Duray Pretorius – Viaduct Generation
I do enjoy working with young entrepreneurs. Their fresh-faced enthusiasm and high drive to succeed is impressive. On the whole, they haven’t faced too many failures or negative experiences, and the young ones have so much to look forward to.
Duray Pretorius impressed me from day one, having already contended with a lot before we met…
A natural-born seller, and an easily likeable person, Duray lacked some of the other attributes required in business as an individual, such as accountability and the ability to switch off. He had faced relocating from South Africa to England and running a business during a pandemic. At only 20 something, this young man was impressive and I’m thoroughly enjoying working with him as his mentor.
I met Duray Pretorius during my work with Oxford Brookes University as facilitator of FUEL, and we began working together 1-2-1 at the end of last year. Here, he talks to my associate about his journey and what brought him to me.
Firstly, congratulations on your anniversary, Viaduct Gen is one year old! But before we talk about that, tell me what the pre-launch years were like?
“Well, I started selling health supplements to gym boys while I was at an all-boys school in South Africa: protein powders and the like.
I enjoyed exercise and focusing on health and fitness, so I naturally assumed that it would somehow become my line of work. I thought I was really into sports, but it turned out it was the business I discovered on the side that I enjoyed more…
My South African high school was very disciplined, we were taught respect for comrades, competitors, women, and authority. I always enjoyed and respected education, looking to teachers for aspiration.
I completed my sixth form in the UK before looking at what to do next. Many unis were happy to accept me and my international student fees, but the head of the sixth form helped me to choose an apprenticeship with the sales training department at IBM.
I learned all I could for that year and then went into telesales for an IT software company. That was very cutthroat and challenging, but the dynamics weren’t making me happy. I wasn’t good enough at it, I just didn’t fit in with the scene.
From there, I poured pints for an events company, which introduced me to a telephone operative job. And that was a pivotal moment for my career, which was about to shape the rest of my life…”
“I met a couple of guys who were firefighters and I remember actually recognising the moment when they stopped working IN their business and started working ON it. They began training others to do the job, it was fascinating to watch. I worked with them for 3.5 years going from answering the phone and admin support to sales and marketing manager. But I needed to make something of myself and felt I was only propelling someone else and had learned all I could in that role.
So, I went to study at Oxford Brookes University and founded Blue Light Academy as a side hustle. The aim was to attract emergency services to a secondary income source in the training space. I then took a placement year in Australia for my second year of studies. That was the end of 2019, just as Covid was about to hit… And so came the end to Blue Light Academy.
Due to my interest in start-ups and having enough money to survive, while in Aus, I started a chess coaching business, called Right Angle Rooks, to help affluent families develop gifted children and those with autistic spectrum disorders, to problem solve and improve their maths through chess. I built this to a decent size running tournaments weekly.
Upon returning to the UK, Blue Light Academy had effectively died and my friends, Fabio and Cain came to me with another idea to look at.
I was working with Enterprise Support at Brookes by now. I offered really direct feedback and after that, I was asked to join their mission to amplify underrepresented founders on search. Things changed and evolved, and we soon became Viaduct Generation.”
But Viaduct Generation is an SEO agency – there are tons of them around, why is yours different to the rest?
“Google has no bias, it shows no favour, yet SEO is so prestigious it can be inaccessible due to the lack of education in the space. We offer underrepresented groups a leg up in search engine optimisation. We’re ethical, transparent and run community initiatives and workshops FOC. We’re an ally to Black and people of colour in business ownership, and we help to navigate what we see as structural racism. We also dedicate 5% of our profits to charity. Oh, and we’re really good at what we do!”
When you met Mike, you were already successful, and in more than one business. You already knew what you wanted to achieve and what your goals were. So, what was it you were looking for in a mentor?
“I met Mike as part of FUEL, an Oxford Brookes initiative which in my opinion was the best thing about Brookes. It was a nine-week business acceleration programme helping entrepreneurs scale up their current businesses.
I had approached a few business coaches prior to meeting Mike, and I already had an unstructured mentor, but I wasn’t being made accountable for any of the ideas we came up with.
I needed a better life balance too, as I was working all the hours and in a constant whirlwind on the brink of burnout, not sure I was doing the right thing. A bull in a china shop so to speak. I felt like I had to do everything and all at light speed.
I was in need of accountability, structure and someone to push me with focused goal setting. I’m an over-achiever and work well with that kind of impetus.
Together, Mike and I set objectives, identify the high-value activities to achieve them and make sure I move on them. We even high-five or celebrate when objectives are met, and Mike urges me to make them bigger if it was easily achieved. There’s no judgement if I miss a goal, just questioning and suggesting to help me understand why.
Mike also helps me to be realistic and understand that there are factors that I can’t control. It’s not always me that has to achieve, it’s the business too and there’s more influence in that than just me.”
In as few words as possible, can you summarise how Mike has been the biggest help?
“I met Mike around 18 months ago and we have stepped up our relationship to 1-2-1 mentoring in the last six months. There was always an offer of guidance from the day we met, and Mike always lent an ear for my questions. To sum it up though, to me Mike is accountability – challenging – critical analysis – drive.”
And as we always ask, because Mike has an interest in what books his clients like to read, inside and outside of their business, what are your book recommendations?
The ability to deal with people is essential and if you can persuade people into your way of thinking you can get anything accomplished because you’ve created a team who are on your side.”
You can connect with Duray Pretorius on LinkedIn, where I’m sure you’ll find insightful posts about business ownership as well as digital presence, or visit Viaduct Generation to find out more about what his business offers.
My blog, ‘Helping Young People into Enterprise’, talks more about my passion for working with young entrepreneurs and A-Level students. And if you are a young entrepreneur or new to business, take a look at my free business resources. There are four business books that are free to download to help you on your way. And as always, I offer a free hour of business mentoring to help you achieve the business you want and deserve.