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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+.

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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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Lessons Learnt

6 Habits Long-Time Millionaires Rely On To Stay Rich

It’s a simple fact: Most millionaires have different habits than the average person. However, these habits are far from inaccessible; they improve one’s odds of finding success but can be adopted by just about anyone with a bit of concerted effort.

Timothy Sykes



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To take that idea one step further, once someone has become successful, how do they stay successful? Here, I’d like to take a slightly longer-sighted look at the habits of millionaires, focusing not just on the habits that make them successful but the ones that help them stay successful over time. By cultivating these habits in your own life, you’ll be investing in your own sustained success over time.

Here are six habits of long-time millionaires:

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