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Lessons Learnt

For Vusi Thembekwayo Obsession Is Crucial To Success

Entrepreneur and business speaker Vusi Thembekwayo is probably best known as a dragon on the local version of Dragons’ Den, but his sphere of influence extends well beyond that. He has become a sought-after global speaker who inspires thousands of people every year with his keen insights.

GG van Rooyen



Too many young entrepreneurs are over-eager

They stumble on an idea and try to get going as quickly as possible. They start with A and jump directly to Z, which harms their chances of success. A great idea does not guarantee success. You need to develop that idea carefully and systematically.

Passion is not enough if you want to be successful

Just about everyone has passion — passion is standard. You can bet that all your competitors are just as passionate as you are. What does this mean? It means that passion has become boring.

It’s no longer a meaningful differentiator. If you want to be successful, you need to be utterly obsessed. You need to reply to customer queries after 5pm on a Friday.

You need to cringe when someone tweets about a bad customer experience. You must always be switched on — you need to be present and relevant at all times.

Related: How Vusi Thembekwayo Keeps His Business Growing

Being a business person is not the same thing as being an entrepreneur

Firstly, an entrepreneur has a higher tolerance for risk. A business person typically wants decent returns at moderate risk. An entrepreneur plays for high stakes — big risk and big reward.

Secondly, a business person obviously wants to grow a business, but they also want to remain comfortable and secure. An entrepreneur wants to scale — he or she wants stratospheric growth, which again comes down to high risk and high reward.


Emotional intelligence is incredibly important if you want to be a successful entrepreneur

You need to be able to take a very honest and critical look at yourself and acknowledge what your shortcomings are. This is the only way you can grow and self-correct. At the same time, though, you can’t be negative or pessimistic.

You need a certain optimism and a strong drive to succeed. People will tell you that what you’re trying to do is impossible. You need the grit to keep going in the face of that.

My dad was a huge inspiration to me

He was a guy who saw an opportunity and took it. He was an electronics salesman who regularly travelled to Limpopo.

When he realised that the vegetables there were much larger and looked healthier than the ones on offer in Johannesburg, he started bringing back as much as he could and selling it locally.

Everything was usually gone within 20 minutes of him getting back. It was a great lesson in being able to spot an opportunity.

Related: Vusi Thembekwayo on The Art of Pursuing Crazy Ideas And Turning Them Into Profit Machines

Having a business plan doesn’t make you an entrepreneur

Being able to create an impressive business plan is obviously a useful skill, but you’re not an entrepreneur until you actually take the plunge. You need to start.

You need to have clients who are paying you money in exchange for a service or product you’re providing. It’s not (just) about the website, company name and logo. You need to be doing business.

To me, being an entrepreneur means disrupting

You’re not a true entrepreneur unless you’re disrupting an industry and changing things in a fundamental way. Some people see a great opportunity, and they take it.

There’s nothing wrong with that — they’re adding value — but that makes you more of an opportunist or survivalist.

Entrepreneurs think big and change the status quo. 

A great business plan needs to answer three things

It needs to explain who your customers are, why they need what you’re selling, and why they need to buy that from you. This sounds simple, but it’s not. It requires a lot of research and planning.

It also requires that you speak to funders, suppliers, prospective customers and even competitors. It’s an invaluable process, since it will provide you with a realistic view of your prospects.

Related: Vusi Thembekwayo On How To Be A Jugger-niche

Great entrepreneurs often come in pairs

There are very few people out there who possess all the traits and skills necessary to be a successful entrepreneur. For this reason, it helps to be in partnership with someone who can balance you out and provide the skills that you lack.

GG van Rooyen is the deputy editor for Entrepreneur Magazine South Africa. Follow him on Twitter.

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Lessons Learnt

#Wealthiest List: 8 Self-Made Millionaires On How They Built Their Wealth

These inspirational self-made millionaires built businesses with nothing less than hard work and sheer determination.

Catherine Bristow



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1. Nick D’Aloisio Wrote a Million Dollar App At Age 15


At the age of 15, Nick D’Aloisio wrote an app while sitting in his parent’s bedroom in the UK. At the age of 17, D’Aloisio sold his app Summly – a mobile news summarisation app to Yahoo for a staggering USD 30 million.

As one of the youngest millionaires, D’Aloisio is also the world’s youngest entrepreneur to be backed by venture capitalists – having secured seed funding from Sir Li Ka-Shing, Hong Kong’s billionaire, as well as raising USD 1.23 million from celebrity investors, including Yoko Ono and Ashton Kutcher.

“The number one thing I did that I think was wise was to get, through some of my advisers, was a Chairman; basically someone who was a very experienced business person, an industry veteran — Bart Swanson, who had been at Amazon and then Badoo. Then, myself and Bart really started finding people and growing the team.”

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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


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




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:


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.


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.


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.


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.


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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