“I wish someone had told me” is a series of posts that feed into our inquisitive nature at CN&CO. Each week we hear from someone in our network about something interesting or surprising that’s recently happened or occurred to them – or lessons they learnt. These blogs are a way to pay it forward and form part of CN&CO’s belief that the world can be a better place – and we all have a responsibility to make it so. This week’s post is by chief señor Carel, who loves having mates over for a braai at his new home.

Death. Divorce. Moving home. These, I am told, are some of the most stressful things that can happen to us. This week in my TED Talk Tuesday, I chose a TED Talk about death – and made the point that while death is not something I seek out, it is a natural part of life and a useful way for us to remain focused on living well. I’m not married (and don’t plan on being so!) – hence divorce is not something that will stress me. As for moving home ….

I bought the house I grew up in, many years ago. It is well situated (close to what I need and want) in a secure and secluded spot amidst the hustle of Sandton. After 40 years of use, I either needed to sell and move on – or renovate. After much debate with myself, I decided to renovate. Everyone I spoke to told me that it would be very traumatic and how hectic builders are. Bargain on way more money and way more time when you plan – that was the recurring piece of advice I heard.

At the outset I decided that I would enjoy the project. And part of that enjoyment would mean being on time and on budget. Heck, if we have managed to ensure every project at St Stithians is on time and on budget, then surely a house renovation would be easy?! The first step was choosing the team. My philosophy has always been – choose the best people, be clear what you expect from them and what your role is, agree how you will measure – and get out of their way! This philosophy has served me extremely well in business – and it did again in choosing my builder.

Ramon di Clemente from Dibi has been a friend for many years (we first met when he was an Olympic rowing champion and I assisted RowSA with PR). Another big no-no I was told – it will ruin your friendship (spoiler alert – we are even better friends now than before we started). I spent a few weeks telling Ramon (and his wife Kirsten from dcinteriors.co.za) what I wanted – and what I didn’t. Main element was that I wanted to combine my old, family treasures and my very modern pieces. And I wanted a urinal!

I changed my mind often during this process (and was luckily during this time forced to have a wine room by my mate Derek Kilpin). Ramon and Kirsten challenged some stuff while refining other things. After a few weeks, we had arrived at a place where we were all clear on exactly what I wanted. And then I left. I moved into my mate and CN&CO partner Kurt’s spot (which meant he moved into Tanya’s and so I can take some credit for their happy set-up!) and didn’t go to my house for about three months (the full renovation took six months). While the change of environment was somewhat stressful (for me, my dogs, my parrot and my staff) having a safe, lovely spot from a mate made a big difference.

Not checking in on the renovations and letting the experts do their job, meant that by the time I got to see the place, much progress was already made and I could see some of our vision realised. With weekly written feedback against our plan (and the budget!) I was never stressed and was never exposed to any surprises. Just like managing a team – be clear, then support, guide, challenge, influence but stay out of the way! People are smart. Expect them to use their smarts. And then you find other stuff to do and add value to.

My mate Rikus did a superb, surprise video of the renovations. I love the song he chose to accompany some of what occurred. And while my home is my refuge and I love being there alone, I also love having friends over. So see you soon, I hope. After all – divorce, death and building may be stressful for some. But having a glass of champagne with a friend, never is. Happy home making for you all!

PS – any more practical tips, hit me up! Or give Ramon a shout ramon@dibi.co.za.