#0002 - Gerrie Brink of AQUAffection

Civitas Team

25 ideas from Gerrie Brink of AQUAffection on starting a business, finding opportunities, managing and marketing

Gerrie Brink is the founder of AQUAffection, a company specialising in filtration & recycling systems and water storage. The company was born out of the increasing pressure on our water sources in South Africa, which is currently the 30th driest country in the world with forecasts predicting that we will be an extreme water-scarce country by 2025. Since founding the company in 2015, AQUAffection has grown to a team of 20 employees helping save over 370 million litres of water. In this interview, a Civitas team member sat down with Gerrie to discuss ideas about starting a business, finding opportunity, managing and marketing. 

Summary of the best ideas from the discussion

  • Get industry and work experience
  • Look for opportunities where there are problems
  • Make 100's of small improvements 
  • Create a list of things you say "no" too 
  • Hire people that buy in to the vision
  • Hire people with the same values
  • Be open and honest and set boundaries with your team early
  • The best marketing is doing the right things for the right reasons
  • Solve a real problem so you can market like you are spreading the gospel

On Starting a Business 

  1. “You don’t just start a business when you get out of school.” 
  2. “You have to do your 10 000 hours and know what the industry is about or what the world is about.”
  3. “I made a lot of effort in my career in mining to try and cover all the bases and to learn as much as possible in a window of ten years”
  4. “I actually bought the franchise, which helped create leads... they had products that are working and they’ve got a name and some brand recognition and stuff, just to get into the game.”
  5. “So we had to do it at risk, almost as a proof of concept making no money, hoping this thing is going to work”
  6. “First do some research, see what is in the market, know the history.”  
  7. [Ask yourself] “What’s the issue? Is there actually a need for the service that I think I can provide? Is there a need for it and do I have the skills to do it?”

On Finding Opportunities

  1. “I always say that the bigger the trouble, the bigger the opportunities”
  2. “In this country, we’re sitting with a hell of a lot of troubles and you can just choose where you want to scratch and the opportunities will ooze out.”
  3. “We just need to look for that opportunity, stop complaining and being negative and seeing all the trouble that’s going on around us as an opportunity to make a difference.”

On Focus

  1. “I always say you don’t try to change the world by just changing the big things.  You need to change the small things.”
  2. “Do a hundred things 1% better and make sure the small gears are turning and the big stuff will happen eventually by itself.”
  3.  “Narrow your scope and the list of the stuff that you say no to.”
  4. “Focus on the stuff that you actually want to do and you’re good at and not distracting you from your core vision and focus.”

On Hiring and Managing 

  1. “I always try not to employ someone that thinks the same way that I do because then one of us is redundant.”
  2. “I need somebody to challenge me with his background and his set of skills so that we can – with a minimum amount of people -have the biggest impact and the biggest collection of possible solutions for the stuff that we face.”
  3. “So first, get somebody that’s onboard because they want to be part of this and we can upskill them to what we need them to do.”
  4. “It’s being open and honest about what you do and how you do it and you will attract people to why you do things and that believe in the same things that you believe in, have the same values, you connect.”
  5. “I’m not here to manage people, I’m here to provide you with the platform so that you can be the best version of yourself to do what you need to do.”
  6.  “I’m just there to provide you the guideline and the lines to stay within and provide you with the resources to do what you can do.”
  7. “You need to have people with the same set of values as you, and obviously if you know people for a while, being friends with them for 15 plus years, it means that there’s already alignment in values.” 
  8. “Don’t wait for stuff - assume that they know you so well that they oversee it. Don’t assume that because you think he knows you, he knows the way you think.”  
  9. “You have to be open and honest and before stuff escalates, stop it right there and say, “Listen, I’m not happy with this, how it works, these are the boundaries, this is what, this is what” and that’s also the only way where you can work together but still have a healthy relationship outside of work.”

On Marketing and Sales 

  1. “Word of mouth and that’s the best marketing but if you do the right things for the right reasons and you’re able to do it long enough, people will buy into what you do and for me it's not about making money, it's an outcome, it’s a resource to actually apply again to build on what we need to do to make a difference in this country.”
  2. “It’s changing people’s mindset about how you approach water and efficiencies, is almost like spreading the gospel.”

Full interview transcript 

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