|Mark James Lamberti
|South African great Entrepreneur
|Millions of dollars
All You Should Know About Mark Lamberti
In person, Mark is all business. He’s sharp, methodical and serious but on his curriculum vitae he lists his almost 33-year marriage to wife Annette as one of his biggest achievements and he spent his early twenties playing keyboards and trombone full-time in a rock band.
What Is Mark Lamberti’s Success Story?
Lamberti’s list of personal and professional achievements is enough to inspire an existential crisis in most people but he says he was just at the right place at the right time. “I can’t take credit for that,” he says.
Although Lamberti’s induction into the corporate world occurred at age 27, the events leading up to that point entrenched his desire to run a big organisation. He embarked on an engineering degree following high school and subsequently dropped out after realising he preferred to be pulling the levers and not designing them. A four-year stint as a professional musician followed.
In 1977 Lamberti joined his family business running an appliance and electronics store and the experience ignited a desire to manage a bigger concern. He moved on to the then-listed furniture retailer Bradlows, where he worked for six years – advancing from store manager to the company’s senior director.
Some 11 years on he was asked to join Wooltru, with the purpose of turning around the group’s Makro stores. Back then the Makro chain consisted of six loss-making outlets located in various industrial areas countrywide. The mission was to grow Makro into something much bigger but the odds were stacked against the struggling company. Market research showed South Africa could accommodate only 12 Makro stores in contrast to retail chains such as Pick n Pay, Checkers and Metro, which had the scale to compete in a mass market. Makro’s management team, headed by Lamberti, saw acquisitive growth as essential to achieve national leadership in general merchandise and wholesale food and the Massmart group was born.
“Many local businesses had grown well by following the models of their international counterparts,” says Lamberti. “We did borrow overseas ideas for best practice policies and store design but the idea behind Makro had to be founded on first principles and an analysis of what was required in the southern African market.”
“I don’t believe you can copy your way to greatness: the best you can hope for if you do that is to be number two,” Lamberti says.
What Is “Massmart” All About?
Massmart, as we know it today, was born in 1990 and over the next 10 years – leading up to its listing on the JSE in July 2000 – the group acquired around 50 Game and Dion stores, giving it the gravity it needed in SA’s retail market.
Expansion into Africa was another strategy that pushed Massmart to success. Game, Makro and CBW, which wholesales food, liquor and cosmetics, have been replicated in 15 countries throughout Africa, making Massmart one of the few South African retailers to successfully tap the wealth of growing economies north of its border and become Africa’s third biggest consumer goods retailer.
Lamberti didn’t start Massmart from scratch; nor is it the product of a single light bulb moment. However, that hasn’t stopped him from running the business as his own. Until recently, Lamberti was the largest private shareholder in Massmart. “I don’t believe in options. I bought my whole shareholding and I lead Massmart as my own company,” he says.
Lamberti served as Massmart’s CE for 19 years and during that time it grew from R360m in annual sales to R47bn while employees increased from 2 000 to 25 000.
Massmart has amassed numerous awards along the way, including the South African Non-Listed Company Award in 1999, ranking it as the 15th fastest growing of the world’s 200 largest retailers in five years to 2007 as determined by auditing firm Deloitte, and Financial Mail Top Company in 2008.
Lamberti’s leadership skills were honed during his time at Massmart. He considers leadership as both an art and a science. “The scientific part is grounded in an understanding of the human psyche,” he says. “The art of leadership is the ability of a leader to adapt to his followers.” Leaders who succeed in running huge enterprises have the ability to delegate and use their skills to empower others.
Lamberti stepped down from the helm of Massmart in 2007 confident that his successor, Grant Pattison, would be able to steer the company.
For the past three years Lamberti has served as CE at Transaction Capital, which provides non-banking niche financial services to underserved segments of society – including running a network of ATMs on behalf of SA’s retail banks and providing financing to small enterprises. Lamberti’s role at Transaction Capital, where he’s also a major shareholder, is to provide strategy, leadership and governance to turn a number of independently run companies into a coherent business. A listing on the JSE is not in the immediate future but may be on the cards as the group grows.
Meanwhile, Lamberti’s list of extra-curricular activities reads like the university application form of an over-achieving high school student. He serves as member on various business groups, including Business Leadership SA, plus several education initiatives as well as arts programmes.
Lamberti is also chairman of Business Against Crime SA (BACSA) – an organisation founded in 1996 by former President Nelson Mandela that aims to assist Government in fighting crime. “I got tired of sitting around dinner tables listening to people whine about the high crime rate,” he says. “Of course, I’m just the chairman and there’s a dedicated team of people doing the work.”
Mark Lamberti Net Worth
Mark Lamberti, who is the CEO of Imperial and former head of Transaction Capital is noted to be worth millions of dollars. A wealth he is known to have amassed over the years from his resilience and dedication to success.
BACSA recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the SA Police Force, which will further open dialogue between business and the police.
Lamberti says his enviable list of involvements isn’t extra-curricular at all but merely a way of expressing the different parts of his life. “My leisure time has a purpose and I’m living as full a life as I can.”