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Lessons Learnt

How Barry Hilton Went from Electrician to Successful Comedian

Comedian, entrepreneur and creator of, the ‘My Cousin’ and ‘Nou Gaan Ons Braai’ product ranges, Barry Hilton has won multiple international and local awards and believes the road to success is continually under construction.

Nadine Todd




I was destined to become an electrician

My father was a tradesman, and completely rejected my dreams of becoming an actor. It was my earliest introduction to the boxes we create for ourselves. If you allow yourself to be contained you’ll never follow your dreams and achieve the life you can have.

Related: This Million Rand Entrepreneur Won’t Be Stopped from Achieving Success

At 23, my wife’s father, who was also an electrician, said to me: ‘Don’t worry Baz, you’re only 23, you’ll be a great electrician by the time you’re 65.’

For him, this was a compliment, and working 42 years to excel in that field was worth striving for. But the idea horrified me. I wanted to do comedy. And so I started trying to make my jokes and way of looking and acting outside of my box work for me.

For two years I struggled

No one booked me. I was a second-rate comedian. And so I quit my job, and decided to focus full-time on a comedy career. I struggled like mad, I hustled, I borrowed money, anything to make ends meet, and still it wasn’t coming right. And so I really did think out the box – I approached a club and pretended I was British.

I was great with accents and all the doors that were closed to me as a South African now opened up

I was British, so I must be funny. It’s just another example of the boxes we all create for ourselves. I ended up building an early career as a British comedian who was really, really great at a South African accent.

During those early years I learnt that the road to success is continually under construction. You need to work at it. Because I’ve got ADD, I’m terrible at remembering names, which is why I first started calling people ‘my cousin’. Know yourself, and make it work for you.

I believe that success is what you want it to be

I feel successful because people want to see me perform. I was contacted by a woman whose husband was on his deathbed, it was Christmas, and all he wanted was to meet me. That is the most humbling experience, and has nothing to do with how much money you have in the bank, or what you drive, and everything to do with how you touch people.

I’ve had a lot of side businesses over the years to ensure my children will be taken care of should anything happen to me. One of those side businesses was a DVD store. I noticed that one of my customers had a very sickly looking son.When I asked her what was wrong, she said he had cancer. I immediately told her she could take as many DVDs as she wanted, for as long as she wanted. Four years later that same child walked into my store and said ‘Thanks Uncle Baz.’ I didn’t do much, but every little bit counts. I think that’s something we should all always remember, because it keeps us humble and human.

My ‘Nou Gaan Ons Braai’ range is a product of this same entrepreneurial spirit that has shaped my life. I want to create something that will last long after I leave the stage.

Once I printed the first range of T-shirts, I knocked on so many doors

No retailers would take them, particularly because I couldn’t produce to the scale they wanted. So we launched a website with Shopify instead.

That just keeps growing, and we add products, like the ‘My Cousin’ range, apps and plug-ins as we find them. Today I’m in talks with a major retailer to get the brand out there, but we first had to do it ourselves.

Related: 6 Surefire Ways to Realise Goals

Always have faith in yourself

Pick yourself up after each failure, because there will be many of them. Just understand what success means to you, and strive for it. And find a good partner – in life and in business. My wife Sandy is my rudder, my business partner, and she’s able to honestly appraise my ideas. There’s nothing more valuable.

Nadine Todd is the Managing Editor of Entrepreneur Magazine, the How-To guide for growing businesses. 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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