He's beaten all the bends


A Toyota Corolla, used by adman Reg Lascaris, when he first started his business.

Adman Reg Lascaris might have a little less hair these days and not be involved in the day-to-day running of the ground-breaking agency he co-founded, but he still remains a colossus in the industry; and his views on entrepreneurship and business count. Perhaps even more so these days, given the critical need for creative and accelerated new business development in SA.

He’s just released a biz-biography - Lessons from the Boot of a Car - which tells the story of his agency that set the benchmark for modern advertising in South Africa and acted as an incubator for many advertising leaders still in the game today. The title, by the way, refers to a battered yellow Toyota Corolla that once acted as a start-up office. Lascaris now operates from an eyrie-positioned office in the middle of Africa’s richest square mile.

So the man, whom Nelson Mandela would only call Reginald, knows a thing or two about getting to the top. For ad-anoraks all the stories are there; how the “Beat the Bends” and the “Mouse on the Steering Wheel” ads were conceptualised and executed; the Nando’s shock-vertising and how Hunts proved media critics wrong with a consumer ad strategy for a business-to-business product. It was all about saving you time and saving you money!

But it’s the homespun business advice we all too often forget, that will find valuable resonance among business leaders. It’s a given that all real entrepreneurs fail at some point, often more than once.
Lascaris contends that money comes and goes, but rescuing and preserving reputation is far more important. And in the hard knocks school of business, he also writes that one has to always be a tough minded optimist.

On losing what must have been a valuable piece of business, he writes: “….your career as an entrepreneur should not make you unfeeling or insensitive but should make you resilient. I was deeply disappointed at being sacked from an account….I felt let down on a personal level. But no one felt dejected. We did not feel sorry for ourselves. We bounced back.”

Business leaders would also do well to note the straight and narrow avoidance strategy. Lascaris notes you sometimes have to deviate from business plans in order to take advantage of opportunities and avoid pitfalls.

Obvious maybe, but all too often organisations are held hostage by rigid over-planning and an unwillingness to be nimble.