The Anatomy of Scott Picken

The Anatomy of Scott Picken


I had a nice life and went to private schools, but at 17 my dad got cancer and his new business went bankrupt.

When he passed he didn’t have R50 in the bank. It was a huge shock having to support myself financially and put myself through university.

As a result of my father’s business bankruptcy…

I saw the negative impact money problems had on my parents’ relationship.

Conversely, I had a generous and knowledgeable uncle who taught me about finance and invested in my first business. Though many would see the whole experience as negative, I was able to see the massive advantage in growing up quickly and becoming financially savvy. It comes down to a mindset.

Related: Anatomy of… Derek Thomas

By 22 I was in property development…

And by 24 I’d purchased property in London when others my age were saying ‘I’m too young to own property.’

My dad had instilled the belief in me that I could do anything. People block themselves because of fear of getting hurt when you should just do it and figure things out. My two year-old son was once running along a low wall.

A friend asked if I was going to tell him to stop because he might fall. I said no because if I only point out the negative and how he could get hurt, he will never try new things.

My belief in making a plan and figuring things out still plays out in the way I do business today.

I recently closed a property deal in the US for $16 million. They required $6 million equity from me that I didn’t have. I signed the deal anyway because I knew we would make a plan. I came back to South Africa, reached out to investors and we over-subscribed that deal, raising money on five continents. Seize opportunities and make it happen.

A principle I hold close is one from Zig Ziglar…

That you can have anything you want if you help others get what they want.

When I was working in London after university, I could’ve bought a house by myself, and buying the next one would take a long time. Instead, I got my friends to all pitch in and everyone won.

It’s how I run my businesses now too. I help others invest, and we all win. Similarly, I discovered a charity in the US called Lemonade Day ( that teaches kids entrepreneurial skills. I’ve bought the rights to it and am currently launching it in South Africa.

My book is based on a model that I was too embarrassed to show anyone because I feared it was too simple.

Clem Sunter gave a talk and I didn’t have a system to process the information with. I mapped out the most important things and came up with a four dimensional model. I used it and it worked.

A year later I plucked up the courage to show Clem and he said ‘You’ve got to share this!’ and he agreed to endorse it. The ultimate sophistication is in simplicity.

I’m a big advocate of coaching. The money I spend on personal development always brings exponential returns. In 2010, for example, I spent $50 000 to go to Las Vegas and Fiji for a course. I learnt skills and networked to the extent that I earned that money back in less than three months, and have experienced substantial growth since.

A defining moment in my entrepreneurial journey…

Was taking Roger Hamilton’s Wealth Dynamics test that categorises you into one of eight entrepreneurial types. It helped me figure out that I’m a creator like Richard Branson and creators need supporters, like Jack Welch. The minute I head hunted a supporter, I achieved goals in 18 months that I hadn’t achieved in nine years.

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Tracy Lee Nicol
Tracy-Lee Nicol is an experienced business writer and magazine editor. She was awarded a Masters degree with distinction from Rhodes university in 2010, and in the time since has honed her business acumen and writing skills profiling some of South Africa's most successful entrepreneurs, CEOs, franchisees and franchisors.Find her on Google+.