2 May 2024

Building Relationships – Alan Schermbrucker

At MGI Bass Gordon, success is not about trying to be as profitable as possible – it’s actually about long-term wealth creation and staff empowerment. The most successful businesses are those that provide consistent returns to shareholders, work with long-term goals in mind and aim for sustainable business growth.

As one of our respected partners, Alan Schermbrucker, delights us today, with a delve into his personal journey to success.

“Audit is my bread-and-butter, but I can’t help but look at tax efficiency! So professionally, success to me is where clients have grown to know me enough to call and “pick my brain” on any issue, or when any staff member reaches out regarding developing and evolving their careers or maximizing opportunities that come their way. My greatest success then, is the experience of others who put their entire trust in me.”

Eager to get to grips with a man that has been with our firm for more than a decade, we posed Alan a few targeted questions around his concept of success:

How has your success directly impacted MGI’s staff?
My goal is always about relationship-building and my heart is to conduct myself with integrity and honesty that engenders trust.

How has your success directly impacted MGI’s clients?
I have a few clients that have initially had one of their companies with us or have invested into a company where we are the service provider and over time, they have moved most of their work to us because of their experience of how we go about things.

What is the most challenging part of being a leader?
The difficulty for me, is that most news drops when things aren’t going to plan, or an issue has cropped up. This can be stressful, taking the time to understand the issue – then navigating it into the light.

Contemplating local current economic climate and turbulent world events, we asked:

Where are you headed as a business relative to the times?
Turbulent times create huge opportunity as well as causing us to reflect on what we are doing, how we are doing it and why. As a business, I believe we are creating flexibility in the workplace and ensuring we are nimble and adaptive to the changing environment whilst holding on to our core values.

What do you feel is the firm’s biggest strength right now?
We have proved ourselves to be collaborative in our approach and deeply resilient and adaptive. When the pandemic hit us in 2020, it was astonishing how quickly we were able to pivot our practice and transition to a remote office environment in a matter of days. Our greatest strength is in the diversity of our group and complementary strengths.

How do you keep your team motivated despite conflicts and obstacles?
“Bring me the rock’’ is what a wise older partner always says to us at the start of each year – and we encourage our staff similarly when conflict arises (the rock being the issue and therefore not something to throw!). It’s important to me that we enjoy what we are doing and that we can laugh while doing it. As a comparison, the Comrades is a deeply challenging ultra-marathon where you question why the heck you’re doing it countless times. There are infinite times you swear you’ll never do it again! But it’s overcoming those times that you grow then celebrate the finish-line successes with those around you that have laughed and cried with you – and sure enough, you’re back at it the following year!

How do we as a firm contribute to nurturing South African entrepreneurship talent?
We specialise in owner-managed or entrepreneurial business – it’s what we do. From startups to billion-rand turnover companies, we love the conversation and working out how best we can serve the business owner on their journey.

Generously, Alan answered the following more personal questions:

In terms of the way you deal with people, what do you feel your top three personality traits are? Why so?
I am relatable, trustworthy, and honest – these, in my opinion, are fundamental to relationship building.

How do you celebrate your successes?
I prefer time out with family and special friends in a low-key environment – a good braai or time-out in the mountains or at the ocean is the ultimate!

Who do you look up to for inspiration or mentorship?
I’m influenced by Simon Sinek and listen to a lot of Francis Chan’s teachings on doing life with purpose and doing it well.

What would you say are the most important attributes of successful leaders today?
I prefer leaders that devote themselves to the service of others, that stand last in the queue, and that are slow to speak and quick to listen.

What’s the most important risk you took and why?
After 11 years I left a big-four audit firm in 2013, joining MGI Bass Gordon to pursue my passion for family business – it has exceeded my expectations and I’ve just not ever looked back!

What leadership book would you recommend and why?
I enjoyed ‘Shoe Dog’ by Phil Knight, co-founder of Nike. It’s a humorous account of the passionate pursuit in believing in something great – then risking all to achieve it!

In closing, wrapping up this interview laden with depth and insight, we enquired what advice Alan would give his younger self?
My darling wife and I were actually at UCT at the same time, both pursuing commerce degrees – but only really met years after graduating. I would tell my younger self to seek her out to start our “happily ever after” much sooner – but as time has revealed, timing is everything and therefore I would not change one thing about our journey to date.

To explore more about MGI Bass Gordon as a firm and the vast range of services we offer our clients, please visit our website