The Anatomy of John Vlismas

The Anatomy of John Vlismas


From comic to successful businessman heading up Whacked, a multi-million rand agency and production business, John Vlismas hasn’t lost sight of what makes him stand out as a local artist. In fact, it’s his open, all-inclusive attitude that has made Whacked such a success.

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The best advice I’ve ever received was from Pieter Dirk-Uys

He told me to put some spikes amongst the fluff, and it’s become a golden talisman for me.

I have huge respect for Pieter. He’s such a gentleman, and such a lady, and such an amazing artist. The day he patted my knee and said, “We’re artists, we must behave accordingly,” I was beside myself to be recognised as an artist by one of South Africa’s greats – and the way he conducts himself has stayed with me.

It’s important to remember that great advice can’t find you unless you’re open to it.

In the East they have a saying, ‘when the student is ready the teacher appears,’ and I find this very fitting.

It’s up to you to listen and learn – no alarm clock can ever wake you up if you’re pretending to be asleep.

Great business advice can be drawn from non-business contexts, and vice versa.

Seeking out the ‘Whys’

I missed the formal education boat by not attending university, and as a result I’ve developed a habit of seeking out the ‘whys’.

You can never know too much, and I find it’s far more helpful in both my personal and professional life to be curious rather than have knee-jerk reactions to situations. South Africa doesn’t have one big homogenous culture. If we want to make the most of this country and what it has to offer, we need to be aware of and open to that fact.

I surround myself with an incredibly eclectic group of people

Jon Foster-Pedley, the dean of Henley Business School, is both a friend and mentor.

My best friend is a music manager; I’m in close contact with a Rabbi I met on a plane, and I spent a lot of time painting with Robert Hodgins before he passed away. It’s important to seek the advice and opinions of people in vastly different disciplines to your own.

Their insights can give you a different angle, and often you’ll find solutions in unexpected places. It’s kept my mind open to new possibilities, and has enriched my life as a result.

We’re the kids in the business world, and proud of it

Kids don’t start life with engrained prejudices, and a conservative view of the world. They’re curious, and open. They’re learning each day, and they don’t take things at face value – they ask why.

As a business we’re like that. My pet peeves are mindless conservatism and prejudice. So what if someone has tattoos; why should you judge their abilities and morals based on body art, for example? Do you know how much body art costs?

Related: The Anatomy of…Siphiwe Tshabalala

We’re taught to toe the line, wear chinos and play golf. That’s just not us, and yet we’ve built an amazing business with incredible people anyway – on our terms.

We’re growing, and our client base is becoming more corporate because we put on excellent events. But we won’t lose our personality; it makes us who we are.

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