Since 2019 when the founders of AbilityMade, Johan du Plessis and Mel Fuller, have the toughest, hairiest problems that they really can’t solve they go to Allan English. He will listen intently and then he will frame it in a way they can understand what the aspects are they need to look at, and then he will help them develop a process or a pathway to solving the problem. Not that he will solve the problem on the phone (he probably could) but instead he will give them the tools and understanding and process to go through themselves.
This, Johan believes, is the role of a true mentor – rather than problem solving alone Allan gives them the process, steps and framing of what they need to break through the issue they are struggling with. “To be a founder you need to be a microbiologist and an astrophysicist”, Johan explains, “so getting the right level of perspective (or zoom) takes a lot of experience. Especially as a founder it is very hard to step back as you are so in the details every day. Allan is such a warm human – has a very spiritual aspect and approach, at the core, but he also has the strong business skills.”
The fact that Allan has so much experience and credibility has been important in their relationship and has enabled Allan to relate to many of the issues Johan and Mel have faced as they develop their social enterprise. One of the essential skills that Allan has is the ability to frame up the problem so they can understand it (before then the problem seems so complicated, with so many aspects) and then he helps them to frame up how they articulate it to different stakeholders.
So what level of outcome does Johan feel would have happened without any engagement with Allan? “Allan brings warmth and comfort and guidance, knowledge, wisdom.” Johan says. Above all Johan definitely feels they would have been a lesser organisation without Allan’s guidance.