Measuring the World | Douw Breed

Douw Breed is a man on an expedition. He may not be swashbuckling his way across the globe, negotiating veld and jungle, navigating the Nile, lowering himself into volcanoes or scaling the highest mountain known to man, but he has a definite vision – a vision to ‘measure the world’ and find purpose and place for his beloved Barnard Incorporated. The Harvard Business professor Rosabeth Kanter says that “a vision is not just a picture of what could be; it is an appeal to our better selves, a call to become something more.”

Douw spent most of his primary school days in Heidelberg before the family moved to Pretoria when his father was called to be a pastor at one of the local churches. “Growing up in a rectory home was – contrary to popular belief – a lot fun,” he claims. “I often got away with a lot because we had to play with the congregation’s children! But there was great balance in my life growing up – not too much of anything – just enough to help me reach my full potential in terms of my talents on the sports field, and in cultural activities and academics.” As he grew older, Douw says that balance became even more of a priority in his life. He attended Hoërskool Waterkloof before deciding to study law at North-West University. [The writer would be amiss if he did not mention that many Barnard Inc team members hail from other prestigious South African schools including ‘Affies’, Grey College, Monument etc. Yet, despite strong debate and fact-based reasoning, Douw refuses to believe that other schools are better than Waterkloof. It remains his greatest flaw in the writer’s humble opinion!]

Douw says that although he chose a completely different profession to his father, he felt strongly that he was ‘called’ to the career in the same way his dad was called into ministry. He would not have known the significance of the ‘calling’ until 2010 when he attended an interview at Barnard Inc for an associate position. “My commercial skills were lacking completely, and my interview was a disaster,” he recalls. “But I remember saying to the then director, Werner Barnard, that while I admitted to my shortcomings in experience, I certainly had the passion and willingness to learn and become one of Barnard Inc’s best!” He got the job! Douw spent the next few years arriving at work at 04h00 each morning to learn the trade of a good commercial attorney. Douw practices in various fields of commercial law and corporate litigation and boasts numerous valuable commercial relationships with clients across a wide spectrum of industries. He is also recognised by the leading international peer-review body, The Best Lawyers, in South Africa for his work in Competition / Antitrust Law. Douw eventually acquired the firm from Werner and the ‘calling’ became ‘vision’.

‘The visionary leader inspires with a vision and helps others to see how they can contribute to this vision; allowing the leader and followers to move together towards a shared view of the future’ – Dennis Goleman.

In the current environment most businesses and law firms find themselves, a state of flux has replaced the sense of certainty, stability and familiarity that people were used to, and it is almost impossible to hold a steady course. New leaders often must find their own way. “With assistance of others, of course, my vision of Barnard Inc is certainly at an advanced stage, but the dream is not over. There is much to do,” says Douw, who is also quick to credit the people around him. “Though my wife, Annelien, is very dynamic and successful in her own right, she plays a huge role in supporting me. She is the voice of reason when I also need to get some perspective. I also have a very dynamic leadership team – experts in their fields – who positively influence me in executing my visionary role at the firm. In many respects, each staff member of Barnard Inc contributes to a larger influence on how I approach my responsibilities at the firm,” he adds.

Whenever the opportunity for relaxation presents itself, Douw enjoys mountain-biking, golfing, swimming and spending time with his family. “My wonderful wife and two beautiful daughters – and each of the extended family members who all live in the same estate.”

In the maritime industry, leading lights are a pair of light beacons used in navigation to indicate a safe passage for vessels entering a shallow or dangerous channel; they may also be used for position fixing. At night, the lights are a form of leading line that can be used for safe navigation. The beacons consist of two lights that are separated in distance and elevation, so that when they are aligned, with one above the other, they provide a bearing for ship captains and skippers. One would be forgiven for assuming that – in this metaphor – Douw is the ship captain. Rather, Douw is the person who has already determined the best route and built the leading lights – so that those who follow can safely execute the vision. It bodes very well for the Barnard Inc cohort.

So, Onward & Upward!

Read more about Douw’s work here.