Does Your Pitch Reflect Your Values?

Now in its ninth year, ENGEN Pitch & Polish, in partnership with Engen Petroleum Ltd, Nedbank and Raizcorp, is a national entrepreneurial workshop and competition programme that – so far – has helped over 10 000 entrepreneurs improve the way they pitch their businesses to potential investors. “The ENGEN Pitch & Polish initiative invites entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs to participate in a full day workshop and competition, to build their businesses on firm foundations and values” urges Unathi Njokweni-Magida, the Head of Transformation & Stakeholder Engagement at Engen Petroleum Ltd. “At Engen Petroleum, we continue to be a firm partner as this gives budding entrepreneurs the opportunity to pitch and present their business or idea, to an audience, where the feedback loop creates an empowering learning environment. Engen believes growing and nurturing business skills for emerging entrepreneurs in South Africa will boost employment, improve education levels and help alleviate poverty. To accomplish this, we are proud to step up and support these future stars, to help propel them forward and become flourishing future employers,” explains Unathi.

As the 2018 workshops begin, below is some advice on the importance of values when crafting the perfect pitch.

It is highly unlikely that someone will invest in your business if your values do not align with theirs. As a real example, a billionaire once turned down the opportunity to invest in a rave business just as the rave scene was about to explode. Despite the lure of vast profits, the billionaire knew that raves attracted drug dealers and that large amounts of drugs were being peddled. This was completely contrary to his system of values and he declined to invest. The need for aligned values also holds true from the perspective of the investee. If, after pitching to an investor, you discover that she has shares in a textile factory in the East that makes use of child labour, would you still take her money?

So, how should you go about ensuring that your pitch reflects your values? Here are three helpful guidelines to assist you:

1. Awareness
Have you ever sat down and really thought about the values which guide your choices in life? Have you ever considered whether they are good or bad values? A good value is something that you can control internally, for example, always taking responsibility for what happens in your life and your business, or always being honest (even if playing fast and loose with the truth would sometimes be easier). A bad value, on the other hand, is something that is controlled by external factors and not by yourself. An example would be wealth for the sake of wealth, or loyalty to the point of blindness. Think carefully about your values and make sure you have settled on ones that you can control, such as a commitment to always learning, humility and self-respect.

2. Clarity
Having settled on your values, you must examine them from every angle. After any pitch, a potential investor will ask questions about numerous aspects of your business or business model. Any answers you give must be congruent with the values encompassed in the pitch you have just made. For example, if your pitch has touched on your willingness to learn and the fact that you never assume you know everything, it will not impress your potential investor if you come across as arrogant or a know-it-all when answering any follow-up questions.

3. Alignment
It is also essential that your chosen values align with those of your would-be investor. If you are prepared to sacrifice your values for the sake of getting funding, it reflects poorly on you as a person and on your business. For example, if you value honesty and the potential investor offers you R100 000 more than what you’re asking for to hire her nephew as your marketing director, the offer will clearly be in conflict with your values. Also remember that any deal you finally strike with your investor should be congruent with your values.

Tracy Afonso, Nedbank Head of Strategy: Professional Banking and Small Business, says as money experts, Nedbank is committed to doing good and is proud to be part of this inspiring initiative with Engen and Raizcorp as a co-sponsor since 2016. “Unlocking the potential of the SME sector is key to economic growth and job creation in South Africa.  We believe that this sponsorship aligns with our brand purpose to use our financial expertise to enable individuals, families, businesses and society to do good. As a business, we vote for and support small business in South Africa, and help them achieve their goals,” concludes Afonso.

While it may sometimes seem difficult to uphold your values in the face of a tempting deal, in the long term it will serve you well. As an individual and as a business, you will grow a reputation for being steadfast and true … and that is worth a great deal more than a quick buck!

For more information on ENGEN Pitch & Polish and the 2018 programme, please visit

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