Ken Varejes I Founder of Primedia Unlimited and CEO of Nfinity

Ken Varejes

Born and bred in Durban, Ken is known as one of South Africa’s biggest media legends. As a lover of homemade biltong and all things spicy, Ken is first and foremost a family man. Besides his latest venture, Nfinity, which constantly keeps his eye on the bigger picture, he has been involved in the start-up of some 25 local businesses through which he has been directly involved in creating more than 500 jobs. He aims to invest in the lives of those he works with by improving their careers and general wellness, ensuring their time with him is as meaningful as possible. We hope his wisdom, advice and personal experience passed on here will be just as meaningful to you.

My Definition Of Success | Success is not just a financial reward – it covers many elements such as legacy, commitment and honour. The real question you have to ask is: Have you made a difference to peoples’ lives? Have you not only employed them in your business’ growth but have you understood them and tried to improve their lives not just in terms of income but providing them with advice and care.
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I Am Driven By | The desire to succeed – you will always stumble along the way but the key ingredient is to put any obstacles aside and persevere. On some occasions I have stuck with a dying issue feeling that, with a little more effort, things would turn around. In many cases I have been rewarded but in some I have failed. The key here is to at least try – put in the hard yards. If it does not succeed then have the courage to walk away. As they say, your first loss is your best loss. Never be afraid to fail as this is what entrepreneurship is all about – the risk of failure vs success. The key is obviously to make more correct decisions than incorrect ones BUT to at least make a call. If you are wrong simply make another decision to make things right once again.

My Highlights | I have been involved in the build of some 25 successful companies under my tenure as CEO of Comutanet and Primedia Unlimited. In the Comutanet stable my partners and I took the business from a R1.5m profit to R38m in 10 years – this from the early 90’s till 2002. When I started Primedia Unlimited I managed to achieve a 36% year on year compound growth in profits over the 11 years and took the business from a start up to the biggest diversified OOH company in Africa. Having said all this, what I am most proud of, is that we managed to employ some 500 people in the different businesses and focused aggressively on internal promotion to ensure all had a better life; they were all extended family. Lastly the real highlights are my 3 children who have achieved all that a person could ask for in the way they carry themselves, deal with others and approach life. That, I hope, is my real legacy.

The Difference Between Good And Great | This has become a cliché really but the truth is that we become, in many cases, happy with what we have achieved and never focus on improvement. In our company we consistently challenge ourselves. When we present to a client and believe the presentation was slick and impactful we still ask: How we can we improve? You have to judge yourself against yourself; that is the key to ongoing success.

Ken Varejes3Principles I Live By | I try live by the adage that one must be honest, passionate and committed. Every day is different and some can be disheartening. You have to be honest with yourself and query your performance. Each and every day I ask myself if I had a good business day (you can only be honest with yourself). If the answer is no, I make a point of ensuring that the following day is improved and more focused. You can’t do this on an annual or 6 monthly basis as the world passes you by at a rapid rate. That is why I am not a fan of the bi annual staff assessment that companies carry out. This should be done, on an informal basis, day by day.

Lessons I Have Learnt | I have learnt many key lessons in life mainly focused on passion; if you cannot keep this element alive, then you ultimately will have a failing business. All staff that you employ and work with must have this ingredient. It doesn’t mean that people arrive and express themselves loudly and jump around; it simply refers to the will to make their job better each day, to see how they can ensure that they in themselves become more effective for the organization. Another key lesson is the need to surround yourself with people who are better than you in their respective field. If they are smarter and more effective then they will ensure that the business improves and that you ultimately become more successful.

Dealing With Doubt | This is undoubtedly an area that effects most people. When you see your business drop in performance you consistently question whether it is still relevant. The importance here is to always surround yourself with positive people in both business and social life. They are the ones that make you see things differently and positively and as a result, more often than not, this will rub off ensuring you consistently have a positive aura that dispels doubt and drives one to succeed even further.

The Best Advice I’ve Received | The best advice I have received is that “tomorrow is another day – tomorrow is a better day”. So when you feel that all is not going well, just remember that it will be okay. Keep focused and passionate; put in the many hours and success will follow.

Advice On Building Wealth | This is one of the toughest elements of all as once you have built a great business and have good cash-flow, the hardest part is to know what to do with your hard earned cash. The reality is that I personally have no great knowledge about the stock markets and investments. I know the business area that I work in and have good knowledge in this space – the reality, therefore, is to consistently invest in your own business where you can ensure that your hard earned cash is growing your investment in an area that you know.

Ken Varejes2On Inspiring Others | I try to focus on this element in my business as much as I can. I always want my staff and colleagues to feel that the job or career they have is special and that, working together, we can create a lifestyle that suits them. To achieve this you need to create a daily feeling of family and belonging whilst at the same time driving people to greater and greater success. Most times, we do this by being there for them, by having an open door policy, as well as promoting ongoing training to ensure that whatever they do they can do it seamlessly.


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