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Stuart Weaving’s Unexpected Journey To Becoming A Serial Entrepreneur

Serial entrepreneur Stuart Weaving has seen tremendous success across a very diverse range of industries. He attributes his success to having a nose for opportunities, developing good business acumen and being a terrible student.

GG van Rooyen

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Stuart Weaving

Vital Stats

  • Player: Stuart Weaving
  • Claim to fame: Stuart Weaving is a British serial entrepreneur with close ties to South Africa. He founded the Weaving International Friendship Foundation in 1968, which embraces the Friends of the Springbok and Friends of the Lion, and helps reunite families and friends in the UK, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and North America. Over 48 years, the foundation has assisted with more than one million family reunions. SA has benefitted greatly with an injection, in today’s terms, of over R30 billion.

I was a terrible student, at the bottom of a class of 40 pupils

At 11, my parents realised that I couldn’t see, and got me a pair of glasses. Once I had glasses, I moved up two spots to number 38. Glasses or no glasses, I just wasn’t a good student. I left school at 14 and started doing other things.

I was an actor, I had a stint in the navy, and I started some small businesses. Starting as an entrepreneur at 14, I amassed experience before I had even left my teens. People who only leave school at 24 start their journey so much later. They do develop important skills, but the point is this: Being a bad student doesn’t mean that you won’t succeed. Many successful entrepreneurs were bad students.

Related: Manie Spoelstra On Why Negotiation Is The Genesis Of Entrepreneurship

I’ve never been a big reader

Aspiring entrepreneurs are often told to read, and you can certainly gain from a lot of knowledge through books, but I often viewed my dislike of reading as an advantage. While others were reading, I was coming up with business ideas, crafting business plans and turning thoughts into action.

There is nothing wrong with reading, but it’s important not to spend so much time accumulating information that you never actually follow your dream.

The key to success lies in spotting an opportunity and turning it into a viable business.

There are loads of business ideas out there

All you need to do is find a problem that must be solved. I’ve been involved in different industries because I spotted opportunities.

You can always find excuses why you shouldn’t pursue a business idea. As an entrepreneur, you should trust your gut. You’re a consumer yourself. You know what you like and dislike as a consumer.

You know what a good customer experience looks like. Don’t overcomplicate things, just find the best way to solve your customers’ problems. That said, I don’t think you could be a success if you care only about money. You have to really want to solve a problem. 

Diversification is key

I’ve always looked at ways to expand and diversify. A great way to grow your business is to identify associated opportunities. Never allow a lack of experience to hold you back. For example, I once owned a company that organised events.

When the catering wasn’t good enough, I decided to bring that function in-house. I had no background in catering, but I knew what customers wanted: Good food and short queues.

Related: The 8 Lessons Entrepreneurs Could Learn From Farmers

Good teams come in pairs

Although I was a bad student, I discovered later in life that I had a great head for numbers. Figures came to me very naturally. But I wasn’t good when it came to marketing.

I’ve found that a company works best when you have two people at the head of it: One who is great with numbers, and the other with marketing and communications. So, I’ve tried to ensure that all my companies are led by a team like this.

You need to be honest and acknowledge your shortcomings. Know what you’re bad at and find someone who can bring those skills to the table.

Long-term success lies in knowing when to amputate

Industries change and opportunities come and go. If you want to enjoy long-term success, know when to let go. An entrepreneur needs to be brave and tenacious, but not cling to a dying idea.

Be open and realistic. Admit when it’s time to move on, whether that means pivoting the business, closing a department or selling the company. Don’t be so married to a business that you go down with it.

Related: For Shatty Mashego Success Lies In Maintaining A Positive Mindset


Take note

The key to success is to trust your gut and have the courage to explore ideas. 

Lessons Learnt

(Podcast) ‘Bizarre Foods’ Andrew Zimmern: ‘I’m Addicted To The Hustle’

How this week’s ‘How Success Happens’ guest overcame personal struggles and built an empire.

Dan Bova

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I didn’t know what to expect when we scheduled an interview over breakfast with today’s guest Andrew Zimmern. As you may know, the chef, writer, restaurateur and TV personality made a name for himself traveling the world and eating some, well, bizarre foods on his hit travel/food show, Bizarre Foods.

Turns out our breakfast was pretty normal – we didn’t dig into a fresh plate of scrambled brains or anything – but the conversation was anything but typical.

Over the past couple of years, Zimmern has built a true empire around his name with books, TV shows, restaurants (including his new Twin Cities joint Lucky Cricket), and a production company, but as he very candidly told me, the road to success has not been easy. He has gone through a lot of personal pain on his journey, and he says it is a daily endeavour to keep himself moving on the right track.

As Zimmern explained, over the course of his life, he’s had problems with substance abuse, depression – even homelessness – and he was very open about sharing the lessons he’s learned along the way about coping and finding redemption. We also spoke about his dear friend, Anthony Bourdain, and about the struggles of feeling overwhelmed that most of us face.

Related: Gareth Cliff Shares His Tips For Starting Your Very Own Podcast

But don’t get me wrong, he’s really funny, too! There’s nothing “normal” about Andrew Zimmern. Hope you’ll enjoy our conversation, thanks for listening.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Lessons Learnt

How BrightRock Is Disrupting The Insurance Industry With These 2 Pivotal Strategies

Developments in technology, and clear communication are positioning BrightRock to disrupt their industry and transform the consumer experience.

Monique Verduyn

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brightrock

Vital Stats

  • Players: Sean Hanlon, Leopold Malan, Schalk Malan, Suzanne Stevens
  • Company: BrightRock
  • Est: 2011
  • Visit: www.brightrock.co.za

BrightRock was started around a dining room table in 2011 by four people with years of industry experience and — importantly — a diverse set of complementary skills.  They wanted to make changes to an industry with an age-old methodology by allowing customers to co-create a solution that precisely meets their individual needs, and adjusts as those needs change. Today, BrightRock is the fastest-growing insurer in the intermediated individual life risk market. It also provides underwriting management services to funeral parlour businesses and, more recently, has entered the group risk insurance market, offering its needs-matched approach to employees.

The founders of BrightRock, established in 2011, knew the life insurance industry all too well, and they found its methodology wanting. “Traditional life insurance lumps all the individual’s needs into one policy,” says CEO Schalk Malan.

“It’s a methodology that has been around for centuries. We started afresh and looked at how we could design life insurance based on individual requirements. Our cover is designed to exactly match each specific financial need. Because there is no waste, it’s more cost efficient and sustainable. And if circumstances change and our customer needs more cover, it’s easy to get it because needs-matched design enables the policy to change in line with changing needs.”

1. Embracing digital technology to provide needs-matched insurance

Suzanne Stevens, marketing executive director at BrightRock, points out that this type of innovation achieves efficiency (cost savings) and effectiveness (higher returns). “By harnessing digital technology, we have made our operations more efficient, and aggressively lowered costs by up to 30% for our customers. Every rand they spend with us works harder for them. That’s the benefit of a solution designed around the customer.”

BrightRock’s founders took a similar approach. ‘We ditched legacy thinking in favour of creating a product that is intuitive and easy to navigate. An enormous amount of time and effort went into writing and designing that system, and creating the optimal customer journey.”

Related: How BrightRock Is Rocking The (Industry) Boat In Only 5 Years Since Launch

Unlike clunky legacy systems, BrightRock’s platform is modularised, and was built according to the agile principle of rapid delivery cycles. The result is a technology stack with longevity, that is also flexible enough to be tweaked when needed.

“The advantage of the technology available today is that you can plug things in and pull them out as required,” says Suzanne. “That’s one of the enablers of a truly disruptive mindset. To step away from accepted norms and find new solutions requires curiosity and creativity, as well as a lot of courage to go up against large incumbents in the market. There is always resistance to new technology, although we are fortunate in this country to have one of the most innovative insurance sectors in the world.”

2. Effective communication is critical

These disruptors have set themselves above the rest through one surprisingly simple tactic —  effective communication. They agree that it simply doesn’t matter how world-changing your product or service is if you don’t communicate it to the right audience at the right time. New companies that fail to communicate their remarkable new development will quickly be pushed aside by other disruptors. Without a clear communication strategy that reaches the audience in the industry you’re trying to disrupt, you’ll set yourself up for failure. A key question to ask when you are developing your communication strategy is simply whether people understand what you do.

“Because the premise for our product was fundamentally different from anything on the market, communication and clear messaging were critical to convincing our clients to put their trust in us,” says Schalk.

“It was especially important to educate insurance advisors so they would understand what we were doing, why we were doing it, and how it was better than the other options available. That was key to disrupting the individual life market.”

Currently, BrightRock employs 380 staff, has experienced 40% year-on-year growth, and has an annualised premium income of more than R1,3 billion. The company has recently entered the group risk environment with a similar offering that addresses many of the same shortcomings of traditional group risk products. “The inefficiencies of the structuring of group products has meant that, to remain competitive, insurers have cut the benefits offered to employees, undermining their sense of financial security. Change is needed, and we believe our needs-matched philosophy positions us to change the group risk market too.”

‘We ditched legacy thinking in favour of creating a product that is intuitive and easy to navigate. An enormous amount of time and effort went into writing and designing that system, and creating the optimal customer journey.”

Unlike clunky legacy systems, the BrightRock’s platform is modularised, and was built according to the agile principle of rapid delivery cycles. The result is a technology stack with longevity, that is also flexible enough to be tweaked when needed.

Related: BrightRock’s 5 Entrepreneurial Tips For Start-ups

This iterative, modular approach typically begins with defining the strategy and programme plan upfront, delivering a core capability fast so it can provide benefits immediately, and then continuously improving with regular, incremental capability improvements to achieve the objectives of the strategy. It’s an approach that fosters closer collaboration between stakeholders, improved transparency, earlier delivery, greater allowance for change and more focus on the business outcomes.

“The advantage of the technology available today is that you can plug things in and pull them out as required,” says Suzanne. “That’s one of the enablers of a truly disruptive mindset. To step away from accepted norms and find new solutions requires curiosity and creativity, as well as a lot of courage to go up against large incumbents in the market. There is always resistance to new technology, although we are fortunate in this country to have one of the most innovative insurance sectors in the world.”

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Lessons Learnt

The 9 Obsessions You Need To Have To Become A Self-Made Millionaire

Here’s how to stay focused on your millionaire goals.

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elon-musk

The ones who succeed weren’t handed a golden ticket; it wasn’t chance that helped them cultivate their fortune. To reach millionaire status, you must be driven to reach your dreams. You must be obsessed in order to be successful.

These are the nine obsessions that give every self-made millionaire an edge in creating success and wealth.

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