Gareth Olivier | Co-Founder of CA Connect
Our dream when we started CA Connect was to be the first private SAICA-accredited CTA in South Africa that offered contact education to students who were not able to study on a full-time basis. We wanted to run a programme that was founded on inclusion, support and genuine care taking a fresh look at education, focusing on fostering critical and creative thought and developing true business leaders.
Initially we worked extensively with SAICA’s growth and transformation team, running a bursaried CTA support programme. At the end of 2012, CA Connect partnered with Monash SA and launched the only private SAICA-accredited CTA in 2013. The Monash South Africa / CA Connect CTA currently admits full-time and after-hours students and is the only CTA to be delivered via blended learning (partly online, partly via contact classes). The CTA has grown to 320 students per year, of whom more than 70% are from previously disadvantaged backgrounds.
I am currently the head of the CTA programme and I also lecture CTA Financial Reporting. I have such high hopes for role that this programme can play in transformation and I am really excited about the far broader base of students that can benefit from blended learning.
My Definition Of Success | To me, success is making the most with what you’re given. Life isn’t fair but it is full of opportunities.
My Highlights | I’m so lucky to have married my wife, she is amazing at everything that I’m bad at which makes us a great team. I have never met anyone who exemplifies unconditional love like she does. She has taught me what true commitment is and what it means to never give up which have been pillars of strength in all aspects of my life. She also gave me my first child who was born 4 months ago, very little can compare to that.
Being named in the Top 3 Chartered Accountants under 35 in South Africa was a huge honour. I still can’t really believe that it happened.
I also love my job, this is an ongoing highlight. One of the reasons that I love my job is that I get to work with some of the most remarkable students. Every day I interact with people who, due to their circumstances, shouldn’t have completed primary school and yet, are nigh on qualifying as Chartered Accountants. In the almost 5 years since we started, we have worked with students who have chosen to buy textbooks rather than food, mothers with 3 month old babies who are employed on a full-time basis who study between 10pm and 6am, men whose deepest wish is to be the first CA(SA) from the remote rural village where they grew up so that they could go back to change it for the better and grandparents whose lifelong ambition, a year before they retire, is to qualify as CAs(SA); all situations that, had I not experienced first-hand, I would say were unlikely and probably impossible. I never fail to be astounded by the strength of the human spirit of which these students are a special breed.
A Key Talent | No one has life all figured out; not Brad Pitt, not Barack Obama and certainly not me. It’s normal to doubt yourself and to be scared of failing, in fact, it would be weird if you weren’t. What matters is not letting fear of failing or uncertainly get the better of you and rather turning it into constructive energy.
When I started CA Connect I wasn’t “ready” to do it and I don’t think anyone ever is. I have worked hard on taking control of situations and opportunities and making them work, even when I am not completely assured. It really helps to be able to appear confident even when you’re a nervous wreck inside. I love Amy Cuddy’s talk on this at – http://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are?language=en#
On Inspiring Others | I started CA Connect with friends. I know this is probably against every sensible piece of business advice around but, to me, trust is everything. I implicitly trust everyone that I work with and when we appoint new people at CA Connect I ask myself whether I would be friends with them.
Being in my own business and building something from the ground up, one of the biggest things I’ve learnt over the past few years is about the importance of teams and how best to contribute to them.
I think one of the biggest lies that the world sells us is that on our own we are enough. To add value to the world it’s crucial to work as part of a team. None of us, on our own, are well-rounded and we are most engaged and effective when we are able to contribute what we are good at to a team and to partner with others who are good at the things where we are lacking. Over the last 5 years with CA Connect, we’ve learnt how we each fit into the team and we have developed an understanding of what each of us are good at. If I had to work on certain aspects of the business I would really not enjoy them and I would also be terrible at them. What is amazing when you are part of an effective team is that there are people who love and are effective at the things that you hate and aren’t good at, everyone wins.
Lessons I Have Learnt | I think that as humans we have convinced ourselves that we are far more intelligent than we really are. This leads us to applying our “logic” to matters in which we could never realistically have sufficient perspective. One of my favourite sayings is, “To know all is to forgive all.” Only God knows everything, which is why he forgives unconditionally.
In order for our lives point in a meaningful direction we need to tie them to something that is far more substantial than our logic and our comfort. I’m a Christian so I try to make important decisions with this as a basis ahead of what I think is best for me. This is a challenge as it can lead to decisions that don’t always seem logical at the time, but in retrospect they always make sense.
It’s humbling to think that in 100 years’ time, no one is likely to know who any of us were – our lives are simply too insignificant to live for ourselves. It is so important to find something that you love as you then stop asking “What’s in it for me?” and instead ask, “How best can I help?”
Performing At My Peak | I eat healthily, I make sure I get enough sleep and I try to exercise as often as possible. Leading a balanced life is crucial and Gallup’s (among other) research shows that people who have the most balanced lives are able to contribute the most value.
The Best Advice I’ve Received | The most effective way to add value to the world is by being the best at something you love.
- Resources I Use To Stay Inspired | These are my favourite websites:
- http://www.ted.com/ especially http://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are?language=en#
- http://www.iamsecond.com/ especially http://www.iamsecond.com/seconds/bailee-madison/
“How to win friends and influence people” by Dale Carnegie is a classic read.
My Future Dreams And Ambitions | I hope to continue on the same trajectory with CA Connect as part of an even better and growing team. I believe that education is the most important thing that we do as society as it is the key to our county’s future. Technology has opened up a brand new world and South Africa, relative to the rest of the world, has been slow on the uptake. As CA Connect, this is where we aim to be; augmenting the best quality education in the industry with technology that makes learning accessible and non-exclusive. There is so much potential and it is so easy to be passionate about this – it is transformation in its purest form that has the capability to transform our profession and ultimately our country.
I Am Inspired By | Besides my wife, my favourite person professionally is Chantyl Mulder who started Thuthuka and is in charge of transformation and growth at SAICA. I was so lucky to meet her when we started CA Connect. She is such an inspirational person to be around and literally radiates energy, love and passion for people which is such a strong foundation for change. For me, she is the quintessential example of someone who lives by faith which is pervasively important in good and bad times.
Chantyl has also taught me that there is no excuse not to be the best at what you do – not good, not great, but literally the best. She’s a walking example of how being the best doesn’t create instant results but, over a sustained period of time, it is unstoppable.
 South African Institute of Chartered Accountants.
 Final year of study towards qualifying as a Chartered Accountant.
Useful Links |
The Monash SA / CA Connect PGDA (CTA): http://www.monash.ac.za/study/courses/postgraduate-diplomas/pgd-accounting.html