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Lessons Learnt

Gil Oved’s Lessons Learnt: Be The Grandmaster of Your Game

Co-founder of South Africa’s biggest brand activations agency The Creative Counsel shares his lessons on what it true wealth and what success means to him.

Monique Verduyn




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Vital Stats:


Gil Oved, 39, is the co-founder of South Africa’s biggest brand activations agency The Creative Counsel, a company with a R600 million turnover, and more than 650 employees.

When Oved went into business, it wasn’t about being an entrepreneur as much as wanting to do his own thing. He’s not a rebel, he says, but he’s not averse to challenging society’s norms either. Intensely curious, he’s been investigating opportunities since he can remember.

Related: Advice: 2 Minutes with SA’s Top Entrepreneurs

At school, he worked as a TV presenter; as much as he liked being in front of the camera, he was more fascinated by what went on behind the scenes – he learnt then, that you could either be the pawn in the game, or the grandmaster.

How has your description of success evolved over the years?

Success has come after many failures. Even by today’s standards, we fail way more often than we succeed. We just ensure that our failures are always smaller than the big successes.

There’s no such thing as absolute success. Like life, business has its troughs and its peaks. There’s no time at which you can say ‘you are hereby successful’ – you’re just a little bit less of a failure today than you were the day before. It’s fear of failure that motivates me. It’s what keeps me focused on innovation and challenging the status quo.

That said, when you start a business, you’re just trying to survive. Success then is the ability to pay the bills, and have a bit more money in the bank this month than you did the last one. But as you progress, money becomes less of a focus and your attention turns to growth, scale and sustainability.

Now, I define success as leaving a legacy, changing people’s lives and motivating and inspiring others to achieve success. I’m proud to employ people and make decisions every day that impact the lives of others.

What does wealth mean to you?Gil-Oved

It’s a huge mistake to be motivated by money and the pursuit of wealth. A good entrepreneur is led by love for what you’re doing, where you’ve innovated, what developments you’re investing in, how you’re impacting your surroundings and changing the world.

Money is merely the form in which you are rewarded. It’s the points system in business. If I were a rugby player, I’d be rewarded with tries for playing well. Although our business creates wealth, there are many ways people can make money in business, but not all create wealth.

True wealth creation sometimes happens at the expense of short-term money making. In our industry, for example, we’ve been offered opportunities that would dis-intermediate other players and destroy relationships – that is not building wealth.

What underlies your success?

I call it passion-fuelled optimism. It’s a principle I live by. When you combine these two qualities, the result is powerful.

You have to be optimistic as an entrepreneur, because often you’re not the expert in your game – think about Uber disrupting the taxi industry. Optimism is important because you cannot be an entrepreneur and a realist at the same time.

If I knew back then what I know now, I would never have started this business, in an industry that was small and fraught with challenges – not in a million years. And then passion is what inspires loyalty and makes people look to you as a leader. You will be forgiven for many mistakes if you display passion.

Related: Success Will Never Come to Entrepreneurs Who Do These 10 Things

What kind of thinking limits entrepreneurs?

  • They don’t back themselves. Self-belief is absolutely key. It’s like doing weights at the gym – that second last rep is always the hardest. Why? Because of self-doubt. If you don’t believe in yourself, you will never succeed.
  • They look for inept ways to get by. Hiring the wrong people because the right people come at a price is penny wise and pound foolish. I’m not saying pay flagrantly, but get the best people. The cost difference between a mediocre hire and the best person for the job will give you 100% improvement in performance.
  • Don’t be a jack of all trades. Surround yourself with people who are better than you, who are not yes-men. Maybe it’s scary to do that but remember, you are the entrepreneur, and you are the risk-taker – not them.

Have you achieved work/life balance?

I have a huge issue with that concept. There’s no such thing. It implies that anyone who does not spend the prescribed amount of time on certain activities is in some way naughty. Nonsense.

To be happy and to experience joy, you need to be doing what is right for you at the time. Stress may be bad for some, but others love it. Just do what is right for you.

So what do you do when you are not working?

I invest a disproportionate amount of time in my work because I love what I do. When I’m not working I spend a lot of time on YouTube, which is an unbelievable source of information. At this point in my life, I know a lot about very little. The next phase of my life will be focused on learning a little about a lot.

Any words of advice?

Find the flaws in the system and see the opportunities. Be as transparent as possible with clients – I have no shame about the money I make. I’m proud of our margins because for every rand I make, I ensure my client makes ten.

Related: (Video) How to Get Good at Anything in 20 Hours


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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