‘Managing emotional responses and having supportive networks are crucial in business’ – Magda Wierzycka
 More about the book!

Magda Wierzycka is one of South Africa’s most prolific businesswomen. She writes here on how others, particularly women, can thrive in the business world, and touches on the book about her life that’s just hit shelves.

‘As much as I had women in mind when writing the book, I have been pleasantly surprised by the number of men who have found themselves in my stories.’

I am stunned by the positive response to my book. When I agreed to write it, I thought it would be a mere retrospective. Little did I know that the process would take me on its own journey of revisiting my many trials and tribulations, the battles I fought, the choices I made and the lessons I learned.

It has been gratifying that the book resonates with so many different audiences: women and men of all ages struggling in a work environment, those yet to embark on their careers, men dealing with their relationships with women, and South Africa’s budding entrepreneurs.

I have travelled widely and addressed many audiences. In giving talks, I have found one commonality: the response. My experiences in the workplace, some of which I describe in graphic detail, were not unique to me. Neither were my reactions. Many people cry, on the outside or the inside, many are anxious and stressed, bringing their best game to work just for it to go underappreciated or unrewarded. As much as I had women in mind when writing the book, I have been pleasantly surprised by the number of men who have found themselves in my stories. Over the years I have developed a toolkit for dealing with tough situations, a toolkit I wish I had when I was twenty-five years old and starry-eyed. I hope others find it useful.

I have also learned many lessons about being an entrepreneur in South Africa. I believe there is value in sharing what it takes to build a company from the ground up. For those dreaming about running their own business, I hope my experiences will prepare them for what to expect and help them succeed.

As for solutions to the struggles I have encountered, I list many. But the ones that stand out for me personally are managing one’s emotional responses and finding supportive networks.

Triggering other people’s emotions is easy. Once triggered you lose any advantage you might have by virtue of knowledge, experience or sheer hard work. I recently came across a saying from Warren Buffett that goes, “If words control you that means everyone else can control you”. Think about that every time you are about to get upset by what people say.

In terms of networks, men have many. They bond over golf, or sport in general, and going out “for a beer” after work. Women have much fewer opportunities like this. A progressive friend of mine who runs a successful company told me that he has introduced the concept of dinner clubs for women within his company. These regular events bring together women at all levels of the organisation to talk about topics of common interest, predominantly work. Through communication, they bond. Through bonding, they start to support one another. It is a small but practical step that’s within reach of most of us.

It is difficult to write a book about oneself, exposing one’s real vulnerabilities, fears and mistakes for all to scrutinise. In writing my story, I decided I wanted to tell my truth, even if it was uncomfortable and daunting at times. In doing so, I knew I would invoke polarising views, but ultimately, this is yet another adventure in a long journey that has gotten me to where I am today.

Magda: My Journey is out now.

This article was originally published in The Penguin Post, a magazine from Penguin Random House South Africa. 


About the book

How did a teenage refugee from communist Poland become one of the richest women in South Africa?

In what ways did she disrupt the financial services industry?

What drove her to become an activist exposing corporate and government corruption?

What are her secrets for succeeding in business and life?

The founder of multibillion-rand financial services empire Sygnia Limited, Magda Wierzycka is South Africa’s most successful businesswoman. In this engaging and insightful book, she tells the story of her life, from her childhood in communist Poland, her family’s escape and relocation to South Africa, her early struggles in the male-dominated financial services industry, and the formation and growth of her own company, Sygnia.

With a business model built on transparency and low fees, it was a natural step for Magda to become an outspoken critic of corporate and government corruption, exposing wrongdoing and making her many powerful enemies in the process.

In this book, Magda shares the life lessons and business principles that have driven her and brought her success. This is a fascinating story that will inspire you to speak out, lean in, break out, and ultimately empower yourself not only to survive in life and business, but to thrive.

Categories Non-fiction South Africa

Tags Magda Magda Wierzycka Penguin Random House SA The Penguin Post

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