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Wednesday, 27 September 2017 07:37

The inner workings of an ISP as experienced by Endeavor SA board member: Nic Kohler

The International Selection Panel is the culmination of many months and in some cases years of hard work by the local Endeavor Search and Selection team to source THE best in class entrepreneurs. The ISP is the final selection panel at which only the best high impact entrepreneurs and businesses are selected during an auspicious global event. Despite the fact that only a handful of our ecosystem actually partake in one of the few panels, ISPs always leave the entire network buzzing with anticipation and excitement about the inevitability of welcoming new entrepreneurs to the ever-growing Endeavor family. Endeavor’s 73rd International Selection Panel held in Beruit was no different. Not only did we welcome 16 new entrepreneurs into the global network, but one of them was from the newly launched Endeavor Kenya office. What an achievement for an office only launched in May 2017.

As is compulsory at an ISP, a selection of panellists and observers are sought to preside over proceedings, and to share in the excitement of growing the Endeavor network. At the Beruit ISP, Endeavor South Africa was fortunate enough to be represented by Nic Kohler, an Endeavor South Africa Board Member, and as of October 2017, former CEO of Hollard Group, a privately owned insurance group based in South Africa that operates both life and short-term (or non-life) licences in SA, and a number of other insurance businesses in 11 countries across the globe.

For Nic, a fellow of both the UK Institute of Actuaries and the Actuarial Society of SA, the opportunity to participate in an event that can be life-changing for any stakeholder – be it an entrepreneur, observer or panellist - in attendance, was an honour. Nic relished the opportunity to help set entrepreneurs on a lifelong course for success, constant improvement and daily reflection of what it truly means to be an entrepreneur in the current global environment. Every entrepreneur who attends an ISP has reached a key inflection point in their business growth trajectory, and has invested a significant amount of time into preparing for the opportunity to present their businesses to a panel of experienced business luminaries.

Nic Kohler, a two-time Endeavor ISP panellist, welcomed the opportunity to network and to engage with fellow panellists on a personal level. His interest lies in his fascination with getting to grips with the different business environments and behaviours of other countries. The web can offer a window into essential facts about countries, groups of people, and geographies, but the actual challenges, opportunities, behaviours, and culture of a country can only be effectively communicated by its residents and local business operators.

Endeavor’s recent bid to update and streamline the information packs presented to panellists, observers, and entrepreneurs, did not go unnoticed by Nic. He commended Endeavor on the comprehensiveness and comprehensibility of the pack. The pack provides panellists, entrepreneurs, and observers all fundamental information about the entrepreneurs and their businesses, and assists panellists in asking probing but constructive questions during interviews, and making informed decisions during deliberations.

ISPs are always seen, above all else, as an exciting networking opportunity for all who attend – but especially so for panellists. The opportunity to learn about other companies, industries and countries, and the opportunity to add value to entrepreneurs who are passionate about what they do is rewarding. Nic believes that “if an entrepreneur has made it to the ISP stage, they’ve already got a bright future ahead of them, and with a little input and guidance, that bright future can be turbo-charged.”

The Beruit ISP saw a concentration of regional companies, from Egypt, Turkey, Kenya and Lebanon, joining in the three day event. The companies in attendance had less of a tech focus than usual, which was refreshing for Nic. “I noticed that there were a couple of companies that incorporated a strong social mandate, that saw their purpose as being equally motivated by the need to build a sustainably profitable business and the commitment to have a positive social impact, and I thought that was exciting.”

The Lebanon office, Endeavor’s eleventh affiliate in the network, was launched in January 2011, and is the fourth affiliate in the MENA region. Endeavor Lebanon’s mission is to accelerate economic growth and high-value job creation in Lebanon by supporting Lebanon’s leading High-Impact Entrepreneurs through Endeavor’s local, regional and global networks. Nic’s reason for attending the ISP held in this magnificent country is simple – he is a curious individual who loves exploring and he was excited by the opportunity to explore a beautiful but unusual destination such as Lebanon.

Some of Nic’s most memorable moments at this ISP include digesting the many different world views held by his fellow panellists, who were “each able to come to the similar conclusions about which the exciting businesses were, and what they needed to change or do differently, despite very different departure points,” said Nic. For him the most magical thing was being paired with a panellist whose background was completely different from his own and still working well together in arriving at a common conclusion. “The opportunity to give the candidates feedback and the appreciation they showed in response to that feedback makes it feel like you have invested time in doing something that is valuable.”

Nic’s advice for entrepreneurs attending all future ISPs is this; “Come with a clear plan as to how you will build your businesses in the future, but also an open mind to really hear the input and to adapt your plan in response.”