Chris BishopBy Chris Bishop|November 3, 2021|19 Minutes

Billionaire Today

“Under promise over deliver.” Ten lessons for entrepreneurs from multi-millionaire Ken Sharpe.

Zimbabwean property multi-millionaire Ken Sharpe dodged death on a Canadian ski-slope to live a rich life – the school dropout is studying at Harvard. Here are a few nuggets for entrepreneurs starting with his horrific ski accident on the powdery snow in the mountains near Vancouver.


“My brain was ripped off my skull from my top ear to the bottom of my jaw about 6 centimetres wide about 12.8 centimetres long. The membrane that holds the brain to the skull was ripped off and the capillaries profusely bled, which led to my brain being compressed into the upper top left chamber of my skull and reduced to three times its size. Biologically, there is no reason why I should still be alive, 2% is a pretty low chance. They said I would be a vegetable and have no memories and no faculties and certainly have many disabilities. The miracle is not just being here today to participate but actually feeling as good as I felt the day prior to the accident. The miracle is I didn’t know I was in a coma for a couple of days, I was in a coma for six days. When they woke me up, the first thing they asked was do you know your name, do you know where you are and what day of the week it is. I couldn’t understand why they asked me this because I really thought I just passed out and woke up a couple of minutes later.

When I realized it wasn’t Wednesday, it was Saturday!”



“I guess physically going through all the pain and those moments in dying brought me close to realizing the most important thing in life which is valuing the things that we tend to neglect. The small and simple things in life.”



“There is my little daughter, she was 11. She was the one who had faith. They had a psychologist – and that is my sister standing there – they had a psychologist to say ‘do you realize that your dad is probably not going to wake up and started preparing me for eventual death. She said no way, my dad won’t miss my birthday he will wake up on my birthday. I woke up on her birthday. She was a strong little girl for 11 years old.”



“I guess I had an entrepreneurial spirit since I was a kid, I always wanted to make money. I remember selling vegetables at my father’s goldmine to the workers. I think it is more than that. I think it is the belief in yourself, having confidence in yourself, and also the belief in the world around you. How do you see the world around you, is really important? Do you see it as the glass half full or half empty and I believe that intrinsic view differentiates us and determines your outcome? If you see the glass half full like I do, you tend to be more positive and you tend to look at the things around you for the good.”



“I love Nelson Mandela’s sayings, Madiba, he says ‘never judge me by the number of times I fall down but rather by the number of times that I get up again. That motivates me every day to keep going and keep fighting. When you know what you are doing is right, you don’t give up. The other thing is  in business is you have to determine what you are in for it, what is the reason you’re in for it.”


“We have been through two decades of decline economically, Zimbabwe is definitely on the up. We have seen a major transformation in the way the government is influencing and affecting business. They are doing the right things; the indicators are there on a macro level despite my initial scepticism- and if I can put it bluntly- doubt in the Minister of Finance’s policy. I can see that it has actually worked and I admit I was wrong and he is doing a good job he is keeping fiscal things in balance.”



“I would give them four golden rules of success, these are take-home nuggets

Be relentless in your pursuit of execution and excellence, by that I mean don’t give up. If you find what your pursuit of life and you want to be good at, I make sure it is excellent Secondly focus on execution, execution, and execution. The Americans say ‘walk the walk and talk the talk’. I believe you have to put your money where your mouth is and it is all about the results. The results always speak for themselves, focus on getting the results done. Third I would say, try a lot of different iterations there is no harm in trying, you can only fail and that is not the worse outcome because you can always try again. Try many iterations until you find what works for you and then scale it gradually and consistently, the reason why I say that is it’s like trial and error, cause and effect. You have to find out what is really working, am I meeting this customer’s need with the service or product that I am offering.  What are they willing to pay for it? Willingness to pay determines the price and not the cost what is the market prepared to pay for it If you find the secret ingredient, that makes it work…that is what you focus on and then you start scaling that and lastly, never give up, have the guts and sheer willpower to persevere against all the odds until the end.”



“As a developer, I would say the first and foremost concern is making sure that you have title to the land, so do your due diligence, make sure the title you have is real. We have an archaic unfortunately manual deeds office still in Zimbabwe, it is time-consuming and frustrating, however, it pays its dividends if you do your homework properly and due diligence is a very important thing.

I would make sure there are no claims on the land, that there is a free title that the use of the land is clearly defined within the existing law

It took us 14 years to change the use of the land that we have, it was a miracle that we achieved it. It is not easy.

I would not recommend anybody to go through the same process, we took a brownfields piece of land took it to green fields, and in the process…. And in normal countries, it can also take from brown to green 5 to ten years of effort and work. That requires a lot of tenacity and capital and a lot of determination on how to get there. There are much easier ways.

Start small, find a  piece of land a house, or an empty piece of land make sure the zoning is there for subdivision, and divide it up into smaller pieces. We are densifying the city of Harare, one of the biggest problems in Africa and Zimbabwe is three is the movement of urban populations to the capitals. We have a huge housing backlog in Zimbabwe, we have about half a million houses backlog. We have to densify; we have to create more units on the existing land. We have to go up in the air we can’t keep the old style of building outwards we have to build upwards. In view of that, it is easy to find a piece of land that is zoned correctly for development purposes it could be residential, could be commercial,  make sure the permission is there that would be the first thing.

The second thing is to get your market right, don’t build something and hope to sell it. Do your research properly.

Make sure that the client you are targeting being residential or commercial or retail is willing to pay the price for the product that you are offering, you don’t want to price yourself under market or over the market, and it’s got to be right.

Lastly, think about execution and delivering, keep to your promises.

Under-promise and over-deliver.”



“Don’t let it get to the position that it got to in Zimbabwe, it is avoidable and manageable. We all have a responsibility as the youth especially you can speak up and let your voice be heard. . It is not always taking  off the table everything that is available

It is about leaving on the table more so that those around us can benefit and I think the problem in Africa, in politics for a long time

In Kenya, there is a good book called’ It is our time to eat’

I am talking about corruption and I am talking about leaders who come into the office to take advantage to fill their pockets and take advantage to have more power. It is up to the youth of SA to step forward. You have now entered an era for the first time in history where your constitution was challenged and overturned the electoral act. You are about to go into an election, gather your communities, come together and choose your candidates from the people. Let the people speak for themselves, let it be somebody who is chosen by the people for the people, you have been given a unique opportunity. You don’t need to belong to a political party and this is the time to step up and make it happen and let your voice be heard.”



“It is a good ethical question. The brown envelope question and I would like to consider it in two ways, I don’t believe Zimbabwe and Africa are the only places in the world where there is corruption. It exists in every society and every country. It just exists at different levels

In the US for example could we argue that lobbying is part of corruption… is it legitimized corruption where people get paid money legally by their employer to lobby government officials, what goes on behind the scene, who knows? I think at the end of the day you have to decide for yourself what your value system is and what you are prepared to compromise on and what not to compromise on.

When you have a gun held to your head. And there are the words of a friend of mine in Malaysia, he told me 12 years ago. When you have a gun held to your head. Do you pay it to save your life or your family’s life, potentially the answer is: yes? Is that corrupt? Yes; is it wrong, yes? Who is doing the wrong in that equation, is it you pay the money or are you saving your life, or the one holding the gun?

In each situation is very different. In our situation, earlier in our business when we started this company 15 years ago, corruption wasn’t really a problem. The gift of hyperinflation was wiping out the value of money so there wasn’t much point in corruption because whatever the person asked would be worth nothing by the time, they got it. It was a natural barrier and of course, the environment is quite controlled. It was a centralized controlled government and people don’t tend to break the law often and that was a gift for the last ten years and in the last few years, since we dollarized, it thinks corruption has become a bigger problem in Zimbabwe and people do expect to get paid to do the thing that they get paid by the government to do. The way we avoid it is by using professionals as opposed to taking shortcuts and it does take a longer time to get our zoning to 14 years, if we paid somebody money perhaps it would have taken us 3 months.

And it did require us to go to court. However, I believe if you play by the rules and do what is expected of you and you have the right connections. It is about the network. If you have the right professionals who know the system and how to navigate it. Sure it is going to cost you more and they are going to charge you more, they are going to charge consulting fees and professional fees at the end of the day you know they’re going to do the right job, the right way and you got some reassurance for that.

The biggest question for me was: ‘If I pay a bribe am I guaranteed that this person that I am paying going to deliver what I need to be delivered? The answer to most of those cases is not. You have no assurance that they will do what they promise to do

It is a huge risk from a purely financial point of view, minimum return and maximum risk is normally a no in business for me.

The second question is if I pay this bribe and it comes out in ten years how does that affect my business and 100% of the time you are not going to do it if that is going to be the case.”