Entrepreneurs must embrace failure and view it as part of a journey to build a successful business, according to renowned talent manager, author, educator and father of award-winning artists Beyoncé and Solange, Dr Mathew Knowles.

“Most successful entrepreneurs have experienced failure,” Knowles said in Cape Town at the weekend, adding that what matters most is how an individual reacts to a major setback. 

While the National Development Plan (NDP), a government blueprint for eliminating poverty and reducing inequality, has ambitious goals for the small and medium enterprises (SME) sector in SA — including a target of 90% of employment opportunities to be created by this sector by 2030 —entrepreneurs continue to face many challenges such as red tape, a lack of access to finance and credit lines, and the generally high cost of doing business.

Knowles — a successful music executive and entrepreneur who managed Destiny’s Child, one of the most popular female R&B groups of the late 1990s — encouraged entrepreneurs never to give up and to focus on what they are passionate about. 

He was speaking at the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business (GSB) at the launch his new book titled “The Emancipation of Slaves Through Music”. In his book, Knowles examines the liberating effects of music on an oppressed people, its secret use during slavery up through its eventual commercialisation in the industry, exposing the art form’s true power.

Knowles, who also managed his daughters, said the foundation of any successful entrepreneur was passion and a strong work ethic.

“Ask yourself ‘what am I passionate about’ ... the thing that excites you ... [where] work ethic and passion co-exist,” said Knowles.

Knowles has an MBA in strategic planning and organisational culture and a Ph.D in business administration from Cornerstone Christian Bible College, and has held professorships at Texas Southern University, where he taught both undergraduate and graduate-level courses on the entertainment industry and entrepreneurship.

He said prosperous entrepreneurs focused on building strong teams, and thought outside the box.

“Most people are box in thinkers … conditioned to do things and cannot think outside on their own.

“It’s also about building a team.  You can only be successful as the team you have … entrepreneurs must also be willing to take risks.” 

Entrepreneurs should always ask themselves the “who, the what, and the why,” he said.

“Who is my customer, what is my product, and why should they buy it?” 

Forward thinking is also a key ingredient for success.

“If you are an entrepreneur you have to be forward thinking.  With Beyoncé, from a publicity point of view, we would look five years ahead, literally,” said Knowles.

“Failure to plan is planning to fail … strategic planning is key,” he said.

In his first book, “The DNA of Achievers: 10 Traits of Highly Successful Professionals”, Knowles focuses on characteristics that are common among successful people from all walks of life.  He pointed out that the one thing that successful do well is “follow through” or what he terms a high “talk-to-do ratio.”

“Successful people have a high talk to do ratio … [this means] if they say they will do something you can count on them,” said Knowles.