The LUMENROCK Story
Growing into a 120 person firm because they really care for each other
Steven Pipe's book: The Worlds Most Inspiring Accountants .
LUMENROCK is a seven director South African firm with 12 offices that has:
- Helped young people who couldn’t afford a professional education become business leaders
- Created a genuinely caring culture
Grown into a 120 person firm in less than 15 years
Pieter Esterhuizen started his practice in 2003 on a farm in a remote part of South Africa near Vrede. Today he is the managing director of a firm with 12 offices, two of which are overseas, and a team of 120 people. This is the story of how he has changed the lives of the young people who have been on the journey with him.
How they helped
After being introduced to Simon Sinek’s seminal book “Start with why”, the firm recently did some very deep and honest thinking to identify their “why” which they then articulated as “Because we care, we make a difference”. And that focus on caring is not just a new slogan. It has always been fundamental to the success and growth of the firm and is self-evident in how they treat their people.
Six of Pieter’s first seven employees are still with the firm. None of them came from a privileged background. None of them had more than a general school education. And none of them could really afford relevant professional education or training.
Nevertheless, Pieter decided to give them a chance. So as well as offering them jobs, in-house training and support, he also offered them bursaries to fund their professional education.
The difference it has made
When the firm opened a major new office 1200 km away in George in Western Cape, all six of them relocated there with Pieter. And as the business has flourished, so have their careers:
Brenda, who had no background in accountancy and started as a receptionist, is now the Office Manager in George, the largest office in the group
Wilma, who also started as a receptionist, is now senior bookkeeper
Wynand, Wilma’s son, who started as a part-time messenger, is now the Financial Manager for the entire group
Armand, Wilma’s second son, who joined straight from school, is now a “roving manager” training new offices and troubleshooting in whichever office needs him most
Ronel, who later married Wynand, is now the manager of the division that manages all the core monthly accounting services
Peter, who is still only in his mid-20s, is now the Production Manager for the group, and is also their most senior technical accountant, apart from the partners
The firm also has an annual “Employee Of The Year” prize, which is awarded using an objective scoring scheme based on the firm’s “Five star performance standards”. The prize is open to all 120 employees, but for the last four years it has been won by Armand, Peter, Wynand and Ronel.
“For the last two years,” Pieter explained, “I withdrew from the final decision making in the prize giving process so that no one could think I was favouring my original six employees. The truth is they have all been worthy winners, and have won their prizes and their promotions entirely on merit.”
In the same way that the original six employees have grown as professionals, the practice has enjoyed equally impressive growth. From Pieter’s humble beginnings as a start-up working out of his farm, he now leads a business with 12 offices and seven directors.
How it made them feel
“I am incredibly proud that we have created a genuine team culture of caring for, supporting and valuing each other. And I’m sure they share my pride,” says Pieter. “I’m also incredibly proud that I’ve now been asked to explain our culture at several high-profile conferences. And I’m proud that my wife Claudine, who has known my six original employees since our days back on the farm, is a kind of surrogate mother to the whole happy family.
“The dramatic increase in our size has been due to both organic growth and mergers. But our caring culture has undoubtedly been a key ingredient in our success. Because of it we have an incredibly loyal team, who really care about delivering the five-star service that gives us a great reputation and attracts a lot of new clients. In addition, their willingness to always go the extra mile for us and our clients has also allowed us to deal with the inevitable stresses and strains on our resources, systems and structure that have been caused by our rapid growth.” Pieter also stressed that, “it is important to note that our other employees have also embraced this culture of loyalty, five-star service and caring, and that my co-directors also play a very large part in this success story.”
Pieter also wanted to share another aspect of their team culture that makes him very proud. “A couple of years ago I heard about a 27 year old lady who had been profoundly deaf since birth, and consequently had never had a job. So we approached her parents, and offered to take her on to see if we could train her. I am proud to say that she is now a really valuable member of our support team, and that a couple of months ago we were also able to help fund a cochlear implant to help her get some a sense of sound.”
“She has been such an inspiration to everyone in the firm. We have all learned so much from her about having the right attitude, determination and commitment. We have learned to appreciate all the talents and circumstances we have been dealt in life. And we have all become happier and even more caring as a result.”
Ignus Kempen served on the Southern Region Council whilst Pieter Esterhuizen was in his first term 2010/2011 on SAICA’s Southern Region Council. They achieved this by virtue of the fact that they were chairman of SAICA’s Southern Cape District association representing the interests of all the CA’s (SA) resident in the Southern Cape area.
Carl Lategan, Alistar (bio-fuel industry)
I make use of your excellent service of having a virtual office for administration, making a start-up company a breeze. - See more at: http://lumenrock.co.za/about/client-feedback#sthash.g9udwoyq.dpuf
JB van der Westhuizen
Chairman: Various Companies
The Van Der Westhuizen Group of Companies has been associated with LUMENROCK (as well as previously with KSE & Associates and Mr Pieter Esterhuizen in his personal capacity) as our auditors for almost a decade. Their services have been of an extremely high professional standard and we are proud to be associated with the group. Their availability and friendly assistance have been immaculate.
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