Early this year, the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) was set to choose a new president to replace the outgoing Tamuka Macheka.
For an organisation that has existed for about a century, the temptation might have been to gun for grey hairs to take charge of this important national institution.
But this time around, Zimbabwe’s second biggest business organisation chose to go against the grain, giving the reins to Gweru-based entrepreneur Tinashe Manzungu (TM).
The youthful businessman rarely speaks to the press.
But last week, Manzungu agreed to sit down with our business editor, Shame Makoshori (SM), to tell us about his life, struggles and the massive empire he is building in the Midlands.
Here is how their discussion went…
SM: Who is Tinashe Manzungu?
TM: Tinashe is the founder of the TM Group of Companies.
During the course of establishing my businesses, I have been engaged, appointed and elected to sit on various private company boards, committees and associations to add value to their operations.
SM: Tell us about your upbringing.
TM: I went to Sally Mugabe Primary School in Kwekwe, formerly Russell Primary School, and from there I was transferred to Ruvimbo Primary School.
At primary, I was more of a sportsperson than an academic, being an all-rounder in all sporting disciplines.
I did my secondary education at Manunure High School and my stream were the pioneers for Advanced Level classes.
In 2006 I enrolled for my first degree at Midlands State University.In 2014, I embarked on a Masters in Business Leadership and in 2017 I attained my PhD in Business Leadership from the International Women’s University.
SM: How did your education shape the person that we address as the ZNCC president today?
TM: We all come from different backgrounds and I did not grow in the midst of privileges.I come from a background of challenges and my motivation was to turn things around.
I saw education as a route to change my circumstances.
On that note I would appreciate my parents for giving me the roots to grow and wings to fly in the midst of difficulties.
My work life is so busy that I get occasional guilty of not giving enough time to my family, but they are a very understanding and supportive family.
Business meetings and business trips make up my day-to-day diary.
I have learnt that time is the most valuable thing a man can spend.
The question I ask myself almost every day is: “Am I doing the most important thing I could be doing?”
Unless I feel like I’m working on the most important problem that I can help with, then I’m not going to feel good about how I’m spending my time.
Once you have mastered time, you will understand how true it is that most people overestimate what they can accomplish in a year — and underestimate what they can achieve in a decade.
SM: At what point did you decide to venture into business?
TM: After university, it was my light bulb moment to see opportunities.
My colleagues saw the challenge of unemployment when I saw the opportunity to create more jobs for the unemployed colleagues.
I realised the gap in the provision of housing and that was my first business.
I learnt that the affordable housing scheme is an anti-poverty effort, human capital investment, community improvement plan and a public health initiative all rolled into one.
What followed was history!
SM: What and who inspired you to venture into business?
TM: Strive Masiyiwa, a superb entrepreneur, who has meant more to my businesses than anyone can think of.
More so that he is one of our own. As Zimbabweans we can do much more.
His experiences have allowed me to dodge and avoid certain circumstances in my entrepreneurial journey.
SM: They tell us you have built an empire in the Midlands province. Tell us about it?
TM: The TM Group has grown to be active in a diverse range of businesses with strategic presence in health insurance, construction, agriculture, finance and technology.
Our presence in these critical sectors is to facilitate the activation of economic diversification.
Our aim is to consistently keep up with the ever-changing needs of the people, coming up with relevant and up-to-date solutions to their needs.
SM: How and where did you get capital?
TM: Capital is the only fruit of labour and could not have ever existed if labour had not existed first.
Capital is not a pile of money sitting somewhere, it is an accounting construct.
I had to plan and work hard first and started to realise incomes that I reinvested into the business.
Money follows great ideas. A challenge is faced when you do not know which one starts.
Many ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind than the one where they sprang up.
I struck a deal with a land owner to add value to the land in the form of houses and this partnership has taken us thus far.
SM: Has this been an easy journey?
TM: It has been far from smooth sailing since I first got into the business game and as far as entrepreneurial success goes no one can handle a candle for me.
Tough decisions have either built or destroyed empires.
The experience has taught me the lessons of investing in patience.
Staying patient where nothing seems to happen is a virtue.
But there is a tipping point where suddenly you get results and its snowballs.
SM: Which areas can a person aspiring to start a business today focus on?
TM: Build something that customers love.
It is a lot easier to sell a product to a market of people who already demand what you are supplying than it is to convince consumers that your product is the solution to the problem they never knew they had.
SM: Why did you choose Gweru as your headquarters? Many businesspeople want to make it in Harare.
TM: That’s where my pioneer projects are and, of course, my family I love most. The rest comes as secondary.
SM: What has been your experience so far, as ZNCC president?
TM: The responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant.