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Retiring at age 65: an archaic idea that doesn’t fit into today’s world

This article also appeared in Finweek Magazine in their 02-May-2013 issueretired not expired

A few years back my mother, a Professor and Head of Department at the Wits Faculty of Social Work, was forced to retire at age 65. Despite being very good at her job and showing no signs of mental or physical deterioration with age, she was stripped of her professorship and all that she could still do for the department, simply because she hit 65. In today’s day and age, is retirement at age 65 not an archaic concept that needs to be put to rest? Continue reading

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How to take on big companies and win

big dog vs little dogThis article also appeared in Finweek Magazine in their 25-April-2013 issue

Overnight singing phenomenon Paul Potts stole the hearts of millions of people around the globe. The soft-spoken mobile phone salesman came from humble origins in Bristol, England, the son of a working-class bus-driver father and supermarket-cashier mother.  From the age of six Potts had been bullied in school for being poor, which had eroded his self-confidence.  A serious bicycle accident in 2003 and subsequent financial troubles motivated him to enter the debut series of Britain’s Got Talent. Despite not having sung in four years, when he started singing on that stage in 2007, he blew the judges and audience away with his surprisingly incredible voice. With his breath-taking performance of “Nessun dorma”, Potts went on to win Britain’s Got Talent and receive worldwide acclaim, with his debut album One Chance topping sales charts in nine countries.

There is something captivating about underdogs like Paul Potts. When we see the longshot win against the odds, it makes us believe that nothing is impossible and we really can achieve our biggest dreams. This is true both in our personal lives and the business world. There are many examples of small companies taking on the industry giants and winning: Apple vs. Microsoft and IBM, Virgin’s Richard Branson, Whole Foods’ John Mackey, Southwest Airlines’ Herb Kelleher and Fedex’s Fred Smith. Locally we’re seeing it in the cell phone industry with Cell C versus MTN and Vodacom.

Yes, it is possible for minor players to take on big companies and come out on top. How they do it? Here are some of the strategies that work: Continue reading

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Venture capitalists: do entrepreneurs still need them?

money tree smallThis article also appeared in Finweek Magazine in their 11-April-2013 issue

Before World War 2, development capital was limited largely to wealthy individuals and families. It was only in 1946 that venture capital (VC) began to emerge. That year the first two VC companies, American Research and Development Corporation (ARDC) and JH Whitney & Company, were created in the US. Since then, entrepreneurs have pretty much depended on VCs to build high-growth businesses. But that could be changing. With the advent of crowd-funding and the dramatic drop in costs to launch an Internet start-up, do tech entrepreneurs still need VCs? Continue reading


Acting crazy: your best competitive strategy yet?


This article also appeared in Finweek Magazine in their 28-March 2013 issue

The 36 Chinese Stratagems are an essay of powerful tricks personifying the ancient Chinese art of being cunning. Not only are these stratagems potent tactics in times of war and politics, but they can also be effective in today’s business world.

First revealed in history roughly 1 500 years ago and written up almost 500 years ago, since the Nineties the stratagems have become increasingly popular in the Chinese world of business. However, they are still relatively unknown in Western countries.

One of the stratagems gives the following advice:

Feign madness but keep your balance: Hide behind the mask of a fool, a drunk, or a madman to create confusion about your intentions and motivations. Lure your opponent into underestimating your ability until, overconfident, he drops his guard. Then you may attack.

In laymen’s terms, if your adversary thinks you are crazy, he won’t feel threatened by you and so will not take you seriously or put up a fight against you. Continue reading