“Life Is a Series of Games to Be Won”: The Philosophy of Buks Jansen van Rensburg

Africa's Top 10 Empowering Business Leaders in 2024

“Unorthodox Strategist” is what he defines himself as the quintessential essence that encapsulates his identity, a sentiment we wholeheartedly endorse. Meet Buks Jansen van Rensburg, the Founder and CEO of BHL (Buks Haulage Limited) Group. Buks thrives on challenging norms and pushing boundaries in the business world. His approach isn’t just about thinking outside the box but redefining it entirely. Buks consistently demonstrates his innovative spirit and willingness to take calculated risks, from pioneering logistics solutions to implementing unconventional management techniques. He’s not afraid to go against the grain to achieve new heights.

For Buks, success isn’t about money or fame. He views life’s challenges as a series of games to be won. His journey began in a small South African school where sports played a pivotal role in his development. Initially not a natural athlete, Buks had to work hard to overcome his weaknesses, learning the importance of perseverance even in the face of defeat. He lost many times but used those experiences to analyze his shortcomings and adapt for future improvement.

Buks equates business methodology to sports. Just as there are different types of industries, there are different sports – some emphasizing individual talent, others emphasizing teamwork. Having played rugby in school, a sport heavily relying on teamwork, Buks learned that victory requires collective effort and adaptability.

Similarly, the transport and logistics industry demands exceptional teamwork for success. Buks views his employees as his team, recognizing that their success is his success. “When you win, whether in sport or business,” he explains, “it gives you the ultimate high that no drug can give you.”  For him, this is the driving force behind his pursuit of success.

Besides delving into Buks’ secrets to success, this cover story also unveils his unique leadership philosophy, commitment to innovation, and inspiring journey marked by overcoming challenges. Get ready for an exclusive journey into the mind of this visionary leader who is transforming the transport and logistics industry. His story demonstrates the extraordinary power of ambition and unwavering determination, inspiring anyone aspiring to leave a lasting mark in their chosen field.

The Inspiring Journey Behind the Founding of the BHL Group

The genesis of the BHL Group lay in Buks’ response to the tumultuous world of 1990. Fresh out of school and faced with a scarcity of opportunities in a rapidly changing South Africa, Buks was given a pivotal choice- leave Africa to seek a new beginning abroad or create his own path by starting a business.

Opting for the latter, Buks, alongside his younger brother Pieter and a few others, founded a small haulage company in 1996. This marked the start of their entrepreneurial journey, driven by the desire to control their destiny and create opportunities for themselves and others. Over time, the company grew significantly, but the challenging business environment in South Africa led Buks to explore new horizons.

Recalling his experiences in Zambia and recognizing the potential of its copper mining industry, this astute entrepreneur decided to venture into this new territory. 2004 marked a turning point, as Buks Haulage Limited (BHL) was established in Zambia, sowing the seeds for what would eventually become the BHL Group.

Philosophy of Thriving on Challenges

This adept businessman’s approach to challenges is deeply rooted in his belief that they are catalysts for growth and resilience. He asserts, “New challenges keep the business going and growing—if you avoid challenges, you put yourself at risk of stagnation, which could eventually lead to failure.” For Buks, problem-solving is not just a necessity; it’s a source of learning and fulfillment. The more obstacles one overcomes, the more adept one becomes at navigating life’s complexities.

Throughout his professional journey, he has encountered numerous roadblocks that have shaped him into the seasoned entrepreneur he is today. From his early days playing rugby, where he had to compensate for a lack of speed by developing other skills, to the myriad challenges he faced in the transport and logistics industry, Buks has consistently turned hindrances into opportunities for growth.

One such challenge involved developing a new route from the copper mines in Zambia to Namibia. Recognizing the potential to significantly shorten the existing route, Buks and his team took on the daunting task of transforming a bush track between Kaoma and Kasempa villages into a viable road. Despite the lack of external support, they persevered, and this initiative proved to be a significant factor in BHL’s success.

BHL (Buks Haulage Limited) Group: Trusted Logistics Partner in Southern Africa

BHL Group is a leading logistics provider specializing in transporting various commodities with value-added services and facilities across Southern Africa. With a strong presence in Zambia, Namibia, Botswana, and South Africa and services extending to the DRC and Zimbabwe, the company is well-equipped to handle its clients’ transportation needs throughout the region.

Its extensive fleet consisting of over 700 owned trucks and 150 subcontractors (and growing), primarily serves the DRC-Zambia-Namibia corridor, but it has expanded its reach to encompass routes throughout Southern Africa. BHL Group’s fleets are professionally managed and kept safe by its in-house 24/7 satellite tracking control rooms and network of depots and truck parks in all the countries it is based in.

‘Buks’ Leadership’ The Driving Force Behind BHL Group’s Success

While this African entrepreneur does not consider himself an “expert” in the traditional sense, his hands-on experience and deep understanding of the transport and logistics industry have been instrumental in steering the BHL Group towards success. His knowledge, acquired through years of navigating the complexities of the business, combined with his Code-14 EC truck license, provides a unique perspective that allows him to lead the company effectively.

However, Buks underscores that his expertise is only one part of the equation. He firmly believes that teamwork is the key ingredient that has propelled BHL Group’s growth and success. His leadership style focuses on empowering and motivating his team, fostering an environment where personal and professional development are prioritized. This collaborative approach ensures that the collective knowledge and skills of the entire team are harnessed, resulting in a dynamic and successful organization.

The Founder and CEO notes: “It is important to stay humble and not get caught up in yourself and your achievements – we all still have things to learn, and we need to make sure that those around us are also moving forward for the betterment of everyone as a whole.”

Ensuring a Culture of Integrity and Innovation at BHL (Buks Haulage Limited) Group

For this insightful industrialist, keeping a culture of integrity within his team is a matter of leading by example. He firmly believes that when team members witness their leader consistently doing the right thing, it sets a clear and inspiring standard to strive towards. By embodying integrity in all interactions and decisions, Buks creates a blueprint for ethical conduct that resonates throughout the team, influencing how they treat each other, clients, and external partners.

On the other hand, cultivating innovation presents a different challenge, as it’s not an inherent trait for everyone. Buks approaches this by encouraging open conversations and pushing his team to think outside the box. He feels that leading by example in this area while also providing opportunities for creative problem-solving fosters an environment where innovative thinking thrives. This approach has contributed to the team’s reputation as a leader in innovation within their industry.

Life Before BHL (Buks Haulage Limited) Group

Buks’ early life was rooted in the rural farming community of Koppies, South Africa. Raised on a family farm, he experienced firsthand the challenges and rewards of agricultural life. His family instilled in him the values of resilience and determination despite financial difficulties.

Buks’ school years were pivotal in shaping his future. The small community fostered a sense of belonging and connection, and he found inspiration in the various role models around him. These experiences ignited his passion for leadership and teamwork, which became evident as he took on numerous leadership roles in school, including head boy and rugby captain. Buks’ achievements in rugby, particularly captaining his team to a district championship victory, cemented his belief in the power of collaboration and perseverance.

After graduating high school, Buks briefly pursued law studies but quickly realized his true calling lay elsewhere. He embarked on a career as a truck driver, marking the beginning of his journey in the transport and logistics industry. This hands-on experience provided him with invaluable knowledge of the operational side of the business. As Buks progressed to managing trucks and delving into the administrative aspects, he acquired the expertise needed to launch his first company in 1996, solidifying his entrepreneurial spirit and setting the stage for his future ventures.

Thriving in Transport and Logistics, Easy or Difficult?

Recognized as one of “Africa’s Top 10 Empowering Business Leaders in 2024,” Buks understands the unique challenges of the transport and logistics industry. He acknowledges that it is one of the most difficult industries to succeed in. Mainly, thriving here as a leader in this field is no cakewalk. The domain’s constantly evolving nature demands continuous adaptation and innovation, coupled with the fundamentals of team motivation and development, which are key to sustained success.

Best Recognition Received as a Leader

Forget fancy awards and standing ovations. For Buks, the greatest recognition of his leadership comes from witnessing the growth and development of his long-term team members. While he hasn’t received formal accolades yet for his leadership, the veteran finds fulfillment in serving his team and himself rather than a ‘crowd.’

“I perform only for myself and my team,” he asserts, underlining his commitment to intrinsic motivation and collective achievement.

Because standing still is not an option in this ever-changing industry, you either adapt and evolve or get left behind. And Buks? He’s leading the charge.

Philosophy on Nurturing Future Leaders

This adept leader firmly believes in leading by example as the most effective way to influence and inspire the next generation of leaders. He advocates for paving a clear path for emerging leaders, emphasizing the importance of mentorship and guidance. In Buks’ view, a leader’s fundamental duty is to cultivate capable successors who can eventually take the reins. Failure to do so, he contends, ultimately undermines the long-term success and sustainability of any organization, be it a company, government, or even a family.

Ambitious Vision for BHL’s Future

The founder and CEO envisions a bold future for BHL Group, marked by significant expansion and innovation. A vital part of this vision is the premeditated partnership with a Chinese company called Jiayou International Logistics in 2023, which saw Jiayou acquire a stake in BHL. Buks aims to leverage this partnership to drive substantial growth for BHL, not only in its existing markets but also by expanding into new territories in Southern Africa and potentially other continents where Jiayou has a presence. As Buks shares, the ultimate goal is for BHL to eventually manage all of Jiayou’s trucking operations, necessitating strategic growth and development to fulfill that mission.

Responsibilities As the Founder and CEO of BHL Group

As the Founder and CEO of BHL Group, Buks has transitioned over the past decade from hands-on daily operations to a more strategic role. He has entrusted the company’s day-to-day management to his capable team of executives and managers. His primary focus now lies in business development and marketing, where he actively seeks new opportunities to drive the company’s growth and sustainability. He remains a vital resource for the company, always available to lend his expertise and guidance to address any big challenges that may arise, both internally and externally.

Approach to Work-Life Balance and Team Motivation

Buks recognizes the inherent challenge of maintaining a work-life balance for entrepreneurs, a struggle he has personally experienced. His solution emphasizes open communication with family and the people working with him, ensuring everyone understands the motivations and sacrifices involved in his demanding role. By sharing his goals and aspirations, he fosters understanding and support from his loved ones, ultimately fueling his dedication to their well-being. The most significant example of this coming from his wife, Bolette, who was a successful veterinarian and initial breadwinner, who then left her career to support their family and enabling Buks to go all in and build his dream.

He also prioritizes quality time with family, recognizing its rejuvenating power and ability to inspire new ideas. This belief extends to his team, whom he encourages to take time off and recharge with their own loved ones. This seasoned executive understands that a refreshed and motivated team consistently delivers the best results, making work-life balance a core component of his leadership philosophy.

Personal Goals and Message to Aspiring Leaders

When we ask Buks about his personal goals, he playfully responds that he is a rugby player, not a football player, so they score “tries” instead of goals. The underlying message of his joke is that his ultimate aim is never to stop personally and professionally trying. Buks is committed to continuous improvement for himself and his surroundings, impacting the lives of those around him positively.

Sharing a childhood anecdote, Buks recalls being asked about his dream animal form in primary school. He opted for a tortoise, while his classmates desired to be powerful creatures like eagles, lions, or elephants. This choice resonates with the classic tale of the tortoise and the hare, where consistent effort ultimately triumphs over sporadic bursts of speed.

This story reflects Buks’ core principle – to keep working diligently and persistently. He imparts this wisdom to aspiring leaders with a simple yet powerful message: “Once you stop trying, life will lose all meaning. You must always have a purpose that gets you up in the morning and gives you the energy to keep moving forward.”