Saturday, March 23, 2019

Moving up


Everyone knows that moving, divorce and death are the three most traumatic life events. Well, around a year ago I experienced the first. And I can vouch for it, this is indeed horrifying.

It came upon me rather unexpectedly. Well to be honest, I ignored the symptoms for a very long time. Finally I was told “We’ve arranged the builders for the end of January, could you please be out by then?” Timeline: four weeks.

As always in my life when disaster calls an angel appears. This time it came in the form of Léo, an intern who arrived two weeks later. Having lived in Gardens for more than ten years, I had no notion of what to do to find an apartment. I’m sure Léo could see that lost look in my eyes. Being tech savvy, he quickly set up a pattern of trawling ads on different sites while I grudgingly packed up.

With D-day coming up super quickly, we kept a rigorous schedule of e-mailing, calling and visiting apartments all over town, but not finding anything vaguely suitable. The last week arrives and I’m desperate. Léo sends me an ad of a place in Sea Point.  Walking through the flat, the bell rings and two girls arrive, also interested. Léo tells me “You’ve got to take it! This looks great!” I have my doubts. A phone call distracts me and Janet the agent tells Léo the deadline is tomorrow at two.  Spending my evening and morning assembling a raft of documents I send it through at 13h40. At 17h01 I get an email from Janet:
Unfortunately your documents have only just come through at 16.55.
I received 3 applications first thing this morning and the owner has already accepted one of these.”

She takes pity on me (my second angel) and asks me twice if I would like to view a new listing. Of course I would! Packing has more or less stopped and I have an uneasy feeling that the office will be totally disconnected shortly. Early Saturday morning Janet takes me to two current listings. The first one looks ok, but with no character or soul. The second one is in disrepair, Janet even apologises. Then we go to the promised one, with me saying “It’s expensive and has no parking, but let’s look.” En route she mentions “It’s been empty for awhile. I’m sure you can negotiate.”
I have no doubt in her abilities and am totally calm. Opening the door, I’m flooded with light. There are wall-to-wall sliding windows throughout, white tiles and walls, plenty mirrors contrasted by black marble tops in the kitchen and main bedroom. I must bite on my lips to keep from smiling.

“Call Greg, he’s moved many of my clients before” are her parting words. Now I have to face the packing. My place is crowded (thanks to inheriting two households) but that’s putting it lightly.  I’m totally overwhelmed and frantically start giving away things to everyone vaguely interested.

To spice things up, there’s a 09h00 meeting with a USA client just before Greg and his team arrives. With almost not having packed at all, I literally put stuff into boxes while the guys come up the stairs.  The day flows into night as I drive up and down filling and emptying my car, sweating profusely. Taking my fourth shower for the day I finally admit “This is not a one day affair.” In fact, moving becomes a week-long nightmare after being given grace by my landlady, interspaced with long calls to MWEB our ISP to urgently reconnect us. Telkom is the only company responding at surprising speed.   

The Haven Night Shelter also pitches up on D-day to collect stuff that I have managed to put aside. During the following days and weeks they come another two times to fill up their bakkie. Life goes on, but at this point it’s a matter of survival. My new place, grand and spacious (double in size) as it is, looks like a warehouse with cartons and furniture stacked all over. Léo does wonders in keeping FMS in touch with the world, while I finally settle on Telkom to take us with fibre Wi-Fi into the 21st century.
This all happens while I’m negotiating the biggest transaction of the company’s existence with the most difficult client I’ve ever come across. On top of that, this whole process is through a translator as Mr. Lee only speaks Chinese. Needles to say, things don’t just get lost in translation; they also get delayed, tense and almost derailed.

Thanks to daily sunset walks on the promenade and beaches my energy level picks up as I relish this newfound luxury. It looks like a hotel with a sea view. And that’s only the start. The beach is across the road, the sea gulls are screeching above, the surf is pounding through the windows and “It smells like fish” one of the guys tells me when delivering my new fridge a year later.
P.S. This article was written entirely during load shedding. Here’s an ad produced by Santam during 2015 that shows what life in SA is like for the past decade or more: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ViorVDgiiOg

© Anton Blignault, Cape Town 2019

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Make the memory!


“Life is all about memories” according to Protea Hotels. So if visiting Victoria Falls is on your bucket list, get there if you can.

Here is a story from Marc Chernoff that I read a year ago and would like to make my own sometime soon:
“One warm evening nine years ago...
After spending nearly every waking minute with Angel for eight straight days, I knew that I had to tell her just one thing. So late at night, just before she fell asleep, I whispered it in her ear. She smiled... the kind of smile that makes me smile back. And she said, “When I’m seventy-five, and I think about my life and what it was like to be young, I hope that I can remember this very moment.”
A few seconds later she closed her eyes and fell asleep. The room was peaceful... almost silent. All I could hear was the soft purr of her breathing. I stayed awake thinking about the time we’d spent together and all the choices in our lives that made this moment possible. And at some point, I realized that it didn’t matter what we’d done or where we’d gone. Nor did the future hold any significance.
All that mattered was the serenity of the moment.
Just being with her and breathing with her.”
The moral of the story is: “We must not allow the clock and the calendar to blind us to the fact that each moment of life is a miracle and a mystery.“ as instructed by H. G. Wells.

Next time when you want to push that snooze button tell yourself this: “No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.” according to Regina Brett. Then go out and make someone’s day - and this will make yours. Guaranteed!

Besides, Woody Allen’s mother always told him: “If you don’t do it, then you aren’t going to be able to do the thing.”

Feel free to sing in the shower: "So today is my new favourite day!" as Winnie-the-Pooh loves to say.

Actually I say: “Sure – work hard, but at some point just be. There’s no need to always have a plan, and even if you have a plan, there’s no rule that you should stick to it. Relax. Indulge in enjoying life with your loved ones. Know that this moment will not come again.” Now just think about that...

References:-
Proteahotels.com by Marriott
The Blissful Art of Being and Breathing” by Marc Chernoff 
“Winnie-the-Pooh” by A.A. Milne
"Woody Allen Interview - VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA" by Steve 'Frosty' Weintraub
Plus: H. G. Wells; Regina Brett; Anton Blignault

Photo credits:-
Kalk Bay harbour by Anton Blignault
Buffalo Bay, Cape Point Nature Reserve by Anton Blignault

© 2018 Anton BLIGNAULT, Cape Town South Africa

Friday, February 16, 2018

Just say “Hello!”


“A simple ‘Hello’ could lead to a million things.”

To prove the point, here’s the happy-ever-after story of Sorisha Naidoo: “At the time I had been hanging out with a certain friend a lot and people were absolutely convinced that we were going out... I assumed people would see that we were just friends. ...it was during that time that Viv [Vivian Reddy] and I met and the rest is history – all because he had the guts to talk to me!”

“If you want to be interesting, be interested. Just ask questions.” Romain tells me. But don’t ever let it sound like the third degree. Interestingly, Debora Patta, presenter of “Third Degree”on eTV married the guy who at first insulted her about her show the previous night, apologising a day later. She says “Clearly, I obviously want somebody who can stand up to me!”

So who do you want to pursue? In the words of Ryk Neethling, South African swimming champion: “...‘hot’ means so many different things. Marc Lottering responded with “Hot means great feet. We’ve just established...” Ryk: “To begin with, yes. It also does mean a great personality and confidence and the way that she carries herself and what she does for a living and... So it’s a whole package.”
More advice from Pearl Thusi, star in “Isidingo” on SABC on making the right match: “A man who can make me laugh will get very far with me.”

“Zorba the Greek” with Anthony Quinn (Alexis Zorba), Alan Bates (Basil / boss), Irene Papas (widow) and Lila Kedrova (Madame) provides the perfect lesson. Being a "book man" myself I feel the pain and helplessness of the boss, longing to be the boisterous, gregarious Zorba with his astonishing love for life and women. Pushing him towards the widow Zorba told him, "This is an opportunity, you must grab it! That's why God gave you hands!"
And just to confuse you: in French “Salut !” usually means “Hello!” but it can also be “Goodbye!” as sung by Johnny Hallyday in “Salut Charlie !”.

Lastly, when you can say: “I am brighter when I am with you, I truly am”, then you’re truly with the right partner, your soul mate.

By sheer guts, instinct and confidence move from being an observer of the world to becoming a participant. I know what I'm going to do. What's your choice? At any rate whatever you do choose to Live life!
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Photo credits:-

1. Cape Point, Table Mountain National Park: Juliette SALMON – Anton BLIGNAULT
2. Zorba the Greek: Zorba & Basil – Google Images

References:-
Adele “Hello” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQHsXMglC9A 
Debora Patta “Who’s afraid of Debora Patta?” interview by Marc Lottering in kulula.com khuluma July 2011
Johnny Hallyday “Salut Charlie” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7bKbPJSrpNs
Pearl Thusi “My name is Pearl” interview by Mpho Popps Modikoane in kulula.com khuluma January 2014
Ryk Neethling “Liquid Dream” interview by Marc Lottering in kulula.com khuluma July 2011
Sorisha Naidoo “Multitasking millionaire” interview by Nicholas Goliath in kulula.com khuluma January 2015
McNabs
Romain LESAGE, FMS
Wine Marketing Services SA: “Just say “Hello!”” http://fms-sa.blogspot.co.za/2018/02/just-say-hello.html 
“Zorba the Greek”

© 2018 Anton BLIGNAULT, Cape Town South Africa
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Sunday, December 10, 2017

SWOT analysis?

We all studied this at varsity, so you know everything that needs to be done. But do you? Did you ever ask yourself:  “Why do I need to do this?”

When running a business and a project it sounds logical to go through this exercise. And I believe it is a great starting point. But once it's done, discard most of it. And specifically shrug off the weaknesses and the threats. It is an ancient truth (Proverbs 4:23) that “You get what you focus on.” According to Saras Naidoo “...concentrate on your core business objectives... and never deviate from [this]”. 

Speak life over yourself and realize that as Frans Cronje, producer of “Faith like Potatoes” noted “...things can already exist in the spiritual realm, long before you see it in the physical realm.” (Hebrews 11:1)
Hawequa Mountains & Linton Park Wines, Wellington
Don’t ever disregard your small, faltering steps at the beginning of a project. Kingsley Holgate said “Have the vision, turn the key and get going.” You need to step into the water with faith before the water will part (Joshua 3: 15-16). Meaning, you need to have the courage to take that first vital action to start the ball rolling. After that, momentum sets in and with continuous focus and effort your project quickly becomes a hive of positive activity. In brief: Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.

Adele asks “Should I give up, or should I just keep on chasing pavements?” Well, rest, contemplate, but don’t ever stop and don’t ever compare yourself with anyone else, because you always tend to compare your weak spots with another person’s strengths. This is almost a guaranteed way to become negative and depressed. Compete only with yourself, focusing on becoming a better you. Above all, love yourself.

Romain afirms “You should always focus on your strengths. Success is built on success. Success is achieved because of your strengths.” Forget about your weaknesses. According to Jane Raphaely rather ask: “Why am I doing this? Is it because I want to do it or because somebody else wants me to do it?” Remember “It’s all about how you finish” according to John Smit, Springbok rugby captain. To put this into perspective, Coco CHANEL came from an orphanage and built La Maison CHANEL with sheer guts and determination.
 Loading wine into a 20' container at JFH for Beijing, China
Tell yourself “I am brilliant!” every time you achieve a goal. This is not the time to ask “What’s next?” Don’t knock this milestone that you have achieved, saying “It is only the beginning”. You have worked diligently to succeed at it. This is not the time to ask “Are we there yet?” You are! Celebrate! Go overboard a little; the world is not going to tilt. Indeed, this is the moment to reflect at leisure about the grandness of life and the small part you are able to play in it. This builds your sense of self-worth, putting life into perspective.

Don’t lose sight of your weaknesses though, but manage it. To compensate, “Always choose people that are better than you. Always choose people that challenge you and are smarter than you. Always be the student. Once you find yourself to be the teacher, you’ve lost it.” Sandra Bullock states firmly. Focus on your expertise and hire someone better than you to handle another part of the project. Trust their judgement and let them get on with what they do best. It is as simple as that.

Remember, the world stands aside for someone who knows where s/he is going. See this as the grand start of a whole new life. Take a high five, you have made it! Now go out and have fun.
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Photo credits:-
1.       Hawequa Mountains & Linton Park Wines, Wellington – Anton BLIGNAULT
2.       JF Hillebrand Warehouse, Cape Town  – Romaine LESAGE & Anton BLIGNAULT

References:-
Coco CHANEL “Fresh, feisty & very French” interview with Audrey TAUTOU by Michael Wolski in British Airways horizons July 2009
Frans Cronje, producer of “Faith like Potatoes”
Jane Raphaely, “Once Upon A Time...” interviewed by Marianne Thamm in www.kulula.com khuluma August 2011
John Smit, Springbok rugby captain in “True Bru” interview with Ard Matthews in www.kulula.com khuluma December 2011
Kingsley Holgate, “Extraordinary Man, Extraordinary Life” interviewed by Rob van Vuuren in www.kulula.com khuluma January 2010
McNabs
Romain LESAGE, FMS
Sandra Bullock, story by Dana Lee in abouTime Vol 3 No 1 www.1time.co.za
Saras Naidoo, “First small steps into business” in abouTime Vol 2 No 8 www.1time.co.za
Dr. Soon Zevenster, Radio Tygerberg www.radiotygerberg.co.za
The Holy Bible, KJV: Joshua 3: 15-16, Proverbs 4:23 & Hebrews 11:1
Wine Marketing Services SA: “SWOT analysis?” www.fms-sa.blogspot.com

© 2017 Anton BLIGNAULT, Cape Town South Africa

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The answer is “Yes!”

What is the question? Indeed. With such an attitude you should sail through every encounter, even against the wind. Yet, why don’t you? Why don’t I?

Taken the fact that words only account for ±7% of total face to face communication, you need to look at what makes up the majority: body language at ±55% and tone at ±38%. Even in telephonic communication words only constitute ±14% of understanding, while tone at ±86% plays the crucial part.

But that’s not all. You not only need to say “Yes” but be pretty quick about it – like 5 to 10 seconds max. James 1:5-7 puts it well. When saying “Yes” it could also be something like “Hello” – anything to stay the course, keep the momentum going. As important is showing your connection physically: a handshake, a touch, a hug. Despite trying, I fall short most of the time on both these actions.

As you’ve seen above, saying “Yes” is really only a small part of getting your message across. Your body language and voice tone give your real intention and state of mind away, no matter what you say. “Your actions speak so loudly, I cannot hear what you are saying.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

These are the real clues to what someone means, but the most difficult to read - certainly for me. And the next part is to be sufficiently sure about these non-verbal clues so as to act on it - in the moment. To complicate things even more, men and women are from different planets, so to speak. All the above is true whether you’re in a personal relationship, or interacting at work.
Noëlline BRIENS at Arra Vineyards & Pulpit Rock Winery
Spending six months with two girls in the office I certainly learnt a lot, but nowhere did I come close to getting it right all the time. Elvis Blue sings: “Sometimes we have to start again... Hey! Have you ever lost your way?... The sun will shine again.” I must say, with wine tasting being part of your job description it smooth most things out. Add to that cellar tours, winelands trips, roadside picnics and you’re on the right track. Don’t get ahead of yourself though, just relax and go with the flow.

The next is as important. Admit your mistakes – quickly. Apologise sincerely and set things right. Move on from there, forget and bury whatever caused the disharmony.  Go forth, dance, sing songs of praise and do acts of love. Be more daring, act on your intuition and welcome surprises. Be less scared, have less regrets and bury the guilt. In short: You have a life. Live it!

So what are you and I supposed to do? Breathe deeply, exhale; and then focus on what’s happening right now in front of you. “Be present. It’s the only moment that matters.” Only then can you say “Yes” with conviction - whatever the question - and be ready to act on it immediately.

But without empathy you’re not going to get anywhere. This means: forget yourself, your own ego, put yourself in the other person’s shoes – your spouse, lover, child, sister, brother; client, boss, colleague. Reflect on what this interaction, date, task, project, means to them – why do they do what they do - because it is as valid as your reason. There are no right or wrong answers, only different points of view. Understand theirs, accept it and embrace it. Ruth 1:16-17 puts this more eloquently.
Victoria RÉMY & Noëlline BRIENS  in the Winelands plus Absolute Style Wines
Final advice: Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can. Don’t ever give up hope. Aim to win. Do all this boldly and with absolute enthusiasm! Bonne chance !

On a personal level, I agree with Coco Chanel: “A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous.” / « Une fille devrait être deux choses: chic et fabuleuse. »

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Photo credits:-
1.       Arra Vineyards plus Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines triplet; Champagne DEVAUX, Kanonkop Estate – Anton BLIGNAULT
          Absolute Style Wines – Victoria RÉMY
2.       Arra Vineyards wine tasting room & Pulpit Rock Winery barrel cellar: - Anton BLIGNAULT & Pulpit Rock Winery

References:-
Coco  CHANEL
JF Hillebrand SA
John Gray, “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus”
McNabs
Noëlline BRIENS, FMS
Pierre-Samuel REYNE, Champagne DEVAUX
Romain LESAGE, FMS
The Holy Bible: KJV Ruth 1:16-17 & James 1:5-7
Victoria RÉMY, FMS

© 2017 Anton BLIGNAULT, Cape Town South Africa

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Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Turnaround

What does ‘turnaround’ mean to you? In a business sense you’re talking of turning a company back into profitability. Personally it would mean hitting some good fortune after a series of bad luck.  Bonnie Tyler demands an emotional turnaround in “Total Eclipse of the Heart”.

Turnaround can also mean just that, to turn on your heels and go back as you came. Only, let us this time have a renewed mind and some vigour in our step. A good question would be: “Why would you want to?” The French like to say “Pourquoi pas.”  
Bike in FMS colours - thanks to street wire artists
So get on your bike and let’s go.  On a personal level once you know why you’ve lost there are two ways to go forward. Enjoy the memories, learn from it, and move on; or try yet again to recapture those magical moments. Being passionate about your business career, the process remains the same. Yet here you have no choice: you must turn it around. The same accounts for a company.

Reflection on the current status quo should ideally be part of a continuous quest for renewal.  To affect this successfully you first need to have a vision of what it can be, then have the guts to cut whatever doesn’t work, adding new product categories and operating platforms. How? Get the big picture first and don’t bother about the details of how you’re going to get there. Start with a broad all-encompassing view and then zoom in. View your company as a client would, from the outside.
·         What are their first impressions? How do they find you?  – Digitally, physically, staff, voice.
·         Do you ask questions that will solve their queries? Are you flexible, customer-driven?
·         Do you consistently over-deliver on value? Does the company display moral courage?
·         What product categories are you competing against? What business are you in (not what you’re selling)?
·         Do you invest in your employees and then trust them to do their job? Do they display a quest for achievement, integrity, a propensity to learn?
New Beginnings Wines - a decade of success as illustrated in Platter's SA Wine Guide
Going through this process you need to be diligent in implementing the changes and ruthless in making cuts. See your company as a corporate brand; creating a unique company culture, with each platform having an over-arching theme. Consult your top management, utilizing their expertise to gain special insights. But don’t omit getting the enthusiasm of all staff, asking for practical inputs. Then, unlike the politicians, you need to do a progress report every 30 days, not only after a 100...

FMS does this very exercise twice annually, spending two months mid-year and another two at year-end to actively reinvent the company, keeping it on an accelerated growth path. So far we are looking pretty good thank you, ahead of all expectations. What about you?  Can you parade all the staff onto a podium, turn up Tina Turner and sing: You’re simply the Best!?
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Photo credits:-
FMS bike – Anton Blignault
New Beginnings & Platter’s – Arthur de Magalhaes

References:-
Arthur de Magalhaes, FMS
Bonnie Tyler “Total Eclipse of the Heart” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lcOxhH8N3Bo
Dave Kahle – Kahle Way® Sales Systems
Jane Zhang “Dream It Possible” c/o Huawei https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FtWJfcLEEv0
Juliette Salmon, FMS
Street wire artists, Cape Town: Rasta & Victor
The Holy Bible: NKJV - Haggai 2:4; Isaiah 41:10; Jeremia 8: 4; Isaiah 43:19
Tina Turner “The Best” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GC5E8ie2pdM
Winesave® “Recapture the Moment” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4h_oag2I0bo



© Anton Blignault, Cape Town

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Why not today?

Pourquoi pas aujourd’hui? Before you even get out of bed in the morning, give thanks and ask what can I, what must I do today? No, I’m not talking of your work to-do list. I’m talking about what you should, indeed must, do for your loved ones today.

This message recently struck me hard and it hurt, second time over. It seems that Durban does me no favours, or perhaps it’s out to teach me some lessons. The first episode came about in March 2011 when I finally relented to taking aunt Sienie to say goodbye to Durban, her beloved holiday destination over many years. The whole trip was a challenge to me from the moment I collected her very early in the morning. Here is an excerpt from a film script I wrote about it.
Aunt Sienie's skirts
“05h50” André puts luggage into overhead compartment. Plane is empty. Santie is on slip-chair with several BA CABIN STAFF. She panics, hold hands up and across cabin entrance, blocking the way.

                        BA CABIN STAFF 01
          André! Kom nader sodat sy    André! Come closer so 
          jou kan sien.                that she can see you.

André spins around, steps closer, smiling.

                        SANTIE
          Hier’s ek Santie. Kom sit.   Here I am Santie. Come sit.

Her face softens when she sees him. He stretches out his hands.
Hilton Durban hotel lobby
It continued even before we got into the hire car, right through to the Hilton hotel as I constantly had to intercede since she couldn’t operate anything in her room. The return journey was equally dramatic.

André stands on tarmac next to disabled persons articulated vehicle. 4 BA women CABIN STAFF from flight march in file towards him, staring intently at him, their faces shining oddly bright. He watches them.

ANNE is the BA Cabin Chief, very professional and compassionate.

                        ANNE, BA CABIN CHIEF
              You will be blessed!
              Your children will be blessed!

They file past him to left. … Santie inside vehicle is upset.

                        ACSA DISABLED ASSISTANCE WOMAN 01
      André, klim liewers weer op!   André, rather climb up again!

André runs to vehicle’s side, climbs up steps.

Two months later aunt Sienie was smiling sweetly at me from above as her hairdresser commiserated with me.

More recently I was obliged to attend a meeting in Durban for Africa Promise, our client in New York. This was arranged three days in advance. Getting up at 04h00 to catch the 05h55 flight I’m confident that I am in good time. Much to my shock the queue through security looks like peak traffic and with passengers already boarding I run towards gate A11 when finally cleared.

Arriving one hour before my meeting I set up and prepare but am not sure what for as I’ve had no briefing. It turns out that plan A is not on the cards and I quickly have to regroup and make a counter offer after consultation with the US. The day’s work done, Vincent takes me back driving leisurely, giving me French lessons en route.  Now I’m taking strain to stay awake. Thankfully I sit down, ready for the take-off at 19h10 with a French couple next to me oblivious of everyone else. Falling asleep almost instantly despite the seats not tilting back I wake an hour later and my eyes immediately pick up a programme on Kalk Bay on the video above me. This brings back good memories of some months previously. Next the in-flight magazine falls open on an article describing the joys of Buffels Beach at Cape Point Nature Reserve, Kalk Bay and Simonstown – all on the itinerary of that blissful day. Two weeks later hopes of a reunion are shattered.

This brings me back to my question. You’d better be sure that what you do today adds real value. Remember, it’s not so much about you, but what you do with and what you say to your loved ones. Don’t count on a second chance, so use today well.
Now many photos and an unsent box filled with presents remind me daily ‘what really matters’. Clearly I have more to learn. And I am not done yet with Durban as I am about to pack my bags to do it one more time. The difference is that lately I have this incredible lightness of being and warmth inside me, as if I’m floating on a cloud next to the sun. But actually it’s never been about me... Psalms 128: 2-3
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Acknowledgements: 
mango airlines slogan “Why not today?”
The Holy Bible: Psalms 128: 2-3 
Photo credits: Anton Blignault

© Anton Blignault, Cape Town