…By Richard Grenville

I received a call from a friend of mine, Clive Tredger, who was Managing Director of a company in Johannesburg called Sweet Dreams at the time.

He said, “Richard, as you reside in Cape Town I would really like you to meet an individual who I am promoting by the name of Mike Russon, to run his own office in Cape Town. Never in my fifteen years of hiring have I met an individual with such energy, high work ethic, and self-discipline”.

Starting at the bottom, within a period of only twelve months Mike earned his promotion to run his own office even though he was only twenty-two years old.

I finally met with Mike on the 15th December 1987.

Clive was right about Mike’s energy, which was so contagious and uplifting, but what had an even greater impact on me was how humble he was and his willingness to learn was immeasurable. I decided that day, that despite having no business connection with Mike or Clive and having my own company to run, I would extend my hand to Mike for whenever he needed it.

Now, some may think the advantage he had in order to succeed at such a young age was due to being born with a silver spoon, in that he must have been well educated or maybe had the privilege of being subjected to family businesses.

Richard Grenville


The truth was quite the contrary. Let me give you a brief outline of Mike’s life prior to opening his own office in Cape Town:

  • He was adopted at birth.
  • He was raised mostly by a single loving mother and thereafter a step dad too. A relationship which was not one which anyone would have liked.
  • His family never owned a home or had surplus money, however, he did have food on the table, and a roof over his head coupled with lots of love from his Mom and younger brother. He lacked extreme self-confidence at school, for example, when he was called up in class to discuss a topic he had to plan for, he would put his head in his arms while sitting at his table and rather get a zero for his speech than have to get up and talk as he knew that previously when having to share topics in the front of the class would make his eyes water and face go red. He said it felt as if he was having an anxiety attack. This lack of self-confidence led to his belief in himself and his ability to even do well in sport at school. I am aware he was never encouraged by his step-dad, and trust me when I say it was very much the opposite. (See more on lack of confidence by Warren Buffet, 3rd richest man in the world.)

In standard eight Mike received his school report advising he had passed, but at the same time also received a transfer card which simply meant “we don’t want you back”. It was only later on, that I learnt it was by pure miracle that Mike had passed as he had only spent half the year at school. His step dad saw it as an opportunity to get Mike out of the house so he enrolled him in the National Service. In hindsight, Mike says this was the best decision his step dad could ever have taken for him.

While spending most of his time on the border, Mike realised he is not going to get far without a Matric and decided to enrol with Unisa to complete his standard nine and ten combined, paying for his tuition himself with the National Service money he received monthly.

By the time Mike completed his National Service, he had written half his subjects needed and passed. This he felt gave him the edge to apply for a job at the Perm Building Society. (In those days the Perm logo was “we won’t go public”).

Upon being interviewed for the position of Savings Clerk he was asked by the interviewer, “We have over 200 applicants for this position all who have a Matric qualification, why should we consider you?”

Having an incredibly fast mind and quick thinking ability, within a split second he looked the interviewer in the eye and said, “I am looking for a career, not a job. I need to believe in the company I work for, and although there are many banks and building societies that I could have applied to, the reason I specifically chose you was because of what you believe in. Your logo states “we won’t go public”, and I share in that belief.” The interviewer promptly responded, “you can commence with us on the condition you complete the balance of your Matric subjects”.

I remember asking Mike at a time how he knew about public companies with little education. He replied, “if they asked me to elaborate I would have been clueless as I never had an inkling of what the word public even meant in business at that time of my life, I just saw their logo on their building”.

Realising he needed a solid track record, Mike ventured on in setting his first goal to be at the Perm Building Society for eighteen months to establish that, before applying to an advert Clive had placed.

What appealed to Mike was the opportunity to earn more coupled with the growth being offered. I guess that appeals to so many candidates out there, but how many are truly that disciplined to work for it?

As the saying goes, “some succeed because they are destined to, most succeed because they are determined to”.

In 1988, Mike opened up his own office on behalf of the group of companies Housewares Exclusive. He was one of the youngest managers ever to achieve this and the fifth to try and open an own office in Cape Town as the previous four had failed.

Within Mike’s first year, I saw his monthly pay sheets earning in excess of R25 000 on a regular basis. Not bad for someone aged twenty-three years old earning that in 1988. In fairness, Mike was also doing over a million rand turnover per month for the company at this point. Despite this, the board of directors turned a blind eye by becoming greedy and telling Mike that they were cutting his profit share by half of what he was earning yet needed to continue reaching a target of over a million rand a month.

Having mentored Mike I also got to learn that he had very strong beliefs about what was fair and what was not. Upon this happening, he told me that he could not believe what they had done to him, by reducing his profit share while performing as one of their best managers. He saw this as only greed and had advised the Sales Director of the group of companies at the time, Steve Smit that “if you cut my profit share by half I will leave”.

Steve’s reply was “you’re a youngster, where are you going to earn that kind of money elsewhere?” Mike replied, “It’s not about the money it’s about being fair.”

The end of the month came and Steve Smit reduced his income by half. Mike promptly walked out. What was interesting in his loyalty was he could have taken with him all his top performers, admin staff and managers that he had personally recruited and trained, but he didn’t. He felt that despite everything that had happened they needed to remain with the Houseware’s Group. He told his staff that if after three months they were not happy, they could join him in whatever it was he would be deciding to do.

To walk out alone and rebuild is not something many would consider, especially when you have no product, people or a financing company. Being exceptionally talented in saving money, Mike had over R12 000 in his bank account and no debt.

Mike and Clive decided to start their own business, with Mike’s R12 000 enabling them to set up an office, purchase stock, the rest is history.

Clive moved on a year later travelling the world sailing, Mike continued to grow his business.

Being so passionate about the opportunity the business gave him, he decided to rebuild the entire management training programme from scratch.

The quote which Mike eats, drinks and breathes is a mere three words:

P.M.A (Positive Mental Attitude) which means the absolute belief that without a shadow of a doubt you will be successful in whatever it is you want to do.

With this saying Mike restructured and perfected the entire training programme as follows:

Stringent methods of testing have to be completed in order to confirm that new applicants have the ability to be trained into management and people skills in order to run their own distributorship or work for one of the distributorships.

Before any candidate is allowed to learn the practical side of the business they have to receive up to 5 days of solid training in both management, admin and people skills to ensure their successful start. Unlike most companies, while candidates get on with the business he has structured O.J.T (on job training) which is implemented every day for up to an hour. This I believe is what has given him the edge to become the leader he is in all his companies.  In my 40 years of business, I have never seen a programme structured in a better way than what Mike designed and perfected. Yes, he had a head start from Clive who is reputed to be one of the best trainers internationally, but Mike just took it to a whole new level.

The end result is that an individual has enough knowledge and experience to enjoy the independence of running his or her own company whilst still having the support of a big brother.

The programme is designed in such a way where Mike’s knowledge in terms of how he was trained and became successful is transferred to you in the same way both practically and theoretically. The benefit of the practical side is the opportunity for promotion and financial stability where you are entirely in control of your income, which simply put is running your own company.  The first stage is giving you the opportunity to manage a small group of people. The results of how well you are able to lead and manage will determine your next level which simply put is running your own company.

Through this programme, Mike has established individuals to run their own company throughout the major cities in South Africa such as Johannesburg, Durban, Pretoria, Cape Town, and Namibia.

In addition, to this other companies have also been established from scratch, to name just a few:

CTI Financiers who currently finance over 85% of all consumer related products in our type of industry throughout South Africa. In addition, to this, they specialise in factoring and trade finance. What is remarkable is unlike banks whose survival is dependent on a banking licence, which allows them to use money invested from the public and re-lend it, Mike has invested over ninety percent of his own money he has made from scratch to finance CTI, without ever having had an overdraft. In a nutshell, he pretty much has his own bank but without risking the public’s money to finance it. Click here to go to page.

CTI Properties from which Mike has made a fortune. He bought his first property in 1987 valued at R50 000 with a R5 000 deposit. It was a plot at the top of lakeside. His property portfolio now includes commercial and residential properties which include land, flats and houses throughout South Africa and abroad, which he rents out. Mike has always placed a strong emphasis on creating a passive income. His total property portfolio is well in excess of one hundred million rand. Click here to go to page.

Limousine Extreme and luxury cars to hireHe started the business completely from scratch, which is now the largest Hummer stretch limousine company in South Africa and luxury cars. Click here to go to page.

Alluvia Boutique Wine Farm in Stellenbosch on the Helshoogte pass (next door to Tokara wine estate) which boasts luxury accommodation to guests and where the boutique wines are marketed through various channels to both local and international clientele. Click here to go to page.

Vasco Rentals which specializes in the hiring of equipment, furniture and fittings. Click here to go to page.

I am sure this will suffice for now.

Despite the diversity of industries above, Mike has always been a firm believer of maximizing your full potential by rather focusing on one industry which usually results in the 20/80 factor. Meaning 80 % profit of one business exceeds the 20 % profit of all the other businesses.

Mikes passion for people and his willingness to give of his time so freely by making a difference in peoples’ lives and his generosity in donating to needy causes is part of the journey which I have enjoyed most with Mike.

“People don’t care how much you know, but rather how much you care.”

Mike, I thank you for the journey we have shared, your willingness to take the advice I have given to you and most importantly for never forgetting where you have come from.

For those of you who are interested in reading and learning more about how Mike’s life experiences and ventures could add further value to your future choices and decisions in becoming successful then read on by clicking on one of the following links where Mike will share his journey with you:

Enjoy and happy reading!

Mike Russon’s reply to Richard Grenville’s letter:

My mentor at the tender age of 22 years old, I have now had the opportunity to thank you publicly for passing on your knowledge and experience, knowing you had no financial gain at all, you gave straight from your heart. Thank you, Richard.

When people tried to negatize me you propped me back up, when I needed advice you were always there for me.

The greatest gift this incredible business has enabled me to achieve is my self-confidence and to live a life of being able to express your opinions and not being scared to take a chance. To furthermore believe in yourself and not allow others to influence your decisions without merit. Thank you Clive and Richard for valuable lessons learnt.

I accept that what has been built from scratch required an incredible amount of late nights, weekends and family sacrifice, but for what has been built over my journey of 28 years the thank you goes to the dedication, hard work and commitment to anyone who has been connected to our business. I can only open the door but it is each of them who helped me build what we have.

I often get asked, “You bought your first Porsche, a house in Blouberg and a boat at the age of 25, you retired financially at the age of 30 and you’re now 20 years on, why do you continue”?

My answer is always the same, “as long as I can make a difference to peoples’ lives, I will continue forever”.

My passion to help is not only for the sake of business but also for people who have a challenge. That challenge may be an emotional or financial one.

At one stage during my busy work schedule, I even dedicated a year to teach at the Christian School of Marketing and Management of our church. I think that would make many of my past teachers turn in their graves if they knew.

“Never ask an idle man to do something

Just remember the majority of us are where we are due to the right or wrong decisions we have made in our lives. My website is to help encourage you to make the right decisions.

If you have made the decision now to want to start making better decisions to improve the quality of your life and loved ones then my suggestion is to look at the key headings I have above on various topics I have written about that I know if you apply in your life, it will add value.

Future champions, enjoy the start of your new journey.


New Journey