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.
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.
Critical Lessons Dan Newman Took From CEOwise Interviews And Applied In His Own Business
When I reached the point in my business where I realised I needed to make a change if I wanted to achieve real scale, I turned to other successful entrepreneurs. What I learnt has changed my business, and helped me launch new companies with stronger foundations.
After running my agency, Druff Interactive for over 15 years, I came to the stark realisation that I should have been in a different position with my business. It should have been bigger, more successful. Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t a bad business — quite the opposite. But it could have been more.
Determined to become a better entrepreneur, I decided to start learning from the best. I figured the best way to access the knowledge, experience and lessons I was looking for was by interviewing successful entrepreneurs with the goal of implementing what I learnt in my own business. The result is CEOwise, a collection of interviews and videos that not only document my journey of learning, but lessons I can share with fellow entrepreneurs as well.
Living up to potential
I began my entrepreneurial journey in 2001 when I launched my web and design agency, Druff Interactive. From the very beginning I thought my business would grow organically. I believed my turnover would increase each year, as would my profits, and that I would keep moving forward, year on year, until I reached 40 and could retire comfortably. In this rosy future, I’d never have financial stress again. I couldn’t have been more off the mark.
Being an entrepreneur is like being a new parent. In the beginning, it’s all excitement and butterflies. But then you get home from the hospital and realise you’re living with much more responsibility on less sleep. Such is a new business, and the reality is that you just have to deal with it and make it work.
In our first eight years, Druff grew from just me working from a spare room in our townhouse to a staff complement of 11 by 2010. I was growing organically (as planned), but in a lot of ways, that was actually a risk, at least when it came to growth. Entrepreneurs who do experience organic growth often become complacent. Although Druff was a successful business, I wasn’t pushing it as much as I should have and we began to stagnate.
The very first entrepreneur I interviewed for CEOwise, Rich Mullholland, said that “Success is only important when measured on potential, and the company has not grown according to potential at all, therefore it’s a failure.” He was speaking about his own company, Missing Link, but the lesson really struck a chord with me. I too believed that Druff hadn’t lived up to its potential.
It was one of my biggest issues. When times were great I should have been innovating and pushing my business into different areas. Allon Raiz, founder of Raizcorp, says that he’s seen too many entrepreneurs take their foot off the pedal, become complacent and their success becomes the seed of their failure.
Focused on growth
These were lessons I only started articulating after I began CEOwise, but the truth of them was already becoming apparent to me before I launched the series. Between 2010 and 2016 we worked with great clients and built an awesome portfolio of work. I was proud of what we’d achieved. And yet I knew that after 15 years the business should have been in a different position.
In hindsight, another mistake I made was not having a proper sales force to bring in the clients. We relied mainly on word-of-mouth referrals and Google Adwords to bring in sales and grow organically. Adwords was great in the beginning and the cost per click (CPC) was cheap, but as more companies got on board, CPC became more costly and less effective. And yet I didn’t adjust my strategy. Allon also says that 10% of your team should be dedicated to sales full time. Mine was not.
By December 2016 I reached the decision to start making major changes in my business. I knew I needed to learn from the best of the best, which meant tapping into South Africa’s most successful entrepreneurs. I also realised that if I was in this position, perhaps many other entrepreneurs were too. CEOwise documents my journey of learning, but it also allows me to share it. My vision is to help more people become CEO ‘wise’, so they can become wiser CEOs.
My idea was never to have a boring sit-down, boardroom interview. When I started, I wanted each interview to be centred around an activity. I contacted my first entrepreneur, Rich Mullholland, whom I’d known for many years, and asked him if he’d go SCAD free falling with me, while doing an interview on all the insights on entrepreneurship he’s learnt over the years. He was in! We ended up suspended inside one of the Soweto towers, dropping 50 metres into a net, discussing entrepreneurship. It was a complete win. At the time, Rich was just about to launch his own vlog called ‘The Get Rich Quick Show’, which I still follow to this day (and suggest you do too).
Since launching CEOwise in March 2017, I have interviewed over 30 entrepreneurs, each with their own story and advice. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt is that there are many ways to solve a problem. This led to the creation of a segment called ‘CEOwise Advice’, in which I ask each entrepreneur to answer the same question. The variety of answers to the same question is fascinating, and proves that there are many ways to approach a situation. I’m now in the process of creating CEOwise Mentors, which asks five entrepreneurs the same question.
Over the past two years I’ve learnt even more than I hoped for. I’ve been inspired to make changes in Druff, and I’ve also started new businesses that I’ve brought my new-found knowledge into, with the goal to do things correctly from the beginning.
I’ve also fallen in love with learning, which is why I’ve read more books in the past year than I have in my entire life. I’m on a mission to become a raging success. I know I’m going to make mistakes along the way. That’s how we learn. But I’m also a better entrepreneur since I started this journey.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt is not to be scared of competition, but to embrace competitors instead. When I met Gary Leicher, founder of Smudge, at a Suits & Sneakers networking event, I decided to put this particular lesson into action. Smudge had been a competitor of ours in the web design and development space for many years. Gary said he’d wanted to meet me for a while and I suggested we get together for a coffee the following week. We sat down for lunch and four hours later, after discussing the industry and processes we used, we swopped notes and left wiser than when we arrived. Don’t be scared of competition, embrace it. There is always something to learn from your fellow entrepreneurs. You just have to be open to the lessons.
Entrepreneur Erik Kruger On The Importance Of Clarity And Embracing Failure
Erik Kruger has walked his own personal development journey, and now he’s helping other entrepreneurs find their ‘best’.
- Player: Erik Kruger
- Company: Mental Performance Lab
- Visit: mentalperformancelab.com
- Join the daily email: erikkruger.com/daily
How does a physiotherapist who dreamed of touring the world with sports teams become a mental performance coach for high-impact entrepreneurs? Ask Erik Kruger and the term he’ll use is ‘accretion’, the process of growing and adding layers through experiences.
The point is key: No journey is ever a straight line from point A to point B. Most of us spend years figuring out what we want to do through a process of elimination. It’s by doing that we figure out what we like and don’t like; what ignites passion in us, and what we’re good at.
Erik’s journey began in physiotherapy. He graduated in 2007 and started his own private practice with a friend in 2009. He was quickly realising that his dream wasn’t aligning with reality though. “My goal was to be the physio who toured with the springboks. Instead, I was locuming at hospitals and travelling two hours a day to reach my private practice offices,” says Erik. “I couldn’t see my future in it.”
It’s an interesting lesson: Until you do something, you won’t always know if it aligns with your expectations and goals. But no experience is ever a waste. “Physiotherapy ended up allowing me to have a side hustle. I could pay the bills while I figured out my entrepreneurial journey, because I had no idea what I wanted to do when I started. I registered 45 domain names before I settled on Better Man, and Better Man led me to the Mental Performance Lab and my coaching business.”
Launches and lessons
While he was still in private practice, Erik met fellow entrepreneur and Shark Tank investor, Marnus Broodryk. “Marnus was still in his own start-up phase. We were at FTV and he was handing out business cards for his accounting business, The Beancounter, to everyone he met. I took one, but only ended up contacting him months later because I needed to set up a website, and I thought he’d be able to give me some guidance.”
The website was for the practice, and Marnus helped Erik via skype to set up his first WordPress site. In Erik’s own words, it was a terrible website, but the bug bit. From that moment onwards, Erik’s newfound love affair with the digital space began.
“I liked the idea that you could just create something and people would come,” he says. “I found out very quickly that’s not how it works at all, but by then I was playing around with as many website ideas as I could think of.”
Marnus and Erik played around with some ideas, and settled on directory sites. “The idea was that people would pay a monthly retainer to be on the website and that’s all you’d need to create annuity income. You also wouldn’t need advertising revenue, which requires ongoing sales.”
Because of his own area of expertise, Erik thought a directory for physiotherapists would work well — one of the regulating bodies disagreed. They viewed the monthly retainer as a kickback, which is illegal in the medical profession.
So, Erik moved on to his next idea. “I was doing everything over eLance and Odesk, from web development to graphic design. I started thinking that we needed a local freelance community that entrepreneurs could tap into. My brother agreed to invest in the idea and we hired developers from India to build the site. I directed them to a few sites I liked and briefed them on what we wanted.”
Six months and R70 000 later, Erik received a cease and desist call from one of the big players in the freelance space. “He was furious. It turned out that the developers we had hired had copied his website, section for section, header for header. I had been focused on client acquisition, not the development of the site — I hadn’t even checked what they were doing. I’d only focused on the feedback from beta testing. Faced with being sued for infringement, we took the site down immediately. I was trying different things and failing miserably, but I was also okay with that.”
Finding a niche
Erik didn’t let his failures deter him. “I was trying to figure out how to make money from digital assets. I registered 45 domain names, and for every one of them I built a WordPress site and developed a marketing strategy. I’d go to work, get home and just do digital for the rest of the day.”
To upskill himself, Erik also took courses on digital marketing, Facebook, Google marketing, WordPress and DNS set-ups. “I created a fitness website for brides-to-be, a mentor site for models and websites for girlfriends to help them run their businesses. Each website would be up and running for a few weeks, and then I’d lose interest, close it and move on.”
And this is where the foundation of Erik’s journey really begins. The fact that he hadn’t yet found what he was looking for was a lesson in itself. “Clarity is a process; I can see it with my clients all the time,” he says. “I didn’t know it then, but I can see it now. Clarity only really comes from wanting to find clarity, trying to find clarity. We often talk about evolution in entrepreneurial circles, but the reality is that evolution can only happen when something already exists, which means you have to be out there trying new things to find your purpose, or big idea.
“When I started coaching, what I was doing with my clients back then versus now is vastly different. No matter how much I read about coaching, thought about what coaching should be like, or listened to different coaches and how they do it, I would never have reached the point I’m at now, if I hadn’t been doing it myself. That’s how we learn and evolve.”
For Erik, the 45 websites he created led him to Better Man, and that’s where his journey started to pivot. “Better Man was the idea I stuck with. Up until that point, I’d been looking for things to do and ways to monetise them, but they were all external and not what really came naturally to me. There’s no such thing as a lightning bolt idea that hits you and that’s it. Amazing, masterful ideas are the result of trial and error.
“People think clarity is a switch, illuminating everything. But it’s actually like striking a match, and that match keeps burning, and you strike another and another and another, and slowly the room fills with light. Even then, you have clarity for a moment, and then the matches burn out, and you have to start again.”
In the case of Better Man, Erik was tired of trying to find something that would work, and instead decided to create something for himself. “I’ve always been into self-development and the idea evolved from there. I decided to create a website based on interviews I’d do with successful South Africans — I’d learn from them, and share the interviews online.”
Erik’s first interview was with Maps Maponyane, followed by Tim Noakes. The site wasn’t getting a lot of traction, but Erik was having fun. “It was the first thing I’d done where I didn’t have any real plans to monetise the site. I was just doing something I enjoyed and figuring it out.”
Erik did want to grow a community though, and so he concentrated on Facebook and email marketing to build up a Better Man database.
“I wanted to experiment with different mediums of communication,” he explains. “The two things that really moved the needle were the group, which was 18 000-strong, and the daily emails I started, which quickly reached 16 500 people.”
Through the community he had built up, Erik then found a way to monetise the business through events. “I was sharing content and ideas that struck a chord with me, which meant they were valuable to other people. That’s how I built up a community, and from there I could offer access to that community to brands.”
For 18 months, there were regular Better Man events, all sponsored by top lifestyle brands. The business was doing well, but through the platform and the community, Erik discovered a new direction: Coaching.
“Once I’d built up the community, I played around with a few different ideas, looking for ways to monetise the platform over and above events. We launched a fitness eBook, an apparel line and partnered with brands for events, but the one thing the community kept asking for was coaching. The events worked as marketing platforms — the next morning I’d sign up clients — and even though I hadn’t known that this was where Better Man would lead, I discovered it was a direction I wanted to explore.”
Up until that point, Erik had been trying a lot of different avenues to see what stuck. He also admits he had shiny object syndrome — even with Better Man. “I was too responsive to every question and query. You can’t just jump around and hope you’ll find success; you need focus and direction.”
Interestingly, even coaching didn’t offer that at first. Erik tried group coaching and Mastermind groups before realising he needed to really focus. It meant stopping the events and even pulling back from the community he’d built, although his daily emails continue, and all group members are the first to hear about workshops and seminars.
“Finding my path required me to sit down and take a long look at what was — and wasn’t — working for me personally. You can try and figure out what people want, and that’s important, but you also need to understand your personal drivers, or you’ll never stick with something long enough to make it a success.
“I was trying out mentor calls through the Better Man community, and I realised that they weren’t working for me. They felt superficial; like I wasn’t driving results. When I spoke to someone, I’d get off the call and I wouldn’t feel good. I’d feel like I’d just spent time telling someone what to do, but where were the results?”
Once Erik made the decision to be a coach though, his focus shifted to being the best coach in South Africa. It was that decision and direction that made all the difference. “I went out and bought every book I could find on coaching. Then I wrote all the models that spoke to me up on white boards and started creating my own coaching framework.”
From there, Erik, signed up for his Master’s Degree in Management, with a focus on business and executive coaching. By 2017 he was coaching full time.
“I had to build up my confidence, which is evident in my early pricing models, but my masters has been the biggest game-changer for me. It shifted a few fundamental things for me, from my coaching approach to developing better listening skills. Ultimately though, internal drive is the biggest differentiator. I want to be the best coach I can be, and that’s making all the difference.”
Because of that drive, Erik has also found his niche. “I want to have a big impact on the world, which means I need to help people who in turn impact the lives of others. CEOs and entrepreneurs are my focus area. My influence and impact are amplified when I’m coaching a CEO of 500 people.”
Since finding his niche, Erik has worked with a number of high-calibre clients, including some of South Africa’s top executives and entrepreneurs.
Action, not words
Better Man gave Erik the platform he needed to launch his coaching business. Although the journey has been organic, once he made the decision about what he wanted to focus on, each step forward has been far more intentional. “I believe in visualisation and intention. Intention is determining where you want to go and then breaking that down into goals. My intention is to become the most sought-after speaker and coach in South Africa. Everything I do works towards that goal.”
In line with this goal are Erik’s own experiences. “Everything we do and think is the culmination of our experiences. In my case, it’s personal experiences as well as what I learn from my clients. Coaching is a gift for me. I can spend time with the CEO of a multi-national and come up with solutions and insights that I can then share with the owner of a 30-man business. With an outsider’s perspective you can start seeing patterns. Coaching is practical, and it draws on the human experience, even in a business context.
“It’s easy to believe that you’re too busy for a morning routine for example. When I see someone who does have the time and still isn’t following a routine, I ask why. What is the deeper value or belief that they aren’t tapping into or living? What experiences of highly busy people who still find the time can I draw from and share? Every experience that is shared broadens our collective exposure.”
Personally, Erik follows many of these practices himself. “I learn about them and implement them. It makes me a better coach. We’re all human, but at the top of the business ladder, we need to perform optimally. There’s a metrics side to business, and a human side, and you can’t ignore either.
“Founding the Mental Performance Lab has been about developing a high-performance state of mind. It’s not just about smashing metrics, but functioning at an optimal level. You need to do the right thing at the right time, and to achieve that, mindfulness is key. You can function flat out, always racing ahead, stressed and busy, or you can function optimally. That’s my focus.” EM
Acta Non Verba: The Playbook For Creating, Achieving And Performing At Your Highest Level
Erik Kruger’s first book is a collection of 160 thoughtful reflections on what it takes to live a life of action and not words. Acta Non Verba’s purpose is to get people moving, creating, and generating an unstoppable drive in both their business and personal journeys.
This is not a book to read from cover to cover, in one sitting. Each day there is a new chapter waiting to be read. Put this book on your bedside table, and read a new chapter with your first cup of coffee every morning. Each message is short so you can read it quickly, in the moment, and then reflect and act on it for the entire day. It’s a book that demands action.
(Slideshow) Top Advice From Local Entrepreneurs That Will Change Your Business In 2019
Here’s my collection of game-changing words of wisdom from top local entrepreneurs.
If I had to summarise my own learnings since starting CEOwise, it would be these ten points:
- I need to know the critical numbers in my business.
- The magic number is two co-founders. Teams build entities, individuals might start them, but teams build them.
- Don’t be scared of failure, that’s how we learn.
- It’s better to earn 10% of a bigger pie than 100% of a smaller one.
- Businesses in the service industry should create products out of their services, or sell value and not hours.
- Stick to your core competencies and outsource the rest.
- Make small incremental changes everyday.
- Your team is your biggest asset.
- It’s cheaper to retain clients than attain new ones.
- If you’re worrying about paying too much tax, you’re not earning enough.
After each interview, there is generally one main word of advice that sticks in my mind, and which I ponder on for days afterwards. The following advice from local entrepreneurs may stay with you too:
- Benji Coetzee, Empty Trips
- Allon Raiz, Raizcorp
- Joel Stransky, Pivotal Group
- Gideon Galloway, King Price Insurance
- Adriaan Rootman, Luxury Time
- Brian Mills, New Concept Projects
- Byron Clatterbuck, SEACOM
- John Sanei, Global speaker and trend specialist
- Ryan Kahan, CallCabinet
- Regine Le Roux, Reputation Matters
- Miles Kubheka, Vuyo’s brand
- Eben Uys, Mad Giant
- Mark van Diggelen, GameZBoost
- Erik Kruger, Mental Performance Lab
- Musa Kalenga, Public speaker
- Marnus Broodryk, SME Africa
- Rich Mulholland, Missing Link
- Mike Sharman, Retroviral
- Cairo Howarth, EFC Worldwide
- Dinesh Patel, OrderIn
- Andrew McLean, Cycle Lab
- Albé Geldenhuys, USN
- Ran Neu-Ner, The Creative Council
- Nic Haralambous, NicHarry
- Mark Sham, Suits & Sneakers
- William Wertheim Aymes, Artemis Brands
- Matt Brown, Matt Brown Media
- Pat Pillai, Lifeco Unltd
- Vuyo Tofile, EntBanc
- Ian Fuhr, Sorbet
- Colin Timmis, Xero
- Felix Martin-Aguilar, ReWare
- Fritz Pienaar, Advendurance
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