StartUp Tip #32: “Here, I made this”…


Deliver before you are ready, because you will never be ready.

Ready implies you know it is going to work, and you can’t know that.

Waiting to be ready is hiding.

My approach has always been, start and deliver it now and improve it as you go.

You should deliver when you are prepared, when it’s time to show your work, but not a minute later.

The purpose is not to please the critics.

The purpose is to make your work better.

Polish with your peers, your true fans, the market. Because when we polish together, we make better work.

“Here, I made this,”…

The more we say these words, and mean them, and deliver on them, the more art and connection we create.

The cost of being wrong is way less than the cost of doing nothing because you are waiting for perfect.

Startup entrepreneurs tend to plan, plan and plan for perfection. This delays delivery, and progress.

Ultimately you find reasons why it won’t work and end up not delivering. This is the danger of analysis paralysis.

“Here, I made this,”…

Allow yourself to be vulnerable.

Vulnerable is the only way we can feel when we truly share the art we have made.

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StartUp Tip #31: Addicted to being busy


Some of us get so used to the adrenaline rush of handling crises that we become dependent on it for a sense of excitement and energy.

How does urgency feel? Stressful? Pressured? Tense? Exhausting?


But let’s be honest.

It’s also sometimes exhilarating. We feel useful. We feel successful. We feel validated. And we get good at it.

Whenever there is trouble, we ride into town, pull out our six shooter, do the varmint in, blow the smoke off the gun barrel, and ride into the sunset like a hero.

It brings instant results and instant gratification.

We get a temporary high from solving urgent and important crises.

Then when the importance isn’t there, the urgency fix is so powerful we are drawn to do anything urgent, just to stay in motion.

People expect us to be busy, overworked.

It’s become a status symbol in our society, if we’re busy, we’re important; if we’re not busy, we’re almost embarrassed to admit it.

Busyness is where we get our security. It’s validating, popular, and pleasing. It’s also a good excuse for not dealing with the first things in our lives.

“I’d love to spend quality time with you, but I have to work. There’s this deadline. It’s urgent. Of course you understand.”

“I just don’t have time to exercise. I know it’s important, but there are so many pressing things right now. Maybe when things slow down a little.”

Urgency addiction is a self-destructive behavior that temporarily fills the void created by unmet needs.

And instead of meeting these needs, the tools and approaches of time management often feed the addiction. They keep us focused on daily prioritization of the urgent.

It is that a meaningful life is not a matter of speed or efficiency. It’s much more a matter of what you do and why you do it, than how fast you get it done.

The above is adopted from Stephen R. Covey‘s book First Things First: Interactive Edition


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StartUp Tip #30: Slay at the office and play horsie at home


Actors spend months and months getting into role.

They also spend time getting out of role.

The dangers of actors not getting out of role [i.e de-roling] is that the roles they play affects their personality, creating depression, acting out or heavy drinking because they didn’t leave their characters behind at the end of the day.

We are all actors.

We play different roles in a stage of life.

We play the role of a father, sister, brother, son or daughter.

We play the role of an entrepreneur, manager, super-star soccer player or actor.

We may not think that way, but when we get to our work places, we assume certain roles and perform tasks and get paid at month end.

We are acting our lives.

When you put hours into your role, you become good.

Spend more time studying, you become a good student.

Spend more time improving your cooking skills, you become a good chef.

Spend more time improving your caring skills, you become a good caring partner.

Great actors, spend time perfecting their roles.

What we focus and spend more deliberate time on, improves.

Great actors like Sello Maake Ka Ncube, Lupita Nyongo or John Kani spend time immersing ourselves in their acting roles.

We work hard as entrepreneurs.

We put in long hours slaying at the office.

We leave last on the soccer pitch practicing our free-kick technique.

We leave late in the studio learning our lines and understanding a character.

When we succeed in those roles, the world celebrates us, we become public successes.

When you get home, your family expects to see a father, mother, sister, brother, daughter.

Which means when you leave your business, office, soccer pitch, the studio, you have to de-role from being an entrepreneur, manager, super-star or actor and get into the role of being a father, mother, sister, daughter, son.

When we don’t put more time and effort perfecting those roles, we become private failures.

Cornet Mamabolo [lead actor as Thabo ‘Those’ Maputla in Skeem Saam] in his recent talk says, the problem is when you don’t de-role when leave work, instead you carry your work role to home. You perform as an actor at home instead of a father, brother, or son.

The problem is when a superstar actor behaves like a diva at the airport throwing “you don’t know who I am?” to the official checking her in.

The problem is when a successful entrepreneur sees his wife is an employee when he gets home.

The problem is when a superstar son refuses to run errands for his mother because he believes a superstar doesn’t do those chores.

The problem is when a daughter who has done well at university and now holds a respectable position at work, now she thinks she smarter than her mom.

The problem is when the high position wife gets home and behaves like her home is a boardroom.


The problem of not de-roling when you get home is that it creates tension with people around you.

In order to succeed in her next role, a great actor has to de-role her previous role and mentally and emotionally get into the next role.

Relationships work the same way.

When you get home and you still play the role of a manager at home instead of husband, it creates tension.

When you fail to de-role from your professional role, your home role is left unfilled.

When people at home expect to see a father, sister, brother, daughter, son instead they get to meet an entrepreneur, manager, super-star, actor.

De-roling means when you get home, you play the role of a father and do what fathers do, when you are mother, you mother at home, when you are a son, daughter, sister, cousin, you play that role.

You are an amazing entrepreneur, strive to be an amazing husband at home.

You are a high flying slayer at the office, strive to an amazingly wife at home.

You are a kickass soccer star, strive to be an obedient son to your parents.

You are an amazing actor on stage, strive to be a dependable friend, sister, brother.

De-roleing is not about work-life balance, it is about knowing your various roles, knowing when to switch between them and playing the right roles at the right times.

Failure to play the right roles at the right time might result in being a public success but a private failure [or vice-versa]

Get on your knees and play horsie with your kids at home, and slay the following day at work.

On Saturday, take their mom out on date-night.

Sunday afternoon, spend some time mentoring young boys in your community.

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StartUp Tip #29: As a leader, don’t hog the space


Cincinnatus was an emperor in the Roman Empire. Cincinnati, the city, is named after him because he was a big idol of George Washington.

Cincinnatus is a great example of successful leadership because he was asked to reluctantly step into power and become the emperor and to help, because Rome was about to get annihilated by all the wars and battles.

He was a farmer. Powerful guy.

He went and took on the challenge, took over Rome, took over the army, and won the war.

After they won the war, he felt he had done his mission and was asked to go and be the emperor, and he gave the ring back and went back to farming.

He didn’t only do this once. He did it twice.

When they tried to overthrow the empire from within, they asked him back and he came back.

He cleaned up the mess through great, great leadership.

He had tremendous leadership quality in bringing people together.

And again, he gave the ring back and went back to farming.

Leaders are aware that it is not about them.

It is about their people.

If you are conscious more about yourself instead of the people you are leading, then you are not ready to lead.

Leaders are more concerned about the well-being of their followers.

They are aware that their job is about people, not about them.

If you are constantly thinking about you, your position, your status, your looks, your self-consciousness, you are not ready to lead.

Once you let go of your self-consciousness and start obsessing about others, you are likely to champion and be the champion of your followers.

It is about them.

Being generous can mean sharing your feedback, your knowledge, and your credit with people, but most importantly, it can mean the difference between a good leader and a great one.

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StartUp Tip #28: Tantrums not caught


Tantrums are frightening.

Whether it is an employee, a customer or a dog out of control, tantrum behavior is so visceral, self-defeating and unpredictable, rational participants want nothing more than to make it go away.

And so the customer service rep or boss works to calm the tantrum thrower, which does nothing but worsens the behavior, setting the stage for ever more tantrums.

Consider three ideas to calm down the tantrums thrower:

  • Listen to the person, not the tantrum;
  • Tantrums want to deal with tantrums;
  • Create systems to avoid it in the first place.

When an employee calls you up, furious, in mid-tantrum, it Is tempting to placate or to argue back. That is the tantrum pressing your buttons.

Instead, ask him to write down every thing that is bothering him, along with what he hopes you will do, and then call you back.

Or even better, meet with you tomorrow.

Email tantrums are similar.

If someone sends you an email tantrum, don’t respond, point by point, proving that you are correct.

Instead, consider ways to de-escalate, not by giving in to the argument, but by refusing to have the argument.

Engaging in the middle of a tantrum rewards the tantrum by giving it your attention: and it makes it likely that you will get caught up, and say or do something that, in the mind of the tantrum-thrower, justifies the tantrum.

If your dog is going crazy, straining at the leash and barking, it turns out that yelling, “sit,” is going to do no good at all, no matter how loudly you yell.

No, the secret is to not take your dog to this park, not at this time of day, at least not until you figure out how to create more positive cycles for him.

Eliminate the trigger, you start to eliminate the tantrum.

When the cost of throwing a tantrum is high and when the systems are in place to eliminate the triggers, tantrum behavior goes down.

The problem with taking offense is that it is really hard to figure out what to do with it after you are done using it.

Better to just leave offense on the talk and walk away.

Offense is taken, not given.

Offense untaken quietly disappears.

Train your mind to be calm in every situation.



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StartUp Tip #27: Strategy matters more than ever


When everyone is playing the same game, your execution is critical.

Your shop is like their shop, your bread is like their bread, so we care very much about the care and skill you put into your product or service.

Strategic goal must be deliberately conceived and chosen, and then pursued, reviewed and adjusted.

Running a business with the wrong strategy in the wrong place at the wrong time is possible, but it is an uphill battle.

The alternative is to think very hard about your model, your costs and the benefits you offer to the people you’d like to serve.

You could change:

From a product to a service offering,

From free to expensive,

From doing in-house to outsourcing,

From democratic leadership to autocratic,

From innovating and trendsetting to following the trends,

From generic to branded,

From low service to high service,

From storefront to web,

From large to small,

From all-over the media or to subtle and exclusive,

From spam to permission,

From lifestyle to growth business,

From acquiring new customers to delighting old ones,

From wide open to invitation only,

From self-employed to entrepreneur,

From dirty to green,

From secret to transparent,

From all-over to exclusive,

From competitive to collaboration,

From troll to benefactor,

From custom to mass, or

For any of these, vice versa.

Not changing your strategy merely because you are used to the one you have now is a lousy strategy.

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StartUp Tip #26: Are you teachable?

A very old school house chalk board

Being teachable and humble stand out as the most significant and critical attributes for success, not only in business but in life.

Their evil twin counterparts, pride and arrogance, are the cornerstones of failure.

Friends, teachers, mentors and coaches are all willing to share their knowledge with modest people who are genuinely willing and eager to receive information.

In fact, these folks are delighted to teach everything they know about a given topic.

Being teachable and humble is not about competency or mental ability, it is all about a thirst and an appreciation for knowledge.

St. Augustine once said: “Do you wish to rise? Begin by descending.

Are you planning a tower that will pierce the clouds? Lay first the foundation of humility.

When I meet someone who is teachable they are self-effacing, they listen well, acknowledge their errors and fix them, continually seek more knowledge, and surround themselves with seasoned educators.


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StartUp Tip #25: small is the new BIG


Economies of scale are well understood.

Bigger factories are more efficient.

Bigger distribution networks are more efficient, bigger ad campaigns can be more efficient.

It is often hard to defeat a major competitor, particularly if the market is looking for security and the status quo.

But what about the economies of small?

Is being bigger an intrinsic benefit in and of itself?

If your goal is to make a profit, it is entirely possible that less overhead and a more focused product line will increase it.

If your goal is to make more art, it is entirely possible the ridding yourself of obligations and scale will help you do that.

If your goal is to increase sales, it is entirely possible that looking after your current clients can help you increase achieve that.

If your goal is to have more fun, it is certainly likely that avoiding the high stakes of more stuff, more financing and more debt will help with that.

Happiness is not at the other side of a transaction.

If your goal is to be missed when you are gone, have meaningful relationships that matters with people close to you, instead of virtual relationships with people who forget about you the minute they log-off.

If your goal is to matter, do work that matters, go deep instead of wide.

I think we embraced scale as a goal when the economies of that scale were so obvious that we didn’t even need to mention them.

Now that it’s so much easier to produce a product in the small and market a product in the small.

Now that it is so beneficial to offer a service to just a few, with focus and attention, perhaps we need to rethink the very goal of scale.

Don’t be small because you can’t figure out how to get big. Consider being small because it might be better.

Small is the new BIG only when the person running the small thinks BIG.

Don’t wait. Get small. Think BIG.

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StartUp Tip #24: Narcissistic Personality Disorder


One of the most striking features of truly successful entrepreneurs is their unusual lack of narcissism.

Narcissism is an attempt to make ourselves feel less insignificant by appearing to be the opposite, special and important.

Reality TV shows, magazine covers, author’s faces on book covers, selfies, social media, obsession with bestseller list, media interviews are some of the tools that fuel narcissism.

We live in a world where self-made men [and women] are admired and adored.

On top of this, we live in an economic system that allocates resources and rewards via competition.

We compete for positions in sporting teams, in schools, in universities, jobs and for partners.

The impact being that we become overly concerned with how we are seen by others.

It weakens our independence and we become anxious about what others think of us.

As this sense of discomfort builds, we increase our sense of self-importance.

The result is that we need more and more to feel satisfied with ourselves.

We end up hardly ever feeling that enough is enough.

As a startup entrepreneur, it is important to keep your eye on the game rather than the scoreboard.

Successful entrepreneurs in their non-narcissistic way, are quite happy to simply build their businesses at the expense of self-importance.

Being ordinary gives you the enormous freedom of a non-narcissistic perspective where you can just get on with the job of building your business.

For individuals with narcissistic traits it becomes very difficult to love someone or something because the purpose of everyone or and everything is to make those individuals feel more important not you.

Typically the narcissistic person will lose interest in any person [no matter how significant that person may be] who stops making them feel important or special enough.

Instead, such an individual will become riveted by the next person or thing that shower them with praise and nurse her ego.

The consequence is that the narcissistic individuals struggle to establish long-term loyal connections.

It is a bit like trying to fill a leaking bucket, always leaking and always needing filling.

Without the nourishment of intimate relationships that can sustain an individual, there is likely to be a more promiscuous grasping of people who must feed one’s ego.

A narcissistic will move from one relationship to another based on how much praise and attention they get.

A narcissist are obsessed with controlling others.

When a narcissist has lost control over you, they try to control how others see you.

A narcissist will struggle to get along with teammates because they expect to be praised by their equals.

A narcissist entrepreneur will struggle to keep staff because instead of uplifting their staff to perform, they expect their staff to praise them.

Narcissist are so competitive that they even compete with their partners.

Instead of uplifting others, others must uplift them.

A humble entrepreneur is settled in her own skin, she doesn’t need praise or applause to do what she truly believes matters.

A humble entrepreneur lives according to her own world and has very strong roots.

A humble entrepreneur doesn’t need to be validated by others.

A humble entrepreneur has no fear of missing out. 

A truly humble entrepreneur gets on with her task of building her business and not trying to show off or out-do anyone else in the process.

She is not pre-occupied with others and their doings. This frees her to think about how she would like to do things.




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StartUp Tip #23: Stay in your circle of competence


Focus is a choice.

The runner who is concentrating on how much his left toe hurts will be left in the dust by the runner who is focusing on winning.

Even if the winner’s toe hurts just as much.

The temptation for startup entrepreneurs is try to do too many things at the same time.

We start a business in retail, then want to enter insurance, then mining, then catering all within a short space of time.

When you meet a startup entrepreneur at a networking function and you ask them what they do, when the response is:

“we do everything, just name it and we can organize it.”

Then that startup entrepreneur is not focused.

When you have a lot of balls in the air, it is easy to just ignore the ones that make you uncomfortable or that might fall.

Smart startups know their limitations and stick to their areas of competence.

They focus on what you know best and stick to their lane.

The likelihood of succeeding in areas that are not within your actual capacities and interests are small.

Understand your limitations and competence and don’t be seduced by any omnipotent notion that you can do everything.

Stay in areas of business where you have a sense of competence and interest, deepen your understanding of them and conquer them.

To be able to do that is the opposite of “doing everything.”

Don’t be distracted by an envious pre-occupation with lives and opportunities elsewhere.

When someone succeeds in another area, don’t drop your area of competence and interest to pursue another area that you are unfamiliar with just because someone else is succeeding in it.

Instead, stick to what you understand, deepen it and conquer it.


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