New for now

New Product

That’s the only kind of new there is.

Unlike used, old, established, tested, discarded or broken, new is always temporary.

Tomorrow, we start over and you get another opportunity to do something new if you choose to.

Is there any other market that open?


The Garbage In, Garbage Out Buffer


Computer wonks like to talk about garbage in/garbage out. A simple example: if there’s a mistake in the way a blog post is encoded, many XML/RSS readers will choke on it, preventing all future posts from showing up.

The IT guys put up their hands and say, “well, if you did not have a lousy character, it would not have broken… GIGO.”

That’s not resilient.

The work of the middleman is to inspect and recover. If your restaurant gets lousy fish from the boat, you don’t get to serve it and proclaim garbage in garbage out. No, your job is to inspect what you get, and if necessary, change it.

If the school board gives the teacher lousy instructions, the teacher can easily put up his hands and say, “I’m just doing my job.” The great teacher doesn’t do that, of course. He provides a buffer between the administrators and the his real customers, the students.

If a receptionist is given a handwritten letter to type, she doesn’t just type it out with the original spelling mistakes on the paper, she applies her mind and correct spelling on the document. She doesn’t say I am following instructions and typing exactly what I was given.

Entrepreneurs are not thermometers (just measuring and the telling the temperature), they are thermostats (they adjust the temperature to the desired set-point).

There will always be garbage in. It’s up to you as to whether or not there will be garbage out.

Being better than free


How do you compete with something that’s being out for free? How does a wedding photographer or a travel agent, someone who used to make a good living performing a task that was hard to do without them, compete against ubiquitous free alternatives?

There’s only one way: Sell something better than free.

Make a product or provide a service that’s worth paying for.

You don’t need a better way to talk about what you do, or a better marketing and advertising gimmick, or a better social media strategy. In fact, you need to reinvent and rebuild what you make for a new reality, a reality where paying for something is an intentional act of buying something way better than the free alternative.

I’m sorry if this seems obvious. It’s apparently not obvious to all the frustrated people I encounter who are still trying to sell the old thing in a new market.

Two kinds of loyalty


The first kind of loyalty is the loyalty of convenience.

I’m going to look around, sure, but probably won’t switch. Switching is risky, it’s time consuming. Switching means a new account manager or moving my software or reprinting something. Switching means I might make a mistake or lose my voyager miles or have to defend a new decision.

Companies are getting ever better at building this sort of loyalty of convenience

Then there’s the other kind of loyalty. This is the loyalty of, “I’m not even looking.”

This is the loyalty of, “I’m the kind of person that sticks with people who stick with me.”

This is the loyalty of someone who does not even want to know that there is a better deal somewhere else, because, after all, he is in it for the long haul.

The problem with the loyalty of convenience is that the customer is always tempted to look and look some more, and the supplier is always working to build barriers, barriers that don’t necessarily increase satisfaction, but merely build a wall of hassle around the (now) trapped customer.

We don’t have a common business term for this sort of feeling, but ‘stuck’ comes to mind.

The beauty of the second kind of loyalty, the loyalty of identity and satisfaction, is that the person who is not even looking is committed, as committed to the relationship as the supplier is. You earn this sort of loyalty, you don’t architect it.

You can only focus on creating one sort of loyalty at a time.

What kind of loyalty are you building for your customers in your business?

Entrepreneurship => impact


More often I hear people say the next Mark Zuckerburg will come from Africa or that the next Twitter will be from Africa. With respect I don’t necessarily think that Africa needs the next facebook or twitter. I think Africa has unique challenges and African innovators and entrepreneurs need to come up with innovations that will solve those challenges. We face challenges of clean water, sanitation, education, food security, infrastructure, crime etc.

Africa doesn’t necessarily need innovations that will serve social contemporary consumption. Africa needs innovations that will solve social challenges. Innovation that will have the necessary required impact.

Innovation is something else entirely. Many entrepreneurs use an innovation to make an impact, but the hard part, the part that we are rewarded for, is engaging with the user, the audience, the market. Bringing something to people who didn’t think they wanted it, know about it or initially welcome it, and make a difference.

One reason it’s so difficult to teach entrepreneurship is that we are not teaching tactics or skills. We are not teaching spreadsheets or finance or even marketing. No, when we encourage entrepreneurship, we are actually trying to get people to the place where they care enough and where they are confident enough to stand up and try to make things change.

Don’t tell me what you invented. Tell me about who you changed.

#GEW2014 Sunday: Book Review – Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek

Leaders Eat Last

Just finished reading Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek. If you are into leadership and entrepreneurship, I highly recommend it. In a world of highly corrupt leaders in business, public and civil service where we are surrounded by greedy bankers, entrepreneurs, and corrupt politians, Simon reminds us what true leadership in the 21st century is all about.

The following are some of the top ten nuggets I took from the book:

1. “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”

2. “If our leaders are to enjoy the trappings of their position in the hierarchy, then we expect them to offer us protection. The problem is, for many of the overpaid leaders, we know that they took the money and perks and didn’t offer protection to their people. In some cases, they even sacrificed their people to protect or boost their own interests. This is what so viscerally offends us. We only accuse them of greed and excess when we feel they have violated the very definition of what it means to be a leader.”

3. “And when a leader embraces their responsibility to care for people instead of caring for numbers, then people will follow, solve problems and see to it that that leader’s vision comes to life the right way, a stable way and not the expedient way.”

4. “Truly human leadership protects an organization from the internal rivalries that can shatter a culture. When we have to protect ourselves from each other, the whole organization suffers. But when trust and cooperation thrive internally, we pull together and the organization grows stronger as a result.”

5. “Children are better off having a parent who works into the night in a job they love than a parent who works shorter hours but comes home unhappy.”

6. “I know of no case study in history that describes an organization that has been managed out of a crisis. Every single one of them was led.”

7. “Every single employee is someone’s son or someone’s daughter. Like a parent, a leader of a company is responsible for their precious lives.”

8. “Returning from work feeling inspired, safe, fulfilled and grateful is a natural human right to which we are all entitled and not a modern luxury that only a few lucky ones are able to find.”

9. “All the perks, all the benefits and advantages you may get for the rank or position you hold, they aren’t meant for you. They are meant for the role you fill. And when you leave your role, which eventually you will, they will give the ceramic cup to the person who replaces you. Because you only ever deserved a Styrofoam cup.”

10. “It is not the genius at the top giving directions that makes people great. It is great people that make the guy at the top look like a genius.”

Make Two Lists, then Choose

positive energy

One list highlights:

the lucky breaks, the advantages, the good feedback, your trusted network. It talks about the accident of being born in the right time and the right place, your health, your freedom. It features your education, your connection to the marketplace and just about every nice thing someone has said about you in the last week or month.

The other list is the flipside:

It contains the obstacles you have got to deal with regularly, the defects in your family situation, the criticisms your work has received lately. It is a list of people who have better luck than you and moments you’ve been shafted and misunderstood.

The thing is, at every juncture, during every crisis, in every moment of doubt, you have a choice. You will pull out one (virtual) list or the other. You will read and reread it, and rely on it to decide how to proceed.

Up to you.

#GEW2014 Friday: First Ten, Then Twenty

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Do you believe Mark Zuckerberg set out to gain one billion users when he first started Facebook? Not.

He found ten lonely hearts at Harvard who loved his platform. Who then told ten friends, and so on, and so on. Call it niching down to reach a billion.

If you can find ten people and solve their problem in a way that’s so generous they can’t help but tell other people, then you will have twenty.

Traditional industrial businesses try to rule where vast audiences exist and they can target. But the opportunity for the new generation of entrepreneurs is to say, “where are ten people, twenty people, who would not be able to rest until they brought me more people if I did this work?’

Unless you ask yourself this question, it’s really unlikely you are going to make something remarkable.”

Of course, this might run counter to your intuition and drive as an entrepreneur. If you struggle or are just a start-up, “do not aim for a bigger market.” No, first start with ten, then twenty and more.

If you can’t sell to your family, friends and neighbours how do you think you will sell to millions?

First ten, then twenty.

GEW2014 Thursday: Entrepreneur, or Not?

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Are you a freelancer or an entrepreneur? You decide

A freelancer sells their talents. While they may have a few employees, they are doing a job without a boss, but not running a business. There is no exit strategy or pot of gold, but they make their own hours and are their own boss. Examples of freelancers include artists, writers, consultants, film editors, architects and musicians.

An entrepreneur is trying to build something bigger than themselves. Entrepreneurs start something from nothing and grow it. They take calculated risks and focus on growth. An entrepreneur is willing to receive little pay, work long hours and take on great risk in exchange for the freedom to make something big, something that has real market value.

People start as freelancers but after a certain time, some grow and others remain the same size. Those who grow their business become entrepreneurs, and those who remain being are freelancers. Which one are you, you decide.

GEW2014 Wednesday: The Long Game Of Generosity

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We have a shortage in generosity to be patient and play the longer game. We have a shortage of the generosity to not believe “the thing we have happens to be the greatest and everyone better buy it.” Customers don’t have to buy from us, they don’t us to buy from us.

It would seem like patience and generosity and the nerve to not drink our own Kool-Aid are three big business traits that entrepreneurs lack.

But if you and I are in business with the expectation of overnight success, we can forget. It’s one of the myth’s of entrepreneurship.

Hard work, time and consistency and compound effect are the roads that leads to Mt. Success.

But even more insightful is the belief in the power of generosity and to stop tooting our own horn. More insight is of giving, with zero expectation of reciprocation.

Is this hard to do? Yes. It takes courage to give and not expect something in return from people. Tough stuff. The ‘me, me, me’ child screams out from within in protest.

It took Apple more than twenty years to become an overnight success. So the goal along the way is to be able to make just barely enough money today so you can be even more generous tomorrow. The opportunities to cash in at every step of the journey are always there, but resist them.

The game is how can I be more trusted and more of service? The end. Not “then I will get something later.”

#GEW2014 Tuesday: Fail Until You Get It Right

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Fail Until You Get It Right

Scared of failure, we run from it. Our families don’t like it. Neither do our investors, team members and partners.

But this is crazy. How can we begin to argue out how to solve the problems of our customers without risk? Trying new things, testing and failing?

You want to interact face to face with the market and are willing to be wrong and learn from it. Real entrepreneurship is about having good taste. It’s being able to look at a problem and solve it in a way that makes other people glad you did. That’s an art. It’s not a science. It’s by asking in the street, by looking people in the eye and saying, ‘What if we try this?’ By being in the world and failing again, and again, and again, until you learn what resonates with people.

Why are we not going to nine-year olds and saying, ‘here is a problem. No one knows the answer. Come up with your best approach.’? Why are we not teaching kids that its Ok to say, ‘This might not work’?

We are about to enter an era of innovation where the only successful people are people who are willing to fail their way to success, people who do work that matters.

No Guts, Zero Chance.

We don’t have a shortage of useful information or good advice. But what we have is a shortage of people with the guts to go out of their comfort zone to overturn the way we thought the world works.