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Lessons Learnt

How Flick Visual Foundry Found High Rewards By Taking A Narrow View

Two Cape-based entrepreneurs narrowed their focus to build a niché business with high rewards.

Monique Verduyn




Vital Stats

  • Players: John-Louis West and Garth Jemmett
  • Company: Flick Visual Foundry
  • Visit:

Specialisation and differentiation. Those are two words that radically altered the entrepreneurial journey of Garth Jemmett and John-Louis West after they discovered a talent for getting people to watch, rather than read, in order to understand things.

Just over a decade ago they left the advertising industry and launched Flick Visual Foundry, a team of people who help clients translate complex information into simple, clear visual communication for their target audiences.

Flick works predominately in the financial and medical sectors, helping big clients like Liberty, Mediclinic, Nedbank, Standard Bank and Stanlib to get their message across.

Like many high achievers, to succeed, Jemmett and West had to become better at turning people down. “We were ‘yes men’,” says Jemmett.

“We said yes to everything. It diluted our value and focus. Today, we are specialists in distilling and explaining complex information quickly – we have developed the ability to do that across many platforms, and our focus has helped us to grow the business substantially.”

Related: 3 Become 1: The Story Of How IS SME Business, MWEB Business and IS Ignite Merged

Learning to change lanes

Jemmett and West began the process of defining who they were and what they did by first unpacking and distilling what made their business unique. It was hard at first, but it’s paid off.

How did they do it? Highly successful entrepreneurs are generally known for building great businesses, developing exceptional products, or excelling at their service offering. The founders of Flick admit that behind their achievements is a list of things they learnt not to do.

“When we launched the business, we had little capital,” West recalls. “We got together and created a short film which we shot on a progressive digital camera, creating graphics that really brought the subject matter to life. It was ground-breaking at the time. We showed it to an agency and they jumped at the chance to get us to do something similar for their financial services client.”

The film was the kernel of the Flick concept — visual thinking. Being a progressive idea, it took them into the unchartered territory that comes with being early adopters of new technology.

Jemmett recalls a time five years into the game, when he and West sat down to take stock. “Film was the core component of what we were doing. It was the output of our thinking. However, our creative vision was being lost as we were increasingly being seen as a production company with lots of ad agency clients. We were the middle-men.”

Related: From Simple Idea To Sideline Business: How Nkosenhle Hlophe Spotted An Opportunity

Narrowing the focus

That was when they made the decision to stay away from clients who wanted traditional advertising production and to shift their focus on to the creation of explainer videos, flow diagrams, infographics and data visualisations.

They started to turn down agency work, shedding a lot of the pain that comes from being the intermediary between agencies and clients.

“Once we had a good sense of what we wanted to accomplish, it was easier to gauge whether saying yes to a project would further or inhibit those goals,” says Jemmett.

“We had a far deeper understanding of which projects were accurately aligned with our goals and our direction.”

Both partners are enthusiastic about the added value they have brought to clients since their decision to specialise. “When you are a hired gun, much of the work you get from agencies is Now we have far deeper, more valuable relationships with clients that we nurture ourselves.”

Top tips

Here’s how Garth Jemmett and John-Louis West set apart their business:

  • They spotted a future trend: The founders knew that film is an optimal way to explain complex companies and their services and products. They also knew, more than ten years ago, that online video was set to explode.
  • They took a chance: They brought their ideas on visual thinking to life in a short film which they then used to sell themselves.
  • They defined their purpose: Visualising complex information so that their clients can explain often complex offerings in a simple, easy-to-understand manner to staff, shareholders and clients.
  • They’re not afraid to get on the phone: Why? Because when you know your product and services inside out and they are clearly defined, you can easily deliver a killer one-minute pitch on the phone.
  • They stay ahead of the curve: To continue to be specialists, they continue focusing on current thinking, embracing new technology and continuously growing their network.

Do this

Focus your attention on clients and activities that bring in the highest rewards. Not all projects suit the business and further your growth goals.

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+.

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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