Nataniël on money and the business of entertainment

Nataniël is on tour and I had the great privilege, once again, to see him live in concert this season. I am always dumbfounded by his genius, and his great following. Have you ever wondered how he runs the business called Nataniël? This is a throw-back article and highly insightful – enjoy!

Nataniël is a well-loved figure in South Africa’s entertainment industry, but his sense of business is just as impressive as his stage personality. For him it is not about financial success, but rather clever business decisions that led to success on his journey with art, entertainment, imagination and all things beautiful.

Nataniël manages a very successful business. However, he doesn’t view himself as a businessman. Rather, his business success was a natural extension of his career and passion. “At the start of my career, nobody in the entertainment industry wanted anything to do with me and I realised that I had to function independently,” he said. “I had to make my own money to launch my career, so I learned from early on how to make a plan and work according to it.”

Determined never to depart from his original vision or identity, Nataniël adopted his own rules and structures within which he could operate and maintain his individuality. One of the most important lessons he learned along the way, is to be brave and to trust himself. “I have oftentimes listened to the advice of people with strong opinions about how the entertainment industry operates, and I lost track of my vision.”

According to Nataniël, managing and owning his own company gives him the freedom to shape his career as he pleases. “I have many good advisers, but in the end I make all the decisions. I do not believe in any type of partnership. It only creates problems, trust issues and clashing egos. Maybe I could’ve had a bigger business if I went in that direction, but my personal freedom is much more important.”

Every person on his team is an artist. They were hand-picked and they truly understand his brand. He has never appointed someone from their CV or an interview. “It takes me years to get to know people. If I admire their talents and work ethic, I ask them directly if they would like to work with me. I must also get along with them, because they have to function in my personal space.”

Captain of the ship

Instead of learning lessons from business books and world famous industry leaders and entrepreneurs, Nataniël chooses to trust his own experience and logic. “I have never, ever learned anything from a book. It is boring,” he says. “Every other person has another opinion. You can read 500 business books and find as many opinions.”

“I learned from experience and good judgement. I need this much, so I need to earn that much – THAT is the basics for everything.”

Money is a man-made concept he finds UN-interesting. “I do not fear it. It is just something you get and then you give it away, or you lose it. My whole existence centres on art and entertainment and imagination and food and travel and beautiful things. The business only exists to maintain the lifestyle. The older I get, the less important money becomes.”

And yes, he says, every day is still a learning experience when it comes to the management of people. “I lose my temper when something is not right or if it doesn’t happen fast enough. I had to learn not to freak out, but to give them a chance to tell their side of the story,” says Nataniël. “I am a complete control freak, but recently I’ve learned to hand over tasks to persons I trust.” He reminds us that it’s important to relax and laugh at work. “Quality of life and happiness is more important than any job or company on earth.”

Are there any top South African businesswomen who inspire him?

Nataniël, due to the nature of his work, meets many women along the way. “This country’s media and entertainment industries are largely run by impressive, often fearless, women,” he shares. “I am always in awe of those who find the balance. Many turn into witches due to too much stress and power, but a few of them have successful relationships and families. That inspires me. I do not have to name them, they know who they are.”

This country’s media and entertainment industries are largely run by impressive, often fearless, women

Stamina for success

Nataniël takes a diverse approach with the different aspects of his company. His unique range of Nataniël products, elegant and affordable essentials for any kitchen that ranges from plates and glasses to table linen, oils, jams and preserved figs, is available from all Checkers shops countrywide.

His Kaalkop range on the other hand will remain smaller, exclusive and handmade and is only available at shows, from some shops and a few agents. His CDs and DVDs are distributed through another music company.

His shows however, will always be the core of his brand and the basis for his career.

His three top tips for business success? “Trust your instinct. Forget about trends and use your common sense. And lastly, stamina is most important. People give up too soon.”

Nataniël’s top sellers: “In the Checkers-range the onion marmalade and tea towels are the most popular items. In the Kaalkop range the shaving cream and the serviettes are top sellers, but my very best sellers are still my books.”

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