The opportunity recently came about to meet Mr Raymond Ackerman, a meeting I had been very much looking forward to because there was one important question I wanted to ask him:
“Do you remember a gentleman by the name of Cyril Segal?”
A strange question maybe but allow me to explain…
I loved listening to stories told by the late, very dear, Mr Cyril Segal, father of Mark Raymond Segal, my close friend and business partner. With over 90 years of life experience, many of which spent in South Africa, there was no shortage of stories for him to tell. One of my favorites, which I have re-told many times, was that of the early years of Ackermans and how it became the first chain store in South Africa.
Cyril would tell of how his father, Leon Segal, owned a small store in Cape Town called Segal’s Stores. After a conversation with a local importer, Leon and 2 friends, Sam Kirsch and Gus Ackerman (also store owners), agreed to brand all three stores under one name. It was suggested that a South African sounding name would be best, so Ackermans it was.
This story had always remained close to my heart, and I was proud to have become such good friends and a business partner of Leon Segal’s grandson. His son spoke highly of Leon’s morals, business principles, integrity and love for people. Character traits evidently passed down to Cyril and in turn Mark.
“Yes, I remember him well” replied Mr Ackerman.
As I started to tell him what Cyril had shared with me, Mr Ackerman took a trip down memory lane and completed the story just as Cyril had told it in the past. For a moment it was almost like it was Cyril talking.
Later that evening, along with over 150 entrepreneurs, I listened to Mr Ackerman speak at the Entrepreneur Club Cape Town Cocktail Evening held at the Two Oceans Aquarium. It was wonderful to hear him share some of his father’s morals, business principles, integrity and love for people; character traits which had been passed down to him. I was beginning to see just how much he and his father had in common with Cyril and his father; proof of the importance of an equal yoking amongst business partners.
As Mr Ackerman went on to tell the rest of his story and share with the young entrepreneurs of today the importance of putting people before profit, I came to realize that I had been under an incorrect assumption for many years. Having never read Raymond Ackerman’s business story I had always assumed that he had made a success of himself on the back of his father’s success and had probably had a great deal of shares or capital in Ackermans stores. That, however, was not the case at all. According to Mr Ackerman his father sold Ackermans and so Raymond went to work for another small (but now well known) supermarket chain. A lot of hard work later and Raymond had grown the chain to over 70 stores countrywide. It came as quite a surprise when he was then asked to leave with only 2 weeks notice.
This left Raymond trying to work out what he wanted to do with the rest of his life; eventually he came to the conclusion that business was his life’s passion. After some soul searching and encouragement from his wife he then went to listen to a motivational speaker at a similar event to those held by the Entrepreneur Club Cape Town. The speaker affirmed the principles he had tried to live by and encouraged him that the right ideas can always attract investors. With a little effort he could find the money he needed to start his own business. Fired up and motivated, it did not take him long to raise the R600,000 he needed to get the first three Pick ‘n Pay stores up and running.
A short time later two of the bigger food retail stores had badmouthed Pick ‘n Pay and an image of a cannon spitting out Pick ‘n Pay as a cannon ball was placed in the press. Needless to say the two stores were made to publicly apologize by taking out adverts in no less than 55 news papers and magazines across the country. This was the blessing in disguise that brought Pick ‘n Pay to the attention of South Africa and from then has grown from strength to strength.
I have to say I was extremely encouraged by listening to Mr Ackerman speak at the event held by the Entrepreneur Club Cape Town. I do not feel that I have, nor could I do any justice to his testimony in this article. I would however encourage anyone with a passion for business to read Raymond’s book, “A sprat to catch a mackerel” and to contact the Entrepreneur Club Cape Town to find out what other exciting opportunities there are to listen to some of South Africa’s business legends of today.
For more information see http://www.entrepreneurclubcapetown.com/