In just 10 years, Camargue co-founder and CEO Mitch Marescia, has transformed a relatively small startup underwriting business into one of South Africa’s most successful niche insurance underwriting agencies. Prior to starting Camargue, he enjoyed first-hand the challenges of managing his own business, MGM Corporate Solutions. Focused on growing the business, Mitch is steering the strategic and sustainable direction of Camargue. He is heavily involved in exploring opportunities in Africa, while also securing new local and international partners. A man with great vision, Mitch is passionate about the industry, empowering people and starting new businesses. His love of this country and its people, and his constant striving to uplift South African society, is engrained in the culture he has determinedly fostered within Camargue.
I Am Driven By | I want team Camargue to add value, be relevant, to lead, to break boundaries and pursue greater knowledge and share it. These are lofty ideals not easily achieved without a commitment to making them happen. Going beyond insurance in everything we do every day. That’s what drives me.
My Highlights | Starting Camargue and building it into a Group – one that has stature and respect in a highly competitive environment is a real highlight. We wanted Camargue to be an idea – not a place, not a physical space, not a product. We started with the idea of living differently, engaging with society differently, operating in the economic space differently and aimed at bringing something of value to the market. This ultimately became our sustainability approach. When we looked at insurance, we realised that we wanted to turn it on its head. I came from a business empowering consulting background, and although I was very familiar with insurance, my business partner was the underwriter… so I suggested putting the business empowering element ahead of the insurance – with insurance being the final part of the jigsaw… and that approach lead to our success. Our approach was later known as the ‘blue ocean strategy’ by some industry gurus – but we were using it way back then.
Apart from the Rands and cents and being able to pay the bills as a result of the company success, there is also great reward in being able to share the rewards with direct colleagues and investors. But the most significant part of our success is being able, in a small way, to transform society – and this is by far the most powerful highlight and something I am incredibly proud of.
The Difference Between Good And Great | Passion!
A Key Talent | There are many moments over the years where I felt like throwing in the towel and quitting. It’s a lonely position to be in when you are an entrepreneur heading up a team and you need to find ways of navigating through these times. I tend to live in my head as do many people. Taking your mind off the immediate problem and living out of your head is a good way to start solving a problem. Writing down what the issue is simplifies it and that in itself can provide clarity and insight; so often the task or the problem doesn’t seem insurmountable when on paper and out of your head. Balancing body and mind is fundamental to this process – for some it may be exercise or meditation. During this time the mind often formulates a solution and on allows you to refocus on the challenge with new eyes. Getting enough sleep to ensure you have the capacity, objectivity and energy to deal with the situation is also critical. Finally, develop a sense of humour, stay true to how you started out, and find ways to convince your team to stay the course and stick with you.
The Characteristics Of Success | People often make the mistake of thinking that a business plan is going to be the magic answer to being successful and to running a successful business. But the plan is only one element. Whether it’s a plan written down on one page or it’s a 21 page document, a plan is essential. But more important than having an idea is having vision and passion. Often the passion around the idea is more important than the plan. If you have both, you’ll definitely achieve what you set out to. A plan is important, but you need to work your plan with passion. So that, coupled with self-discipline, balance – finding time to rest is important, being real and taking daily steps to build yourself into a stronger bigger player, are all important contributors to achieving success.
Principles I Live By | I value relationships, respect and integrity and live by a moral code of ethics that are my own but have also been infused into our business and our Camargue code. I have learnt not to take life or myself too seriously. I take people on their word and expect them to honour it. I easily give responsibility to those who demonstrate a hunger for growth and the ability to deliver and believe in accountability and empowerment. I am serious when required to be. I am passionate about education and this has led to the development of our payoff line “the power of knowledge”. I believe in and I am passionate about empowering woman – the fabric and glue of our society – and will readily support a worthy cause with woman upliftment at the heart of the agenda. I appreciate the space and time to enjoy life and ensure I make time for family amidst the challenge of running a Group company. I want to see the world a better place because I was in it.
How I Use My Mind | You need to find your passion, work hard, never let go and always dream of more; plus you need to believe in yourself. Add to that tenacity and endurance because the road to success is long and unforgiving. A relentless work ethic will also help in the realisation of dreams.
Lessons I Have Learnt | My most epic fail was that the person I backed to start the business with, was not the correct partner for me and vice versa. That was my biggest fail. That being said, if that person hadn’t presented, I wouldn’t have taken up the business and turned it into the success it currently is.
Today 46 people have permanent jobs, we’ve have five consultants, 400 risk managers who service our clients, and in excess of 1 150 brokers who sell our products. We also have an internship programme that is changing many more lives, we’re contributing to the development of skills within the industry through our LAB (Liability Academy for Brokers), and then there’s our people development drive where we’re actively involved in various charity work. Our network of people and partners across the globe is just so encouraging and none of this would’ve happened if it wasn’t because of that epic fail. The lesson is you can turn anything around that at first glance appears to be less than positive.
Performing At My Peak | I combine a healthy mix of hard work and play and for balance I always include a serious portion of chili and good wine. Seriously. The big thing about being an entrepreneur is that it’s a lonely space and a lot of focus is put on personal management. You can either choose to be a person who sits on the couch and watches DSTV all day long, or you could be the other extreme and be up at 3am doing reports. So it’s very important to learn how to properly manage yourself – so that you’re performing at your best. A phrase that was put to me early on by somebody was as follows: “at any point in time, do the most productive thing possible”. When you’re in the waiting room at the doctor, or in the car, wherever…use that time to do something productive. This is definitely the best time and personal management advice you’ll get. This of course includes rest. Every driven entrepreneur needs rest. If you’ve chosen to rest – go and rest! To rest is often the most difficult thing for entrepreneurs to do.
I Am Inspired By | When I first started the business somebody once said to me: “When you put yourself out there, when you take a risk and take a chance and you’re feeling purely motivated – you put something in motion – and the universe has a way of rewarding you”. That little piece of wisdom kept me going during the lonely moments.
But I also noticed that when I walked down the aisles in a super markets and while I was sitting around the airport, I’d find far more people like me on this planet, who had taken a chance…and that’s ultimately how you start forming natural networks of people who are going through similar challenges. Often, this network of like-minded individuals keeps you motivated and then there’s your personal “stuff” – and I say stuff loosely, because it includes everything that constitutes you.
We definitely all need role models and mentors and they come in different forms. A mentor doesn’t have to be a business associate or somebody that you met in business; they could also be your church minister or a teacher.