MEET Stephen Phakisi, the owner of Engen in Simarlo just outside of Centurion, who has installed Eco Wash for their growing number of clients. At 54 years of age, Stephen’s belief in his own talents and business acumen is starting to pay off.

In just over two years since acquiring the Simarlo outlet of Engen he has turned its fortunes from battling to flourishing. He has also purchased the Centurion branch of the up-and-coming Chesa Nyama franchise and a share of its branch in Mulbarton, Johannesburg.

Stephen hails from a humble background, but he’s steadily worked his way up the ladder. He joined the JSE-Listed Group 5 company as a bricklayer, progressed to management level and in due course was appointed a director, serving Group 5 for 19 years.

The all-round experience gained at this prominent company was invaluable and Stephen says: “I kept my eyes and ears open and learned something new every day. There came a time when I knew I was ready to venture on my own. I wanted to apply the many skills I’d acquired at this high level so I decided to go into business on my own.”

Stephen’s best advice for new or aspiring entrepreneurs: “Don’t put your money down for a business until you are ready. You will know in your heart when you have reached the stage where you can invest your funds confidently in a business or to get something new off the ground. If you go in without the necessary experience you will burn your fingers. Be patient and learn whatever you can first, then take a step further.”

When he took over Engen Simarlo, Stephen had to make a number of changes in management, he had to change the parts of the business that needed improvement. He also took members of the existing staff under his wing and empowered them.

“Tebogo was a petrol attendant and I worked with him for a year, he is now merchandiser and manager. Philemon went from cashier to forecourt manager and he is also keeping an eye on the new Eco Wash installation. I gave them my trust and they’ve rewarded me.”

Stephen is big on basics and says: “There are principles that work for every business. Firstly it’s being hands-on, being involved in your business and knowing everything that goes on, every day. Secondly it’s client service and trying to improve it every day. Third is keeping abreast of developments in your industry and I can add networking. The first thing I did when I took over this Engen was to introduce myself to my neighbouring businesses. There are businesses of all sorts here, industries and motor companies. Over the last two years I have supported them all, I have bought from them and they have supported me in turn!”

He tells about Eco Wash: “I signed with Eco Wash not only to make the service available to my clients but also because I want to do my bit for conservation. I see it as a long-term project – some of the motorists still prefer water, others don’t know about Eco Wash so we’re doing groundwork but there is a steady base of clients now and we’ll keep growing it. They try Eco Wash and they like what they see. It is our duty, all South Africans, to promote products like this. We must along with government look at preventing disasters. We mustn’t wait for them to happen. People will only wake up to the importance of saving water when it’s too late. We must all save water now.”

Stephen believes that daily exercise is the key to keeping sharp and focused. “I now have the time to exercise every day, I’m up at 5am and off to gym. To be good at what you do, you need energy and you have to look after your body.”

A keen stock market investor, he says that Coronation and WBHO are among his favourites. “Invest wisely and sell at the right time and you will have the extra funds needed to develop businesses.”

We wish Stephen Phakisi well with his Eco Wash venture and look foward to his report-backs. You can drop in for a cup of coffee at Engen Simarlo on Hendrik Verwoerd Drive or book an Eco Wash on 012 (653 0341).