‘That was it. The thing any entrepreneur dreads most. Insolvency was imminent,’ recalls Francois van Niekerk, founder of the Mergon Group. It was September 1980 and the small IT company which he established with a mere R1000, was about to go under.
‘The client told me that they wanted to buy the equipment, but that they could only do so in March the following year when the new budget year started. Without this particular order going through, we would not be able to pay salaries because every other available source of finance had been exhausted.
‘I asked him if I could come over for coffee, but he made it clear that the decision was final. Our little business would be another statistic by the following day. On the way there and without any plan, I simply asked God to help me. I didn’t know God well back then, but surely He would consider helping me, if I prayed? I offered Him 30% of the company if He answered my prayer; not realising that prosperity theology was not His way.
‘It’s as if God immediately took ownership of the company that day because, before our coffee even arrived, our business was saved. What happened that morning in September 1980 was a radical turning point in my life and is the core of my testimony,’ explains Francois.
Francois soon realised that his impulsive offer to God of 30% of the business constituted a vow. ‘So after our business was saved, I transferred 30% shareholding to a registered trust with the Kingdom as the sole beneficiary. Its shareholding was steadily increased over time and the objective of the Mergon Foundation holding 70% of the entire Mergon Group was finally achieved in 2008,’ he says. The Mergon Foundation acts as a resource partner to ministries who expand God’s Kingdom and bring hope and restoration to communities across Africa and the Middle East.
Francois stepped down as Group CEO in 2008 and the Mergon Board appointed Pieter Faure as Group CEO. In partnering with like-minded entrepreneurs, Pieter and the Mergon team went on to help establish several successful businesses. This approach, together with unmerited favour, has resulted in Mergon achieving sustained commercial success.
‘In celebrating the Mergon history of 40 years of remarkable success, the most significant testimony to me is that He will always respond to any human being when you place your faith in him, honour the vows you have made, and work with Him in unconditional obedience,’ says Francois. ‘It is simply not our own human abilities that caused Mergon’s exceptional success over four decades. For reasons beyond our understanding, God decided to transform Mergon into a Kingdom instrument. At Mergon, we believe we are part of His story and we are merely stewards in amazement of what He is doing. We are unified in our commitment to surrender our own plans and dreams of success, to walk in relationship with Him, to depend on Him and to be willing instruments in His hands,’ he concludes.
In his book Doing Business with Purpose, Francois candidly shares some of the challenges, successes, failures and learnings along the Mergon journey. It is a must-read and the ideal Christmas gift for any business leader or aspiring entrepreneur who has a desire for their business efforts and talents to contribute toward doing good, while achieving commercial success.
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