From a family-owned timber business to a leading hospitality brand in South Africa, ANEW’s CEO Clinton Armour explains his father’s role in shaping his future and his hopes for the next generation.
I was privileged to get an early start from my father, who allowed me to take over the reins from a young age. While he was not involved in the hospitality industry; he came from the timber business, his business ethics and values still apply today. What stood out most for me and what made him so successful was how he dealt with people. As a businessman, he was fair, responsible, upfront, honest and transparent. People enjoyed working with him. He was also very discerning and a good judge of character. Of course, he also has very good attention to detail, which was definitely passed down to me.
One of the biggest takeaways for me was the freedom I had to make decisions and gain hands-on experience right off the bat, which is essentially the best way to learn how to run a business. He allowed me to learn through doing. I had fewer restrictions on how things should be done and had the freedom to learn and grow on my own. I believe that’s how I learnt to become the businessman I am today.
Whether it is a parent, parent figure, mentor or business partner, a strong role model is always incredibly valuable, especially in your formative years as a business owner. As a lot of the groundwork was already laid for me, I just needed to do my homework and have the courage to make bold decisions.
As someone I could look up to in business, my father set me on the right path to success and gave me the opportunity to learn from the best, whether it was bouncing ideas off one another or providing reassurance when I was feeling doubtful. Thankfully for me, this was naturally passed on through the relationship we shared.
Generational differences can undoubtedly impact how we do things compared to how things were done in the past. Our business has evolved and changed quite quickly, from a family-owned timber business to what it is today. When we went through these changes, moving to the hospitality side of things, my father wasn’t incredibly involved, so it was my job to transition the business and move with our ever-changing environment. It is important to be open, flexible and agile as things can change very quickly in every facet of the business. I think that’s something the pandemic has taught us all.
Developing new ways of thinking and adopting new technologies will always play a part in moving a business to the next stage or to the next generation, so there may be some conflict in this regard. That said, there is always something that can be learnt from our older generations. They tend to be more conservative, which can be a good thing. You can’t expect someone in their 70s or close to retirement to be excited about a new venture that’s got some risk attached to it. They will likely look at this with the most critical eye, which can keep us grounded at times, so we don’t get burned by flying too close to the sun.
Intentional actions go a long way
Another valuable lesson I learnt from my father was to be intentional. He had a genuine care for people, and he would be intentional in his interactions with everyone, from the bottom to the top. He posed thoughtful and meaningful questions and listened to the response. He never asked questions just for the sake of keeping a conversation or making small talk. Both my parents displayed a genuine interest in everyone and what they had to say. They took the time to ask questions and remember the answers, which I learnt is an exceptionally valuable way of connecting with people.
Everything is about being intentional, whether making business decisions or communicating with clients, customers, employees or business partners. You also have to be intentional in your personal life, and the time you spend with your loved ones. Because I travel a lot, the time I’m home is very important to my family and me. So I want to instil a culture of intent in my family and business, which can hopefully be passed across all generations and businesses.
Humility and unbreakable family bonds
I believe in humility, which is another value my dad instilled in me. This is especially true when it comes to how I run the business. You can have the most successful company today, but it could be gone tomorrow. No one’s invincible. I also value family bonds, which I believe are unbreakable.
When things get hectic at work, you can always fall back on your family for support, which is a privilege not everyone has and many take advantage of. As a father and business owner, I understand that people look up to me, and so I believe that humility, freedom of responsibility and strong family values have and will always be the key to success.