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Updated 30 Sep 2020

How Flick Visual Foundry found high rewards by taking a narrow view

Two Cape-based entrepreneurs narrowed their focus to build a niché business with high rewards.

Monique Verduyn, Entrepreneur, 10 November 2016  Share  0 comments  Print

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Vital stats

  • Players: John-Louis West and Garth Jemmett
  • Company: Flick Visual Foundry
  • Visit:

Specialisation and differentiation. Those are two words that radically altered the entrepreneurial journey of Garth Jemmett and John-Louis West after they discovered a talent for getting people to watch, rather than read, in order to understand things.

Just over a decade ago they left the advertising industry and launched Flick Visual Foundry, a team of people who help clients translate complex information into simple, clear visual communication for their target audiences.

Flick works predominately in the financial and medical sectors, helping big clients like Liberty, Mediclinic, Nedbank, Standard Bank and Stanlib to get their message across.

Like many high achievers, to succeed, Jemmett and West had to become better at turning people down. “We were ‘yes men’,” says Jemmett.

“We said yes to everything. It diluted our value and focus. Today, we are specialists in distilling and explaining complex information quickly – we have developed the ability to do that across many platforms, and our focus has helped us to grow the business substantially.”

Related: Jason Goldberg asks are you (realistically) ready to scale your business?

Learning to change lanes

Jemmett and West began the process of defining who they were and what they did by first unpacking and distilling what made their business unique. It was hard at first, but it’s paid off.

How did they do it? Highly successful entrepreneurs are generally known for building great businesses, developing exceptional products, or excelling at their service offering. The founders of Flick admit that behind their achievements is a list of things they learnt not to do.

“When we launched the business, we had little capital,” West recalls. “We got together and created a short film which we shot on a progressive digital camera, creating graphics that really brought the subject matter to life. It was ground-breaking at the time. We showed it to an agency and they jumped at the chance to get us to do something similar for their financial services client.”

The film was the kernel of the Flick concept — visual thinking. Being a progressive idea, it took them into the unchartered territory that comes with being early adopters of new technology.

Jemmett recalls a time five years into the game, when he and West sat down to take stock. “Film was the core component of what we were doing. It was the output of our thinking. However, our creative vision was being lost as we were increasingly being seen as a production company with lots of ad agency clients. We were the middle-men.”

Narrowing the focus

Flick -Visual -Foundry -founders

That was when they made the decision to stay away from clients who wanted traditional advertising production and to shift their focus on to the creation of explainer videos, flow diagrams, infographics and data visualisations.

They started to turn down agency work, shedding a lot of the pain that comes from being the intermediary between agencies and clients.

“Once we had a good sense of what we wanted to accomplish, it was easier to gauge whether saying yes to a project would further or inhibit those goals,” says Jemmett.

“We had a far deeper understanding of which projects were accurately aligned with our goals and our direction.”

Both partners are enthusiastic about the added value they have brought to clients since their decision to specialise. “When you are a hired gun, much of the work you get from agencies is Now we have far deeper, more valuable relationships with clients that we nurture ourselves.”

Related: 8 Visionary entrepreneurs share their leadership secrets to success

Top tips

Here’s how Garth Jemmett and John-Louis West set apart their business:

  • They spotted a future trend: The founders knew that film is an optimal way to explain complex companies and their services and products. They also knew, more than ten years ago, that online video was set to explode.
  • They took a chance: They brought their ideas on visual thinking to life in a short film which they then used to sell themselves.
  • They defined their purpose: Visualising complex information so that their clients can explain often complex offerings in a simple, easy-to-understand manner to staff, shareholders and clients.
  • They’re not afraid to get on the phone: Why? Because when you know your product and services inside out and they are clearly defined, you can easily deliver a killer one-minute pitch on the phone.
  • They stay ahead of the curve: To continue to be specialists, they continue focusing on current thinking, embracing new technology and continuously growing their network.

Do this

Focus your attention on clients and activities that bring in the highest rewards. Not all projects suit the business and further your growth goals. 

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About the author

Monique Verduyn, Entrepreneur

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