A visionary leader leads the way

Protecting the fighting spirit of Paratus
Jeanette Diergaardt
A year after his first front-page feature on Careers as the Paratus chief executive officer (CEO), Barney Harmse has now stepped up to become the Paratus Group's executive chairman.

Schalk Erasmus, meanwhile, has taken up the reins as the new CEO of the company.

In his new role, Harmse will work to maintain the culture, discipline, and fighting spirit of the company as one of its co-founders in 2003.

With a key focus on strategising for the growth of the group, Harmse will be involved in spearheading these strategies across the seven countries in which the group has main branches: Angola, Mozambique, Zambia, South Africa, Botswana, DRC, and Namibia.

The company also provides services in a further 37 countries.

He will continue to serve on the various Paratus executive committees and boards.

Investing in EduVision

"You have to make a conscious decision to empower people and to make the country a better place," said Harmse.

He underlined that growth will not be achieved by complaining about all the problems in the country.

"He doesn’t let anything stop him," said Frikkie Louw, who drives a national educational project called EduVision.

Harmse, and by extension, Paratus, are passionate about education in Namibia and provide unconditional support to EduVision.

EduVision was launched in 2018 at the Edugate Academy, which serves as the host school for the project.

The project broadcasts lessons online through network support by Paratus and other telecommunication companies.

Louw said the project is expanding to include English as one of the subjects, in addition to the current subjects of maths, physics, chemistry, and biology. When the request was put on the table to offer English lessons, Harmse did not hesitate and said "consider it as being done," Louw said.

Education passion

As a passionate, self-described education philanthropist, Harmse aims to become more involved with the EduVision project, as he will now have more time to dedicate to the growth of the project.

When he is not working as the Paratus chairman, Harmse is dedicated to working on EduVision projects.

The project caters to more than 10 000 learners currently.

In his spare time, he is also a private pilot, and he has invested heavily in tourism in Namibia.

He only sleeps four hours a day and says he works day and night.

"My work is my life".

For Harmse, being an educational philanthropist means always giving back twofold.

"You have to put in more than you take," he said, adding that his "giving back" philosophy is a sure-fire way to achieve success and maintain a balance in life.

Leadership is a skill

"At first, he was the CEO of Paratus, my employer. But now he is someone I look up to," Michelle Rocher, the group executive assistant, said.

Harmse inspires her and Paratus as both a colleague and a friend.

"Although working for him can be stressful and hectic," Rocher concluded that working for him still remains memorable.

Rocher’s sentiments reflect on Harmse’s view on leadership, which is to connect on all levels with the staff and to empower them throughout their career.

"All our employees are our number-one priority; the client comes second," he said. Harmse added that without them, the work wouldn’t get done.

His definition of a true leader is that they are the glue that keeps teams together, who works closely with them, and who identifies the good qualities in people. "Keeping the family together sometimes comes at a tremendous personal sacrifice," he said.

Furthermore, Harmse believes that good leaders, with all the right qualities, are born with these qualities.

But remaining humble and being open to learning adds to the qualities of a leader.

Harmse started at the bottom, working his way to the top without a tertiary qualification to become a leader with a lot of plans that include risks of all sort.

For aspiring entrepreneurs, he advises: “Chase your dreams,” Harmse said, stressing that this is an important aspect to achieving success.

“Write down your dreams and tell someone you trust about it and work towards it every single day. The difference between a successful and unsuccessful endeavour is a dream that is not executed.”