From Zero to R1 Billion: Meet Albe Geldenhuys, South African Fitness Expert & Entrepreneur

Albé Geldenhuys is the CEO and Founder of Ultimate Sports Nutrition (USN). When Albé Geldenhuys founded USN in 1999, he wanted to fill a gap in the sports supplements market while developing a business that was flatly structured and cost effective.

Even though it sounds like an America product, USN was launched from a small flat in Pretoria, where Albe Geldenhuys’ girlfriend mixed creatin formulations with a hand-cracked washing machine (the Sputnik).

His strategy made sense to him at the time, however, without a background in business, he admits he made a series of early errors that compromised the business later on.

“At first, I wasn’t even thinking about launching a product line or even a business. I just wanted to be out there, selling product and making a profit. I offered jobs to friends and family regardless of their experience or relevant qualifications,” he explains.

“I was inefficient and lacked business knowledge, and I had to ensure a high gross profit to compensate for that. I built a strong sales team that worked purely on commission and then logistically used a simple warehousing system with written invoices, two trucks, a small handful of packers and two drivers.” he concluded

Experiencing enormous periods of growth, he began to set unrealistic ambitions for the company, such as aiming to double turnover every month.

Then, as his responsibilities grew, he believes he fell into a trap of running the business “autocratically”, refusing to appoint a deputy and using fear as a management tactic. All the while, USN’s products were gaining in popularity, obscuring the messiness behind the scenes.

Reforming the business’s structure and outsourcing where necessary in 2010, USN’s profit turnover has since more than tripled. “Today, we have multiple brands, an international footprint, solid systems and a professional, reliable staff,” he says.

Reflecting on his early difficulties, Albé admits he’s learned how to be resilient in the face of trying circumstances. “I know now never to accept that your company can’t grow any bigger and to never settle for mediocrity because you find it frustrating trying to get the best from your people. Your products, staff and sales can always improve. Even in a declining market, unless you have 100% market share, you have the opportunity to grow your company.”

Currently, USN has seen turnover increase to €62.8 million, with operations expanding into the US, the UK, India, Russia and Australia.

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