Living the dream

2013-08-27 00:00

“I BELIEVE we all have an innate ability to do something great in this world.”

This is what entrepreneur Rikesh Parthab said at a recent Business Partners breakfast function at the Pietermaritzburg Victoria Country Club.

The owner of two thriving Shell service stations had dreamt of one day being in the position he is today, while he was working part-time at a service station as a scholar in Durban.

But it took a frightening incident years later to remind him of his dream.

Parthab remembers how he would work at the service station as a boy and watch the other young people making their way to the local municipal swimming baths to escape the Durban summer heat.

He envied them sometimes, but he stayed conscientious and invested his earnings throughout his school years.

He continued doing this, even while studying for a National Diploma in Electrical Engineering after being awarded a bursary by Telkom, and then while pursuing a National Higher Diploma in Education to further what had now become his corporate career as a trainer of Telkom technicians around the country. This commitment to saving was what would one day help him realize his dreams.

Then one morning, at the age of 32, Parthab collapsed at the beginning of a training class he was giving. Doctors diagnosed exhaustion and Parthab began to think about his life.

While recuperating, Parthab’s childhood dream of owning a service station began to re-emerge. He realized that he wanted to do something more meaningful with his life, and the corporate world did not seem to offer him the opportunity to do this.

So he set out to change his life.

Parthab remembers that it was not easy. With three children in school, a bond and car instalments, “my job was my life”, he remembers.

“I had to change my mindset. I had become used to the salary at the end of every month.”

It would take him a year to build up the courage to make the jump. True to his personality, the “great escape” was carried out in a disciplined and meticulous way.

He began by closing accounts. He explained his vision to his wife and children, and got their backing — something Parthab insists is of paramount importance for anyone considering embarking on something like this.

Then he started saving again. His goal was to amass enough to see him through six months of expenses, so that he would not have to draw a salary from his new venture while it was getting started.

All this time, he scoured newspapers for service stations for sale, and cold-called owners to ask if they wanted to sell.

Then one Sunday in 2004, on a whim, he looked in the general for-sale column and noticed a service station for sale that had been misclassified.

Parthab looked at the site in Gale Street in Durban and “I took the deal on the spot”.

Fortune, as the saying goes, favours the well prepared, and the years of invested savings since the age of 18 were now about to pay off for Parthab. He was able to approach Business Partners, who backed his dream.

“Business Partners recognises emerging successful entrepreneurs, and wishes to grow with them and allow them the opportunity to expand their business operations or acquire new businesses,” said Byron Jeacocks, Business Partners KZN Regional general manager.

Parthab said: “Business Partners provided the expertise to help me begin as an entrepreneur, and when we partnered in this venture they helped dispel my fears of going into business for myself.” said Parthab

The rest, as they say, is history. Six years later, in 2011, Parthab bought another service station in Echo Road in Pietermaritzburg. His Gale Street service station in Durban has since been rated as one of the top 10 in the country, he says.

Today he turns over more than R7 million a month, and last year he paid salaries and kept an eye on his businesses from the deck of a cruise liner in the Mediterranean, using technology to his advantage.

He recently engaged a business coach, JT Foxx, to help take his entrepreneurial skills to the next level.

He says Foxx has exposed him to some of the big names in business: George Ross (U.S. businessman Donald Trump’s lawyer and right-hand man), Eric Trump (Donald Trump’s son), and Robert Gumede (SA billionaire), among others.

He is now looking to expand to more sites in KZN and has diversified into property too.

Parthab has a few simple rules for success.

“Be bold, but have a plan. Writing your plans down to paper is the first step to materializing them,” he says.

“Building a support network and being ethical in all your dealings is also imperative,” he says.

1. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

2. The Art of War by Sun Tzu

3. Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiosaki

4. The Art of the Deal by Donald Trump

5. Who Moved my Cheese? by Spencer Johnson

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