Quick-fire Q&A with Stefano Marani

Stefano Marani studied Actuarial Science with an Honours in Maths of Finance before going into banking, first with Deutsche Bank in New York, London and Johannesburg before taking up a position with Morgan Stanley in London. His banking career was heavily focused on capital raising and executing particularly complex transactions, which gave him a taste for problem solving in the financial space. In 2009 he left banking to start his own business with his partners prior to acquiring the gas rights in the Free State with Nick Mitchell, the COO of Renergen. Since 2013 they have been running this company and building it from an idea into a dual listed company with substantial reserves, the world’s highest helium concentration and the first onshore petroleum production right in SA.

Describe your leadership style
I like to give people the opportunity to prove themselves by letting them assume as much responsibility as they are willing to assume. The door is always open so when they feel uncomfortable I can step in. I hate micromanaging or being put into a situation where I need to micromanage.

Your top tip to beat procrastination?
Umm. I’ll get back to you on this question.

Your favourite getaway destination?
Internationally, Italy is very hard to beat. Locally the north coast of Natal offers great entertainment value, my kids love swimming in the sea.

Who or what inspires you?
There are many people around with great stories on how through a mix of perseverance and determination have overcome the odds. Singling one person out without knowing them as people is much harder, so I look closer to home for inspiration and take enviable characteristics from each of my family members for inspiration. Each one has a special story.

Your one wish for SA?
That the whole country would adopt the culture of assuming accountability for actions, starting with the leadership. Instead of time-wasting and expensive enquiries, stand up and admit fault. This would solve many issues and get us moving forward whilst restoring our credibility internationally.

If you could have any 3 guests over for dinner, who would they be and what would you serve?
Going to take the liberty of assuming past guests too given it is hypothetical. The late 30 – early 40s Einstein shortly after his paper on general relativity. Nelson Mandela would need to be there, and to round the conversation off Bill Murray. I would serve some of the Italian dishes I learned to make from my mom.

What 5 pieces of advice do you have for aspiring business starters?
1. Think your business plan through, and test it with people who will give you honest advice and know the field you are building your business in
2. Set a realistic budget. When complete, make sure you have financial means to last for twice the length your budget requires
3. Keep your business plan dynamic. Often the most profitable part of the business is one you never thought would be
4. Don’t give up
5. Be very lucky

What is the one thing most people don’t know about you?
I wanted to go into acting and studied actuarial science as my back-up plan and then ended doing neither.

What would you do with an extra hour in your day?
The more family time the better.