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Entrepreneurs - March 20, 2022

7 Business Lessons to Learn from Johann Rupert

With his keen eye on business, Johann Rupert forecasted a global economic disaster in 2006, garnering him the moniker “Rupert the Bear” from the Financial Times.

Johann Rupert is Africa’s second richest man, with a net worth of $11 billion. From his many years of business expertise, he has gleaned instructive insights for entrepreneurs to learn from.

Due to his commercial diversification, he has become the richest man in South Africa and significantly contributed to the economic growth of the continent’s most powerful economies.

Being a naturally business savvy person, he expanded the family tobacco company, Rembrandt Tobacco, and incorporated it with other lines of business.

For aspiring entrepreneurs, here are lessons you can learn from Johann Rupert.

Know what you want

Johann Rupert wanted to learn how to make money. Due to this, he dropped out of the University of Stellenbosch after gaining admission to study Economics and Company Law. He went to New York for two years to work as an apprentice to attain his goals.

However, not attaining a University certificate did not deter him from founding his own company. In 1979, he returned to South Africa and formed Rand Merchant Bank.

In the same year, he founded the Small Business Development Corporation. With his keen eye on business, he forecasted a global economic disaster in 2006, garnering the moniker “Rupert the Bear” from the Financial Times.

After becoming a billionaire, he received an honorary doctorate in economics from Stellenbosch University in 2004, and in 2008, he received another honorary doctorate in commerce from Nelson Mandela University.

Be Fearless

Johann Rupert is regarded as a brave businessman that is not scared to take chances in his business. His fearlessness and will to succeed drove him to launch various businesses. 

Although he takes risks, he only takes calculated risks. You never know what you’re missing or what will work unless you take a chance.

Stand for What You Believe

Rupert exemplified this when the British Magazine Wallpaper called his language “the world’s ugliest language”.

Due to this, he removed advertising worth millions of rands for all of his Richemont brands from the magazine’s pages, including Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Montblanc, and Alfred Dunhill.

Many people, including the Freedom Front Plus legislative party, applauded his actions. The party’s head, Pieter Mulder, stated that the party “wholeheartedly endorses Mr Rupert’s conduct.

Any self-respecting individual should safeguard their language, which applies to all languages in South Africa”.

Expand your horizons

Never settle for local achievement when you start a business. Think out of your comfort zone and environment. Prepare to go global and meet international standards with your products and services. 

Johann Rupert is not limited to his country. This is why he is dubbed a global mover. His enterprises are spread over the globe.

The Compagnie Financiere Richemont headquarter is in Switzerland and has regional offices worldwide. 

As a result, he has received honours in his country, Switzerland and Germany. For his global presence, he was also awarded the French Legion d’Honneur. The firm has grown from a small startup to a multimillion-dollar enterprise.

Make the Most of Your Niche Market

Johann Rupert concentrates on high-end luxury items, despite having several local and worldwide assets.

Apart from developing alliances and cooperation with other successful businesses, his firm solely invests in profitable companies, focusing on luxury goods.

The luxury items, which include luxury watches, jewellery, apparel, premium accessories, among others, have, in turn, made him a billionaire.


As the saying goes, ‘don’t put all your eggs in one basket’. Besides luxury goods, Rupert also invested in other businesses. Diversification lets a business owner gain from several industries. Johann Rupert is also into mining, banking, food, industrial gases, and more.

Demographics play a significant impact in how he has diversified his firm. Hedging against risk is also crucial to his business empire’s success.

Seize Opportunities

To succeed in business, one must leverage opportunities. Johann Rupert stated that he had no idea that his family’s luxury goods company, Richemont, which includes brands like Cartier and Montblanc, would develop quickly. When it happened, he had to act fast.

He said, “We were lucky. But then, if there’s a huge wave that you find yourself on, you have got to stay on your surfboard and ride the wave.

We were fortunate that we went into the right markets. We were in the right place at the right time with the right product”.

READ ALSO: 7 Business Lessons from South Africa’s Multi-Millionaire Patrice Motsepe

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