Linda Fröhlich has four brothers and a sister. As the sixth child – and the baby – in her family, she was surrounded by love and laughter, but there wasn’t always enough money left over for luxuries. Which meant if Linda wanted something, she had to go out and get it.
As a young girl, she delivered newspapers on foot on her way to primary school each morning until she had enough saved up to buy a BMX bicycle. It was her first taste of how rewarding it can be to set your mind on something and then achieve it, and it’s a lesson she’s carried with her through her childhood and career.
These are Linda’s top lessons – and how you can also achieve everything you want.
1. Don’t worry about what other people think
“In my experience, one of the biggest reasons why people don’t chase their dreams is that they’re scared they will fail and look stupid. But you can’t succeed – and enjoy the feeling of truly achieving what you want – if you don’t try.”
Linda loves horses. Unable to afford her own horse as a teenager, she found a way to ride each weekend by getting paid to put another horse through his paces. “His name was Blondie Boy and he was the love of my life,” she says. “He was also extremely naughty. Every weekend I competed at the Honeydew Horse Show, and every weekend he would run me under the fence. I never even got over the first jump. But I also wouldn’t give up. I became a standing joke with the other competitors, but I didn’t let it deter me. I just kept at it.”
And then one day, everything changed. Blondie Boy didn’t only make the first jump, but every jump thereafter. “Everyone erupted like I’d won a gold medal,” says Linda, who went on to win rosettes from then onwards. “If I had cared what people thought, I would have quit and never felt that incredible sense of achievement.”
2. Define a goal and go for it – and don’t let anyone hold you back
After spending a few years overseas doing every job under the sun, Linda returned to South Africa and managed to find a position as a personal assistant to the owner of a rental finance firm. “I did everything, from washing the dog to running errands. I started learning the industry from the ground up and realized that I wanted to go into sales. My boss loved me as an assistant, but she didn’t believe I’d be a good fit in sales – she even told me that I was too overweight and didn’t have the personality for it.
“It was a defining moment for me. I could have been mortified and given up. Instead, I decided then and there that no one could tell me who I could or couldn’t be.”
Linda’s solution was to continue doing her job but to focus on getting accounts into the business on her own time – which is exactly what she did. “I managed to bring an account across to us that the sales team had been unsuccessfully trying to woo,” she says. “As the account grew, my boss wanted to give my client a top account executive, but he refused. He was clear that he had moved his business because of me. 32 years later, he is still my client.”
3. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want
Over the next few years, Linda built her career until she was a director in a business that was funded by Saambou Bank – when Saambou liquidated, the funding disappeared, and Linda and her team found themselves jobless.
“I secured a meeting with Roland Sassoon and when he asked me what I wanted, I told him the truth – I wanted my entire team to come with me. My heart was beating like crazy, but I held my ground. I wouldn’t accept anything less. It was the foundation of an incredible working relationship with Roland because I knew who I was and what I wanted, and it resulted in a very authentic relationship.”
4. You only fail something if you don’t keep trying to get it right
“Years before I joined Sasfin I did a financial management diploma at Damelin – twice,” says Linda. “I borrowed money from my mom because my boss wouldn’t pay for it. The problem was that I just did not understand accounts. It doesn’t logically make sense to me. My three bosses who also did the course all passed with distinctions. I knew that if I didn’t write the exam, I could do the course again. I could have just dropped out or written and failed. Instead, I proudly repeated it – I wasn’t there for the diploma. I was there to learn.
“You only fail at something if you don’t keep trying to get it right. If you have to try ten times, you are still a success if you keep doing it until you achieve what you need to do.”
5. Be true to yourself
Linda is a firm believer that women should not have to change to fit into a corporate environment. “People deal with authentic people, and you can only be truly authentic if you are true to yourself. I laugh a lot and make jokes. I love my team and the people around me and I’m not scared to show it. I’m also not intimidated by people in power. At the end of the day, we are all the same. No one is better than anyone else – the difference is the level of responsibility that people hold, that’s it.
“The trick is to do whatever you do with pride. Overseas, I was a cleaner for a while, and I did that to the best of my ability – my floors were the cleanest floors. The key is to remove ego from the situation and to be true to yourself. As a leader, this allows you to put your people first as well because, at the end of the day, your people carry you. Leaders are only in positions of responsibility because their teams put them there.”
6. Surround yourself with people you aspire to be like
“You become who you surround yourself with, so pick positive, nice people whose habits you will benefit from picking up,” says Linda, whose management style is to focus on how to make her team stronger than she is. “Managers who prefer to be the strongest in their teams do not inspire the people they work with. The stronger you make the people around you, the stronger your team will be and the more support you will have. People should follow you because they want to and not because they have to. The best leaders are respected, not feared.”