AKC’s career lessons

Alan Knott Craig Jnr

Seven career lessons former MXiT leader Alan Knott-Craig says he’s learnt already

I consider both Alan Knott-Craigs to be friends. Senior, the country’s cell visionary and founding CEO of Vodacom. A man who returned after a heart-attack instilled sabattical and is now running Cell-C (and soon, if sense prevails, Telkom). We’ve shared some deep moments. I was privileged to be asked to speak at the launch of his book. And he has been quick to offer support during my difficult periods.


AKC Junior, the better communicator; the son determined to make his dad proud; the young man who wears his heart on his sleeve. He tries. Really hard. At everything he does. We’ve golfed; partied at the World Economic Forum in Davos; shared Gautrain rides and chats in airport lounges. He was also the nominee for my Jhb Country Club membership.

It was ironic Alan Jnr and I left high profile jobs (he running MXiT, me Moneyweb) at the same time and within a week bumped into each other in the Slow Lounge at the Cape Town Airport. What’s said between friends shouldn’t be repeated. And won’t be here. Except to say my exit was eminently more elegant and a lot less brutal. And mine was no picnic.

Alan Jnr told me he will be regrouping by taking his family on a road trip in the USA, only returning into 2013. Before departing, though, he wrote about career lessons his experience has taught him on his blog alanknottcraig.co.za. It’s republished below.

From Alan Knott-Craig Jnr:

When I think of the factors that led to any successes (or failures) in my career thus far, the following come to mind:


If you can’t effectively transmit the picture in your head into the head of the person you’re communicating with, you’re dead. This is the key to getting people swimming in the same direction, and it applies to customers, staff, partners, suppliers and shareholders.

The more people swimming in your direction, the more likely you are to reach the other side.

Of course the content must be good, but the medium is almost more important… language, video, audio, P2P, email, time of day… all these factors impact how much of the message is absorbed.

Marshall McLuhan said it: “The medium is the message.” Ignore at your own risk.

2. Take risks

I heard Michael Jordaan recently say to a bunch of youngsters that one of his biggest regrets is that he didn’t take more risks in his life. As he pointed out, most of us are brought up in an environment where no one is encouraging us to take risk, and therefore by the time you realise that taking risk is the only path to greatness you already have school fees and a mortgage to pay off, and its too late!

There are 3 kinds of risk:

a) Financial

Whether you’re investing money in a venture, or taking a salary sacrifice to be part of a new business, you’re taking financial risk.

b) Emotional

In many ways, business is like marriage. And in marriage, you risk emotional harm every day!

c) Reputational

You must put yourself out there. The world is busy, no one is going to “discover” you. You must bring yourself to the attention of the world. By shining a light on yourself you risk embarrassment and worse, ridicule, but you need to suck it up.

“The people who matter don’t care, the people who care don’t matter.” Anonymous

3. Change your mind

Jeff Bezos recently said, “The people who are mostly right change their mind the most.”

Whilst it’s great to know what you want to do, its better to backtrack when it becomes clear you’re going down the wrong path. Never lose sight of your dream, but don’t be too proud to admit you’ve taken the wrong course.

Make decisions, move forward, correct quickly. Don’t worry what people think.

4. Balance form and substance

There are people in the world who think substance trumps form, and there are people who are convinced form trumps substance. Neither camp is right. The secret is form AND substance. If you must choose (and in the real world, choice is inevitable), start with form. A falling tree doesn’t make a sound if no one is there to hear it.

5. Sales

I’m no good at taking money off the table. “You first.” “No, you.” “No, really, you go ahead.”… It’s just not in me, so I’ve historically shunned it. But that’s no good. In future I’ll pay more attention to generating short-term revenues. Whilst it’s uber-important to keep your eye on the big picture, it’s also uber-important to pay the bills today.

6. Process

Process is different to detail. I’ve had detail people in my life, but I’ve always lacked people with a knack for designing and implementing processes. Repeatability is the key to efficiency, and process is the key to repeatability. In future I need to pay more attention to process.

7. Be grateful, and do something!

I was fortunate to have been presented with opportunities in my life, and even more fortunate to have been in a position to take risk. But regardless of the luck factor, at the end of the day you must have the courage to take a chance and do something with what you’ve been blessed with.


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