LORNE SULCAS – The Big Cat Guy – Trusted Motivational Speaker



QUICK TESTIMONIAL: “He’s a very nice guy” – Lorne’s wife

His audiences have included executives and employees of US giants such as NASA, Sony Music, and AT&T; and Woolworths, ABSA, Cape Union Mart and Associated Media in South Africa. Business and conference speaker LORNE SULCAS has been inspiring top international organizations, entrepreneurs, athletes and teams on performance since 1996 with his extraordinary Bushveld Lessons presentations. In his Thriving in a Wild World keynote, Lorne shares game-changing success lesson from Africa’s Big Cats around exceptional teamwork, growth, resillience, and leadership in the face of change, challenges and competition.

So Lorne, you’ve spent time in a few places.  Where and how come?
Well, I was born and bred (though my Canadian-born wife sometimes tells me I have no breeding!) on the Atlantic seaboard in Cape Town, South Africa. Left the city and corporate world to follow my dream to work and live in the bush.  Guided safaris as a game ranger for about seven years, mostly in South Africa’s Greater Kruger National Park, and later in KwaZulu-Natal and Botswana. Then moved with my wife to Colorado, USA for seven years, to continue my motivation and training path with my Bushveld Lessons business.  ‘Missed the bush and Africa too much so returned (with my wife and our then 2-year old first child) to South Africa in 2003.  Now full circle – back in Cape Town– living in the beautiful Deep South.  I travel quite a bit to speak, and love coming home!  I’m also still in the bush a lot; one of my favorite places being Tanzania where I still guide a safari every year to the Serengeti to see the Great Migration.

What kind of kid were you?
Very involved in sport and extra-murals; hated the academic side of high school – was frequently called into the headmaster’s office to be told I’m “not reaching my academic potential.”  Always loved being outside; playing with insects and arachnids (much to my Mother’s horror, when for example, the egg sac of a Black Widow spider I was ‘raising’ hatched out about five thousand live babies – inside a kitchen cupboard at home!).  Ironically I didn’t have any real exposure to the bush till much later – then the bug bit (good pun, huh?!) and it became a huge passion when I was at University.

Who is your celebrity crush?
You mean besides my wife?  (Good answer, huh?!)

Mmmm…hadn’t really thought about it…  I should probably pick someone age appropriate, shouldn’t I?!…

Ok then: any of Sandra Bullock, Cameron Diaz or Michelle Pfiefer (I’m dating myself here, aren’t I?! 🙂 ).

What do you like to watch on TV or online?
Sport.  And did I say sport?  I’m a huge sports fan – ‘love learning about what it takes to win and succeed.

Some NatGeo. Really good movies and with my kids programmes like ‘The Amazing Race’ that have great lessons about goals, perseverance, character and relationships.  But we purposely have no DSTV or cable at home ‘cos after years in the bush I learned the joy of picking up a good ‘ole book and I want my kids to know how great that still is.  Actually these days they’re picking up a ‘not so ‘ole’ Kindle…  My not so subtle tactic’s definitely working though: both our kids are huge readers and I’m excited for them about that.  I personally also watch and read whatever else I can that helps me become a better speaker and human being: around current, business or environmental issues and trends; anything to do with success and excellence; other speakers, entertainers and performers.

How did you get started as a speaker?
Towards the end of my six years as a game ranger and safari guide in South Africa’s Kruger National Park area, one of my guests was a visiting CEO of a prominent US management consultancy.  He invited me to speak at a conference in the US on my content I was busy developing about the corporate similarities to the ways in which African wildlife have continued for millennia to be resilient to change, survive competition, exemplify leadership and function as High Performing Teams.  Then later when I moved to the USA, I started finding lots of other organisations I could help with my message.

How long have you been doing this?
I’ve been in front of audiences as a leadership and teambuilding trainer and facilitator since the late 80’s.  First keynote in ’93.  Really started as a ‘real’ speaker in ’96.

So you’re obviously a real pro.  Can you say: ‘Peter Piper Picked a Pickled Pepper’ and cross-sell a washing machine at the same time?
No, washing machine has too many syllables…!  Hahaha…(I can definitely do it with ‘fridge’ though!)

What do you like most about professional speaking?
Seeing people helped and moved by your message.

And always being able to learn something new about one’s own, others’ and teams’ success, challenges and performance.

What do you like least about it?
Fortunately as soon as someone sees my presentation in person, it’s a ‘no-brainer:’ they ‘get’ the impact and value straight away, and that thankfully leads to many engagements and referrals.  But I never feel like describing what I do and speak about to someone who hasn’t actually seen my presentation, ever really ‘cuts’ it.  I hate having to ‘blow my own horn.’

Okay, so please blow your own horn here… three achievements you’re proud of that help your speaking business?

  • So in other words I have to brag, right?! Okay, well I’ve managed to win many local and international awards and competitions, which definitely helps with one’s credibility as a ‘stand out’/true expert. As a speaker, I’m a two-time Division Champion in the Southern Africa region of the Toastmasters International Speech and Evaluation Competition. For my wildlife photography, I’ve won multiple categories in the prestigious Fuji/Getaway Wildlife Photography competitions in South Africa and have been a semi-finalist in the international BBC Veolia Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition.
  • I also have two Associateship Honours awards from the Photographic Society of Southern Africa for my wildlife photography, and in a very competitive market my photos and writing have been published in books, magazines and calendars in South Africa, USA and Europe. In my Thriving in a Wild World keynote, the photos -and that they’re my own- adds huge impact.
  • In 2007 I started a greeting card company using my own wildlife photographs to create a humourous range of greeting cards, that still today continues to sell extremely well throughout Southern and parts of East Africa, and in a few outlets in Europe. Like any successful endeavour, it’s taken hard work. But it’s a great business, a great teacher and a lot of fun…!

And your biggest accomplishment?
Convincing my wife that I’m “The One,” being married for over 20 years, and surviving the first 14 years of parenthood. 

What song(s) best describes your work ethic?
It’s been a hard days night (and I’ve been working like a dog) – The Beatles     🙂

If you could go back in time, what would you do differently?
Maybe not have done my post-Grad at UCT and instead start working sooner in my passion with wildlife.  I definitely would’ve started speaking professionally and authoring much earlier.  And much more surfing (my wife tells me I’m a much nicer person when I’m surfing!).

Who are your heroes?
People who invest themselves in others, and people who have the courage and work ethic to succeed despite all odds and failure.  And then of course, John Cleese 🙂

What weird or wonderful things do very few people know about you?

  • I’m addicted to chocolate
  • My wife and daughter tease me ‘cos of my taste in music. I love classical (Beethoven, Brahms, Mendelsohn, etc.) and what they repeatedly (and I think rather unfairly) call ‘groovy’ (Sting, Queen, Bryan Ferry, Pink Floyd).
  • I have a Bachelors Degree in Architecture (would you believe it!!) and a Post-Grad in the Social and Behavioural Sciences from the University of Cape Town.
  • I was a serious sportsman in my long-past youth, notably tennis and squash (provincial colours for several years).
  • I don’t really ‘do’ desserts. (But I do have to have some chocolate with rooibos tea every night after dinner!).


Other than your speaking, what are you excited about?
Chocolate, my awesome wife and two kids, (listed in no particular order, of course!!), laughter, being in the bush, my kids’ successes and failures, great friends, and the first of my books being published this year!!! 

What do you do in your spare time?
Answer interview questions like this…!  No seriously, spare time: what’s that…?! 

Do you do any volunteer work?
Well, I’m a parent.  Does that count?!!  🙂

I do believe we have to give back in life.  And that we also have to be an example for our kids, of serving and giving back. I’ve served on zillions of committees and organizations.  ‘Been involved on the leadership side of the Toastmasters organisation for several years.  I’ve been coaching tennis at my kids’ school and helping out on the weekends on the beach with Nippers (surf lifesaving) training since my first child started seven years ago, although admittedly less so recently as my speaking business -and my work travel- has increased.  But I figure the parenting thing offsets that, doesn’t it?!  I also mentor and coach other speakers, which is always a lot of fun and hugely rewarding. 

Jeff Bezos gives you a million dollars to launch your best entrepreneurial idea. What is it?
Making recycling into a sustainable, profitable business.

If we came to your house for dinner, what would you prepare for us?
The reality is that my wife is such an amazing cook and baker that it’d make a whole lot more sense -and be much better taste-wise for you!- for her to be doing most of the cooking for you.  However if it were me, I love to braai (South African for ‘barbecue’).  Always happy to get a fire going -a real fire: with real wood…  You’d have to tolerate though the somewhat labour intensive ritual I started years ago (to teach my kids) of making a fire from scratch/without firelighters…

So how do you make a tuna sandwich?
First you have to catch the tuna 🙂 !!

Then ‘mandatory to have chopped up sweet and sour pickled cucumbers mixed in and maybe even capers. A tiny bit of wasabe really rounds it off nicely.

What’s your favourite quote?  And why?
Never tell me the sky’s the limit when there are footprints on the moon. – Unknown.  We are limited only by our own thoughts and imagination.

My partner and I are going on vacation, where would you recommend?
For ideal setting, a safari in the Okavango Delta, Botswana.  Nothing like it anywhere else in Africa.  Or the world, for that matter.  Nambia is an amazing country, and it’s Etosha National Park is one of my favorites on the continent. But for a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience, seeing the Great Migration on the plains of the Serengeti/Maasai Mara ecosystems in East Africa is hard to match – an indescribable phenomenon!  I mentioned I still guide at least one safari a year there, and it’s absolutely mind-blowing every time. 

How hard do you push yourself?
Very hard.  Especially on the workfront.  Also as a parent and husband. (I wonder if my wife would argue differently…?!). I do take time off though (not from the latter, of course…!  In fact, I’m actually going for Husband of the Year this year!).

When are you completely satisfied with your work?
Never.  There’s always something one can work on -to stretch, get better and improve- to add value.

Why have you succeeded in a field where so many others have failed?
Perseverence and commitment to constant improvement.

How has South Africa changed in the last ten years?
Positively: growth of colour-blindness.  Negatively: the progressively weak currency.

How have you changed?
I’m even more focused. Oh, and my bald spot has increased slightly in surface area.  And, though I’ll never admit it to my wife, my beard’s a little greyer too…  (Interestingly she doesn’t seem to notice either…!) 

And finally, what’s the magic formula for success?
Dream.  Big.  Then go and put in the work to make it happen.

🙂 🙂

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  • …There was such significant energy around Lorne’s seminar. It was amazing. He customized it exactly to our needs. And he made us laugh too. I really appreciated his excellent responses in the Q&A at the end that really added to the learning … hugely inspiring and valuable.

  • Lorne, your talk was an incredible success. When I was chatting to some of the delegates that afternoon they were all saying how inspirational your speech was. I have never heard them talking like that about a guest speaker. One of the ladies who I know quite well said that after your talk she was motivated again and her goal starting that day was to lose weight. So you clearly made an impact. Thanks so much.

  • “The standing ovation said it all.  You have something rich and powerful … which you expertly fit right in line with our conference… a provocative and exciting approach… absolutely unique and fascinating.”

  • Lorne, I wanted to thank you so much for your Bushveld Lessons session on team effectiveness. It was everything I thought it would be and more. Your stories were incredible in terms of what you’ve been able to observe and how you apply it to professional concepts in a relevant and colorful way. The analogies were exciting and very meaningful, and I loved your sense of humor and the great rappore you had with the people there. I’m sorry for the people who were not able to attend because they missed out on a really engaging and innovative learning opportunity. Lorne, you are a breath of fresh air. I really hope that there will be some opportunities in the future to work together in any way that presents itself. Thanks again from the bottom of my heart.

  • Dear Lorne, a sincere thanks for your invaluable key note address to UWP Consulting at our regional conference. You exceeded all expectations. Apart from the fact that the presentation was enthralling, accompanied by world class photographs, the Survival of the Fittest theme rings very true in our present day working environment which requires unusual focus, great vision and superb teamwork you talked about, in order to obtain and maintain the edge required for success in our industry. I can recommend this presentation to any organization who seeks inspiration in striving to be the best in whatever they do.