JASON ENGLISH, ONE OF THE PEOPLE BEHIND STRATEGIC INSIGHTS AND INNOVATIVE PROCESSES AT CG TECH
CG Tech is an owner-managed holding company that shares and supports strategic insights and innovative execution processes with its business partners. The company invests in businesses that put people first, operate responsibly, and keep up with the changing environment.
Jason English is the Chief Ecosystem Officer and Co-Founder of CG Tech together with partners Niall Carroll, Andrew Jackson, Dany De Barros, Joseph Zinyana, and Steven & Max Corfield. CG Tech focuses on investing time and money in businesses that serve stakeholders by adding genuine value, solving problems in unique and efficient ways, and uplifting communities for a positive impact on society.
MORE ABOUT JASON ENGLISH
Jason studied mechanical engineering and has a Master’s in Business. He worked in the corporate world for 14 years before going down the entrepreneurial route. He was always an entrepreneur at heart, having sold avocados and old clothes, mobile sim cards, and other goodies throughout his school and higher education period.
In 2012, he decided to leave the corporate world to go on a journey to build his own business. Currently, he is writing a book called ‘The Oros Effect’ which talks about culture in business.He is outgoing, a people person, and passionate about making a difference in people’s lives.
THE TIMELINE OF CG TECH AND ITS KEY OFFICIALS
- In 2012, Jason hung up his corporate boots after spending 14 years with the same company, sold shares, and reinvested the money into a new venture called Prommac (a mechanical service provider) as the majority shareholder.
- In 2014,Niall Carroll (who previously served as CEO of Royal Bafokeng Holdings) made an early investment and Andrew Jackson came onboard as an advisor.
- In 2015, Dany De Barros joined as COO of Prommac and acquired Kumunyack (an Electrical and Instrumentation contractor).
- Drone operations in South Africa and the United Kingdom were launched in 2016 to lead the global drone services race. In the same year, the company also acquired Al Laith (an engineering, construction, and equipment rental group) in the Middle East.
- In 2018, Prommac and Kumunyack joined forces with New-Age Engineering (a welding engineering firm) in South Africa under the leadership of Joseph Zinyana, and together they formed the CG Tech Group. They also established The Virtulab (a software development company focusing on all Metaverse and Industrial related things)
- In 2020, they joined forces with Serious Stages run by Max, Holly, and Stephen Corfield to establish Serious International (an engineering and construction business serving the Film production sector) and Virtuworx (an avatar-based metaverse company).
In a conversation with the CEO Review Magazine, Jason throws light on his journey. He talks at length about his struggles, experiences, challenges, industry, goals, and more. Excerpt:
Have you always been entrepreneurial? What led you to take that first step and set up your own business?
From an early age, I remember selling things whether old toys and clothes at the local market or avocados on the street. I was always trying to make money. Later, I started selling mobile cards and calling cards to earn extra cash. Becoming an entrepreneur was never my dream. I entered the corporate world and loved the company and the people. I wanted to implement my ideas to make the business better but I was not given the space. So, I decided to start my own venture.
What are your success habits?
I look at things with an objective lens. It makes me understand the details and facts about a problem which helps me make better decisions. I like to keep things simple and logical. If our procedure cannot be displayed on a wall on one page, it’s too long.
Whenever any new technology is launched, I always spent time learning and understanding it. We implement technology that makes us more efficient, relevant, and accurate in the industry.
What has been the make-or-break moment in your career?
There have been many of these moments throughout my career, and it’s hard to list them all, but the moment I resigned from my corporate job was a defining moment that changed my life. I learned two major lessons. The first is how the leadership of an organization can turn loyal, committed, and passionate supporters into negative, disconnected, and unengaged employees. And the second is how important it is to face your fears and follow what you believe in your heart.
Another trying moment was in 2012, just a few months into my entrepreneurial journey. I received a call from one of my biggest clients who told me that my contract was terminated due to some accusations from my competitors. It was an extremely stressful period for me. But I overcame this challenge by being ethical and transparent. Today, we are serving that client to the best of our ability.
Another make-or-break moment was when I ran out of cash due to a client who failed to pay their invoices as planned. Thanks to a dear friend who trusted and believed in me, he covered the gap. It was here that I learned the true meaning of the saying “cash is king”.
What goal do you have for the future? What more can you do in your role to help achieve that?
I think we can never do enough for the communities in which we operate, so definitely keeping the focus on this is important to me. I want to make an impact on a large number of people. Having the opportunity to change others’ lives is extremely rewarding. As a person with the ability to do so, it would be a shame if this opportunity was wasted.
How has life changed after the pandemic?
The post-pandemic period has been interesting. I think the world bounced back far quicker than anyone ever imagined. In the industrial sector, many projects which were sidelined came back quickly post-pandemic, creating a shortage of capable companies that downsized. At CG Tech group, we did not lay off people instead focused on supporting communities and supply chains and emerged stronger by hiring additional talent. We deployed emerging technologies and spent money on marketing and training to ensure our teams were future-ready. The use of digital, collaborative technology is now the norm everywhere.
When it comes to the organization, what are you most proud of?
I don’t think about this often enough. I continually question and challenge myself to be better, for our businesses to be better, for our people to be better, and the only time I think about this is when someone stops me and says “I am so proud of you and all you have achieved”. I started this journey by leaving a stable career for an unstable, risky entrepreneurial journey. It was one of the scariest things I had ever done, other than being shot at! Looking back now and seeing how we have collated a group of companies that employ over five thousand people and positively impacts many communities around the world, is something that makes me proud every day.
What do you see as the most difficult task of being in a leadership role?
Being a leader has many challenges as no two people are the same. The situations we get confronted with differ day to day and so it’s impossible to pick the most difficult one. A challenge today is a crisis tomorrow and a crisis today could be an opportunity tomorrow. The tasks leaders perform vary based on the situation and so if I had to pick a single leadership trait, it would be to hide your panic from others and keep your chin up when the fire is in your face. If leaders show signs of panic, it has a Ripple effect on an organization.
There are times when things happen that make you stressed or panic, and hiding this from the team is difficult, but leaders need to steer the ship through all rocky waters and stand tall and confident during these times. Time management is also difficult as leaders need to be there for their people, and when your teams grow to large numbers, being able to touch everyone becomes extremely difficult.
What do you do when you are not at work?
I like to spend time with my family. Sometimes we relax at home or plan vacations. For me, downtime is important but in reality, it is quite hard to do. So as much as I try to relax and take a break, I am somehow always connected to my work. However, I take out time from my busy schedule to play golf, drive racing cars, fly helicopters, go on a date night with my wife and play PlayStation with my kids.
What are the most important decisions you make as a leader of your organization?
For me, the most important decisions are setting the vision and the values, and putting the right people into the most suitable structure. I’m focused on building teams that align with our values. The only way we can get that right is by personally interviewing the core staff of the companies we bring into our group.As with any company, the structures usually become clunky and messy the bigger you get, so ensuring that this is managed and cleaned up on a regular basis is important.
How do you encourage creative thinking within your organization?
At least twice a year I try to hold an Idea JAM session whereby every staff member participates in small group discussions around specific topics. We use sticky notes and whiteboards and mix teams, departments, and seniority levels to get the best mix of ideas flowing.
I am also driving an initiative where each department presents one experiment they had failed, and we celebrate the process of experimentation rather than failure. This encourages the teams to try new ideas knowing that if it fails, they won’t be punished. Besides this, innovation and new ideas are agenda items in many of our meetings to encourage thought and conversation around the topic. The smartest and brightest ideas often come from the most simple, unexpected groups that have to face the challenges on the ground.
Which is most important to your organization—mission, core values, or vision?
They are all important because they are interconnected.You cannot establish a mission without knowing what your vision is, and you cannot execute a mission without knowing what your core values are. Knowing where you are going, how you are going to get there, and the rules by which you will play are so intertwined that they need to be looked at collectively. I have run board strategy sessions across the world for leading CEOs andit’s amazing to see how few of them know their own mission, vision and values. If leaders don’t know these principles, then it’s guaranteed their teams won’t.
How do you or other leaders in your organization communicate the core values?
We have a concept called the “Oros Effect” which is done while onboarding people. Here, we explain the vision, mission, and values and the reason for it. We have an introduction to these on our online learning platform that helps people to test their knowledge. We have our values communicated through our social media posts. We also have our values displayed around our offices.
What has helped you get to where you are [influential/effective/in the forefront] and what advice would you have for others who want to set off in a similar direction?
Be cautious but don’t be afraid to try new things. Surround yourself with like-minded people. Focus on the bigger picture of why you do what you do and wake up stupid every day so that you can have an open mind to learn from others around you.
What is the best advice you can give to our readers?
Be authentic and vulnerable. Today, people like to show all the great things in their life on social media but never share the difficulties they are facing in their lives. We learn more from our failures than we do from our successes. And, always remember that nobody is perfect. Making mistakes is OK. It shows that we are trying. Just avoid making the same mistake twice.