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David Perel Of Obox On Living Life In The Fast Lane

For David Perel of Obox blancing passions and running a business isn’t easy, but that’s what entrepreneurship is all about — getting the best of all worlds.

Nicholas Haralambous

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Vital Stats

  • Player: David Perel
  • Company: Obox Themes
  • What they do: Brothers David and Marc Perel founded Obox after school in 2005. The business specialises in products built for WordPress. Obox products are used by over 100 000 people worldwide.
  • Established: 2005
  • Visit: oboxthemes.com

David Perel is one of my closest friends and someone I admire immensely, but a lot of the time I think he’s out of his mind. His average month doesn’t look like yours or mine. His measure of normal stretches way beyond what most of us manage to achieve or deal with in a decade, never mind a single month.

From week to week, David could be on a plane to Italy to race Lamborghinis or in Cape Town working on the business that he and his brother, Marc, have built over the past eight years. He could be overtaking a Ferrari at Monza and clipping the cars’ bumpers together, and then out with his girlfriend for a drink back in Cape Town the next night. It sounds glamorous but trust me, it rarely is.

Related: 6 Epic Quotes From Absa Cape Epic Founder Kevin Vermaak

Renaissance Man

Launching a single career is a challenge all on its own and for most people it’s a life-long endeavour. Yet there are some people who find themselves working on two dreams simultaneously. Thomas Edison created incredible inventions and built General Electric. There are parents who raise kids and still have it in them to build a business and play a round of golf over the weekend. Elon Musk has five children, is married and is the CEO of two billion-dollar businesses. Yes, he’s an exceptional case, but nevertheless, he exists.

David is striving to be one of these people. Hooked into a life of racing cars by his father, the bug bit David early on and hasn’t left him. Although he’s had periods in his life where racing had to take a back seat, he never really let the dream of racing professionally fade. Recently, his dream was revived when he was offered the chance to race Lamborghinis in Italy.

Being a professional racing driver is a strange career choice as far as careers go. Not because it’s dangerous (it is) or because it’s competitive (it is), but because it requires such intense investment in terms of time, physical commitment and capital. Each race can cost a couple of hundred thousand rand and a season can cost in the millions. That’s money that the driver needs to find to commit to the race. David trains constantly, eats with intent and not for enjoyment. It’s brutal all round.

Sacrifice

Large pursuits don’t come without sacrifice though. David has had his fill of sacrifices. Early in 2015 he crashed one of the cars he was racing, which set him back a few hundred thousand rand. That was just days after he had been recruited to race.

“Coping is not easy, you need to be able to switch focus very quickly and that focus needs to be intense. With more practice you get better at it. I feel like it was easier when I was younger. With racing you can experience extreme highs and extreme lows in a very short amount of time. It’s made me tougher when it comes to business, as things happen much slower in that world,” David told me when I asked how he manages the crazy entrepreneurial ups and downs.

It is quite something to watch from a distance. The intensity that David experiences over a racing weekend is immense. In his most recent trip he had massive break failure and his car spun off the track and caught fire. He was unharmed but I can’t imagine experiencing that and then hopping on a plane back to my desk job and dinner with my friends.

Balance is overrated

racing-car

If you’re looking for balance David is probably not the right person to help you figure out how to find it. Doing anything with vicious determination requires focus and when I asked David about his views on balance his response was straight forward, “You don’t need to worry about balance if you’re doing what you love.”

He followed that up by saying that “the only time you have to worry about balance is when you’re doing something you don’t enjoy. Then you need to balance that with something you do.”

Related: Podcast Series: How Thula Sindi Designed His Way to Success

Although loving what you do isn’t always enough. There are periods when he doesn’t see his friends because he’s travelling or training. He’s missed important events like anniversaries or birthdays because of a race, but that’s part of the fight and part of the grit required.

The people who surround David also have to make peace with his decisions, or move on. It’s difficult to understand the drive of a top athlete like David. They put everything at risk; families, friends, financial stability and any level of comfort so that they can have 20 minutes every two weeks in the seat of a car that goes 280km/h and might end up crashing into a wall.

As David put it, it’s not about balance if you love what you do; it’s about understanding what’s important to you and what you’re willing to give up to achieve greatness or die trying.

Nicholas Haralambous is the founder of the style company, Nicharry.com. He is an entrepreneur, speaker and writer who likes to tell the honest, brutal truth at every possible opportunity.

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Lessons Learnt

7 Cannabis Industry Millionaires Making It Big In The Marijuana Business

These entrepreneurs have capitalised on a new market set to continue to grow rapidly as more countries legalise marijuana across the world.

Catherine Bristow

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1. Brendan Kennedy

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Brendan Kennedy worked on job sites as a carpenter to pay his way through university, with his eyes set firmly on becoming an architect, until the allure of Silicon Valley changed the course of his direction. While working at technology start-ups Kennedy began thinking about the possibilities that medical marijuana provided.

“I was really sceptical of medical cannabis,” he says. “It took a year of having conversations with patients and physicians and hearing the same story, repackaged but essentially the same, over and over and over again, where my scepticism eroded and I became a believer.”

In 2013, Kennedy and his partners applied for a licence from Health Canada and launched Lafitte Ventures, which was later renamed Tilray. Today, the company is a global leader in medical cannabis research, cultivation, processing and distribution.

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Lessons Learnt

Scaleup Learnings From Our Top Clients – What The Most Successful Entrepreneurs Do Right

So, how do our successful clients move through these constraints to scaling up? We see four key drivers of success, and they are: people, strategy, flawless execution and finance.

Louw Barnardt

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You’re out of your start-up boots, staff is increasing, your client base is growing, revenue is up and you’ve proven your case to the market. Now it’s time to scale up. The challenges of this vital growth phase are different and it’s a time that demands different mindsets and different actions. In a world littered with small business failures, it helps to be well-prepared for scaling up using a proven methodology. At Outsourced CFO, we get an inside look at the success factors of our clients who are mastering the transition.

On the one hand, scaling up is a really exciting phase; this is what moves you into real job creation and making an impactful contribution to economic growth. On the other hand, it is really hard to scale up successfully. We see three major constraints that limit companies’ transition from start-up to scale-up:

Leadership

The business has to have the leadership that can take it to the next level. When you start scaling up, especially rapidly, the founders can no longer do everything themselves. The team must grow and include new leadership talent that can take charge and execute so that the founders are working on the business instead of in the business.

Infrastructure

The processes, procedures, networks, systems and workflows of the business all need to be scalable. This is imperative when it comes to your infrastructure for the financial management of your business. You’re only ready for growth when your infrastructure can seamlessly keep pace.

Market access

Scaling up demands more innovative marketing and storytelling so that you can more easily connect and engage with the new employees, clients, network partners, investors and mentors that need to come along with you on your scale-up journey.

Businesses that build a market conversation and a compelling brand narrative during their start-up phase are better positioned to have this kind of market access when they need to scale up.

People

It is critical to have the right people on your team. Our successful entrepreneurs have what it takes to attract, inspire and retain top talent. A strong team of smart, ambitious and purpose-driven people who love the company and want to see it succeed contribute greatly to a world class company culture. They are adept at communicating a compelling vision and establishing core values that people can take on. These entrepreneurs are tuned into the aspirations of their people and focus on developing leaders in their teams who can in turn develop more leaders.

Strategy

It is planning that ensures that the right things are happening at the right times. At successful scale-ups strategies and action plans are devised to ensure that the most important thing always remains the most important thing.

Strategy includes input from all team members and setting of good priorities for the short, medium and long term. Goals are clear and everyone always knows what they are working towards. The needle is continuously moved because 90-day action plans are implemented each quarter to achieve targets and goals that are over and above people doing their daily jobs.

Flawless execution

Top entrepreneurs are not just focused on what operations need to achieve, but how the business operates. They have the right procedures, processes and tools in place so that everyone can deliver along the line on the company’s brand promise. Frequent, quick successive meetings ensure the rapid flow of effective communication. Problems are solved without drama. There is no chaos in the office environment. Everyone is empowered to execute flawlessly to an array of consistently happy clients.

Finance

Everyone knows that growth burns cash. A rapidly scaling business faces the challenge of needing a scalable financial infrastructure to keep the company healthy. Our successful entrepreneurs pay close attention to finance as the heartbeat of the business, ensuring that everything else functions. They look at the tech they are using for financial management and for the ways that their financial systems can be automated so that they can be brought rapidly to scale. The capital to grow is another vital finance issue.

The best way to finance a business is through paying clients on the shortest possible cash flow cycle. However, when you are scaling up and making heavier investments in the resources you need for growth, it is likely that you will need a workable plan for raising capital. Our scale-up clients know the value of accessing innovative financial management that provides high level services to drive their business growth.

Navigating the scale-up journey of a growing private company is one of the hardest but most rewarding of careers to pursue. Having people in your corner who have been through this journey before helps take a lot of pain out of the process. No growth journey looks the same, but there are tried and tested methods that will – if applied diligently – lead to definite success. Happy scaling!

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Lessons Learnt

That Time Jeff Bezos Was The Stupidest Person In The Room

Everyone can benefit from simple advice, no matter who they are.

Gene Marks

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When you think of Jeff Bezos, a lot of things probably come to your mind.

You likely think of Amazon.com, a company he founded more than twenty years ago, that’s completely disrupted retail and online commerce as we know it. You probably also think of his entrepreneurial genius. Or the immense wealth that he’s built for himself and others. You may also think of drones, Alexa and same-day delivery. Bezos is a visionary, an entrepreneur, a cutthroat competitor and a game changer. He’s unquestionably a very, very smart man. But sometimes, he can be…well…stupid, too.

Like that time back in 1995.

That was when Amazon was just a startup operating from a 2,000 square foot basement in Seattle. During that period, Bezos and most of the handful of employees working for him had other day jobs. They gathered in the office after hours to print and pack up the orders that their fast-growing bookselling site was receiving each day from around the world. It was tough, grueling work.

The company at the time, according to a speech Bezos gave, had no real organisation or distribution. Worse yet, the process of filling orders was physically demanding.

“We were packing on our hands and knees on a hard concrete floor,” Bezos recalled. “I said to the person next to me ‘this packing is killing me! My back hurts, it’s killing my knees’ and the person said ‘yeah, I know what you mean.'”

Related: Jeff Bezos: 9 Remarkable Choices That Shaped The Richest Man In The World

Bezos, our hero, the entrepreneurial genius, the CEO of a now 600,000-employee company that’s worth around a trillion dollars and one of the richest men in the world today then came up with what he thought was a brilliant idea. “You know what we need,” he said to the employee as they packed boxes together. “What we need is…kneepads!”

The employee (Nicholas Lovejoy, who worked at Amazon for three years before founding his own philanthropic organisation financed by the millions he made from the company’s stock) looked at Bezos like he was — in Bezos’ words — the “stupidest guy in the room.”

“What we need, Jeff,” Lovejoy said, “are a few packing tables.” Duh.

So the next day Bezos – after acknowledging Lovejoy’s brilliance – bought a few inexpensive packing tables. The result? An almost immediate doubling in productivity. In his speech, Bezos said that the story is just one of many examples how Amazon built its customer-centered service culture from the company’s very early days. Perhaps that’s true. Then again, it could mean something else.

It could mean that sometimes, just sometimes, those successful, smart, wealthy and powerful people may not be as brilliant as you may think. Nor do they always have the right answers. Sometimes, just sometimes, they may actually be the stupidest guy in the room. So keep that in mind the next time you’re doing business with an intimidating customer, supplier or partner who appears to know it all. You might be the one with the brilliant idea.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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