Next week I’m attending the Love Summit in Cincinnati for the first time, and this led me to reflect on the many people who played a ‘first’ role in my business life; the first person to join a new venture, to set up a new business. There are so many firsts in our business life, too many to mention, so today’s VIAL is just a sample of the many wonderful people who took a risk WITH me, and more importantly, ON me.

Charl Cronje is one of the funniest men I know. We met at university, taught each other our various approaches to behaving badly, and became great friends. When I set up my first business a year later, he was the first person to jump on board. In hindsight, the two of us had no business running an actuarial consultancy, and so we had to quickly hire a more senior actuary to check our work, but we did have an amazing adventure (in actuarial terms) doing some of the first FAS106 calculations in South Africa, working with an assortment of mining companies and other businesses and trying to learn fast enough to keep up with our clients, let alone be ahead of them. Charl’s now an accomplished actuary in the UK, an author of columns and blogs (which, I always love to read) and just as fun and warm as when we meet 25 years ago, which was confirmed when we met for a beer recently.

Wayne Chen was our first ever ‘grad school hire’. Since we knew nothing about hiring someone, we nearly blew it several times, and he probably found the experience just as strange as we did. He became a superstar for our company and is now an entrepreneur at large in London. Wayne is the reason I will forever take a bet on new graduates. When you find a hidden gem, they are more than worth their weight in gold.

Kerry Dawkins also played many first roles in my business life. She left her career as a budding accountant (ok, she ran screaming from it!) to join our business and started many different divisions for us; flexible benefit consulting, retirement consulting, and more. She’s been a collaborator with BRATLAB and Habits at Work, and now runs a very successful coaching business in South Africa. She is a published author, with a book on career planning under her belt, and I suspect a second book sometime in the future. We’ve been friends for 30 years now, and in business together on and off for the better part of 25 years. Seeing you and Jonathan is still one of my highlights when visiting South Africa.

Ken Sloan, Chris Moreno and Caryn Tomasiewicz were all first partners in my US businesses and I’ve written about each of them in my previous VIALS.

There are many more people that joined our business or were the first to be part of an advisory board. I know not mentioning everyone by name is an oversight, but I also hope you know who you are and what your contribution means to me.

As Derek Sivers talks about in his TED talk, it's not the lone nut the makes a movement, it’s the first follower. In my case, I am clearly the lone nut; but all the people that have joined me in some crazy project or business have not just been the first follower, but inevitably, the first leader in our business. You’ve brought sense, calm, focus and execution to our dreams. Thank you all for your friendship, your belief in me and our joint vision for the world and for the fun we’ve had working together.