JAMES GREGORY is the co-founder and CEO of Wozani Berg Gasoline. He worked for a petroleum company for ten years before buying a trade store in Creighton in the KZN Midlands. Although successful as a trader, he did not want to be stuck in a small town, isolated from the world.
In 1996, he obtained a tender for fuel distribution and sales and started Berg Gasoline in partnership with his wife Michelle. Phenomenal growth followed resulting from long term relationships and a good reputation. Trust was paramount with business often based on only a handshake.
In 2004, a Black Empowerment deal was struck with Wozani Holdings. Berg Gasoline became Wozani Berg Gasoline (WBG). In 2011, Wozani bought James and Michelle out and they left a thriving business. However, during 2013 the business crashed, prompting James and Michelle to take back the management of a then-troubled company. Many challenges had to then be overcome, and changes made on the route to success.
"Some major downs along with the ups," says James. "When you have a kick me down, you must get up again. Never give up" he comments. "When there is a failure, you must always look for a solution, make a plan and find a new opportunity." He believes in being open and honest with all concerned, including the bank. He says, "cash flow is like oxygen for business and without it, a business cannot survive. Profits are like food. You can survive a few days without food, but not without oxygen."
James explains that it is essential to build a good team. He requires adherence to the operating principles of integrity, accountability, commitment, and taking responsibility for all one's actions. Employees' welfare and safety are important. He believes passionate, responsible, and innovative employees are the building blocks of the company's future. He has a relaxed way with people but admits to sometimes feeling rage when things are wrong, but he gets over it and forgets quickly.
Every day offers new ideas, challenges and opportunities for him. "Even bad news and tough times create opportunities. Everybody has tough times. Make a plan!" he says. He believes there is always something to be thankful for and celebrate. Being positive and enthusiastic does not mean James is impulsive. Whenever he does something in the business it is because he gave it a lot of thought. "We wanted to ensure the balance is right. It is not all about money. You need to make some money, have fun, do good, and make a difference," he quips. He says, "WBG is a solutions business. We do more than selling petrol and diesel. We find logistical and credit solutions for our clients and innovate using technology to assist them to keep abreast of the 4th Industrial Revolution."
Sustainability in terms of people and the environment are very important for James. He walks his talk. The WBG offices are being turned green through eco-friendly projects and will be taken off the grid. WBG provides skills to people, especially in rural areas, and have started a NGO, Team SA First. James' parents inspired him, and later on, his in-laws too. He has been married to Michelle for 28 years and he credits her for inspiration and balance. They are the proud parents of a son and two daughters. He says their children have shown him an alternative model of the world, which made him more aware of plastic and other environmental problems. They inspire him to live and operate in a sustainable way.
In his free time swimming in the sea helps him relax and stay energised, and he loves listening to almost any type of music