BACKSTORY: Purple Group CEO Charles Savage
We question Charles Savage, CEO of Purple Group on his top tip for doing a deal, first job and biggest regret
What’s your one top tip for doing a deal?
Focus on the right fit for the business, its strategy and crucially, its purpose and its people, then on the price. Too often deals focus on price, then try to solve the rest at the risk of everything else.
What was your first job?
My first part-time gig was as a barman; my first full-time job was a management accountant at Health & Racquet Club head office. The less said about the latter, the better.
Was there ever a point at which you wanted to trade it all in for a different career?
Yes. My other passion, outside of democratising all things investing, is owning, breeding and racing thoroughbred horses.
How much was your first pay cheque, and how did you spend it?
R6,000. I bought a fridge for my flat and paid the rent, the rest I invested in entertainment.
What is the one thing you wish somebody had told you when you were starting out?
Find a job that you would do even if they stopped paying you tomorrow.
How would you fix Eskom?
I’d send in Mark Barnes to fix the balance sheet, Michael Jordaan to fix the income statement and Bonang Mohale to create the team purpose.
What is your biggest regret?
Debt. And not finding my purpose in my daily job earlier in my career.
What’s the most interesting thing about you that people don’t know?
I cry easily and a lot.
What has been your worst purchase?
Purple Group shares at R2. Fortunately I still own them and remain committed to turning them into my best.
What is the most overrated virtue?
Temperance — I’ve learnt most everything when abandoning restraint.
What is something you’d go back and tell your younger self that would impress him?
Time is your greatest asset, don’t let anyone waste it away.
How would you close the gap between SA’s rich and its poor?
I’d implement a very simple savings rule: make it compulsory, and to be the responsibility of the employer, to ensure that all employees invest at least 10% of their gross income in qualifying, low-cost "retirement safe" structures, like tax-free savings accounts. Second, I’d give away 70%-100% of all the government’s listable assets to previously disadvantaged South Africans by listing them on exchanges and encouraging all South Africans to open stock- broking accounts.
What is the one investment you wish you had made, or made earlier?
Amazon. I built SA’s first online bookstore in the mid-1990s and remember researching Amazon then. Just wish I’d invested in it back then too.
If you were president, what would you change tomorrow?
Significantly change the rules for start-ups and small businesses, giving them a leg-up in attracting capital, managing labour and paying taxes over the large incumbents. I’d issue a business visa with strong incentives for those solving or trying to solve African problems.