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Lessons Learnt

Gibs: Nick Binedell

Nick Binedell is the founding director of the Gordon Institute of Business Science and the Sasol Chair of Strategic Management. Monique Verduyn finds out more about his enthusiasm for finding new ways to make ideas happen.

Monique Verduyn

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At Barlow Rand, you worked in marketing and general management. What was more fulfilling for you and why?
I learnt much from both experiences, but I have always enjoyed marketing as a profession. I am deeply interested in what markets are doing, what people need, how they perceive what they need, and how businesses meet those needs.

How important is business education today?
Most of what we learn, we learn by doing. Business education is an acceleration of that process. It can have a great impact on your understanding of areas like finance, marketing and operations. But you must be sure of what you are looking for. A three- to five-year career plan which maps out where you want to be, will help you decide what to study.

What is most rewarding for you about your work at GIBS?
I have the benefit of being in two worlds at the same time – business and academia. In addition to managing the school itself, I enjoy lecturing. It forces me to clarify what I really think, and to look harder at what I see and how I interpret it. Added to that, I truly enjoy engaging with smart people every day.

What is the most important business lesson you have learnt?
That there are many different ways to be successful, that there is no single solution to any problem, and that a passion for execution is what makes things happen.

What is your view of entrepreneurship in SA today?
Entrepreneurship is the only way we are going to fix poverty and unemployment in this country. South Africa has a long history of great entrepreneurs like Donald Gordon, Anton Rupert and Ernest Oppenheimer. Now, we are witnessing a new generation of business leaders coming to the fore and it’s exciting to see that happening.

What are the key components of a strategy for a new business?

Cash, because it’s king for every entrepreneur; customers, because that’s what you live and breathe when you run a business; and change management, because in our fast-paced business world, you must be acutely driven every day by what is happening around you.

What advice do you have for entrepreneurs in the current economy?
Re-examine every single thing that happens in your business, ask what value that creates, and then find out how you can do it just as well or better at a lower cost. The challenges of a tough economy are going to leave many companies fumbling. New needs and opportunities will emerge as people grapple with budgets, and where and how to spend their money. Everyone will be seeking ways to cut costs.


For many companies, memory is stronger than vision; they will keep on doing what they have always done, which means that value propositions will pop up for someone else to take advantage of. If you can make it in the downturn, you will be in pole position when the economy turns.

Monique Verduyn is a freelance writer. She has more than 12 years’ experience in writing for the corporate, SME, IT and entertainment sectors, and has interviewed many of South Africa’s most prominent business leaders and thinkers. 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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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

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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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