BACKSTORY: Stangen Life’s Marius Botha
We question Marius Botha, MD of Stangen Life on his top tip for doing a deal, lockdown routine and biggest regret
What’s your one top tip for doing a deal?
Listen for the "second layer of conversation" — in other words, what’s not being said by the other party.
What was your first job?
I was a trainee actuary, focusing primarily on actuarial valuations (policyholder liability calculations) for the African life insurance subsidiaries of a listed life insurance group. That’s code language for "payback time" after having received a bursary for my varsity studies.
How much was your first pay cheque, and how did you spend it?
I can’t remember the exact rand value (it was somewhere below R10,000 per month), but I took my family and extended family for a dinner. Always honour those who backed you.
What is the one thing you wish somebody had told you when you were starting out?
Deal with your subconscious fears — bring it into the light by sharing it with someone you trust, and ask them to hold you accountable in overcoming them.
What is your lockdown routine?
I work from home, but with a structured lunch with my wife and kids to break the video calls madness.
What is your biggest regret?
Any form of unresolved relational conflict. People matter — whether in one’s personal life or in business. Circumstances sometimes result in not always being able to "restore" a professional relationship.
What is the one investment you wish you had made, or made earlier?
Taking money offshore.
What’s the most interesting thing about you that people don’t know?
I nearly got arrested in 2010 at the Munich airport for carrying nine sheep soft toys in my check-in luggage. My wife wanted to decorate the nursery in a sheep theme and my late mother-in-law came across the Nici brand in Germany. Lesson: no one trusts a business-class traveller with a suitcase full of soft toys — it’s very suspect.
Was there ever a point at which you wanted to trade it all in for a different career? And if so, what would that career be?
Of course — more often than not. My creative side wants to become a director and make movies. I’d probably be terrible at it, though.
If you were President Cyril Ramaphosa, what would you change, or do, tomorrow?
Prioritise economic growth above all other national agendas.