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Jan Widerström, president and MD at Saab. Picture: Supplied
Jan Widerström, president and MD at Saab. Picture: Supplied

What’s your one top tip for doing a deal?

Ensuring that I conduct comprehensive and in-depth research. This ensures that you know and understand their business better than your counterpart. It also entails thorough analysis of market trends, consumer behaviour and industry dynamics. Moreover, staying updated with the latest developments and innovations in your field is crucial for maintaining a competitive edge. By continuously refining your understanding of your business landscape, you can make informed decisions and drive sustainable growth.

What was your first job?

I began my career as an electrical technician and spent nearly three decades working in various capacities within the defence industry. My roles encompassed engineering, sales and marketing, business development, strategic procurement and programme management, taking me around the globe. Since 2005, I’ve been an integral part of Saab, where I previously served as deputy head of the business unit electronic warfare & aircraft systems, a division within the surveillance department.

How much was your first pay cheque, and how did you spend it?

My first pay cheque amounted to about R10,000, which I primarily spent on leisure activities.

What is the one thing you wish somebody had told you when you were starting out?

I wish someone had told me: “It will take time.” Embracing the philosophy of life to “Listen, think, and think again, then act!” would have provided me with invaluable guidance as I navigated through the early stages of my journey.

If you could fix one thing in South Africa, what would it be?

I would prioritise job creation by fostering an investment-friendly environment, which is crucial for the country. The nation has immense potential for growth and success, with the necessary resources already in place. However, significant improvements are essential to fully realise this potential. This can be achieved through initiatives to enhance skills development, which can pave the way for sustainable economic growth and increased employment opportunities.

What’s the most interesting thing about you that people don’t know?

It is probably something that I am unaware of.

What’s the worst investment mistake you’ve made?

Investing in Swedish mining shares.

What’s the best investment you’ve ever made? And how much of it was due to luck?

Investing in my family has been the most fulfilling, personally. Financially, Ericsson shares, which can be largely credited to luck.

What’s the best book you’ve read recently and why did you like it?

Unfortunately, I haven’t had time for books lately. I prefer reading magazines and news due to my busy schedule. However, I miss the immersive experience of delving into a good book and hope to carve out some time for reading soon.

What is the hardest life lesson you’ve learnt?

Understanding that life is unpredictable and short emphasises the importance of cherishing the time we have. It’s essential to make the most of each moment, appreciating the people and experiences that enrich our lives. By prioritising meaningful connections and pursuing passions, we can create lasting memories.

What is something you would go back and tell your younger self that would impress them?

I would express my contentment and pride in where I am today, with my family and life. It’s important to recognise and celebrate the achievements and blessings that have brought us to this point. Cherishing the love and support of my family, I am grateful for the opportunities and experiences that have shaped me into the person I am today.

If you were President Cyril Ramaphosa, what would you change, or do, tomorrow?

I would focus on fostering an environment that attracts investments to drive job creation. Additionally, I would prioritise strengthening relationships with nations that align with South African values. Building strategic alliances with like-minded countries not only enhances diplomatic ties but also opens avenues for mutually beneficial trade agreements and knowledge exchange. Moreover, fostering international partnerships can bolster South Africa’s position on the global stage and pave the way for sustainable economic growth.

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