Clive Butkow

Business Innovation


Here Clive Butkow shares his journey from humble beginnings, through a remarkable career, leading from the front and investing and growing human capital. He advises on investment in self development, being always willing to learn but also being willing to teach.

Clive Butkow | Legacy Project

Tackling the job generation challenge currently facing South Africa, Clive is committed to mentoring entrepreneurs. A generous man with constructive advice.d create jobs.

Clive is the Former COO of Accenture South Africa. He formed Kalon Venture Partners, with the purpose of focusing on investing in digital disruptive technologies.

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Interview Questions

When I was younger I measured success by my financial rewards. As I matured, as a person and as a leader, I realised that my real success was measured by how many other people I made successful. Now as an entrepreneur and venture capitalist, my success is measured by how many problems my companies can solve and how many lives are impacted by the benefits and positive outcomes that our solutions provide.

Giving back and making a difference to the people that I come into contact with. Supporting people who have not had the opportunities and learnings I had from working in a high performing global consulting company.

My biggest driver however, is helping small businesses grow into assets of value which often results in the entrepreneurs creating financial freedom.

 Coming from a very modest family background where there were minimal “nice to have’s” I recognised from a young age that I needed to do things differently to create a better life for myself and my family.

I started my first few businesses when I was 8 and then started working in sales in a clothes shop at the age of 9. I worked in this clothes shop for many years until I graduated from university. What I never realised at the time is how these formative years would shape my success in life and in business.

These years taught me one of the most valuable skills you need for success in life and business which is the skills of communication and influence, in summary the ability to sell. These sales skills are invaluable skills to have when one enters the business world whether you are in a corporate, self-employed or an entrepreneur.

What I learnt is that you are always selling, whether it is to potential employers, potential employees, investors, clients, your family and in particular your children. I share with the entrepreneurs that I mentor that nothing happens until the cash register rings.

Hard work. The harder you work the luckier you get. I found that successful people work much harder than the average person. One of my mentors reminded me that there are no road blocks in the extra mile.

I have studied success my whole life and studied the lives of many successful people and one thing they all have in common is that they work hard. They use their time differently and they never waste their time and use their time far better than the people that never achieve real success.

I believe there were many, however, if I distill this question to a few answers they would be:

Firstly, I accept responsibility for what I do and the consequences of my action or inaction. I find average people are always looking for someone or something to blame when something goes wrong

Secondly, I am solution orientated and am always looking for ways to solve problems, I am prepared to try new things and never consider the possibility of failure.

Lastly, knowing and being prepared to admit my strengths and weaknesses and then surrounding myself with people who are smarter than me and who complimented my strengths.

My mantra in every leadership position I that held, was to hire leaders who were better than me and to mentor them to the point that I made myself redundant. This approach always created new opportunities for myself to take on a more senior leadership role.

I am a learner and never stop growing my skills and knowledge. In today’s Information Age your skills and knowledge can become extinct every year or over a few  years.

I treat my life as work in process and in permanent beta. Just like a tree you are either growing or dying. The people that invest more time in themselves than they do in their jobs will come out on top and their skills will always be in demand.

These successful people see themselves as self-employed and irrespective of who they work for, themselves or a corporate, they treat the company as if it was their own and behave accordingly.

The most important attribute to me is integrity. When I used to hire people, and I have hired hundreds during my career, I always looked for three things; intellect; energy and integrity. If the person did not have the last one the first two were useless.

I have always believed that money can be made but integrity, once you have lost it, it has gone forever. People need to understand that it takes literally years to build a good reputation and seconds to destroy it.

I believe that everything rises and falls on leadership, being leadership in business, sport, government, etc.

I invest significant amounts of my time being mentored and apprenticing under the best leaders I came into contact with both locally and abroad. I made it my mission to become the best ‘ME’ that I could be and to become a role model and mentor to the many people that looked to me for guidance and counselling.

The critical skill for me to be a great leader is to develop emotional intelligence as this enabled me as a leader to climb the corporate ladder and take on far greater responsibility.

I had the self -confidence to believe in myself and recognise that the only thing that could hold me back from achieving my goals was my mindset not my skill set. Early on during my career I noticed many highly talented people who’s mindset was a choke-hold preventing them from achieving their true potential.

Another mindset limiting factor which I was eyewitness to was people not having an abundant mentality. Their scarcity mentality held them back from achieving greater things in their life and business. I see this particularly now working with entrepreneurs in the venture capital space.

The most important attribute that most likely helped me achieve my success was my ‘CAN DO’ attitude and my appetite for taking calculated risks . We can all find many reasons why not to take a risk and not do something, but my philosophy was to rather find one reason for me to do something and, if I found that one reason, I would take the risk and find ways to mitigate all the other risks.

Being successful in business and in life is about your ability to get on with people and build meaningful relationships. You learn quickly in business that people buy from people not from the business you work for.

You need to build trust with all the people you interact with whether they are your employees, customers, investors, etc.

When building a big business the most important people, contrary to popular belief, are your employees not your customers. If you do not treat your employees well they will not treat your customers well and that will cost you business.

Make the time to look after your physical condition by exercising, eating well, etc. irrespective of the pressure or circumstances of your environment. I am a strong believer in the old adage healthy body healthy mind which allows one to perform at their peak.

I am a learner and I continuously read  books, watch  educational videos, attend conferences and most importantly I have turned my car into an automobile university, I have schemed this by downloading educational and motivational material onto my phone and listen and learn every time I am in my car.

Today with the educational material available, often for free, from some of the top institutions around the globe (MOOCS) there is no excuse not to learn new skills every day of your life.

To help with job creation in South Africa through providing capital, mentoring and growing small businesses.

Success leaves clues so learn from the people that have walked the road before you. Find a mentor or mentors and climb under their wing and listen, learn and then lead. Don’t reinvent the wheel as it is too costly and too hard. Trial and error is not a good business or life strategy.


There are no shortcuts to wealth, no get rich quick schemes. The best way to wealth is to invest in your earning ability and develop skills that people will pay you for, to get results.

My advice for anyone starting out in their careers is to focus their first few years on learning and not on earning. The learning will pay huge dividends later on in life when the wealth will be created. The best way of creating wealth is to build your own company into an asset of value that can be sold one day.

To find and keep great people you have to sell them your vision and your WHY. I believe that the generation of today want to work for companies that have a greater purpose and are not only focused on making money.

If your vision and WHY are not powerful enough they will choose to rather work somewhere else where they are.

You then need to walk the talk and lead from the front to continually motivate them to achieve this higher purpose and your goals.

Any political, business and other leader that stands up for what they believe in and does the right thing not the popular thing.

Give back to the country and change as many lives in a positive way by helping less privileged people grow skills, build business’ and create jobs.

Interview Date

  • 2016-07-22


  • South Africa


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