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How Garth Barnes And Fabian Sing Launched Tigerfight

Establishing a start-up in any industry isn’t easy. It requires passion, talent and a whole lot of tenacity. Garth Barnes and Fabian Sing from Tigerfight share the lessons they learnt while launching their music production and composition start-up.

GG van Rooyen




Vital Stats

It started, as it so often does, over late-night drinks. “We’d often sit around after gigs promising ourselves that we’d start our own thing one day,” says Tigerfight co-founder Garth Barnes, who is the frontman for South African band CrashCarBurn.

“And for a long time, nothing really came of it. It was a ‘someday’ thing,” adds Barnes’ business partner and former bandmate Fabian Sing. But then, in 2012, they decided to get serious. It was time to quit the idle talk and give it a real go.

Barnes was working at an accounting firm, and the experience was leaving him cold. Music was his real passion, and his day job was not providing him with the time to pursue what he truly loved. Sing was already working in the music industry and had received several awards for his compositions.

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The time seemed right to launch their own company. With Barnes’s business acumen and Sing’s technical expertise, they had what they needed to strike out on their own.

Typical of any start-up, the first three years of Tigerfight was a tumultuous period, filled with ups and downs. Here are their lessons.

Taking the plunge is never easy


“Music production and composition isn’t a cheap industry to get into,” says Sing.

“Sure, modern technology allows just about anyone to record music at home on their laptop, but professional-level equipment is very expensive. And if you want to provide a top-level product, you need good equipment.”

“Getting Tigerfight off the ground required a huge capital investment,” says Barnes.

“We had to build a studio, which took a year to complete. In order to get the money needed, I decided to apply for finance while I still had a full-time job. Quitting my job and securing a loan for the business was a scary move.”

Barnes now had debt that needed to be repaid, but still the entrepreneurs needed to be patient – launching a business will always take longer than anticipated.

Know your numbers

Barnes left the accounting firm to lecture in accounting at the University of Johannesburg. “My background in numbers gave our start-up a distinct advantage. Fabian is the creative force behind Tigerfight. He’s the one with the amazing musical talent and technical expertise. I’m the one who crunches the numbers and makes sure that we manage our money properly.”

Keeping careful track of the money coming in and going out is critical, yet many start-ups neglect this, burning through their capital far quicker than anticipated.

That’s why it’s important to involve someone with a head for numbers. While everyone else is looking to the future, they can keep an eye on the runway and ensure there’s enough money in the bank to get the business off the ground.

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Branding is very important


“We were very careful about how we positioned our company. We even hired an agency to assist us in the branding of the business. It turned out to be a bit of a disaster. We weren’t on the same page, so what they created didn’t align with what Fabian and I had in mind. We had already spent quite a bit of money but decided to walk away from what the agency had created. We didn’t want to compromise our vision,” says Barnes.

“The name Tigerfight was also an extension of the brand image we wanted to create around the business. We wanted an evocative image – something that suggested passion, excitement and tenacity. The visual of two tigers fighting is anything but boring,” adds Sing.

Chase the right business

“Right from the get-go, we were very selective in the jobs we pursued. We went for projects that were exciting, and that we thought would have a nice buzz around them.

“We also quickly scratched out a specific niche for ourselves. We did work for the local Comic’s Choice Awards, for example, and this led to comedians approaching us to create unique walk-on music for them. It was a market that wasn’t being serviced at all,” says Sing. As a start-up, Sing and Barnes quickly learnt the value of mining their contacts. Everyone has contacts, it’s just a matter of using them.

Everyone’s an expert

“Proving your worth within a creative industry can be difficult. Modern technology allows anyone to create music on a PC, so companies can sometimes be reluctant to spend a significant amount on music composition. It’s your job to show them how superior your product is,” says Barnes, highlighting the importance of proving value, particularly when it’s associated with a higher cost.

“Some companies can also be reluctant to change. They stick with what they know and remain loyal to existing suppliers, so you need to bring something truly fresh and unique to the table. Don’t leave them with a choice but to sit up and take notice.”

Develop a thick skin


“Creatives have a reputation for being sensitive and insecure when it comes to their creations. If you want to turn your creative pursuits into a commercial endeavour, though, you need to let go of your insecurities and develop a thick skin,” says Sing.

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“You need to be receptive to your client’s opinions and criticisms. You can’t take it personally. You need to be able to sit at a boardroom table and listen as eight people pick your creation apart.”

While this is true of creatives, it’s equally true of all start-ups. Ultimately your business needs to deliver on client needs, which means you can’t take things personally.

Hire slow, fire fast

“A lot of start-ups hire extra help too quickly when they start to expand. They hire fast and fire slow. We took the opposite approach. It took us about a year to hire our first employee.

“The work was rolling in and we were being swamped, so the temptation was big to hire as quickly as possible. But we wanted an individual who could offer the same level of service we were providing clients. When we did eventually hire someone, we were confident that we had found the right person, and he was worth the wait,” says Barnes.

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

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Lessons Learnt

Here’s What Jeff Bezos Prefers To Work-Life Balance And Why You Should Live By It

Work-life balance naively suggests working and non-working hours should be evenly apportioned.

John Boitnott



jeff bezos

Amazon is known for building a culture that values hard work. So much so that the organisation has received criticism from current and former employees for having to work on Thanksgiving, or even when ill.

When asked about Amazon’s work-life balance, Jeff Bezos remarked that he ascribed to the phrase “work-life harmony” instead.

Here’s how hard-charging businesspeople can maintain energy at home and at work without burning out by finding work-life harmony in place of work-life balance.

Measure work and home focus as a matter of energy instead of time

It isn’t about how many hours you spend at home or at work; it’s about the energy you bring to both parts of your life. If you enjoy working long hours, and that helps you to feel present while at home, then by all means continue.

This is a fundamental principle in Bezos’s theory of dividing one’s time between work and life. Because Bezos loves what he does, he finds energy from accomplishing his work in a manner that works well with his notoriously high standards.

As many can attest, our emotions bleed into all areas of our life. When you can gain energy from doing good work, it can help to propel you to be more successful in your life outside of work. Conversely, when things aren’t right at home, it can be difficult to find the energy to do your best work in the office. A central precept of work-life harmony is living such that both the professional and personal aspects of our life energise us to be our best at home and in the office.

This does not necessarily mean that we should spend our time in a balanced way, as the phrase “work-life balance” implies. Rather, we should spend our time in such a way that we are our best selves. In so doing, we will be better people on the whole.

Related: Jeff Bezos: 9 Remarkable Choices That Shaped The Richest Man In The World

Build a flexible work-life schedule

Just as different people will amass different levels of energy from work and life outside of work, different people will find they are most productive at different times of the day. The 9-5 work culture that has existed for decades is really shifting now. Most modern offices allow some form of flexible work, which means you have the ability to set your own hours to some degree.

Experiment with working at different times of the day to find the schedule the helps you to be most productive. In so doing, you’ll have more time to do your best work, and more energy to spend with loved ones as a result of increased productivity.

Know when to say “no”

We tend to think that taking on as many projects as possible is a sign of a good professional. But being busy is not the same as making an impact. To do your best work, you’ll need to prioritise projects that you know you can add value to.

Spinning your wheels is demoralising. Look for projects in which you can easily enter a “flow state” where hours melt away. This is the environment in which you are doing your best work, and are happy to be doing the work itself. It is in moments of flow that we often feel most productive, and even fulfilled. Therefore, it is after moments of flow that we tend to feel guilt-free about enjoying quality time with loved ones while unplugging from work.

Related: Jeff Bezos Reveals 3 Strategies for Amazon’s Success

Communicate commitments

If you’re approaching a time-consuming work project, communicate that to the important people in your life. Otherwise, they may think you are avoiding them due to a more insidious reason.

Providing those you love with a glimpse into your professional commitments can also help them to help you. If a good friend knows it will be difficult for you to communicate for a few weeks, they will know to pause conversations so as not to burden you with having to reply to texts or emails.

Similarly, a partner who knows that you are responsible for delivering an important project may be able to rearrange their schedule in order to better support you in the short term.

Conversely, if family commitments will prevent you from working at full capacity for a certain period of time, set the right expectations with colleagues. A good workplace is one that is flexible to the realities of employees’ personal lives. Managers who care about the well-being of their people are usually willing to help employees take care of personal commitments.

Adapting to a changing work life

Work no longer happens between the hours of 9 AM and 5 PM, Monday to Friday. Work happens Saturday mornings, and late Friday nights. It happens on vacation, and during graduations. The idea of work-life balance suggests that there should be an even split between working and non-working hours.

Related: Why It Pays To Be A Jerk Like Jeff Bezos

In reality, those who have undertaken ambitious careers should aim for work-life harmony, a lifestyle in which both aspects of life give you the energy to be your best self as frequently as possible.

This article was originally posted here on

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Lessons Learnt

Give Your Business The Best Chance Of Success

For that to happen an entrepreneur must distil the business’s reason for being and then doggedly pursue that vision.

Gil Sperling




In my capacity as a business owner and venture capitalist, one of the questions I get asked most often by entrepreneurs is, “how do I ensure my business succeeds?” While there’s no straightforward answer, there are important elements that I believe every entrepreneur must consider to ensure the greatest probability of success.

Firstly, no business will succeed if it doesn’t solve a unique pain point or problem for modern consumers or businesses. However, even if a business is able to carve out that niche, there’s no guarantee that growth will follow. For that to happen an entrepreneur must distil the business’s reason for being and then doggedly pursue that vision.

North Star metric

This principle of having a clear business vision guides all my decisions. Whenever I need to validate a choice or a change in strategic direction, or if I’m trying to determine what to focus on, I always refer back to my vision. If the two are incongruent, then I know I need to change tack.

Elon Musk is a great example of a successful entrepreneur who is guided by his grand vision. Everything he does, from Tesla to SpaceX, pertains to sustainability, both for the planet and the human race. It might be hard to make the connection when you consider his various businesses out of context, but everything he creates fits into a broader ecosystem that in some way moves the needle towards his ultimate objective. Developing Tesla cars that run on renewable energy is but a small, short-term plan that feeds into his grand vision, yet it’s also been the catalyst for the evolution of the motoring industry.

Related: The Popimedia (Mega) Success Story

Be clear, concise

In the same way, every decision an entrepreneur makes should in some way take them a step closer to realising their vision. In this regard, it is also vital that your vision is crystal clear – a murky or undefined vision will divert you off your path to success.

That’s because you’ll tend to focus on the wrong things, especially when scaling rapidly, or when running bigger organisations, because there are many tasks to complete every day. A lack of clarity also leads to poor decision-making, or, worse, decision paralysis, and that’s business suicide – I’d rather make a bad decision than no decision at all, because it prompts action. However, with a clear vision, more often than not, those decisions will be correct.

Defining your vision

So, how do you know if your vision is clear and, more importantly, relevant and consequential? The way I stress test my vision is to evaluate it every day against the decisions I take, and the direction of the business. This daily process helps to sharpen my decisions over time.

The other step is to remain open-minded enough to accept and acknowledge criticism, and take on board advice from trusted confidants and impartial experts. This is important, because you need to craft your vision based on as much information as possible, including valid criticism.

Ultimately, though, your vision for the business should align with your purpose. Forget about money and turnover as points of departure when defining your vision. These are merely metrics that can determine the strength and effectiveness of your business strategy.

For each of my several business interests, be it VC funding or ad-tech innovation, I have different visions. Each are meaningful to me, but in every instance, I don’t wake up every day with the sole ambition of making money.

While I need to make money to grow these businesses, or build something new, having purpose and vision are the ways I pull through those inevitable challenging situations. Having your vision front of mind in everything you do helps you make better decisions, and makes the hardships easier to endure. It helps you see through the turmoil, because you know where the process will lead, and you always know where the ultimate objective lies.

Read next: A Comprehensive List Of Angel Investors That Fund South African Start-Ups

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Lessons Learnt

Jimmy Choo’s Co-Founder Explains Why There Are No Small Jobs

Tamara Mellon shares the strategy that has helped her find new opportunities throughout her career.

Nina Zipkin




The co-founder of Jimmy Choo, Tamara Mellon, believes that you can find inspiration and opportunity anywhere. All it takes is determination to keep going and a keen eye for observation.

Mellon began her career in the early 1990s working as an accessories editor for British Vogue. Always on the hunt for up-and-coming designers, she came across Jimmy Choo, a cobbler working in London’s East End.

She would commission him to create shoes for fashion shoots. They were so well received by readers that the pair realised they could expand beyond one-of-kind pieces for the pages of the magazine.

This article was originally posted here on

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