Starting a business – sometimes helps to think less, do more


The late, great Bill Lynch (World Entrepreneur of the Year 2006) liked advising prospective business owners to follow Nike and Just Do It. This superb blog by Dr Thomas Oosthuizen reaches a similar conclusion. Intellectual, direct and so very smart, Oosthuizen is SA’s branding Tzar. After reading this you’ll agree with me that he also knows a bit about starting businesses.

By Thomas Oosthuizen*

About two months ago, we came across a new North Indian restaurant – opened by a young guy who, in his broken English, told us he was from Mumbai, and that he took all his savings to open a new restaurant in SA.

Madness I thought… South Africans do not even invest in their own country – and restaurants are hard work – often for little return (the rational me talking).

We decided to have dinner there that night – and his food was excellent. But we were the only patrons that night… so I left worried, somehow it is important for us all to make such faith in SA pay-off.

As anyone who has ever started a business will know, it is not plain sailing. Less so if it is in a foreign country, and in a town that is totally over-traded with national chain restaurants with large marketing budgets. On top of it, he chose a very bad position…

Yet, this guy decorated it well and employs six South Africans. In his mind, failure is not an option.

We there and then decided we will support him and tell everyone about it. Soon thereafter, people started talking about it themselves and whenever we went there, at least two tables were occupied with many take-aways happening whilst we were there.

We have been back many times. His service and food is consistently good. I don’t think he needed a business school to tell him what to do, I think it came naturally!

I just saw him now – he said the Easter weekend was so good that he paid his interior decor bill and he is now free of debt! I was really so happy to hear that.

Magic in SA – and the world – happens when normal people do simple, ordinary things. When they have the faith to believe they can beat the odds.

Entrepreneurship – making an economy work and create jobs, is not magical, it consists of many small decisions taken by ordinary people, to create a better life for themselves. And then for government to get out of the way. No amount of studying and preparation can teach you that.

If you want “it” – whatever “it” is – badly enough, you will do whatever it takes. Clearly, this guy has it… he is an example to many of us who can only think of constraints, issues, concerns and excuses not to pursue our dreams.

We need many more of these kinds of people to create a thriving economy. Moreover, we, as South Africans, need to start believing we can change the world… many small leaps of faith can change the world, even if the “world” is small and only matters to a few.

A good friend of mine at MTN, Nicola van Ast, always says one should be “the enemy of can’t”.

Attitude is everything, I have seen it so many times, even if I often find myself lacking enough of it to do the things that I really want to do.

Attitude creates jobs, wealth, prosperity – and above all, happiness. It was great to see my Indian friend smile when he told me he paid his loan off tonight!

Sometimes it helps to think less and do more.

* Dr Thomas Oosthuizen is one of South Africa’s leading brand marketing specialists. He now lives in Durban after paying his dues in the Big City, most recently as chairman of O2 Communications from 1995 to 2005. The Star’s Advertising Man of the Year in 2001, he is the branding go-to guy for many of South Africa’s business leaders. He can be reached at [email protected]

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