Liam Stander – Co-Founder of Company Partners
Linkedin Profile: https://za.linkedin.com/in/liamstander
Here Follows his Testimony of God’s work in his business life
Written by Liam Stander @ February 2015:
Like many Afrikaans boys, I have been blessed to spend my childhood on a farm close to Mossel Bay. Here I had numerous opportunities to explore entrepreneurship and business. At 5 years old I started with putting ideas into practice, such as trading with vegetables; running lucky-draw schemes and later at age 17, I took over the management of distribution of the newspapers in the Hartenbos region.
My interests led to a BComm degree in business at Stellenbosch University. In my first year of studies I also committed my life to Jesus after reading Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. Reading this book, coupled with a great church, friends and bible study I discovered that I am not only in business to setup great systems, teams, services and produce profits – I have been called to serve the living God.
Excited and full of confidence about my calling I partnered with a friend to start a business. In our second year of studies we launched an ice company in Stellenbosch (still running today – called “Lêka Ice”). This business quickly reached its capacity to grow and we sold it. It did not make any profit, but allowed us to move onto bigger things. We moved to Cape Town where we started a distribution company called “Tip of Africa Distribution” in 2010. This company has been a ‘troubled setup’ from day one with suppliers, contracts and workforce which were all pretty dodgy. These circumstances, coupled with the lack of focus by myself and my partner (and a few bad decisions along the way) led to the company going under in 2012.
Depressed, ashamed and worried I wrestled with God. How could Jesus, the King of the universe, allow this? How could he bring these circumstances about?
I had to make the decision right there and then if I was to accept failure and settle for a 8-5 job for which I have no passion; or will I take the risk again… I was in massive debt, just had a business go bankrupt and had no great business ideas. The answer is simple right? Conform – do something where there is little risk involved so that I can pay off my debt over the next 5 years, get stability and create a ‘safe life’. But that has never been God’s plan. As I prayed and meditated on His word I quickly realised that He is opening doors which would lead me back onto the path of business where I belong. I was then presented with a sales position in Johannesburg where I would earn R30 000+ per month selling online advertising banners. I had no passion for banners. Though, when your income is R0 and your heaping up debt, a great salary like that feels like winning the lottery. It was the obvious choice at first, but after thinking about it carefully I realised that my soul would die in that job. I turned down the position. I knew God had a plan. I knew I needed to take a risk, be bold and expect His plan to be great and crush my fears.
Early 2013 my friend Ian Gouws and I were brainstorming ideas and realised that a shelf business (one he started in 2006) had more to offer South Africa’s entrepreneurs. The business made it simple for entrepreneurs to register a cc (in those days) at CIPC through his online processes – then called SaCloseCorporations.com. He ran it as a one-man-show for a few years until he started producing enough profit from other ventures and stopped it. This seemed like an awesome platform from which we can register Pty’s.
We launched in April 2013 and started to build a company – we had 30 clients in our first month. We envisioned a company which empowers our team of business consultants AND the local entrepreneurs by offering them a full start-up package and consultation to start their businesses.
In January 2015 we recorded more than 600 clients and 12 specialists in our team. This is an ongoing vision. We believe that we would have more than 1000 clients using our system monthly by 2016.
Looking back at my walk with God I realise that He has always been in control. The thing is, he gave me free choice. And I made terrible choices. Luckily He knows how to bring good from my bad choices and I had to learn to seek His will diligently and follow His instructions.
I have big dreams and sometime I am SO impatient… But then I realise He has the authority to make my life comfortable right now. He can turn my dreams into reality within a wink of an eye – He is God after all. But He is rather interested in my character, my trust in Him, my relationship with Him and my love for people. And all of this can only develop through a journey… one close to Him.
Update by Liam Stander @ March 2019:
We have been driving the vision of “Empowering South African Entrepreneurs” for just under 6 Years. The Company has since had much challenges:
- Many of our top services has been changed or deregulated by changes in government regulations.
- In a 2-month period in 2016 we had to let half our staff go. They were a completely wrong fit for the company’s vision and culture.
- As SA’s economy has taken some big dips, we were sometimes just scraping by.
We have been blessed with much success as well:
- Early 2016 Ilana Steyn, an excellent MD, joined our company. At this point we’ve re-branded to ‘Company Partners’, delivering over 100 difference Company Start-Up Services.
- The Company consist of a solid team buying into a single vision. We have 10 leaders; and 37 full time staff in total – setting up over 500 new companies per month.
- We have enabled over 30 000 clients to start a business in South Africa since inception.
The biggest learning curve up to date has been that worries are for fools. Every company has ups and downs. However, those leaders who endure on the long term, are those who believe that their purpose is real. Their purpose is linked to their belief that they are awesome and their team can withstand any storm. Their purpose is to serve their team first, then their clients and then they will prosper themselves as well. Their purpose is to never give up and always innovate. Their purpose to believe that whatever God’s vision is, He will bring to realisation.
Update by Liam Stander @ March 2020:
This past year we’ve learned that at some point competitors will figure out how to eat into your market. And that it can be detrimental to a company; or push them to innovate. We’ve had success and failures in this regard this past year. Our main failure has been that we prioritised profits above the value of our company’s brand; and our main success has been the creation of ‘premium services’. The positive result has been to learn that if you’re active enough with new ideas and innovations; all your failures will be overshadowed by 1 or 2 successful ideas. That principle takes a lot of faith and is something God is still building into my character.
The year that lies ahead will probably prove to be one of the toughest yet. We’ll have to adjust our business model; start rebuilding our online system and survive covid-19 (https://companypartners.co.za/covid-19-company-leadership/).
I believe God will build our gifts of His “Wisdom” and “Faith” this year – as it will surely be tested. However, that is why the testimony of our lives carry so much weight… It creates the building blocks needed to have greater and greater faith.