5 Top Business Lessons From This Year’s Executive Think Tank

5 Top Business Lessons From This Year’s Executive Think Tank


The 3rd annual Exec Think Tank took a good, hard look at the future of business and what entrepreneurs and executives should be implementing today if they want to be growing their organisations in the future.

1. The rules of transacting have changed – and you need to change with them

Anton Musgrave, futurist and Senior Partner at FutureWorld International, offered a simple description of how businesses transact: Need meets supply and both parties agree to a transfer of price. That’s it. That’s what business is about. The rest is just processes to enable that one transaction.

However, as the world changes, so those processes change. What we do to get to the transaction has to move with the times.

“Too many companies still think of business and the digital department as separate entities. They aren’t. Digital should permeate the whole business,” said Musgrave.


“We’re in the fourth industrial revolution, and new technologies are driving down costs in business. We’re now transacting at profoundly different operating costs, in new markets through new industries. If this has all changed, then the way we do business must too.

“There are only four relevant questions that should shape every business decision you make: Is it insightful, is it exponential, is it changing the way we do things, and does it excite people?

“Unlearn everything you’ve ever learnt. Learn about the rules of a new, future world, where everything is interconnected and digital. And once you’ve done that, start again. That’s how quickly things are moving.

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“If you can do that, you might be ready for the future.”

2. Dream big and live your destiny


“My dreams have value, and life validates me,” said Nonkululeko Gobodo, co-founder of SizweNtsalubaGobodo and current CEO at Nkululeko Leadership Consulting, as she unpacked how the courage to pursue her own dreams has shaped her success in life. “The power of the fulfilment of the dream exists within the dream itself,” she said, “You just need to not be scared of pursuing your dreams.”

Related: How SNG Built A Leadership Legacy

To clarify her point, Gobodo pointed out how babies learn: with determination, and without fear. “They conquer challenges every day,” she said. “They haven’t learnt fear, which is critical to their ability to overcome all the obstacles in their way.

“We grow up and take things so seriously. When we were young we did things naturally. We need to get back to that. We need to learn to trust our own learnings, our bodies, and our minds.”

3. Become a leader that others will follow

Gobodo is a firm believer that personality affects leadership style and this should be used to a leader’s advantage rather than ignored. “The more self-aware we become, the more we’re able to channel strengths, manage weaknesses and minimise conflicts within our teams,” she said.

“To be a good leader, you need to be aware of your psychological and spiritual state. We all bring energy to the job. A good leader is aware of what that energy is.”

“Don’t let your team carry the burden of your leadership style.”

She also believes that leaders are respectful. “Everyone has value. If you can embrace this idea, your organisation will follow your lead. This won’t only affect your business, but will make an impact on the community around you. Together, we can rebuild our country, and make a difference to millions of lives.”

4. Manage your online reputation

Emma Sadleir

It takes a lifetime to build a reputation, and seconds to destroy it. In the digital age, when social media permeates every aspect of our lives, this statement has never been truer.

Emma Sadleir, Social Media Law Specialist, started her talk by pointing out that it’s not a question of whether you’re going to be on social media. You already are. Your stakeholders are. Rather, do it well, and learn how to manage your business’s online image. This starts with your employees.

Related: How To Manage Your Business Reputation Online

“Social media is instant. I can think something, publish it and it’s out there. There’s no time to filter my thoughts.

“Ten years ago companies could decide on who would be their voice, and what the company message would be. This has radically changed. You can perhaps control your brand accounts, but your employees are linked to you, even when they tweet or post in their personal capacities, and your customers are talking about you.

“There’s no escaping it.”

So what should companies be doing?

“First, remember that digital content is dangerous content, and anything can be digital: Anyone can post a video about you, tweet about something you’ve said, screen grab a private conversation. Nothing is safe.

“Reputation management is therefore critical. Educate your employees. Help them to understand what they say – even through private accounts – impacts the brand, and outline fireable offences. Put firm guidelines in place, and then monitor your brand image.”

Most of all, remember that whether you like it or not, your brand has a digital presence. Rather manage it than ignore it.

5. Build your business on a combination of culture and strategy


“Initially, we didn’t talk culture,” said Sam Paddock, who started GetSmarter from nothing eight years ago and grew it into a company that now boasts something north of R360 million turnover (and aiming for R1 billion by 2018), “Culture was just how you behaved.”

For Sam and his brother, Rob, their breakthrough came when they read Mastering the Rockefeller Habits (Verne Hamish), which distilled the world of business into one simple concept – business is about people doing things.

Related: How GetSmarter Got Smarter

“We need to build simple models of the world. The challenge of business is – the right people doing the right things right.”

The overarching question for business leaders around culture was, “Do you and your people know the character of your company?”

Deeply ingrained into GetSmarter’s culture is a clear set of values that every employee buys into. These values promote learning, encourage process evolution and centre on nurturing relationships – both with their customers and with each other.

But Paddock was insistent that culture means nothing without strategy. To define strategy, he drew from Harvard Business Review’s two questions: Where to play, and How to win.

“If we’re clear about our strategy, our team will pick up the tools and do the work with us.”

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

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