This interview didn’t get off to the best start. Stedman Graham is better known as the life partner of billionaire broadcaster Oprah Winfrey. Google him and you’ll be told more about why Winfrey won’t marry him than the man’s own qualities. When I tapped him on this, he became defensive. As, I guess, anyone married to a mega-famous person might. No need to Google Graham’s sidekick, 33 year old JT Foxx. Ahead of the interview he left us in no doubt of his considerable achievements. Rattling off how he is the best paid business coach on earth and whose clients have appeared on covers of magazines. Some of which I’d even heard of. Or maybe it was him. Anyway, the duo are in South Africa to teach business skills to the hundreds who attend their seminars. Changing lives for the better. Or not. Watch the video or read the transcript and make up your own mind. It was certainly one of the more vibrant interviews we’ve had lately in our CNBC Africa Power Lunch studio. – AH
GUGULETHU MFUPHI: Africa and South Africa has to think more globally and the continent needs a new identity if it is going to prosper. This is the view of Stedman Graham, author, educator, and businessman, and JT Foxx, world-renowned consultant who’ll join us now to explain a little bit further. Gentlemen before we get into our discussion, it’s good to have you on the continent. What are you doing here?
JT FOXX: Well, I just got back. We did a tour in Durban, Johannesburg, and Cape Town with Stedman and I, teaching people how to own and start their own businesses. There are such great opportunities. I spent more time here this year, than I have in America. We were just talking about it on the way. We’ve never seen a country with this much opportunity. We’ve both been all over the world – many places at the same time. It’s exciting. I just wish the people here would realise what they are, but they’re starting out. That’s what we did, we just finished, and it’s a good end on this amazing show.
GUGULETHU MFUPHI: Stedman, coming to you I take it you share the same sentiments with JT, but why the love for Africa? Where did it stem from?
STEDMAN GRAHAM: Well, I spent a lot of time here, even during apartheid so it’s just great to be back. South Africa is a great country, as JT was saying. A missing piece around the world is identity. When you talk about Power Lunch, you can’t have any power without understanding who you are. True power comes when you are able to take education, information, make it relevant to your purpose/your mission in life, you try to transfer it to your mind so you can think, and then transfer it to the global market so you can shape your own future. That’s what real freedom is all about. That’s what I teach. I teach people how to define themselves as opposed to having the world define them. Having the world define you…the world will define you if you don’t take your power back by your race, your gender, your class, your family, and your background. We therefore teach people how to organise life around themselves so they can invest in themselves. The thing about South Africa…I think that the slogan should be ‘when you want to invest in South Africa, invest in yourself’.
GUGULETHU MFUPHI: You obviously feel very passionately about this. You have a book that you’ve written with the title ‘Identity’, as well as several others titled ‘Know who you are’. In the foreword to your book, you also give special note to someone who many people admire globally, including myself – Oprah Winfrey. Alec, in his introduction, also referred to her. Do you often feel that you live in her shadow?
ALEC HOGG: I referred to her because when you Google, we can’t find out much about you without going through pages and pages of Oprah. That’s a bit irritating?
STEDMAN GRAHAM: That’s the story. That’s the message. The message is that it doesn’t make any difference how other people define you, as long as you’re able to define yourself. I support Oprah 150 percent, but she has hers and I have mine. I make my own money, I go around the world, and I speak. I have many clients. If you go to my website, I have my own staff.
ALEC HOGG: Do you work in her business?
STEDMAN GRAHAM: I have my own business.
ALEC HOGG: You don’t work with her.
STEDMAN GRAHAM: No, I have no interest in her businesses.
ALEC HOGG: So when you come here, do you go to her school?
STEDMAN GRAHAM: I come on my own with JT Foxx. We spoke to 1000/850 people the other day. I’m there for an hour. I train people all around the world. My clients are Wells-Fargo ad Gulfstream, so I have a number of clients. I don’t have to defend myself on that. I’m just saying that the process of defining yourself is very important, because whoever defines you will always define you as less than them. You therefore always have to take your voice back because there are always people trying to marginalise your existence, based on the way you look, the colour of your skin, your gender, your background, etcetera.
ALEC HOGG: I’d have fun. My wife is an artist. In certain circles, she’s extremely well known, and that’s who we are. Some of us are engaged with life partners who are different people.
JT FOXX: I think it goes to the message in Africa. For example, women: women are sort of driving, in America, entrepreneurship all over the world. More and more women are becoming entrepreneurs. In this country it’s just starting, but there’s still this conception that women should be at home, they should not be in the business place, and it’s a sentiment I’ve seen here, teaching people that.
GUGULETHU MFUPHI: That also comes from a cultural perspective.
JT FOXX: It is cultural, but women actually make better entrepreneurs than men, because of the relationship, the attention to detail, and because of the care, and so they’re also living an identity that they should not be or feel guilty doing that. I’ve seen tremendous amounts of success. I think while Stedman and I did a tour together they kind of respect… Everyone knows the background of Stedman and Oprah, but they like the identity because everyone is searching for their own identity. I’ve been all over the world with Stedman. He’s carved out a niche that is really making a big impact. If you don’t know who you are and you don’t know what your message is, ‘how can you effectively brand?’ This country is amazing. South Africa as a brand, is not very well branded around the world. The last time I was on this show I talked about how people thought it was lions and sharks, everyone has AIDS here, and there’s only violence when it’s probably one of the most beautiful countries out there. Look at Sandton: it’s better than most countries, let alone third world countries.
ALEC HOGG: We don’t think of ourselves like that. We don’t think of ourselves as lions, etcetera.
JT FOXX: You don’t, but the outside world does.
ALEC HOGG: Which outside world…what do you mean by the outside world?
JT FOXX: In America for example, the only thing people would talk about was Oscar Pistorius, violence in the mines, the cab driver four or five months ago who dragged someone… That’s on the news. They don’t talk about the possibilities.
ALEC HOGG: Which Americans? I travel to America often. I go to the Berkshire-Hathaway AGM, and engage with investors there with some of the smartest people around. They don’t think like that.
JT FOXX: I watch the NBC in America all the time. It’s my favourite show in America. I never heard any talk about Africa until I actually came here to Africa and realised the potential. I didn’t even know there was a CNBC Africa. It’s like the synergies: once you get here, that’s when people get it. We therefore need to get investors. You have less and less investment coming into this country – point three percent growth and 25 percent unemployment. There are major strikes.
ALEC HOGG: Point three percent growth.
GUGULETHU MFUPHI: Zero point seven…
JT FOXX: In the last quarter, the GDP growth was zero point seven. It’s still because of the strikes, the violence and just the general… It’s interesting because I think what we need to do, is to foster entrepreneurism in this country and we need to celebrate entrepreneurism. I think that’s sort of the point where we need to get at.
STEDMAN GRAHAM: You’re not going to do that unless you teach people how to find out who they are. The educational system teaches you how to memorise, take tests, and repeat information back. They label you with a grade and two weeks later, you forget the information. Most people are stuck in the box doing the same thing over and over, every single day. If you did the same thing you did yesterday as you would do today, and as you would do tomorrow… what have you done – nothing. Nothing from nothing is nothing. Until you are able to find your talents, your skills, your passions, your purpose, and your mission in life, take information and make it relevant in the 24 hours that you have every single day, which is the only thing that makes you equal… Everybody has 24 hours. The question is, until you empower yourself, until you’re able to take an education and make it relevant to your skills and talents, and become a producer as opposed to a consumer, or a leader as opposed to a follower you’re never going to transform.
GUGULETHU MFUPHI: Give us your personal perspective. How did you identify yourself? How did you separate yourself from the brand, which is Oprah?
STEDMAN GRAHAM: Well, the brand is Oprah. That’s her brand, but her process is the same as mine. Her process is that she focuses on her talents, she focuses on her skills, she develops that, she knows how to take information and make it relevant; she’s able to take the capitalistic system and communicate all around the world based on owning companies. The process is the same. It doesn’t make any difference who it is. We do the same kind of work. I do it on the ground. I train people on the ground. I empower people on the ground. She does it on the air, so she has her own communication vehicle that allows her to amplify her. If you look at that, you would say she’s bigger than you are. The process is the same. It doesn’t make any difference. You can be on Oprah. Anybody can be on Oprah. You can be a ‘Bill Gates’ if you understand the process of success. The problem is that you don’t have the information, and I think that’s what JT is trying to do with people all over the world. He’s trying to train people to understand how to open up their own business. What I do is change their belief system so that they believe in themselves and understand that the process of success – and you both know that – is the same for everybody. The difference is one percent runs the country – they have the information – 99 percent are followers. They don’t know how to do it.
GUGULETHU MFUPHI: So you’re in South Africa, searching around the continent, giving talks as well as educating people on this entrepreneurial spirit. What are you hoping the outcomes will be?
JT FOXX: Well, there was an article I read this morning, that by 2030 there will be double the amount of millionaires in Nigeria, South Africa, Angola, and Kenya.
GUGULETHU MFUPHI: How will that happen?
JT FOXX: Well, it’s going to happen by entrepreneurism. America is great because of the American dream. The American dream is tied to entrepreneurism – small business. You were talking earlier about your view and some of the big companies, but the average American does not know. We do many conferences in America, we keep talking about how great this is, and they look at me funny. I’ve been trying to get people to come here and they’re finally starting to see the opportunity, and I think people need to believe in themselves. It all comes down to beliefs. Stedman talks about identity. Once you get it, the possibilities are endless and that’s what I hope. I have a client that featured in a Real Estate Investor magazine. I have a client who got a feature on the cover of Businesswoman, another one who was covered in Entrepreneur South Africa magazine, and six months ago, that was not even an option. This country’s best asset is its people, and it’s that way in any country. For example, I watched this show and as I’ve watched from the moment it started seven months ago when I first got here…it’s getting closer to your topics – the way it is to the American when I watch NBC. I have to be honest. The first time I watched it I said ‘this is a bit different’, so I’m starting to see the conversations, the topics, and going deeper. At the end of the day, this channel here is what’s going to be the centrifuge for the rest of the country, because if anyone owns a business, they have to watch this channel. This is the only channel that gets down to business – African business. Forbes Africa goes with African stories. What they did was very smart. They didn’t go pick a bunch of Americans or from UK and the world. They’re featuring people here so people can believe here, so they can see, feel, and touch.
ALEC HOGG: Well guys, it’s been a real pleasure and a nice vibrant discussion.
GUGULETHU MFUPHI: It’s the closest I’m going to get to Oprah. Hopefully one day I’ll meet her.
ALEC HOGG: We’ll visit Stedman, or you’ll visit Stedman. It’s very good to see you, and more strength to your efforts in this country. We’ve seen many people come to South Africa
STEDMAN GRAHAM: I’m so excited for her because of her school. She’s taken those young people out of dire situations; she’s putting them in Stanford, Wellesley, Brown, and other schools.
ALEC HOGG: We love her for it. I can assure you.
STEDMAN GRAHAM: The transformation always is moving from a follower to a leader.
ALEC HOGG: We love you guys for the efforts you’re putting in here, as well, so thank you very much.