A drive to escape poverty and the setting of achievable goals keys to Dimitri Jacobs’ success.
The Grabouw apple industry runs deep in Dimitri Jacobs’ blood although, growing up, he tried hard to escape it. Both his parents were farm workers, his father at Applethwaite and his mother at Appletiser. “My parents were strict and from an early age I remember the expectation to do well at school so that I could improve my circumstances”, he says.
In this, his thirty-third year, Dimitri Jacobs joins Tru-Cape Fruit Marketing, the largest exporter of South African apples and pears, as a director and board member. “I was one of just two learners who took agriculture as a higher-grade subject at Groenberg Secondary School for Grades 10 to 12,” he explains.
As Human Resource Director for Two-a-Day, one of the largest employers in the Elgin, Grabouw, Villiersdorp and Vyeboom valleys, Jacobs was the youngest senior manager when he was appointed in 2013.
Achieving top marks at school and again during his tertiary education meant he was offered full scholarships for his studies. “I was the only one at the time in my family to complete a tertiary qualification”, he says adding: “I am the middle son of three boys. Both brothers also work in agriculture, one was in The Netherlands for a few years and the other at Two-a-Day. I understood early on that I would have to continue to excel. I have supported two families since I began earning – my own which is my wife Shivonn, also an HR professional, and our three-year old son Dane, as well as my parents.”
This year Jacobs completed an MBA at the University of Stellenbosch Business School, funded by Two-a-Day. “Many fellow MBA students were surprised to hear that I have no immediate plans to leave Two-a-Day which is typical when one has been in a business for five-years or more. I have found that within the Two-a-Day Group which includes Elgin Fruit Juices (a juicing plant), APL Packaging, a business also owned by Ceres Fruit Growers, SRCC, Goedehoop Citrus and Kromco, LINK, a logistics company and, of course, Tru-Cape, the marketing arm for the fruit from Two-a-Day and Ceres Fruit Growers that there are many different although related business units in which I can continue to learn and grow.”
Jacobs is a sought-after trustee of four trusts and holds directorships of seven other companies. “Most of my work has been in primary and secondary agriculture and I am particularly interested in learning about other parts of the value chain such as, in Tru-Cape’s case, the marketing and selling of apples and pears into more than 104 countries around the world.”
He says that one of his motivations in completing his MBA was trying to understand the whole business set up – looking at things from a broader perspective. “What continues to drive me is to make sure that my family and our future generations are not living in poverty.”
Asked about what helped him succeed where others failed, he recommends goal setting but with a warning: “Set reasonable, attainable goals and be encouraged by achieving them,” he says adding, “Too many people set goals they are unlikely to achieve and become despondent when they don’t. For me, a definition of success is when you fail at something but try again to succeed.”
Despite his many work-related commitments Jacobs also chairs the local rugby club and plays golf, now and then. “My real leisure activity is fishing”, he says, “the reason I love fishing is that my workday is so structured and planned that this is when I get a chance just to be in the moment and re-energise.” He ends.
Tru-Cape Fruit Marketing Managing Director Roelf Pienaar says that the company looks forward to having Dimitri Jacobs’ expertise and perspective on the team. “We know Dimitri’s input will be an asset to Tru-Cape and allow us to continue to move forward as South Africa’s largest exporter of apples and pears,” he ends.