The Absa Jewish Achiever Awards 2018

Mark Samowitz Accounting Made Easy He is the face of Shooby Doob Shloimy, the stage personality who has taught countless people about Judaism through song, but while there is more to Mark Samowitz’s career than the stage, this part of him captures his core pursuits: music and education. Samowitz’s company, Accounting Made Easy, provides accounting and finance training for non-financial managers, entrepreneurs, and students. And much like his songs, he teaches using out-of-the box methods. Samowitz uses YouTube rather than textbooks, and teaches in a visual way. “We don’t believe in generic training. Our company tailors courses for clients to show them how accounting makes sense in their own environment.”After majoring in Financial Accounting, Tax, Auditing and Managerial Accounting at Wits in 1999, Samowitz earned a Bachelor of Accounting in 2000, and became a chartered accountant in 2005. A table tennis enthusiast who achieved honours in the sport in Grade 12, he established his own school of table tennis early on, coaching 10 provincial players and two South African champions amongst others. His passion for music is equally as strong. “After qualifying, I made a living as professional singer, and entertainer in the United States for three and a half years,” says Samowitz. His love of music drew him to serve as cantor in shuls around the world, including the Victory Park Hebrew Congregation, the Perth Hebrew Congregation, Boca Raton Synagogue in Florida, even Beth Tfiloh in Baltimore, Maryland. Since 2002, Samowitz has served as joint managing director of Shooby Doob Productions, which has released three Shooby Doob Shloimy albums internationally and put on more than 200 concerts at schools and organisations throughout South Africa, the United Kingdom, United States, Australia and Israel. It was in 2008 that his flair for education and knowledge of accounting resulted in him establishing his Sector Education and Training Authority (SETA)-accredited accounting course, Accounting Made Easy. “Our flagship course, Accounting Made Easy, takes only one day. Our motto is, “Accounting in a day guaranteed, or your money back,” and we stand by this. Samowitz says that being in the education business – specifically business education – enables him to see the impact of training and education on the country. “We have had the privilege of training thousands of people in small businesses and corporates who have the skills and confidence to grow and run better businesses, employ more people, and add value to our economy,” he says. Along with four full-time and 10 contract employees, Samowitz works with a unique management team – his own family. “My father manages operations, my mother manages admin, I oversee business development, while my wife looks after marketing and communications.” Because he rents office space near his home, he is able to take his children to school in the morning, and be at home in the evening for dinner and to put them to bed. In the coming year, Samowitz looks forward to expanding into the student and international markets, and launching the company’s online product to a global market. No matter what the future holds, he says, “I put in effort, G-d does the rest.” The economic downturn has forced many established businesses to close their doors this past year. For this reason, among others, Josh Berman’s disruptive strategy of introducing a non-traditional sales method to an age old industry is revolutionising the switchgear market. Switchman Products has taken sales of distribution boards and associated components online, offering contractors, electricians, and consumers the simplest and most effective way to purchase switchgear. Berman, the group’s Sales Manager and Electrical Engineer, seeks to combine traditional South African values with innovative purchasing methods to change the way people do business in this field. The company offers a bespoke, online portal that offers electricians, contractors, consultants, and artisans a transparent platform to plan, price, produce, and purchase turnkey electrical solutions. It aims to be the predominant online supplier for contractors and electricians, while educating and inspiring consumers to adopt an easy and transparent purchasing method. Although the platform was launched in March 2018, it has already experienced tremendous growth, and Berman is confident this will continue. A graduate of the University of Queensland, MITx, HarvardX, Cornell University, and the University of the Witwatersrand, Berman has held prominent positions at major companies such as Nedbank Capital, Saicom, and Egis Software. Having worked as an engineer at Switchboard Group since 2015, the launch of the innovative Switchman Products is another big step in an already impressive career. Berman took on the challenge of convincing a 55-year-old company to try this novel approach, and he believes the need to innovate is more important than ever. “Business has to keep finding new markets through new technologies that give access to those looking for opportunities. New mechanisms that provide the necessary skills ensure that unemployed and underutilised segments of society are given the opportunity to achieve economic independence. I should have had the courage to pursue this strategy sooner.” He stands by a business philosophy of “rather doing a bad deal with good people, than a good deal with bad people”. “Like-minded people who have the same ethical and moral values can achieve far greater objectives. Being able to trust one’s team is the key to success,” he says. Though committed to the new undertaking, Berman is equally devoted to his family. The son of a medical doctor and a retired school teacher, his wife is a qualified electrical and biomedical engineer, and makes sure that he maintains a healthy work-life balance. “Fear of my wife ensures that the second I show an imbalance in this regard, it is quickly corrected,” he quips. He feels positive about South Africa’ s future. While he admits that that there will be challenges, he is bullish about the new direction the country is taking. On a lighter note, Berman suggests that if South Africa could improve in one area, it would be to hire a better national soccer coach. “A winning soccer team can do more good for South Africa than nuclear energy. Passion drives progress, and when people’s heroes achieve greatness, they are inspired.” Josh Berman Switchman Products 49 Automate as much as possible I do my part, G-d does the rest ENTREPRENEUR AWARD