We recently received an inspiring email from Carel Nolte, our “Chief Senor” the founding member of our company. I cannot give him a formal title, because we don’t do that in our company, rather focusing on outputs and who the most appropriate person is to lead a particular aspect at a particular time. Carel shared his “why” with the company and the vision for 2019 and beyond – CN&CO 2.0.

Like all new-ish companies, we have been through the ups and downs, we adapt and continue to challenge the status quo, it has been toughand we have learnt a sh1t load along the way. About people, about business, about life and relationships. We are not your ordinary “agency” or “consultancy”, we are real, passionate and believe above all the things in the power of people and relationships.

I thought it was relevant for me to share this, because often I question my “why”, our purpose and what the fu#k get’s us out of bed (or at least should). I am lucky enough to work with such diverse and incredible brands and people, and making a difference and building their brand with and for them, is my “why”, being able to contribute to the suffering economy and helping people grow is my “why”.

I felt pretty motivated and inspired and it got me thinking more deeply about my “why”, I hope it gets you thinking and inspires you as much as it did for me.

Dear all

I recently reflected on how fast the past five years have flown by. Filled with loads of travels, experiences, ups and downs – but at such a speed that I find it hard to recall exactly what and when. 

  • My mum died. 
  • I ran my first 5km, started a running club and then ran my first (and two more) Comrades. 
  • I renovated my house. 
  • I celebrated my dad’s 80th. 
  • I spoke on the main stage at TED and got applause from the richest man in the world, the Prime Minister of Canada and Michelle Obama.
  • I raised over R2 million for cancer charities and hospices.
  • I served as the youngest chairman of St Stithians College and contributed to a team that has driven that school to be nearly 50% transformed in terms of race (gender we already tick the box).
  • I sponsored five children through Saints.
  • I attended SXSW.
  • I made a ton of bad choices and mistakes that still make me cringe.
  • I often slept too little.
  • I said things I had to apologise for.
  • I toured Brazil for a month during the World Cup Soccer.
  • I drank amazing wine in Beirut, champagne in Reims.
  • I explored Thailand, hiked Bhutan, watched amazing shows on Broadway.

To name just a very few of the amazing things I have been lucky enough to experience – often with many of you, my close friends. And I know that if you all looked back five years, your lives will equally be as changed now compared to what they were in 2014.

But the thing that has been the most impactful has been starting CN&CO and working with all of you. Our shared experiences have hugely influenced me. At times I have been deeply stressed, angry, resentful, frustrated. But usually – and luckily –  I have been excited and grateful. And never more so than now. Here’s why …

Many of you know Simon Sinek. Some of you use Sinek in work with clients. Here is his talk on “Why”.  (note the poor film quality – I love how TED has grown from this ramshackle, make-it-up-as-we-go conference to the multi-million dollar, slick operation it is today … watch this space for CN&CO’s conferencing arm).

CN&CO’s why – for me – has always been clear. But I have never really articulated it clearly and consistently. So here goes:

CN&CO is a company that is made up of a bunch of fuccen amazing people. These people, individually and collectively, use the company as a platform to be the best versions of themselves and to contribute to the world around them – to make it a better place. We do that whilst having fun and in doing so make enough money to be comfortable, not super rich.

That description ties in with my view that I don’t care whether we sell widgets, work in the insurance industry, run an airline, consult on human resources – or all or none of these. It is about each one of us using the company to live life to its fullest – and to make a meaningful difference in the world.

Our values that we workshopped in January (well, as much as we can workshop anything) are:


  • We are accountable
  • We take responsibility
  • We make a plan to make it work
  • We are personally invested in all we do
  • We are flexible


  • We are part of a collective
  • We collaborate with others
  • We embrace diversity
  • We value relationships
  • We bring people together


  • We share and we listen
  • We look for links where none are apparent
  • We join the dots… 1+1=22
  • We incorporate our lifestyles into our business and our business into our lifestyles


  • We create a sense of magic
  • We question everything around us (and beyond)
  • We remain amazed by what we achieve together

I hope all that you have read to this point resonates. if it does, you’re in the right place and the future – which may at times be like riding a tiger whilst holding onto its tail – is going to be rewarding, scary, challenging, fun and bloody brilliant!

I want to share what was written by the founder of another entrepreneurial SA company – one of our Club Med ambassadors:

“1 Sept 2018 – Today not only marks the start of a new month, new season and new opportunities but also SYNAQ‘s 14th birthday. It has been one of my biggest privileges and empowering experiences to co-create and lead such a great company with such remarkable people. With that, here are (14!) key lessons I’ve learned along the way.

  1. Your thoughts and attitude will determine your success; life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.
  2. Co-create the strategy; It’s much harder to buy into a strategy that’s been dictated, no matter how good it may be
  3. Be real, be vulnerable; having the right intent is what matters
  4. Profit is not a strategy; The best people don’t care about unrealistic budgets and forecasts, they care about a mission they believe in. If you have an inspiring mission and the right people profit will be one of the outcomes
  5. My role as CEO is Chief Psychologist; My #1 KPI is to get the right people in an empowering environment where they can thrive
  6. Focus on systems, not goals; With the right daily activities and rituals you can accomplish anything
  7. It’s easy to be busy, being busy and even efficient doesn’t mean you’re effective; Ask hard questions and recalibrate yourself to your highest purpose
  8. Have mentors, but make sure you are one too; I’ve learned so much by giving back
  9. Focus on things you can influence or improve, not external factors out of your control; it’s easy to blame the Government or Economy for your problems
  10. There is no such thing as work-life balance; If you focus hard on one element in your life the other will be negated, rather focus on work-life integration
  11. Grit is more important than IQ – Intelligence only accounts for 30% of your achievements on the extreme upper end. In other words, talent is overrated; Daily grind for 5110 days got us to where we are today
  12. The power of the word; A subtle change in your language and the way it’s conveyed changes the situation, the outcome and even the game
  13. Have guiding principles that you live by; This will help you navigate through the difficult times
  14. The harder I work the luckier I get; Just make sure when luck presents itself you are ready for it

Thank you to all the SYNAQerz for building such an exceptional company!

And remember, don’t forget to smile…”

CN&CO team, I love what he says and much of it resonates with me. I encourage you to read, watch, learn, explore, put yourself out there, suck the marrow from life – every day, listen, communicate and in doing so to grow into your best self and to be a servant leader. I learn so much from you and others that I am constantly amazed by how much wonder there is in the world.

There are some T’s to cross and I’s to dot, but CN&CO version 2.0 is around the corner.

Thank you and here’s to us!
Chief Senor, your partner and friend, Carel

PS – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3bYwKp2FJro