Jon Foster-Pedley Shares The Secrets to Becoming a Successful Student and Entrepreneur:

Jon-Foster Pedley has been the Dean and Director of Henley Business School Africa for more than a decade and has recently been elected as the Chair of the British Chamber of Business in Southern Africa. He has helped shape Henley to become the No. 1 rated MBA Business School in South Africa throughout 2018, 2019, and 2020. He also has 30 years of experience in strategy, creativity, innovation and 40 years of experience in sales and marketing. 

In our interview, Jon shares his insightful perspective about education in South Africa, what a successful student looks like, and the future of business in Africa.

To people who may be applying at Henley, what are the most important pieces of information you believe they should be adding to the applications to be admitted into the institution?

We’re slightly different because we are mainly postgraduates, although we have levels 5, 6, and 7 programs, we normally expect people to be working while they’re studying because we want them to apply that thinking to real-life, and then learn the limits of theory and learn the skills of applying things.

  1. The most important thing for me is that people should have an interest beyond their job in improving society and in improving South Africa for Africans. They’ve got to be connected to something more than “I’ve got to do something more than just earn a living”. People should want the world to change through them by being innovators.
  2. Be brutally honest. We want authentic people, ordinary people. It’s extraordinary to be ordinary, you need a lot of confidence to embrace your ordinariness. 
  3. Be committed to doing the work because you can’t learn without working. It’s not just reading books but it’s effort, trying, challenging, reviewing, testing yourself.
  4. Be curious. We’re building people who run businesses and organisations, so they have to be able to prepare to learn about themselves because a basic unit of performance is yourself.

With your motto at Henley being “We build the people, who build the businesses, that build Africa”, what does this mean practically? 

We don’t build qualifications that give you a certificate in your hand which allows you to just sit in a corner office and just take a salary. This country needs people who will build businesses so that more businesses create more economic activity, more opportunities for learning, and more jobs for people. We need to teach people how to perform well in business. We need to reach the majority of the South African population and help them get the skills that can build businesses. If you build good businesses and use the money well in ways that are not corrupt and are fair, you will find that you will have lots of businesses that will build a society by creating value and opportunities.

For someone aspiring to become an entrepreneur, does one have to study to become one? and is there a value to study for entrepreneurship?

If you want to be an art historian, you study art history. If you want to be an artist, you study tools and practice art. So while you can learn things in a program at University unless it’s hyper experiential, you can’t. And most people when they teach you entrepreneurship it’s a very classic idea, for instance, which mama business plan or marketing plan. It’s very linear, with a belief that writing a business plan necessarily is very effective. It is much more interesting to learn how to create a business model since it is about creating value and understanding things more circularly. So entrepreneurs are often taught to think of business plans, but you have to pass the math test and story test to be a good entrepreneur.

What do you believe are the greatest skills business students need to possess when coming out of their educational journey?

  1. From an MBA level, one of the biggest skills is you’ve got to have a sense of purpose. Don’t wait to be given things. To make your business grow, you’re going to have to put everything into it to make it grow. Understand what value is and how you create that value for people. 
  2. Be a critical thinker. See things from multiple perspectives, address things you don’t know, and make sense out of them.
  3. Coming out of Henley, not only should you have a sense of leadership, but you’ve got to look into how you get people to bring more of themselves to work, to voluntarily put the best of themselves into their work.
  4. From the undergrad level, never forget that you’ve only just started the beginning of your learning journey.
  5. Be willing to learn from other people. Lastly, maintain a healthy skepticism.

Do you believe people should study at African Business schools or rather at overseas institutions. 

Look at the world as an open canvas for you. You can study in South Africa, but equally, you can study elsewhere, it’s an absolute choice.

Prof. Jon reboots himself with a bit more learning. For him, successful people are the best lifelong learners. And that’s the attitude you’ve got to have.

If you want to engage further with Prof. Jon and see his future endeavours follow him on Instagram and Linkedin. Interested in finding out more about Henley Business School and even potentially applying? see their website.