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Lessons Learnt

The Business Advice

Nautic Africa’s CEO, James Fisher, gives business advice on starting a business.

Juliet Pitman




1. Look to Africa. Nautic Africa has leveraged the enormous boom in the African market. The company has procured contracts in several emerging African markets including Nigeria, Ghana and Angola.

“Africa is a very exciting space at the moment. There are massive opportunities. I would advise any entrepreneur who has half an idea about doing business in Africa to get on a plane tomorrow and go and see,” he says.

But, he also notes the complexities of conducting business in other African countries. Conducting business by remote control shouldn’t be considered as an option.

“Business should be as direct as possible,” he says, “Don’t be afraid of setting up an office. We’ve set up an office in Ghana and Nigeria. It helps you to do business more directly. If you have to use networkers use them together with your own in-country people.”

All this means travelling within the continent, which can prove to be an expensive endeavour.

“It‘s very expensive to do things like hire a car and stay in a hotel, because the options are so limited. For example, the Sheraton in Lagos can be more expensive than the Plaza Hotel in New York,” he says.

Finally he adds, “Don’t be afraid to ask for advice from the established multinationals who’ve established a footprint in Africa.”

2. Cash. The difference between sink and swim. “For an entrepreneur, cash flow is everything,” says Fisher. “It can starve and strangle even the best business in the world. You need to guard cash flow with your life. Get a strong financial person on board to make sure you are spending cash flow on your product and your customer and nothing else. Nothing else is important. We had cash flow hiccups in Nautic’s early days and ran very close to the red line, but we survived through absolute vigilance.”

3. Learning fast. About the power of patents. The Snakeboard was ultimately patented in 26 different countries but Fisher says they didn’t even know what a patent was when they started: “When we created the Snakeboard we had taken it to quite an advanced level before we even knew such a thing as a patent existed.

“I remember we were trying it out in the street and a neighbour, who was a prominent businessman, saw us and got really excited about the product. He asked if we’d patented it and when it became clear that we didn’t know what he was talking about he rushed upstairs, came down with his business card and wrote the name of patent attorneys on it. He told us not to do anything else, not to show it to anyone until we had patented it. That’s how green we were when we started.”

4. How to succeed in the race against China. Fisher believes that to compete with China your business doesn’t necessarily need to drop its pricing or production costs. Rather he suggests that if you deliver ongoing customer service, success will follow – and don’t exclude partnering with Chinese firms. “Our business includes the support and servicing that follows sales, and this has helped us build strong relationships with our customers. This allows us to compete against countries like China,” he says.

Providing consistent product maintenance and communicating with clients is imperative to striking a marketing deal, which cannot be met by Chinese mass-production.

5. Get your product right. Before you do anything, get your product right – even if that means you delay launching it. It must be right because it‘s your first show. It‘s your image going forward. Right might mean a range of things.

6. The power of passion. “Be relentlessly passionate and never give up. Believe in yourself, your product and your service. You can’t ‘buy in’ that belief and you cannot read it in a book. You must feel it in your stomach and imprint it in your consciousness.”

Balance single-minded passion with the need to take advice. Don’t listen to, “That’s not going to work, go get a degree.” But you should listen to “Go visit a patent attorney and use professionals.” Have passion but don’t think you know it all.

The Innovation Check List

  • Is the individual passionate about the product to the exclusion of all else? The business has little chance of success if it‘s being treated as a sideline.
  • Will the product fit into the market easily?
  • Can it be manufactured at the right price?
  • Is it the ‘flavour of the month’?
  • What sort of money would be required to get it to where its going?

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Lessons Learnt

#Wealthiest List: 8 Self-Made Millionaires On How They Built Their Wealth

These inspirational self-made millionaires built businesses with nothing less than hard work and sheer determination.

Catherine Bristow



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1. Nick D’Aloisio Wrote a Million Dollar App At Age 15


At the age of 15, Nick D’Aloisio wrote an app while sitting in his parent’s bedroom in the UK. At the age of 17, D’Aloisio sold his app Summly – a mobile news summarisation app to Yahoo for a staggering USD 30 million.

As one of the youngest millionaires, D’Aloisio is also the world’s youngest entrepreneur to be backed by venture capitalists – having secured seed funding from Sir Li Ka-Shing, Hong Kong’s billionaire, as well as raising USD 1.23 million from celebrity investors, including Yoko Ono and Ashton Kutcher.

“The number one thing I did that I think was wise was to get, through some of my advisers, was a Chairman; basically someone who was a very experienced business person, an industry veteran — Bart Swanson, who had been at Amazon and then Badoo. Then, myself and Bart really started finding people and growing the team.”

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Lessons Learnt

7 Cannabis Industry Millionaires Making It Big In The Marijuana Business

These entrepreneurs have capitalised on a new market set to continue to grow rapidly as more countries legalise marijuana across the world.

Catherine Bristow



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1. Brendan Kennedy


Brendan Kennedy worked on job sites as a carpenter to pay his way through university, with his eyes set firmly on becoming an architect, until the allure of Silicon Valley changed the course of his direction. While working at technology start-ups Kennedy began thinking about the possibilities that medical marijuana provided.

“I was really sceptical of medical cannabis,” he says. “It took a year of having conversations with patients and physicians and hearing the same story, repackaged but essentially the same, over and over and over again, where my scepticism eroded and I became a believer.”

In 2013, Kennedy and his partners applied for a licence from Health Canada and launched Lafitte Ventures, which was later renamed Tilray. Today, the company is a global leader in medical cannabis research, cultivation, processing and distribution.

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Lessons Learnt

Scaleup Learnings From Our Top Clients – What The Most Successful Entrepreneurs Do Right

So, how do our successful clients move through these constraints to scaling up? We see four key drivers of success, and they are: people, strategy, flawless execution and finance.

Louw Barnardt




You’re out of your start-up boots, staff is increasing, your client base is growing, revenue is up and you’ve proven your case to the market. Now it’s time to scale up. The challenges of this vital growth phase are different and it’s a time that demands different mindsets and different actions. In a world littered with small business failures, it helps to be well-prepared for scaling up using a proven methodology. At Outsourced CFO, we get an inside look at the success factors of our clients who are mastering the transition.

On the one hand, scaling up is a really exciting phase; this is what moves you into real job creation and making an impactful contribution to economic growth. On the other hand, it is really hard to scale up successfully. We see three major constraints that limit companies’ transition from start-up to scale-up:


The business has to have the leadership that can take it to the next level. When you start scaling up, especially rapidly, the founders can no longer do everything themselves. The team must grow and include new leadership talent that can take charge and execute so that the founders are working on the business instead of in the business.


The processes, procedures, networks, systems and workflows of the business all need to be scalable. This is imperative when it comes to your infrastructure for the financial management of your business. You’re only ready for growth when your infrastructure can seamlessly keep pace.

Market access

Scaling up demands more innovative marketing and storytelling so that you can more easily connect and engage with the new employees, clients, network partners, investors and mentors that need to come along with you on your scale-up journey.

Businesses that build a market conversation and a compelling brand narrative during their start-up phase are better positioned to have this kind of market access when they need to scale up.


It is critical to have the right people on your team. Our successful entrepreneurs have what it takes to attract, inspire and retain top talent. A strong team of smart, ambitious and purpose-driven people who love the company and want to see it succeed contribute greatly to a world class company culture. They are adept at communicating a compelling vision and establishing core values that people can take on. These entrepreneurs are tuned into the aspirations of their people and focus on developing leaders in their teams who can in turn develop more leaders.


It is planning that ensures that the right things are happening at the right times. At successful scale-ups strategies and action plans are devised to ensure that the most important thing always remains the most important thing.

Strategy includes input from all team members and setting of good priorities for the short, medium and long term. Goals are clear and everyone always knows what they are working towards. The needle is continuously moved because 90-day action plans are implemented each quarter to achieve targets and goals that are over and above people doing their daily jobs.

Flawless execution

Top entrepreneurs are not just focused on what operations need to achieve, but how the business operates. They have the right procedures, processes and tools in place so that everyone can deliver along the line on the company’s brand promise. Frequent, quick successive meetings ensure the rapid flow of effective communication. Problems are solved without drama. There is no chaos in the office environment. Everyone is empowered to execute flawlessly to an array of consistently happy clients.


Everyone knows that growth burns cash. A rapidly scaling business faces the challenge of needing a scalable financial infrastructure to keep the company healthy. Our successful entrepreneurs pay close attention to finance as the heartbeat of the business, ensuring that everything else functions. They look at the tech they are using for financial management and for the ways that their financial systems can be automated so that they can be brought rapidly to scale. The capital to grow is another vital finance issue.

The best way to finance a business is through paying clients on the shortest possible cash flow cycle. However, when you are scaling up and making heavier investments in the resources you need for growth, it is likely that you will need a workable plan for raising capital. Our scale-up clients know the value of accessing innovative financial management that provides high level services to drive their business growth.

Navigating the scale-up journey of a growing private company is one of the hardest but most rewarding of careers to pursue. Having people in your corner who have been through this journey before helps take a lot of pain out of the process. No growth journey looks the same, but there are tried and tested methods that will – if applied diligently – lead to definite success. Happy scaling!

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