Successful SA Entreps Share Their Most Valuable Business Advice Ever Received

Successful SA Entreps Share Their Most Valuable Business Advice Ever Received


1A winning strategy is as much about choosing what not to do as it is about choosing what to do.

Abey Mokgwatsane

Vital Stats

  • Expert: Abey Mokgwatsane
  • Position: CEO
  • Company: Ogilvy & Mather
  • Visit:

“My uncle and mentor, Ken Modise, gave me this piece of advice. In business we are faced with an abundance of choices. A winning strategy is as much about choosing what not to do as it is about choosing what to do. With so many choices, it’s important that you choose which things to let go of so that you have the resources available to focus on the few really important things. Sometimes doing so can be a tough call — it’s often tempting to try and be everything to everyone, but that can’t be your strategy. I have found that asking yourself what is really important to the business and choosing to focus your energy on that, automatically helps you to eliminate other potential strategies and choices.”

2Gut feel and people can tell you much more about a business than graphs can.

Dawn Jones

Vital Stats

  • Expert: Dawn Jones
  • Position: CEO
  • Company: Imperial Car Rental-Europcar
  • Visit:

“Bill Lynch was a great teacher. At board meetings if you put up a presentation or a graph, he’d tell you that didn’t tell him about what was really going on in the business. He’d tell you to talk to him about what your gut said. I’ve tried to continue that — to talk to people and to listen when they talk back, and through those interactions get a real sense of what’s happening in the business.”

Related: 10 Tips From The Dragons Of Dragons’ Den SA

3Success, like failure, is just a point in time.

Allon Raiz

Vital Stats

  • Expert: Allon Raiz
  • Position: Founder
  • Company: Raizcorp
  • Visit:

“I once spent half of one session with my mentor telling him how well things were going in the business. He sat very quietly and listened to me and then asked me if I had any intention of making the session valuable in any way, or if I was just there to talk about how great I was. It was a real wake-up call. Success, like failure, is just a point in time. You have to bring the same perspective to success as you do to failure. It could change. Always pay attention to everything that’s happening, and be constantly looking for solutions and ways to do things better.”

4To be successful is to be the best in the history of your life.

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Vital stats

  • Expert: Ryk Neethling
  • Position: Marketing Director
  • Company: Val de Vie Estate
  • Visit:

“My coach gave me this advice, and it became my mantra for success. You need to set your own goals and not measure yourself against others. I think this is as important in business as it was for me in sport. But it’s a very tough thing to get right when you’re competitive.”

Related: 10 People Who Became Wildly Successful After Facing Rejection

5Inspect what you expect

Onwell Msomi

Vital Stats

  • Expert: Onwell Msomi
  • Position: Head Franchise Capability & 5BY20
  • Company: 2010 FIFA World Cup
  • Visit:

“I used to work for a guy whose motto was ‘inspect what you expect.’ He was right. I’m the type of manager who trusts his team. While some thrive under those conditions, others become totally lost. As a result, I had a few critical things fall through in the planning process. When you work on a project as huge and time-bound as this one, you must stay close, walk with your people every day and give all the help you can.”

6Education is not just about getting your foot in the door. It should be an ongoing process.

Anton Ossip

Vital Stats

“My grandfather came to South Africa from the Ukraine, with no education, not speaking the language, and managed to build a successful business that is still around today. He taught me about the importance of education and putting 100% into what you do. There is no replacement for hard work. It’s what builds success.

“It’s also incredibly important to make sure you are always learning. It doesn’t have to be an MBA – every opportunity is a learning opportunity. I try to learn the different jobs of the people I work with so I can understand their challenges and how best to resolve them. Just because you are a leader doesn’t mean you know everything. Don’t be afraid to admit what you don’t know, and sit down with an individual to learn from them.”

Related: Surprising Things 5 Entrepreneurs Do in Their Lunch Breaks

7Knowing when to push through a closed door and when to walk away is part of the skill of running a business.

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Vital Stats

“When I was working as the financial director at Master Currency, the sign on the Boardroom door said, ‘The last hurdle’ and, although this doesn’t constitute a piece of advice per se, it has always stuck with me.

In business you never know what the last hurdle is that you will have to overcome, so you need enormous reserves of tenacity to keep facing the obstacles that are in your way. But while that tenacity is important, I think it’s also important to balance it with knowing when to let go.

Sometimes we become emotionally attached to ideas or plans and are unable to let go of them even when it’s clear that they are flawed. This just leads to a wasteful expenditure of energy that might be better channelled to areas of the business or new ideas that hold better promise.”

8Be Self-Aware

Steven Cohen

Vital Stats

  • Expert: Steven Cohen
  • Position: Managing Director
  • Company: Sage Pastel Accounting
  • Visit:

“I have breakfast nearly every Saturday morning with a friend who also happens to be a clinical psychologist, and he gave me this advice. I find it informs every aspect of how I manage people and the business. At a most basic level, self-awareness helps you to understand why you react in the way you do, assisting you in identifying your own emotional ‘stuff’ so you can separate this out from the real issue at hand. This helps you to respond to criticism better so that you can actually use it to grow, instead of getting defensive. People who are self-aware also tend to manage other people better, whether those people report to you or are at a senior level to you.”

Related: How to Become a Millionaire by Age 30

9Don’t change what works

Bob Skinstad

Vital Stats

  • Expert: Bob Skinstad
  • Position: Ex-Springbok rugby player, Supersport presenter and entrepreneur

“I was a keynote speaker at a conference with Kevin Roberts, the ex-CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi, and I didn’t want to give the same talk two days in a row. It was a different group of people, but I was very aware that Kevin had already heard the address, so I changed it. Afterwards he asked me why I had changed something that was working. He told me that repetition of a good thing is the secret to success, and I’ve never forgotten that advice. It’s informed a lot of what I do today.”

10Two things are fundamental: Performance, and living the organisation’s values.

Pfungwa Serima

Vital Stats

“When I joined the business and Leo Apotheker was SAP CEO, he said to me: ‘There are two things that are fundamental to SAP. One is performance, the other is living our values.’ He made the point that while individual performance is crucial, a person who performs well, but is unable to live out the company values is not the type of person we need in the organisation.”

Related: 9 Things Rich People Do Differently Every Day

Nadine Todd
Nadine Todd is the Managing Editor of Entrepreneur Magazine, the How-To guide for growing businesses. Find her on Google+.