from career of renowned politician, former trade unionist and shrewd negotiator and lawyer Cyril Ramaphosa. Having stepped back from politics, the 59-year-old founded investment holding company Shanduka in 2000 and has created a business empire valued at $245 million (Forbes, 2011). Most recently, he attracted the partnership of the McDonalds chain, earning the franchise licence rights to all of their South African operations for the next 20 years.

Embrace diversity

Ramaphosa’s success can in part be attributed to the diversity of his business portfolio.  His investment holding company, Shanduka, invests in businesses spanning various sectors, including financial services, the industrial sector, resources, energy, property and others. Just last year, Ramaphosa added the franchise rights of McDonalds’ South African operations to his bow. His strategic vision: “Growing through acquisitions of businesses that enhance shareholder value.”

Know your market

Consumers often prefer to buy from a company that they can relate to. In this vein, taking over the McDonalds franchise in South Africa was a very savvy move. Already a successful multinational business, all that remained was for a South African to spearhead the South African operations in order to achieve success in the market.

Anthony Hamms, a South African private equity analyst explains: “South Africans generally tend to prefer home-grown, locally-owned companies to foreign ones…with Mr. Ramaphosa on board now, I’m pretty sure McDonalds will do extremely well. He’s got the Midas touch in business. Very soon, McDonalds will turn to gold.”

Play politics

A highly trained lawyer, respected trade-unionist and talented politician, Ramaphosa insists on courtesy and brings an amiable and entertaining flavour to all of his business dealings. This has served him incredibly well.

Max du Preez, activist and journalist, recounts his experience of Ramaphosa’s negotiating prowess: “What followed during the next hour was something I had not witnessed ever before. Ramaphosa was warm, smiling and witty. I observed him roping [them] in … with his charm and logic; and, by the end of his speech, he had them all eating out of his hand…They simply loved him.”


Having started out as a trade unionist, founding the National Union of Mineworker, the biggest and most powerful trade union in South Africa, Ramaphosa went on to become an advisor for the National Council of Trade Unions. Turning to a political career, he was soon appointed Secretary General of the African National Congress, and a few years later was elected to Parliament. All this before turning to his business career. The lesson to be learnt is simple: the path to business success may be long and winding, network all the way. Make friends and use them.

Look to the future

Having started life in in the Soweto municipality on the outskirts of Johannesburg, no one understands better than Ramaphosa the difficulties of achieving success. As part of his Shanduka corporate strategy, he has launched the Cyril Ramaphosa Education Trust, providing five scholarships a year to deserving students allowing them to continue business related studies. It is important not to forget the importance of the Trust motto: “Empowering Young Minds”.

Image via Forbes


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