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Lessons Learnt

EY’s Azim Omar Says Your Business Needs A Cause To Be Successful

What single characteristic unites South Africa’s most successful entrepreneurs? They have passion and a purpose — and it’s driving their successes to new heights.

Nadine Todd




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  • Player: Azim Omar
  • Position: Africa Growth Markets Leader at EY
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Purpose before profit

This is the critical deciding factor that we have seen amongst the most successful business leaders who have been nominated as finalists in the EY World Entrepreneur Award™ Southern Africa 2016.

Starting with a ‘why’ makes all the difference to success, because you aren’t just chasing profit, but a cause. Passion follows a why, allowing solutions to be found to even the greatest challenges.

You need vision, but keep your feet on the ground

They dream big, but they know that goals aren’t reached unless you make specific decisions to get there. The winner of the EY World Entrepreneur Award™ Southern Africa 2016 was Super Group’s Peter Mountford.

When he was appointed CEO in 2009 the group had made a loss of R1,3 billion and there was talk of a takeover. As part of a turnaround strategy to become sustainable and achieve growth, Peter had to make some tough decisions, starting with disposing of all non-core and loss-making businesses within the group.

Related: RocoMamas Founder Brian Altriche’s On Fabulous Failures And Visualising Success

Within six years Super Group went from a R1,3 billion loss to showing a profit of R230 million, and the business as a whole does a turnover in excess of R25 billion.

The key ingredient to success at the EY awards programme


In 2015 disruption was a key theme. In 2016 passion and purpose have dominated the business stories we’ve heard. This has always been a key ingredient of success, but as business and markets get tougher, it has become increasingly important.

Entrepreneurs with next level vision and growth

Margaret does the impossible. She visits every store once a week, in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town. She also holds artisan and baking classes, and builds up communities from grass roots level. That’s purpose. It inspires us, but it’s also a key indicator of what it takes to be a real success.

Behind every successful business and entrepreneur is tenacity, determination, innovation and the will to make an impact on society. You’ll never find money as a purpose when we evaluate the finalists in our awards programme.

You can’t buy success

That’s not how you’ll make an impact, because it’s a completely self-serving goal. The business leaders who focus on impact, who look out instead of in, and who have a desire to really be the change they want to see — these are the individuals who are building businesses greater than themselves.

Related: How Neil Robinson Is Saving The World 1 Bracelet At A Time

Finalists displayed the perfect mindset

One is the son of an entrepreneur who ran a stationery and clothing store in Zimbabwe before its economy collapsed. At the time, many business owners packed up and left. Kirit Naik didn’t.

Surely children still needed an education and stationery? If all the businesses packed up and left, who would support the community? Today he runs the largest stationery manufacturer in Zimbabwe with his two sons, all because he had a purpose.

Finalists who want to make an impact

Jurie Bester of Junit Manufacturing, wanted to use his family’s small clothing manufacturing business to make a real impact in his community.

He secured a contract to manufacture clothing for Woolworths, and with that was able to grow a factory in Utrecht outside Newcastle, KZN to employ around 700 people, and a further 1 700 people in Swaziland.

Jurie’s ultimate aims are to grow local employment and launch his brand internationally. Working in Swaziland is step one in understanding the challenges of cross-border business transactions.

Achieving your ultimate business purpose often requires linking a number of dots that work towards the same goals, but always, purpose remains paramount.

What is your definition of success?

Fatima Vawda, founder of 27four Investment Managers and winner in the 2016 Emerging category has helped 22 black fund managers to grow their own businesses and achieve their dream.

She’s grown from managing R500 million in assets under management and advisory to R55 billion. Her definition of success is to help others grow. This is how she lives her purpose and ticks her boxes.

Related: NicHarry’s R100 Million Business Plan

Ideas are one thing, but purpose is important

Gil Oved and Ran Neu-Ner

Gil Oved and Ran Neu-Ner

You’ll find the idea if you have the purpose. Our Exceptional category winners, Ran Neu-Ner and Gil Oved, co-founders of The Creative Counsel, live their values in every aspect of their business, but they’re also committed to growing SMEs and being one of the biggest first time employers in South Africa.

This purpose means they are constantly innovating, striving to be better and looking for ways to elevate their stakeholders and partners. And success is the result.

Nominations now open

EY World Entrepreneur Award™ Southern Africa 2017 nominations are open in the following categories:

  • Master: Honours individuals whose achievements have made them world-class entrepreneurs. Must be running an organisation with revenues in excess of US$100 million.
  • Exceptional: Recognises individuals who have shown exceptional tenacity and determination in building a successful and established enterprise with revenues in excess of US$10 million.
  • Emerging: Credits those individuals building businesses with high growth potential. The minimum revenue threshold for participants is US$3 million.

Recommend an entrepreneur or submit a nomination at

Submissions close: 31 July 2017

Terms and conditions apply.

Take note

Start with your ‘why’ and you’ll naturally find solutions to the biggest challenges you are facing, both personally and professionally.

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

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Lessons Learnt

How Kevin Hart Went From Being A Comedian To The Guy Who Owns Comedy

He’s one of America’s most famous funnymen, but here’s what most people don’t see: Kevin Hart is often in his office, running a far more ambitious comedy machine.



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Considering how proud Kevin Hart is of the headquarters of his company, you’d think the place would be downright palatial. But it’s not. It’s simple, almost austere. It’s a series of small offices, a reception area and a conference room, and it takes up a floor of a non­descript building in downtown Encino, Calif., on Ventura Boulevard, across from a Korean BBQ joint.

The rooms are sparsely furnished. There are a lot of photos and posters of Hart, of course, but otherwise there is no expensive art, no designer tchotchkes on the credenzas, no tasteful floor coverings that could fund a motion picture production.

No, the thing about this office that fills Kevin Hart with such pride isn’t its appearance. It’s the fact that it’s still his.

Back in 2009, when he took out a two-year lease on just a small portion of the space to house his startup, HartBeat Productions, Hart was worried he wasn’t going to be able to afford it. This was before his comedy specials became some of the highest-grossing of all time. Before his social media profile grew to near record-­setting proportions. Before Kevin Hart Day was declared in Philadelphia. Before he became one of the biggest stars on Earth.

“When I first got here,” he says, “and this is before the money was where it is now, this was the dream. Every day I get to see this and I get to go, ‘Oh my God, how am I going to do it, man? Shit. I done took out the two-year goddamn lease on this place!’ ’

But he loved the “aspirational” view from what is still his personal office, and he had a plan, drawn from a hard-earned epiphany. Historically, comedians and actors, even very successful ones, are simply cogs in a very large machine.

For all the fame, and the money and the glamour, they are essentially powerless against the whims of that machine. They are the product. They do their best, work their hardest, earn what they can and at the end of the day, they’re left with fading fame and whatever money they were able to bank along the way.

Hart saw this state of affairs early in his stand-up comedy career and decided to try something different. Something risky. The idea was this: Create something lasting. Something that will go on when you’re done. Don’t just show up, do your best and then go away.

Related: 10 Quotes On Following Your Dreams, Having Passion And Showing Hard Work From Tech Guru Michael Dell

Don’t make money mostly for other people. Own what you do. Perfect your craft, of course, but in so doing, create a sustainable, revenue-­generating enterprise that can run profitably long after the world has had enough of seeing your face and hearing your jokes.

In short, the idea Kevin Hart had, as he stood nervously in that office in 2009, was this: Don’t be the cog. Be the machine.

And so he is.

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Lessons Learnt

Can Being Deceptive Help You Build Your Business? It Worked For These 5 Entrepreneurs

We’ve all told little white lies. But what about the big ones? What if telling them would bring your business success?

Jayson Demers



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We all commit little acts of deception, like saying we got stuck in traffic when we were really late to the meeting because we wanted to watch the last five minutes of a favourite TV show. Little white lies? I’ve told them. You’ve told them.

But what about big lies, the kind truly lacking in integrity – like misrepresenting your sales to a prospective investor?

Obviously, there are often severe consequences to lying. Depending on the context, you could lose the trust of a peer, break a professional relationship or even face legal action. Yet, despite these consequences, lying is more common in the entrepreneurial world than you might think.

Just take as an example these five entrepreneurs, who might not be as well known or successful as they are if it weren’t for some clever acts of deception:

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Lessons Learnt

Three Habits That Underpin Entrepreneurial Success

Here are three powerful habits that will help you stay focused, define your entrepreneurial attitude and take your business from zero to hero.

Nicholas Bell




Successful people and businesses don’t all share the same traits and commitments. Yes they all have managed to break barriers and achieve impressive goals. They’re the leaders, the movers, the shakers and the industry creators. However, not all entrepreneurs are created equal and their recipes for success can differ wildly.

Some swear by a three-hour run every morning followed by a nice salad and the bustle of busy work life. Others need an incredibly early start so they can spend time with their emails and focus on their business. Every entrepreneur has their  own secret tricks that keep them on the straight and successful narrow, but most share a few simple habits that are guaranteed to make a difference.

Here are three habits that will help you become better at business and at leading others towards long-term success:

1. Always be ready to change your assumptions

Many people are unable to change the assumptions they have about their business and its future as it evolves. No business model should be locked in cement and rigidly upheld, it will need to adapt and adjust as it grows and customer needs change. As an entrepreneur you need to understand this concept and be prepared to evolve and change in new directions and markets.

Related: Business Plan Format Guide

This also ties into failure. Do you understand why you failed at something? Are you aware that perhaps your business model is changing? Can you learn from these experiences? Can you adjust your business model, get better research, refine your ideas? If you are ready to take positive value out of these moments and experiences, then you are an agile and inspired entrepreneur.

2. There’s no off switch

Passion and commitment are absolutely key to the success of your business and your own personal growth. You can’t switch off or walk away or just take a sick day because you feel like it, not if you want to stand as an example to your employees or if you want to build a brilliant business.

It may sound trite and tired, but a work ethic is the single most important habit to have as an entrepreneur. You need to always hold yourself to the highest standards, commit to ethical practice and work harder than anyone else.

3. Take it personally

This doesn’t mean gentle sobs in your office when Susan from accounts ridicules your maths skills. If you take your business personally, then you are wrapping the skills learned in points 1 and 2 above into one cohesive whole – you are embedding your passion into every crevice of your company. Care about what you do, be passionate about what it stands for, and be prepared to fight for its life. The route from zero to billion-dollar business isn’t easy. If it was, everyone would be doing it.

Remember, the idea is only 1%. Sweat, work, commitment and focus are the other 99% of the success equation.

Related: 22 Defining Entrepreneur Characteristics

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