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Lessons Learnt

Ashraf Garda’s Drive to Build a Better SA

As a talk-show host on SAFM, and champion of brand South Africa, Ashraf Garda shares how his upbringing shaped who he is today, his unshakable sense of justice and the drive to build a better country.

Tracy Lee Nicol




Growing up in Vrededorp, a historically mixed-race Johannesburg suburb that suffered the same fate as Sophiatown and District Six, really shaped my sense of justice and struggle. Even as a kid I had an acute sense that this was wrong.

Related: The Anatomy of…Siphiwe Tshabalala

When I was around 14 years old it was my family’s turn and we were forcibly removed to Lenasia. One of the unintended benefits of the removals was The Oriental Plaza. Built as a white elephant it actually succeeded in spite of the circumstances and serves as testament to human endurance.

Around 1980 my school took part in a protest in solidarity of the 1976 Soweto youth riot.

The police took us to the station and I got the biggest klap of my life and the fear that was instilled in me kept me afraid at night for some time. But, like the bitterness I felt from the forced removals, instead of it holding me back, I believed in the Prophet Mohammed’s example, and it strengthened my resolve and commitment to oppose injustice and to one day play a part in serving my country and building a better South Africa.

Having been part of the old South Africa and now being in a position of leadership,

It’s critically important to me not to be a fence sitter in making the country work. If we could take the moral high ground and back the struggle, we must act as a collective now too. It’s one of the reasons I’ve launched a new campaign called Champion South Africa.

Everyone needs to be a champion, not just a select few like Desmond Tutu, Bruce Fordyce and Madiba. We need to grow a pool of champions, because champion people build champion nations.

To move forward you need the right kind of mind-set to rid yourself of attitudes and ideologies constraining you

To work towards those that will benefit everyone. For me I’m Asian and Muslim and some think I should speak on their behalf as an Asian and Muslim. But I’m first and foremost South African and put SA first. The whole country needs to think like that.

Take Germany for example. When they won the Soccer World Cup, the sense of German engineering and precision was strong because it’s an expectation of the German brand.

We need our own brand and the SAFM platform helps me interact with society at large and ask questions on their behalf, so it’s my responsibility to serve them. In everything we do, we should be thinking about how our vision, cause and actions align.

A sense of duty isn’t about voting every four years, but voting every single day through what you do.

When I took over the Sunday media and marketing show on SAFM from Jeremy Maggs, I asked him why he did it. Yes it was a pain to spend a Sunday morning working, but he said it was his baby. I feel the same way now.

The impact the show makes convinces me that it’s not just industry talk, but your free two-hour consultation in brand communication.

I think the biggest problem South Africa faces is not celebrating the meaningful achievements enough.

I don’t mean paying lip service on public holidays, but drawing on them daily for lessons. When dealing with a dispute, why not look to the miracle of 1990 when opposing parties who couldn’t be further apart were able to sit together and negotiate a better future.

My wife and I owned a luxury fabric shop at the Oriental Plaza for almost a decade.

We’d import upmarket fabrics and were successful. Unfortunately we started being undercut, made some bad decisions, and we ended up closing and losing money. Instead of being bitter, it became an unforeseen opportunity to pursue my love of media.

As a child, whenever my family went abroad I’d ask them to bring me back every English publication they could, and I loved reading news stories aloud. So when the shop closed and a community radio opened up, it was that one great moment that saw my whole life’s training set me on a different path.

I know one thing about myself: When I talk people listen,

But there’s also the responsibility to let others be heard, even if they’re wrong. I always listen because it’s linked to my sense of justice. You’ve got to know when it’s your turn to talk or listen – even if you don’t agree with what’s being said. How can you talk and say what you want to say, but disregard others?

Related: Anatomy of… Derek Thomas

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+.

Lessons Learnt

7 Pieces Of Wise Advice For Start-Up Entrepreneurs From Successful Business Owners

Launching a business is tough, but with perseverance, a willingness to learn from mistakes and a focus on the future, you can turn your dream into a reality. Seven top South Africa entrepreneurs share their hard-won start-up lessons.

Nadine Todd




“What seems like an expensive lesson is actually the best thing that could have happened to you.” 

So you want to start a business? Seven successful entrepreneurs share their words of wisdom for start-up entrepreneurs

1. Offer advice and share your expertise freely

The more your clients are educated, the more empowered they will feel, and the more they will view you as a trusted advisor. I gave my clients material to help them develop the best labour policies and procedures. It didn’t make my service redundant — it built trust between us. — Arnoux Mare, Innovative Solutions Group, turnover R780 million

2. Stop planning and start doing

We all tend to complicate business with planning and processes. These shouldn’t be ignored, but you need to also just start — start your business, start that project, start walking the path you want to be on. — Gareth Leck, co-founder, Joe Public, turnover R700 million

Related: Watch List: 50 Top SA Small Businesses To Watch

3. Play your heart out and the money will follow

I learnt this valuable lesson when I was a student and busked at Greenmarket Square. You don’t stand with your hat, waiting for cash and then play — you play your heart out and the bills pile up in your hat. It’s the same in business. You can’t look at the bottom line first; it’s the other way around. — Pepe Marais, co-founder, Joe Public, turnover R700 million

4. Love learning lessons

What seems like an expensive lesson is actually the best thing that could have happened to you. I wasn’t paying attention to my partner or my books in our early days, and I didn’t realise the debt he was putting us into. We ended up owing R1 million. In hindsight, it was a cheap lesson to learn. Imagine if that happened today? The fallout would be much greater. We have 19 stores and nearly 100 staff members. It would hurt everyone, not just me. — Rodney Norman, founder, Chrome Supplements, turnover R100 million

5. Landing an investor starts with your story

A great story and data are the two golden rules of attracting an investor. You need both if you really want to access growth funding that will take your business to the next level. — Grant Rushmere, founder, Bos Ice Tea

Related: Watch List: 15 SA eCommerce Entrepreneurs Who Have Built Successful Online Businesses

6. Offer solutions

If you’re not solving a problem and creating value, don’t ship it — throw it away. That’s cheaper than selling a bad product. — Nadir Khamissa, co-founder, Hello Group

7. Small, clever decisions lead to big profits

One of the most important lessons any business owner can learn is that success on profit is nothing more than the accumulative sum of rand decisions. Lots of small, clever money decisions lead to big profits, and without the disciplines of frugality, money gets lost. It’s that simple. Question every single line item on a quote. Do we need it? Can we get it cheaper? This is what it’s about. — Vusi Thembekwayo, founder, Watermark

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Lessons Learnt

Here’s How Bosses From Hell Helped 6 Entrepreneurs Grow

From control freaks to being unco-operative, founders share what they learned from their worst boss.





In business, sometimes the most valuable lessons come from the worst teachers. We asked six entrepreneurs: What’s the greatest thing you learned from a bad boss?

1. Bring everyone in

“A former boss was very hierarchical and discouraged collaboration. Everyone reported directly to her, and interdepartmental meetings were practically prohibited. It meant that only our boss had the full picture – we missed a lot of opportunity for alignment and cooperation. Today at our company, it’s a priority to hold regular team meetings and foster a strong culture of collaboration. It’s crucial that our team members weave collective sharing into the fabric of their day-to-day interactions.” – Melissa Biggs Bradley, founder and CEO, Indagare

2. Be vulnerable

“Don’t be afraid to show your emotions! I worked for a partner at McKinsey who was an incredible person but an awful manager because he kept his feelings bottled up. After a client presentation went awry, our team didn’t know where we stood with our manager. It was tense, awkward and demotivating. Showing vulnerability and letting others know when you’re genuinely upset can help everyone externalise their emotions, build trust and reassure employees that they aren’t alone. It sends a clearer message than stone-faced silence.” – Leo Wang, founder and CEO, Buffy

Related: 5 Factors That Make A Great Boss

3. Lend a hand

“I worked for someone who would never help out the junior staff with their work, even if he was finished with his own – he’d simply pack up and leave early. I now make an extra effort to ask my staff if they can use a hand when my own workload is light. It’s created a culture that feels more like a tight-knit team and less like a hierarchy.” – Adam Tichauer, founder and CEO, Camp No Counselors

4. Move as a group

“When I was a nurse manager, I had a boss with no experience in healthcare. She wanted to change our process for keeping patients from getting blood clots. I knew it was a mistake, but she insisted. Ultimately, the change failed. It taught me the importance of empowering staff to speak up. At Extend Fertility, we collect feedback from customers via surveys. Results are shared with our staff, and together we develop action plans to address negative experiences. It’s the employees who interact with patients on a daily basis who have the best solutions.” – Ilaina Edison, CEO, Extend Fertility

5. Trust your team

“I once worked for a woman who joined our team after I had been working there for a while. Every time I stood up, she’d ask me where I was going, whether it was to the bathroom or to the printer. She had a fear of not having control over my time and work. As a young adult, this behaviour really demoralised me, especially since I had excelled at the job for years prior. My leadership style is less neurotic. Once my team members have my trust, I’m pretty hands-off.” – Denise Lee, founder and CEO, Alala

Related: 5 Leadership Questions Every Boss Should Ask

6. Respect others’ time

“Early in my career, I had a project manager who’d wait until the very last minute to review work, then convey lots of new information and requests. This happened at the end of the day or, worse, after hours, when I was home. It was demoralising, inefficient and disrespectful. In my career, I’m conscious about reviewing work in a timely and complete way so my team can successfully incorporate my feedback without generating a last-minute crisis – or lingering resentment.” – Kirsten R. Murray, principal architect and owner, Olson Kundig 

This article was originally posted here on

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Lessons Learnt

11 Things Very Successful People Do That 99% Of People Don’t

Consistency is a big part of succeeding. The top 1% of performers in the world know this is the secret to their success.

John Rampton



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Becoming wealthy and leaving an impact on the world is not an easy feat. If it were, everyone would go around doing it. At that point, it would not be much of an accomplishment at all.

Rather, being extremely successful requires an extreme amount of work. Especially when there is nobody looking. The best people have developed habits that help them reach their goals. These routines are not necessarily challenging to form, but they take consistent effort over extended periods of time. Creating these tendencies in your own life will propel your success.

Here are 11 things, that 99% of people (myself included) do not do, but really should.

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