Welcome to ‘Interview with an entrepreneur’, a series of interviews with entrepreneurs & industrialists where we delve into their business mind. Today we interview Mr Graham Mackay who is the Chief Executive Officer of SABMiller, one of the World’s largest breweries and bottlers.  They produce a range of ales, many of which you may have encountered!

SABMiller plc is a multinational brewing company based in London, UK. It’s the world’s second largest brewing company by revenue and operates in over 75 different countries. They specialise in ales and beers with some of their most popular products being: Grolsch, Miller Genuine Draft, Peroni Nastro Azzurro and Pilsner Urquell. They sell approximately 21 billion litres of larger a year – that’s 3 litres for every person on the planet each year! , SABMiller is the 11th largest business on the London Stock Exchange (LSE) and is also listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE). It was founded in 2002, has a revenue of £12.18 billion (2011) and has assets of £24.55 billion.

The current Chief Executive Officer is Graham Mackay, a South African who joined when the company was ‘The South African Breweries Limited’ in 1978. Over the years, he has generated a reputation for aggressive takeovers and has been involved in a very wide range of different businesses. He has six sons.

As a result of the success of SABMiller, do you believe your organisation has any corporate responsibility to ‘make the world a better place’?
Yes I do and it does a considerable amount of striving under that general heading. It is vastly better at getting results in those endeavours if they are closely linked to its core business (the bad news). There is no shortage of such opportunities (the good news).

What do you find to be the main differences between conducting business in South Africa and England?
South Africa has regrettably become very inwardly-focused over the past few years – intent on re-distributing existing wealth more than competing in the world at large. That makes it quite “provincial” compared to England . . . which has of course very considerable problems of its own.

If you could change one thing about your business instantly, what would it be?
I would increase the level of internal collaboration and learning from each other.

What do you believe will be the biggest challenge that SABMiller will face in the next five years and how do you intend to resolve it?
We have to evolve our business model to cope with fragmenting consumer tastes and the effect of instant global communications, particularly among young people.

How do you effectively manage and operate a company with 70,000 employees?
By decentralised management; locating decision-making close to the markets.

Do you believe that a university education is required in order for young entrepreneurs to develop successful businesses?
It’s not essential but some tertiary education probably helps.

What three pieces of advice you would offer young entrepreneurs starting out today?
Be prepared to work very hard; try things out and adjust as you go; your customers (whoever they are) have to trust you, so give them reasons to do so.