BACKSTORY: Barry Chapman, CEO of Alleyroads
This week we speak to Barry Chapman, CEO of one of the largest affordable housing developers in South Africa
What’s your one top tip for doing a deal?
Keep your focus to make sure it gets done.
What was your first job?
I started out as an articled clerk at PricewaterhouseCoopers and also did some part-time work as a barman at the Keg & Kingfisher in Benoni during my university days.
How much was your first pay cheque, and how did you spend it?
I can’t recall how much it was, but I’m pretty sure my mother-in-law insisted I take my in-laws out for dinner!
What is the one thing you wish somebody had told you when you were starting out?
That the property sector would be the darling of the investment community for a long time. I would have focused on that sector long before I actually did.
If you could fix only one thing in South Africa, what would it be?
It has to be education. A highly educated workforce would put South Africa into a completely different league in terms of global competitiveness and in terms of resolving our own problems.
What’s the most interesting thing about you that people don’t know?
I’ve got quite “green fingers”, so I used to own and care for more than 50 bonsai. I didn’t have space for them when I did my renovation because they need very specific amounts of sun and shade.
What’s the worst investment mistake you’ve made?
Investing in a big renovation of my house just prior to lockdown. It’s doubtful if I will ever recover that investment and it was probably not the best time to take on debt.
What’s the best investment you’ve ever made? And how much of it was due to luck?
I owned African Bank shares in their heyday. Some of it was undoubtedly luck but I did follow the share closely and traded out before the crash.
What’s the best book you’ve read recently and why did you like it?
The Andromeda Evolution by Daniel Wilson. I enjoy science fiction, particularly when the theme includes space and technology.
What is the hardest life lesson you’ve learnt so far?
Nobody else really has your interests as their priority. If you want to succeed in life you need to look after yourself and drive your own agenda.
What phrase or bit of jargon irks you most?
The term “reach out”. Can’t you just say I’ll contact the person? Or call him?
What is something you would go back and tell your younger self that would impress them?
That I managed to run a half marathon (21.1km) in 91 minutes. Hopefully sometime soon I will break the magical 90.
If you were President Cyril Ramaphosa, what would you change, or do, tomorrow?
I would completely eliminate cadre deployment and employ a suitably qualified civil service; institute lifestyle audits for every civil servant; and prohibit any civil servant from doing business with the state. Maybe that will make a dent in our current challenges.
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