Written for In the Bunch
When you fly into Johannesburg for the day to meet with a long-time client, you know it must be important.
And even more so when the Gautrain delivers you, laptop and iPad in hand, straight to the heart of the bustling city centre of Sandton.
Everywhere you go, suited and important-looking business types are making their way to and from what I suspect are other, equally important meetings.
Not to be outdone, I put my business face on and walk the two or so blocks to Nelson Mandela Square with the mission of finding a spot that could serve as an ad hoc office for the day.
I aim for an array of restaurants, bunched together and overlooking a plaza, which served me well during a similar get-together some years before.
It is still well short of the lunch hour rush and most of them are sparsely occupied, but, even so, I see evidence of other meetings taking place: two to four people per table, huddled together and conferring in hushed tones.
Drinks, I notice, vary between still and sparkling waters and I realise that business agendas are undoubtedly taking precedence over food menus. The well-clad and official-looking waiters and their managers are standing around trying not to look too bored.
One of them seems almost relieved to see me and, after bartering access to an electrical point in exchange for supporting their kitchen, he points me to a quiet corner where I set up “office” for the day.
I quickly get into my daily routine and start working off the hours to my post-lunch meeting – all the while marvelling at the fact that, in modern-day business, one’s office really is where one’s laptop is plugged in.
Actually, it’s possibly even better. Without the usual interruptions, I find I get through stacks of admin while rewarding myself with the occasional cappuccino.
The persona of the restaurant starts changing as the lunch crowd filters in. Non-alcoholic beverages make way for lunch of the day and the murmurings morph into chattering.
I decide to join in to keep up my end of the bargain – and because I want to be fuelled up for what I expect to be a lengthy and energy-sapping meeting.
The post-lunch crowd turns out to be similar to the pre one. Evidence of new business meetings spring up all over the show – except, the water is no longer alcohol free and the previously huddled discussions are now audible.
Although the nature of the beast has changed somewhat, a certain gravitas remains in the air and I can almost envision a multitude of million rand deals being struck right before my eyes.
It reminds me that I’m in one of the country’s business hotspots and that I, too, am here to conduct serious business.
And then, to make a complete mockery of everything, I spot my client meandering into Nelson Mandela Square on a single-speed mountain bike!
In his cycling kit, he stands out like a sore thumb among the corporate folk and I wonder whether it will even be possible to take the meeting seriously.
I walk across the room to meet him where he’s leaning his bicycle against the doorframe. His casual greeting, “Howzit my china”, completes the spectacle.
And that is all you need to know about Craig Wapnick, the driving force behind the Old Mutual joBerg2c.
Proper Wappo – as he was christened during the 2012 event – starts talking business, but, as I suspected, I’m finding it hard to concentrate.
Therefore, all I have to report is that he is clearly living the brand that is synonymous with a tough but soulful journey across the hinterland of South Africa.