Daryl Keywood has had several careers before he landed in the incentive industry. Following two years of compulsory military service he started at Stellenbosch University to become an accountant but after a year decided he just couldn’t take the excitement. He then found a job as a sales rep but quickly realized that he needed to further his education to be promoted into management and climb the corporate ladder. Unilever, his employer at the time, was supportive so he went to night school juggling work and study at South Africa’s Institute for Marketing Management for four years.
When Daryl’s father-in-law Klaus Walther, founder of Walthers Destination Business Solutions, retired in 2000, Daryl and his wife Heidi decided they would take over the family business. With two children also to consider, Daryl and Heide agreed she would manage the office team and raise the children while Daryl could travel to promote the business internationally.
“Fortunately, marketing and incentive travel both have people skills in common and so the transition when I changed careers was not that difficult,” he said.
“I cannot imagine any other industry that allows you to meet so many interesting people from diverse backgrounds and cultures. Through our work I’ve been fortunate to meet the head of the Nobel Peace Prize selection committee, some Nobel Prize winners, a few Presidents, Oscar winning actors as well as the humblest villagers in my home continent of Africa. I am proud to have met colleagues and made friends on every continent.”
Coming from a corporate background, Daryl said, he was a little hesitant taking on the family business but after almost 20 years the company has continued to grow and he’s proud of its continued success.
Daryl joined SITE in 2003 and, in fact, Klaus was a founding member of SITE South Africa, the second Chapter outside North America.
“It was almost expected that the head of the company be a member of SITE. I must be honest that for a few years I was not particularly active, but then I was asked to join the South Africa chapter board and shortly after was elected chapter president. SITE opened a whole new world and a network of like-minded professionals to interact with. I came from a closely guarded corporate culture and was pleasantly surprised at the professional environment where issues and challenges were openly discussed,” he said.
Daryl’s wife Heidi and her father, founder Klaus Walther were natural mentors, Daryl said, while also getting great guidance from two other industry vets.
“David Spain, our North America representative for more than 20 years, taught me and many others about the nuances of doing business with the North American market, and in recent years Dave Sand who encouraged me to run for the SITE International Board of Directors is also a regular coffee and lunch date and valued sounding board.”
Daryl said his most memorable incentive trip for a client was to Madagascar for Skoda Cars UK last year. “It was not the biggest program ever, or one with a significantly high budget. It was, however, the first and probably the only visit for every participant and I believe that the winners enjoyed a truly authentic, life changing experience.”
One of the things he’s most proud of is a school project Walthers initiated at Ezweni School close to the Kruger National Park Safari area. “Our first interaction was with a group of National Geographic Kids magazine essay winners back in 2005. In 2007 we coordinated a visit for an incentive group from KPMG Meijburg from The Netherlands. Their subsequent support has enabled the building of seven new classrooms, a 10-station computer center and replaced pit toilets with 12 eco-friendly “Enviroloos”. KPMG Meijburg recently committed to supporting Ezweni School through to 2021; that’s a 14-year total commitment. The first Ezweni alumni was accepted into medical school recently. Knowing that together with our clients we are contributing to the future of our country is immensely rewarding. We’re also honored that in 2011 this program received two SITE Crystal Awards; something we are extremely proud of.”
Daryl is an avid cyclist and used to ride competitively completing over 100, 60-mile races.
“In 2020 my goal is to complete a 60-mile off-road race. My other love is sailing, and I have a dream to do a transatlantic crossing one day.“
Now that their two sons Thomas and Christopher are growing up and “empty nest syndrome” is fast approaching, time with family has changed. One son is busy with his PhD in Germany while the other will complete his environmental studies in South Africa this year.
“With more time on our hands, Heidi and I are renovating a cabin in the Drakensberg Mountains. My interests include our monthly craft brew club as well as-- strangely enough-- beekeeping which our youngest Christopher is into. Each Saturday our family participates in a 5km park run and I have completed 120, or 600km of Saturday morning runs over the past three years.”
As far as entertainment, Daryl’s favorite movie is “The Bucket List”. “I have admired Jack Nicholson since I first watched him in “The Shining”. The combination of Nicholson and Morgan Freeman is sublime. My favorite actor was Robin Williams, RIP. I grew up with music since my mother worked in public relations for a record company and I grew up surrounded by music and musicians. My first job as a seven-year-old was to run down to feed the parking meter outside Gallo Records flagship store in Cape Town in case mum needed her car to whisk some musician off to a signing. Regrettably none of that talent rubbed off on me. I collect vintage rock on vinyl. Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’ still gives me goose bumps. My favorite female artist is Alanis Morrisette.“
If he was hosting a table at his favorite restaurant (eating fresh yellowtail accompanied by local wine from Cape Town, followed by anything chocolate) he’d invite Nelson Mandela, because , he says, “His gravitas alone would bring order”. He’d also invite Stephen Hawking, for serious brain power and Dr. David Livingstone, to find out why he was so loved that when he died his attendants, Sussi and Chuma, carried his body almost 1,000 miles so that it could be returned to England. Neil Armstrong would get a seat, “because as a five-year-old I can remember looking up at the sky trying to see Apollo 11, discussing what was it like actually walking on the moon, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, for his intellect and laughter, and actress Charlize Theron, to ensure that everyone paid attention and stayed awake!”
And what would they talk about?
“Whether this planet Earth is salvageable or should we get off?”