Meet Lithon Founder and CEO Adriaan Grobler

Adriaan Grobler may be an engineer, but he first and foremost considers himself a visiopreneur – a word he coined to describe someone who not only dreams of a better world, but also takes the necessary steps to make it a reality. And his vision – to build a better world – is something he and his team at Lithon work towards daily through the company’s many engineering projects as well as through the Lithon Foundation which enables them to mentor and support existing social initiatives. 

Adriaan recently took the time to answer a few questions about the past, present and future of the company – and to provide some insights into the driving force behind this group of companies that specialises in innovative engineering and sustainable development. 

How has seeing yourself as a visiopreneur impacted your leadership style?

I believe in a better tomorrow – and I believe it can be achieved if we are prepared to roll up our sleeves and get the job done. Our Executive Committee therefore spends a significant amount of time focusing on our mission: Building People. Building Communities. Building Nations. To date, I believe that we have found an excellent balance between upholding our vision and finding the people to execute it.

What was your vision when you started Lithon?

Moving to Namibia from Johannesburg early in my career, I had the privilege of visiting several African countries. During my travels, my heart was stirred not only by the human suffering I witnessed, but also by the latent potential I saw in the midst of the poverty and inequality. I felt called to use my God-given engineering skills to impact the lives of millions by providing them with water, food and shelter – a purpose that was confirmed for me after reading the biblical story of Nehemiah who returned to Jerusalem to rebuild its ruined walls. And so Lithon was established – a business that aims not only to change the world physically, but also to help restore people and their communities.

How is that vision playing out currently?

Our ongoing objective is to assist communities by finding funding for projects geared towards improving their circumstances, and by providing the people to drive these projects. Long term, we plan to create an academy that will equip students with the necessary training and leadership skills to fast-track their careers.

What does your typical day look like?

My day is divided between keeping my finger on the pulse of major focuses and clients and working closely with key staff members and drivers. We are strong proponents of agility and adaptability, and believe that it’s important to adjust the journey when necessary, while continuing to focus on the end goal. As a result, we’ve embraced remote working and made adjustments to bring in our focus from our longer term five year planning to work according to three month plans, not losing sight of the long term plan, but finding in the uncertain times we live in that a more hands-on planning approach is necessary. 

What are you most proud of when it comes to Lithon?

Without doubt, the people who work here. Upskilling staff and fast-tracking their growth has always been a priority at Lithon and we have a partnership in place with the University of Namibia to ensure that this continues into the future.

How do you measure success?

I believe success is a journey with physical and spiritual aspects rather than simply a destination. I am committed to living each day of my life with purpose and to making a positive impact on those around me through Lithon’s projects.

What is your greatest achievement outside of the company?

My marriage and my two daughters.

You survived a life-threatening illness. How did it impact your life?

I was diagnosed with a severe colon disease at the age of 15, and had to have my colon removed in 2014 when it showed early signs of cancer. In 2015, I was placed on a transplant programme as a result of severe liver damage and two years later, when I lost consciousness and my body began shutting down, I was flown from Windhoek to a transplant clinic in Johannesburg. Against all odds, and thanks to a series of miracles, I was given a second chance at life. Surviving, when even my doctors feared the worst, not only gave me the confidence to dream bigger than ever – why stop at Namibia when we could be making a difference to the lives of those throughout Africa and beyond? – it also gave me a greater sense of urgency to complete my life’s work. So much so that I already have a 30-year plan in place – I definitely don’t plan on stopping anytime soon!