From the window of my top floor office in Cape Town I can see Lions Head and Table Mountain. I can also see the majestic and totally luxurious Cape Grace Hotel, one of the many hotels that Stuart Brand and his family built up over the course of generations, before selling out to the International Libra Group in 2008. A serial entrepreneur by descent, and always looking to build and make a difference, Stuart has since gone on to use his passion for detail, elegance, boldness, beauty, service and grace to create an international luxury accessory brand and business called Zambezi Grace. I caught up with Stuart this week, wanting to dig-in a bit deeper to find out what makes him tick.
My Definition Of Success | Being the very best I was designed to be as a husband, a father, a son and a friend. Relationships are what matter to me and what last forever. The rest is vanity. This has certainly changed over the years. While one is alive, the world measures success in materialistic terms. At your funeral nobody talks about the material assets one has accumulated. In the end only two things are important: what is your relationship with your maker? And what is the relationship with your family and friends like?
A Key Talent | I am not particularly talented at anything but I would say because I was never allowed to give up, tenacity has become one of them. I am also very enthusiastic and I think this is infectious.
Principles I Live By | We have always named our businesses and homes; “Grace” and we aim to live by the acronym.
G ; Gratitude. This is the opposite of “entitlement”. Take nothing for granted, there is always much to be grateful for.
R ; Respect. Respect everybody I come into contact with, prince and pauper receive the same treatment.
A; Abundant generosity. Give generously – giving is better than getting.
C; Caring. Care for others more than myself.
E; Excellence. Whatever I do, it should be excellent.
Lessons I Have Learnt | As an entrepreneur one is reminded daily, “Life is difficult!” And “life is unfair”. Start with those as a premise and when things are slightly easier they seem marvelous. Never feel sorry for yourself or hard done-by and continually remind yourself that the world owes you nothing. We had one of our hotels burnt down to ashes. We lost most of our worldly possessions and I realised these things mean nothing. Out of that, I also learnt that you can only do what you can do as best as you can and the rest is up to God. That does not mean we sit back and do nothing. On the contrary, work extremely hard, hustle like crazy, be relentless in the pursuit of beauty but also rest in the knowledge that “all things work for good to those that love the Lord and operate according to his purpose”.
Dealing With Doubt | There are many moments in business that can be absolutely terrifying. I remember some when we could not pay the rent or pay staff or ourselves. These are times that drive me to my knees and I have time and again been the recipient of many miracles. The troubles don’t disappear but feeling under the shadow of the wings of The Almighty is very comforting.
My Future Dreams And Ambitions | About 10 years ago, my wife and I sold up and took our children sailing around the world for a few years. We had the adventure of a lifetime. I would love to be able to do the Great Loop in the USA (a loop from Chicago down the Mississippi River, around Florida, up the Intra-coastal and into the Hudson River connecting back to the Great Lakes) a trip of about 5000 miles, visiting many beautiful places and meeting extraordinary people along the way. I would also like to build a great luxury brand born out of Africa.
The Best Advice I’ve Received | My Grandfather was a real entrepreneur from building to mining and even undertaking. He told me many incredible stories but three of them stuck:
1. Never put whisky in your water bottle. (He was in the Desert in WW2 and being a Scotsman he couldn’t resist a scotch in his water bottle. He got lost in the desert and the whiskey de-hydrated him rather badly!)
2. Always employ 1 and a half people for every 2 jobs. Contrary to popular opinion, people love being pushed in their careers.
3. Employ people who are more capable and intelligent than yourself.
I Am Inspired By | I am very fortunate to have great role models in my Father, Father-in-law and my business partners. I have been privileged to work with all of them and they are equally inspirational. My wife and children are also great inspiration to me.