in the venture. They started off with two Supa Quick outlets, but sold one which was not growing as quickly as they wanted it to, and concentrated their efforts on the branch in Brackenfell.

In many ways it is an ideal partnership. Abrie has a marketing background and Frikkie takes care of the finances. Abrie’s youthful energy goes into the day-to-day running of the business, allowing Frikkie a more flexible routine, and the time to stand back and take a strategic view of the business.

Small wonder then that the father-and-son team has managed to treble the turnover of the fitment centre since they took it over in 2002, despite no fewer than six opposition workshops opening in the immediate vicinity, some of which have closed down since. Frikkie’s philosophy is to concentrate on the efficiency and good service of their own business instead of spending time and energy on what the opposition is doing.

Another excellent partnership that formed was between the De Klerks’ family trust and Business Partners, South Africa’s leading small-business finance house which invests heavily in business property.

Business Partners approached Frikkie with an offer to partner with them in buying the centre in which the Brackenfell Supa Quick was situated. When Frikkie heard that the basis for the partnership was 50-50, he jumped at the chance. It was an opportunity for the De Klerks to eliminate one of the major risks of renting a site-dependent service workshop – being at the mercy of the landlord when the lease comes up for renewal. By co-owning their premises, the future of the business is secured in perpetuity.

Other advantages of ownership for the De Klerks include a say in the shaping of and strategic decision-making over their trade environment, and of course the investment benefit of owning the property. Business Partners, with its deep knowledge and experience of the property industry, manages the centre, but makes no changes without consulting the De Klerks.

The benefit for Business Partners in co-ownership is that the anchor tenant, who has intimate knowledge of the area and a constant presence at the centre, has a vested interest in making it thrive.

And thrive it did. Since they bought it with Business Partners in 2010, the centre’s seven units had been 100% fully occupied without exception. With the future of the Supa Quick secure, this may be a good time for Frikkie to retire and explore other hobbies. But as always, he is looking out for the next business opportunity




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