Leadership insights from Kobus van Graan

Kobus van Graan is a leaders’ leader. As the CEO of a group that boasts companies that are at the forefront of the industries in which they participate, his business acumen and sound decision-making skills are points of pride and key factors for the Frans Indongo Group’s (FIG’s) success.

Since taking the helm at FIG back in 2007, Kobus’ pragmatic leadership and results-driven operational approach have given impetus to the Group’s growth over the years – from a few small privately-owned retail operations, to a growing conglomerate with a uniquely Namibian story. There’s no doubt that the Frans Indongo Group is a homegrown success story that has Namibianised foreign shareholding in market-leading brands across five industries: Properties & Investments, Automotive, Manufacturing & Distribution, Hospitality & Leisure, and Retail.

Kobus is the first to admit that this transformation and the successes realized thus far have not been easy to attain. But he is convinced that with the collective effort of visionary and capable leaders, FIG has been able to live its mantra: “Shape today. Own tomorrow.” As Kobus puts it, “Leadership offers the competitive edge at FIG, and has allowed the Group to grow from strength to strength.”

“We are driven by the principle that the general is the army. What happens at the top determines the spirit and the direction of the business and that filters through from top to bottom. We try to get leaders who fit this philosophy at the helm of each of the companies in the group,” says Kobus. This perspective is testament to the quality of leadership that exists at FIG and within its subsidiaries. Leaders at each of the Group’s subsidiaries are empowered to lead, and function as “centers of energizing leadership”. “We seek leaders who are energetic, and able to mobilise, to motivate and to see beyond the horizon. They should embrace our values, be success driven, be swift in execution, and be able to nurture work environments that motivate their teams.”

Beyond the leadership steering each subsidiary and the Group, Kobus highlights the importance of the strong leadership at the Board level. “We are really blessed to have capable, seasoned directors and trustees guarding over the success of the business.” FIG’s Board of Directors and the Board of Trustees are enterprising individuals, who are seasoned and experienced in business.

The leadership philosophy engrained by the Board and Group leadership has served the business well, ensuring sustainable growth and the ability to pivot at crucial times. Kobus is clear on the notion that to sustain growth, in addition to the right leadership, a specific business model is imperative. “The leadership must embrace the business model. There is room for everyone to make a change, within the boundaries of our values and our business model.” In FIG’s case, this model focuses on building a balanced and diverse portfolio of businesses, which will achieve the Group’s growth targets.

In order to achieve the afore-mentioned, Kobus highlights some key facets of the Group’s approach under his leadership: “We have an affinity for joint ventures with prominent like-minded regional industry experts, where we can obtain substantial shareholding in those businesses. Our operational approach is one that nurtures cash flow. We are conservative in taking on debt, and cautious when it comes to greenfield projects. And we take swift action when things go wrong. It is these principles that have helped us to achieve the successes we’ve realized thus far.”

This perspective, within which the notion of the ‘general is the army’ is set in play at the leadership level, provides for an agile structure that can quickly respond to change to continuously improve on business performance, to innovate, and to constantly seek new opportunities. Kobus says that at the
end of the day, it comes down to results and sustainability. Indeed, even in the face of the tough economic headwinds that Namibia currently faces as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, FIG is achieving strong results.

And just as the Group has quietly and methodically achieved numerous business milestones and contributed to the Namibian economy, it has also quietly ploughed back into various communities in fundamental ways, “supporting where we can” to make a difference. A humble leader who is more focused on deeds than accolades, Kobus isn’t one to boast about the millions of dollars the Group has donated to various causes to mitigate the effects of disasters that have struck or to aid communities and people in different ways.

While FIG doesn’t shout its successes and contributions from the rooftops, there is no doubt that the Group has been able to achieve a formidable footprint across the country, and that it can be distinguished as a reputable and successful enterprise. The leadership values that permeate the Group, with Kobus van Graan as its able CEO, have ensured that FIG stands shoulder to shoulder with the best, as it lives its mantra: “Shape today. Own tomorrow.”

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