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Lessons Learnt

Top Lessons from The Creative Counsel

It’s hard to imagine, but South Africa’s largest advertising agency comes from humble beginnings. Even harder to believe that at one point Ran Neu-Ner suggested to business partner Gil Oved that they throw in the towel. But they didn’t and The Creative Counsel’s journey offers some great takeaway lessons.

Nadine Todd




When Ran Neu-Ner and Gil Oved launched The Creative Counsel in 2001, they did so from a 15m2 office, kitted with cheap garden furniture.

At the time they were reeling from an earlier business failure, a casualty in the dotcom bust. Their only source of leads was the yellow pages and persistence, and their entire focus was on cold calling, trying to drum up clients. It was touch and go.

Their expenses were R30 000 a month, and they had no money coming in. To keep the business operational, Oved went out to work as an IT consultant and handed his cheque over to the business each month, while Neu-Ner tried to get it to work.

We-recommend-tickRecommended: It’s Brilliance or Nothing for The Creative Counsel Co-Founders

From August to February they broke even but never made any money and couldn’t draw a salary. They went almost a year without being able to pay themselves, a situation that really knocks your confidence, especially when those around you are making money and carving out careers.

Fed up, Neu-Ner suggested they throw in the towel, but Oved suggested they give it one more month, during which time he gave up his consulting work and came over to give the business everything he had. In April, they landed an account for Danone. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Takeaway lessons Ran-Neu-Ner-The-Creative-Counsel

  1. Always be indispensable to your client. We don’t have retainers. We believe they breed complacency. Our focus is to grow profits, and retainers set your revenue. How do you grow profits then?
  1. Only by reducing your cost base, which just entices you to hire cheaper resources and cut corners. That’s not our game. We grow revenue by adding value. We eat what we hunt.
  1. Never underestimate the power of networking. We believe that the first thing any entrepreneur should do, no matter their experience or the size of their company, is find a mentor. Then join an association or organisation.

Ran belongs to YPO and EO, Gil is an active member of YPO and is on the regional board. Each organisation operates differently, but at its core, you’re bouncing ideas and challenges off fellow business owners. It’s an invaluable well of advice. Yes, it takes time, but the dividends are exponential.

  1. Don’t limit yourself and what you can do. We didn’t define ourselves according to an industry and what it could do, or how large it was. That was such a defining characteristic of our growth.

There was nothing saying we couldn’t do something, or the market wasn’t big enough. We just filled a need, and didn’t care what line item it fit into. We didn’t create boxes for ourselves.

Nadine Todd is the Managing Editor of Entrepreneur Magazine, the How-To guide for growing businesses. Find her on Google+.

Lessons Learnt

Richard Branson’s ABCs Of Business

Throughout the year, the Virgin co-founder shared what he thinks are the essential elements to success.



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If there’s one thing Richard Branson knows, it’s how to run a successful business.

Throughout last year, the Virgin founder shared what he thinks are the keys ingredients to building a successful company with each letter of the alphabet, which he slowly revealed through the 365 days.

From A for attitude to N for naivety to Z for ZZZ, check out Branson’s ABCs of success.

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Lessons Learnt

How Reflexively Apologising For Everything All The Time Undermines Your Career

How can you inspire confidence if you are constantly saying you’re sorry for doing your job?




I’m one of those weird people who gets excited about performance reviews. I like getting feedback and understanding how I can improve. A few years ago, I sat down for my first annual review as the director of communications for the Florida secretary of state, under the governor of Florida.

I had a great relationship with my chief of staff, but I had taken on a major challenge when I accepted the job a year prior. I didn’t really know what to expect.

Youth takes charge

I was 25 at the time, and everyone on my team was in their thirties and forties. I came from Washington, D.C., and was an outsider to my southern colleagues. I was asking a lot from people who had been used to very different expectations from their supervisor.

I sat down with my chief of staff who gave me some feedback about the challenges I had tackled.

She then paused and said to me, very directly,”But you have to stop apologising. You must stop saying sorry for doing your job.”

Related: 8 Valuable And Inspirational Web Series You Should Check Out

I didn’t know what to say. My reflex was to reply sheepishly, “Umm, I’m sorry?” But instead I immediately decided to be more cognisant of how often I said I was sorry. Years later, her words have stuck with me. I have what some may consider the classic female disease of apologising. When the New York Times addressed it, five of my friends and past coworkers sent it to me.

In it, writer Sloane Crosley got to the heart of the issue:

“To me, they sound like tiny acts of revolt, expressions of frustration or anger at having to ask for what should be automatic. They are employed when a situation is so clearly not our fault that we think the apology will serve as a prompt for the person who should be apologising.”

Topic of debate

I’ve talked at length with other women trying to figure out this fine balance. The Washington PostTime, and Cosmopolitan have all tackled this topic. Some say it’s OK to apologise; others criticise those who are criticising women who apologise. Clearly, I’m not alone in dealing with this issue. In fact, I’m constantly telling the people I manage that by apologising they give up a lot of their power.

Related: Want To Feel Empowered? Check Out These 17 Quotes From Successful Entrepreneurs And Leaders

Here’s the bottom line: Don’t apologise for doing your job.

If you’re following up with a coworker about something they said they’d get to you earlier, don’t say, “Sorry to bug you!” If you want to share your thoughts in a meeting, don’t start off by saying, “Sorry, I just want to add…” If you’re doing your job, you have absolutely nothing to apologise for.

That’s what I think. And I’m not even sorry about it.

This article was originally posted here on

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Lessons Learnt

10 Quotes On Following Your Dreams, Having Passion And Showing Hard Work From Tech Guru Michael Dell

If you’re in need of a little motivation, check out these quotes from Dell’s CEO, founder and chairman.



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There’s much to learn from one of the computer industry’s longest tenured CEOs and founders, Michael Dell. As an integral part of the computer revolution in the 1980s, Dell launched Dell Computer Corporation from his dorm room at the University of Texas. And it didn’t take Dell long before he’d launched one of the most successful computer companies. Indeed, by 1992 Dell was the youngest CEO of a fortune 500 company.

Dell’s success had been long foreshadowed. When he was 15, Dell showed great interest in technology, purchasing an early version of an Apple computer, only so he could take it apart and see how it was built. And once he got to college, Dell noticed a gap in the market for computers: There were no companies that were selling directly to consumers. So, he decided to cut out the middleman and began building and selling computers directly to his classmates. Before long, he dropped out of school officially to pursue Dell.

Fast forward to today. Dell is not only a tech genius and businessman, but a bestselling author, investor and philanthropist, with a networth of $24.7 billion. He continues his role as the CEO and chairman of Dell Technologies, making him one of the longest tenured CEOs in the computer industry.

So if you’re in need of some motivation or inspiration, take it from Dell.

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