StartUp Tip #67: Loyalty

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Loyalty.

A simple word. And yet one of the most complicated concepts in our world…

What is loyalty? It is having your partner’s back. Always.

It is going into battle knowing that the man on your right and the man on your left are with you, no matter what.

You can move forward without fear of being stabbed from behind.

How do you earn loyalty?

Not through talking. Words are wind. Action is what counts.

Who would you call if your wife was in a car accident and you are out of the country?

I bet it is not the person you speak to most during the day.

Loyalty is important not in its everyday presence. It is important in its absence. That one dark day when your back is against the wall and you need a friend.

In business, loyalty is the key. Especially between the founder and his team.

If the founder can’t be trusted, the team will not look out for him. And vice-versa.

If life were a walk in a rose garden, loyalty would not be an issue. “Every man for himself” is a winning motto when things are easy.

However, life for most people is not a rose garden. It is a war. A war for recognition. A war for success. A war for survival. And when you are at war, loyalty is the most important thing there is.

Loyalty is what we call it when someone refuses a momentarily better option.

Without it you will find yourself standing in the middle of a big green field with ten thousand bullets and missiles and drones racing at you.

And you will be alone.

Loyalty is not grey. It is black and white.

You are either completely loyal or not loyal at all. And people have to understand this. You can’t be loyal only when it serves you.

Don’t kid yourself that loyalty overcomes everything.

Self-preservation generally wins the day in a head-to-head fight.

And, of course, given a choice between truth and loyalty, truth must always win.

At the end of the day your family is the core. Your parents, your kids, and most importantly, your wife. These are the only people in the whole world who give you unconditional love.

There will be a day when you wake up to find the world is out to get you. It will spew lies and filth and you will be defenceless.

You will want to kill for the injustice. You will want to crawl under a rock for the embarrassment.

And you will want to cry. And, I promise you, the only person in the world whose shoulder you can cry on is your wife or close partner.

That is why she comes first.

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StartUp Tip #66: Don’t be everything to everyone

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Entrepreneurship is about creating change.

Changing people’s lives, perceptions or conversations.

Successful change is not general, it is specific.

You don’t have a chance to make mass change, but you can make focused change.

When you bring change, you can’t be everything to everyone.

Whether you are looking for an investor, or a partner, or a customer, remember this:

You can only be yourself.

By being “yourself” can only attract a specific type of person, and by being “yourself” can also mean repelling some kinds of people.

The idea is not be liked by the masses. The idea is to bring products for specific people.

In our desire to please everyone, it is very easy to end up being invisible or mediocre.

Change comes from a specific small group of people.

The masses by definition follow. They follow specific small group of people.

Change or create specific people, you are likely to change or create a mass movement.

If you try to be everything to everyone, you won’t be anything to anyone.

Don’t lose yourself trying to be everything to everyone.

Be yourself.

Your best self.

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StartUp Tip #65: Find your “no” people

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Humans tends to look for people who will say yes to us more often.

Yes men and women makes you feel like we are on the right track.

These are people who idolizes you, and take everything you say as gospel truth.

It makes you feel good.

As entrepreneurs, we tend to choose teammates that always say yes to us.

We hire them, because they will do everything we tell them to do, they won’t argue.

Yes people make our lives “easy.”

Conventional wisdom says we need to stay away from nay-sayers, people who say it can’t be done.

There is a difference between surrounding yourself with nay-sayers and people who are not afraid to say no or “no, it’s not good enough,” or “no, you are on the wrong track.” or “no, you are getting to comfortable,” or “no, we can do better.”

But often we need that person who will tell us when we get off track.

Very few entrepreneurs have all the answers to all the questions.

Very few entrepreneurs succeed.

If you want to succeed, you need a team of highly engaged workers who feel empowered to ask questions, challenge your leadership in a respectful manner, and take ownership in the success of the company.

Dissent does not change the fact that you are the boss. Dissent simply leads to better decisions. 

Better decisions leads to success.

Find people that can say “no” to you.

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StartUp Tip #64: Pick yourself

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The other day I had an interesting small talk with my friend Luvuyo Rani, owner of Silulo Ulutho Technologies that has more than 30 branches in the Eastern and Western Cape and now in KwaZulu Natal and was voted JCI Outstanding Young Person of the World 2014.

RM: Mhlekazi [Sir] why haven’t you done a TEDx talk before, why haven’t the TEDxCapeTown guys invited you to give a talk?

LR: No Mhlekazi’wam [My good Sir], they did ask a couple of years ago, I declined because I felt I wasn’t ready then.

RM: Oh I see, I thought they just didn’t invite you.

LR: No Mhlekazi, they did invite me. You know how we entrepreneurs are, if they didn’t invite me, I would start my own TEDx platform, I don’t have to wait for them to pick me, I will pick myself.

This small conversation got me thinking:

The world is run by those who show up… not those who wait to be asked.

If you wait to be picked, you may wait for a long time or never.

If you want to be responsible for making music, make music.

If you want to be responsible for writing, speaking, making change happen, go do that.

Waiting to get picked is a form of hiding, not realism.

What pick yourself means is that it is never been easier to decide to be responsible for your own work, for your own agenda, for the change you make in the world. To have a chance to matter. Not to be finished right now, but starting now.

This is not easy for a lot people because the Industrial Revolution way has taught us to wait for the teacher to pick us, for the manager to promote us, for the coach to select us, for the masses to vote for us.

It is easy to complain and blame someone else for not picking you.

Pick yourself means we should stop waiting, complaining and stalling.

As Seth Godin has said before:

“No one is going to pick you. Pick yourself.”

The opportunity of a lifetime is to pick yourself.

Quit waiting to get to picked.

Quit waiting for someone to give you permission.

Quit waiting for someone to say you are officially qualified.

Reject they tyranny of picked. Pick yourself.

The outcome is still in doubt, but it is clear that waiting just does not pay.

 

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StartUp Tip #63: The short and long run

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What you choose to work on today is largely a function of what your goals are.

Buckminster Fuller suggested:

“The farther out you are willing to look, the easier it is to answer the question, ‘What should I work on this afternoon?’”

If you are working toward a goal of what needs accomplished by this coming Friday afternoon, your time will be spent much differently than if working toward a quarterly, annual or even longer-range goal.

In the short run, there is never enough time.

In the long run, constrained resources become available.

In the short run, you can fool anyone.

In the long run, trust wins.

In the short run, we have got a job vacancy, hire the next person you find.

In the long run, we spend most of our time with the people who work for a cause than wok for a salary.

In the short run, decisions feel more urgent and less important at the same time.

In the long run, most decisions are obvious and easy to make.

In the short run, it is better to panic and obsess on emergencies and urgencies.

In the long run, spending time with people you love, doing work that matters, is all that counts.

In the short run, trade it all in order to get attention.

In the long run, it is good to own it (the means of production, the copyrights, the process).

In the short run, burn it down, someone else will clean up the problem.

In the long run, the environment in which we live is what we need to live.

In the short run, better to bunk class.

In the long run, education pays off.

In the short run, tearing people down is a great way to get ahead.

In the long run, building people and things of value makes better sense.

Add up the short runs, though, and you are left with the long run. It is going to be the long run a lot longer than the short run will last.

Act accordingly.

 

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StartUp Tip #62: Avoid the shortcut culture

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Looking at the map, the road for the shortcut appeared just fine, a straight shot to the next town.

It could save us about an hour of traveling time. So we got off the “long” path and took the alternative route.

Big mistake! The road was fraught with difficulties:

• Construction work . . .
• A line of slow trucks that we couldn’t pass . . .
• Cattle (then sheep) in the middle of the road . . .
• Potholes, and . . .
• No petrol station or restroom.

The bottom line: my proposed shortcut ended up taking longer, nearly ran out of petrol, and I had very cranky passengers.

Shortcuts are not always as good as they may seem.

We are often tempted to cut corners in order to speed things up or make a greater profit.

But ethical shortcuts, or short-changing someone else, will always come back to haunt us.

Here is the short-cut that’s sure to work, every time:

Take the long way.

Do the hard work, consistently and with generosity and transparency.

And then you won’t waste time doing it over.

If you don’t have time to do it right, what makes you think you will have time to do it over?

On the road to success, there are no shortcuts.

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StartUp Tip #61: Don’t drink your own kool-aid

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Startups, entrepreneurship, innovation, creativity are hot again.

I have friends and family members asking what is the next wave, where is the money, if they can “get in on some deals.”

Every town is launching an incubator (or 3) and the papers are filled with stories of fund raisings, product launches & new innovations.

If you are one of the anointed few who’s business is doing well and is getting the adoration of the press, investors and employees , enjoy the moment and capitalise on the momentum but stay grounded.

I want to talk about Kool Aid.

Yours.

Don’t drink it.

I know you are thinking that you have your head on straight but I promise you the experience of finding yourself in this maelstrom and getting lots of attention will leave any first time entrepreneur spinning.

Fame and adoration corrupts startup entrepreneurs. And if you’re not careful you might start to believe your own hype.

You will be hot. Until you are not. That’s OK. It happens to many companies that ride the wave.

The problem is when you have drunk a dose of our own Kool Aid. You will feel invincible.

You listen way too much to what the press said.

You listen to the analysts tell you how you are going to change the industry.

You instruct customers about how eCommerce, or this new trend is going to change their future.

You “know.” After all you are told you are an entrepreneur who knows his story.

The problem with drinking your own kool-aid and believing your own hype is that you will make mistakes:

  • You raise too much funding [you are changing the world],
  • You hire too many people [you are going big],
  • You build products too quickly before customer feedback [you “know” what they needed],
  • You charge too much for your products [because you can, you are “brand”],
  • You hold too many business meetings,
  • You are busy doing international deals [from people in the New York, China, South Africa, Poland who have read about you] and
  • Of course wasted too much time on M&A discussions.

Don’t get excited by the media and too much attention.

Here are some of my thoughts on adding more water and diluting your Kool-aid.

1. Don’t listen to what journalists say about your product or company.

They are good people. But they have stories to produce.

They are chasing deadlines, they often don’t have time to really understand what you do.

2. Don’t get too excited about your new found fame.

You are making cover pages of magazines, you are interviewed on mainstream media, you are winning awards, you are VIP at premier events.

Your parents are telling everyone about how proud they are of you.

Your high school friends are reaching out to you.

People who do not understand think you are about to be really rich.

Enjoy your pats on the back but then get back to work.

It’s easy to lose focus on what truly matters when you are basking in attention.

3. Make sure you focus on what matters : your customers.

If you have received a bit of press attention, now is your moment to double your efforts on understanding your customer base.

Listen to their feedback.

Obsess about your customers, not competitors. 

What problems are you solving for them?

What features are missing that would make their lives easier?

Hype is seductive, getting attention is fleeting.

Don’t get drunk by the hype, listen to the data. What are the numbers telling you?

Doing work that matters is not about hype, but about impact.

4. DO capitalise on the moment in time while you are still part of the news cycle.

Market, market, market. Once the cycle has passed it’s harder to capitalize.

At some point the hype cycle WILL end.

Focus on doing work that matters. Keep a level head, work hard, persevere, be consistent, be remarkable.

The best thing you can probably do is keep a low profile, keep your eyes and ears open, your mouth shut, and you will learn a lot.

As Frank Lopez advised Tony Montana in Scarface:

“The guys that last in this business, are the guys who fly straight. Low-key, quiet.” 

Never take a sip of your own Kool-Aid.

In fact Kool-Aid should not be part of your diet.

 

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StartUp Tip #60: Thrilling is fine, mattering is more important

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Let your startup be more than just a thrilling exciting moment, let it do work that matters.

Doing work that matters is more than exciting or thrilling.

Thrilling and exciting are temporary. Mattering is permanent.

Let your startup do more than just make profit.

Let it contribute to the community, touch people’s lives, make the environment better, deal with poverty by creating jobs, encourage the youth to dream more and do more.

Be professional, spice up your professional life with a bit of creativity, see your job as a unique opportunity to add value to the greatest number.

See your business as the only tool you have, to make an impact in life, for a true professional startup, this is all that matters. 

The work of a professional is not to recreate thrilling and exciting moments.

It is to show up and do the work. Do the work that matters.

To continue the journey you set out on a while ago.

To make the change you seek to make in the universe.

People that are doing work that matters are not doing work that is popular. They are just doing that changes some people.

It is the work that matters, not the applause that follows.

If we can fall in love with serving people, creating value, solving problems, building valuable connections and doing work that matters, it makes it far more likely we are going to do important work.

Show up to do work that matters. If you show up regularly with generosity, everything else is going to take care of itself.

The opportunity is not in being momentarily popular with the anonymous masses. The opportunity is in being missed when you are gone, in doing the work that matters to the people you choose.

Invest in Mattering.

Decide to matter in what you make and to matter in the way that you talk about it.

Thrilling is fine. Mattering is more important.

If ever there was a moment to follow your passion and do work that matters, this is it.
Mattering matters.
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StartUp Tip #59: Productise your services

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Selling time is a hard life.

Doctors, lawyers, consultants sell time.

You have to be there to get paid, if you are not there to render your service, no invoice is charged.

You make a comfortable living.

You may be running your own practice, but YOU have to be IN your practice in order to invoice.

If you are sick, your business is sick.

If you are off from work, your business is also off.

Even if your consultancy is thriving, you still only have so much time to exchange for money.

Time is not scalable.

Try as you might to maximize price or delivery and allow yourself a comfortable margin, you will still reach a natural ceiling.

Consider productising your service.

Productising your service means a service which you’ve systematised and supported by tools, automation, processes, etc, so that you increase value to the customer in a fixed time.

Accountants will give you a fixed rate for vat returns, preparing financial statements, compiling business plans. This is productising your services.

By productising your service you are able to structure your services in such a way as to get more people to render your service in your absence.

More people, more service to more clients, more revenue.

It is easier to scale a productized business, than a traditional service consultancy business.

You only have one 24 hours in a day, if you have 5 people working on delivering a “product” to your customers, you now have 5 24 hours for your business.

This way you are able to take time off from your business or spending more time on scaling business without being bogged down to operational duties..

 

 

 

 

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StartUp Tip #58: Scars don’t make us failures

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Maanda Tshifularo said something very profound at the recent Takalani Foundation Fundraising Galla Dinner organized by Rendani Mamphiswana and his team.

I paraphrase what he said:

“Don’t take failure personally, and also don’t take success personally.

When you take success personally, you become arrogant and when you take failure personally, you become depressed.

Instead look at what happens are experiments, lessons and experiences to learn from.”

When you run a startup, you are going to make mistakes, you are going to bruise yourself.

I have physical scars, some of my scars bankrupted me, several time, some scars are so serious they would have killed me.

I have come away from terrible incidents scarred, instead of taking it as a bad sign, we should see it as proof that we have lived, and that we have given life our best shot.

After we have been scarred, we always have the option to either give up, or keep playing the game until we succeed.

Don’t be ashamed of your scars.

Honor them.

Don’t hide them.

Sure these scars were once open wounds that hurt. But they healed.

They almost killed me, but hey, without these scars I wouldn’t be here today, writing this blog.

Life is all about trial & error, and your mistakes dont define you, live your life & make mistakes.

For every wound, there is a scar, and every scar tells a story. A story that says: I survived.

The scars we carry, carry us.

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