From Generation to Generation: Well oiled machine

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Which company has the highest staff turnover? McDonald’s. Despite the high staff turnover, McDonald’s is able to continue operating profitably because it has strong systems and processes.

Building a legacy business requires building a well-oiled machine that is able to operate on its own without the owner.

Your business should not be a prison where you are always in office, working 24/7, unable to take vacation, or sick leave.

If you are sick and your business is sick or if you take a day off and your business takes a day off, then you are a freelancer and not necessarily an entrepreneur.

If you find yourself unable to take time off from your business, you are running a business without systems and processes. You might as well get a job, at least there you get paid annual leave and you don’t have to work 24/7.

Building a legacy business means transcending from a freelancer mentality to a growth orientated business.

A system is a set of processes that can run without you.

As your business grows, you will need to build systems and processes that can be automated as much as possible.

How to build systems and processes:

  • Map out all the tasks you perform daily, weekly and monthly;
  • Perform the task whiles your employee is watching you;
  • Let your employee perform the same task while you are observing her and correcting her when necessary;
  • Let your employee perform the same task in your absence; and
  • Let your employee perform the same task with another employee watching.

Below is an example of mapping a process for making a cup of tea:

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Having systems and processes mapped out is one thing, the difficult task for most entrepreneurs is to let go and trust employees to take charge.

Some of the reasons entrepreneurs don’t empower their staff is:

  • The entrepreneur does not trust that the employee will do the job as good as he (the entrepreneur) would do it;
  • The entrepreneur feels that the employee will steal (cash or other resources) from the business; and
  • The entrepreneur feels that the employee will be so good that she will steal customers from the business.

These are some of the reasons why entrepreneurs hardly train and empower their employees because they say: “what if I train and empower them, and they leave.”

The better question should be: “What if you don’t train them and they stay?”

Built to last legacy businesses grow from generation to generation because they have strong systems and processes and strong teams.

Achievement comes to someone when he is able to do great things for himself. Success comes when he empowers followers to do great things with him. Significance comes when he developed leaders to do great things for him, but legacy is created only when a person puts his organization into the position to do great things without him.” – John C. Maxwell

The more days you can take off away from the business and is able to run without hitting a crisis, is an indication of how strong your systems and processes are.

If you can’t take a day off from your business, it means your systems and systems are not strong.

Strive to build a business that can run without you, that’s what entrepreneurship is about.

You are an entrepreneur if your business can make money while you are on vacation.

From Generation to Generation: Keep your vision burning

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When running day to day operations of your business, it’s easy to get lost in the maze of daily challenges. While focusing on daily tasks is necessary for the long set-up of the business,  it does not leave much time to focus on the long term.

I know you are already asking, when will I get time to think long term when I don’t have time to manage the day to day operations.

Often entrepreneurs will always say that they will focus on legacy issues when the business gets to the maturity stage, “I will jump the bridge when I get there” approach.

The only way to leave a legacy is to think right now about how and where you want to leave your mark. Start with the end in mind.

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?’”

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

Exceptional visionaries know that focusing on the long-term, through the lens of what could be, their efforts tend towards business and people objectives of true, lasting importance rather than being pulled into the sly temptation of urgent fires or short-term production.

Incremental improvement alone is no longer enough to be a market leader in today’s ever changing landscape.

Once you make decisions based on “survival mode” instead of long term vision, you will always find yourself on survival mode, you will make survival mode decisions, you will take any client just to survive, even if that client takes you away from your vision.

In your desire to please everyone just for the sake of survival, it is very easy to end up being invisible or mediocre. If you don’t know where you are going, how will you know when you get there.

In the face of the storm, never lose sight of your vision. Be led by your vision.

Don’t be led by politics of the stomach, be led by politics of your vision. Sell the vision you have.

The legacy vision is the central pillar that holds everything together in the business.

Chinua Achebe once said: “If the center doesn’t hold, things fall apart.”

If your vision is not not central to everything you do, things will constantly fall apart. Your legacy vision is the glue that holds everything together.

Remarkable visions and genuine insights are always met with resistance.

When you start to make progress, your efforts are met with even more resistance. Products, services, career paths, whatever it is, the forces for mediocrity will align to stop you, forgiving no errors and never backing down until it’s over.

If it were any other way, it would be easy. And if it were any other way, everyone would do it and your work would ultimately be devalued.

The yin and yang are clear: without people pushing against your quest to do something worth talking about, it’s unlikely to be worth the journey.

Don’t ever forget your vision, let is be the first thing that wakes you up in the morning and get’s you out of bed. Let is be why you are doing what you are doing.

Keep your vision burning everyday.

 

 

From Generation to Generation: What Will We Tell Our Grandchildren?

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Entrepreneurs should consider developing an attitude and approach to business that ensures that every decision they make is towards building a long lasting business, a legacy.

The idea should be to build a business that will not only outlive us as its founders, but will outlive even our grandchildren.

What will my grandchildren and future generations say when they look back at where it all started? 

The follow-up question that immediately comes to mind is:

What will we tell our grandchildren about decisions we make regarding our businesses today?

Often when we build businesses, we think about the survival of ourselves and our ability to provide for our families, we rarely think of building businesses with our grand and great grandchildren in mind. Maybe that’s why our businesses don’t last beyond our children because we don’t prepare long lasting businesses and we don’t prepare future generations to take over as well.

When I ask entrepreneurs about exit strategies, they don’t prepare them because they don’t think they will exit the business. This indirectly means they are building business that are dependent on them. The business is them and they are the business, as individuals.

What will we say to grandchildren about decisions that will drive the business culture of future generations?

We often advice entrepreneurs at the Vuka Advisory Board for Entrepreneurs to build businesses as if you are going to selling them, as if they are going to hand them over as a legacy to their future generations.

Every decision taken should reflect the mindset of building a business that will survive at least two generations from now. 

“What will the future generation say about this decision I’m about to take now. Will they deem it a prudent decision or a careless one?”

The idea is to build to last, to build a business that will outlive you and your children. The future generation must work hard to add on and increase the legacy and preserve it for their next generation.

Like a relay sprint, this is a relationship that transcends from generation to generation. The baton starts with you.

You may see your role in your business as existing only for the duration of your leadership. Alternatively, you may see your role as growing the wealth of both the business and the family, and passing them on and the next generation passing the legacy on and so forth and so on.

Are you building relationships that may not benefit you now, but might benefit you long term?

Former president Kgalema Motlanthe said “we must be willing to fight for a cause that we might not be alive to enjoy its benefits.”

Are you behaving in a manner that has integrity and honor, are you building a reputation that will be an asset to your grandchildren?

The last thing you want is for your bad reputation and lack of integrity to be a liability, a burden to future generations who will not even have met you in their lifetime.

You may work to make your business successful for today, or you may take up the challenge of ensuring a strong foundation that will support the business for leaders of future generations.

You may envision yourself creating a culture and a legacy; inspiring future generations to reflect back with pride on your leadership and your words.

Leaders leave impressions after they leave.

You have built a startup, now it’s time to build a legacy.

 

Make a map

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Don’t seek reassurance. Reassurance is futile.

No one can give you infinite reassurance, unfortunately that’s the amount of reassurance you think you need.

Don’t look for a map, make a map.

Change comes from people who make a map, who takes initiative.

You don’t have to dig a hole to make a living anymore, it’s not your muscles that we need, but your bravety to say: I’m going to create something, something that people will follow, I’m going to do work that matters.

The minute someone gives you a map, a set of instructions, a dummies guide to follow, you are as good as someone who flips burgers at McDonalds.

You need to say: what map can I draw?

It doesn’t have to be a giant map, we are not asking you to fix the world’s health care system. We are asking you to start, then start, then start.

You have everything you need to build something far bigger than yourself. It’s always better to write your own rules and let others follow them, than to follow other people’s maps.

The difference between the chef and the cook is that the chef writes the map (recipe), and the cook follows it. We value the chef’s creativity and bravety more.

Draw your own map, connect the dots, and make a difference.

Start.

 

 

Delight your believers

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Some  customers are shortsighted, greedy and selfish. Imbungulu (Zulu expression meaning they are donkeys).

Extend yourself a little bit and they will want a lot.

In Sgudi Snysi, a South African TV comedy sitcom, Sis May used to complain about Sdumo’s ungratefulness by saying “Umunik’ isandla ufun’ ingalo yonke.” meaning “you give him a hand, he wants the whole arm.”

Offer a client a free drink in the restaurant one night and he is angry that it’s not there the next night.

You do something special once as a bonus, they want it all the time.

The greatest challenge of winning customers and relationships is that providing remarkable service and an honest human communication will be abused by a few people who try to connect with.

You have three options:

  • Put up with the complainers;
  • Write off everyone; or
  • Deliberately exclude and fire the ungrateful whiners (imbungulu)

Firing the customer you can’t possibly please gives you the bandwith, arms-length space and resources to warm up to and cuddle the ones that truly deserve your attention and they will repay you with referrals, applause and loyalty.

Shun your non-believers, even when you prove them wrong, instead of apologising, they will go somewhere else to complain.

No matter how good things get, chronic complainers still only see the bad, and they go to huge lengths to point it out to everyone around them.

“What you are supposed to do when you don’t like a thing is change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it. Don’t complain.” – Maya Angelou

Shun the non-believers and delight the believers by continuing to do your best art, you owe it to them because of their loyalty, belief and support to you.

 

Lesson of the week: Trust

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As part of enjoying the holidays, we often go eat out with friends or family. You see something looking sumptuous on the menu and you order it, only to be disappointed when the actual product comes does not look as big as on the menu.

You order take-away and when you get home, you realise that they gave you salad and you ordered wedges, or worse they didn’t include rolls.

What this does is that breaks the level of trust you had about the service. Trust is about expectations, about faith.

Consider the relationship you might enter into if you need an operation; You trust the woman to cut you open, you are putting your life in her hands. Or consider the plane you took to Cape Town for the Old Mutual Two Oceans marathon, you trusted the captain to get you there in one peace (not too many pieces).

When you sat down on the chair/couch you are sitting on now, you didn’t inspect it to make sure that it will not break before sit, you just plunked yourself on it and trusted that it will hold you firmly. When you switched on the light button, you trusted that the light will switch on, you didn’t go check the main switch firstly.

When you cross the bridge, you trust that it will not crumble.

We trust that the sun will rise again tomorrow, even when it’s cloudy the entire day, we know that the sun is there behind the dark clouds.

It turns out that we grab trust when we need it, and that rebuilding trust after it has been torn is very difficult because our expectations were shown to be false.

Real trust does not come from what people say, or write in their mission statements or manifestos, but from actions that people take (or that we think they take) in our eyes.

Real trust comes from people who show up before they have to, who help us when they think no one is watching.

It comes from an organisation that play a role that we need them to play, that deliver according to their promises.

Mostly, people like us, trust people like us.

Whether it’s a relationship between the customer and the waiter, or the supplier and end-user, or between two partners in a relationship, without trust, it is difficult to achieve your fullest potential.

My lesson of the week:

Build trust before you need it. Building trust right when you want to make a sale is too late.

If you are not ready to act in a manner that will make you trusted, maybe should consider not entering into that relationship.

Interactions rarely happen with people we don’t trust.

Bring trust and credibility in your relationship, bring it earlier before you need it when it matters the most.

Trust is earned when no one is looking.

 

 

Popularity: The celebrity entrepreneur and the fickle media

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It’s a double edged sword to wounding, a knife in the hands of a doctor can save lives, but in the hands of a thief, it can end a life.

The media can be an amazing tool that gives great success to a business, but it can also be a tool that ends it.

One of my favourite books on entrepreneurs is How They Blew It by Jamie Oliver (not the cook, but the journalist) and Tony Goodwin. It is about people who did something remarkable: they all built huge business empires worth millions, if not billions.  Then they all did something unbelievable: they managed to lose it.

The script is pretty straight-forward, an unknown entrepreneur, strikes it big through his venture, courts and becomes the darling of the media, makes one blunder, and maybe another, and the same media runs big front page news articles scandalising him.

We have seen such stories in the country and all over the world. From poor and unknown to fame and riches, and back from fame and riches to “once upon a time.”

How They Blew It tells the story of 16 entrepreneurs and business leaders who went from paramount success to abject failure, resulting in the collapse of some of the world’s most famous and supposedly successful businesses.

One of the big lessons is how successful entrepreneurs who come from nowhere to super stardom flirt with the media. Suddenly journalists follow your every move, they write about events you attend, you appear on magazine cover pages, you are invited to A-List parties to share your story, you now have the president and other powerful people on speed-dial, you appear on celebrity TV shows for interviews, you are the pick of the town.

The interesting thing about money and power is that suddenly everyone wants to hear your opinion, even when you are not a subject matter expert on a topic.

Courting popularity can be great for building a personal brand, a good PR can result in increase in revenue for the business, but at the same time it has some serious side-effects and allergic reactions.

The media loves scandals, because scandals sell. People love to hear juicy stories. Unfortunately, the success or failure of entrepreneurs is a commodity for the media and entertainment for he masses.

The media is like a fickle mistress, she loves you when are making money, but is the first one to dump you when you are on your way down.

The media is like a double-edged sword. They are looking for stories, headlines & angles. If someone new comes along, someone young, successful and wealthy, it is little wonder the press trip over themselves to put that face on their covers.

That much is well-known, but time & time again entrepreneurs are drawn towards the flame of publicity. Whether it is ego, pride, part of public relations or just something to show their mothers, the fact is that if you are up to no good, or make a blunder and you are in the public eye, the media will one day come knocking and no amount of ‘no comment’ or legal threats will save your skin.

When no one knows much about you, you have peace.  

Don’t allow popularity to go to your head and drives you to lose focus of what is really important, your business.

Popularity: Quality over quantity

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Arguing that an idea or product has merit because it has popular support is one of the oldest argument tactics around. It is also one of the most flawed. Does McDonald’s have the best hamburger because they sell billions?

Sure, products can become popular because they have the best quality. Or, they can become popular because they have a lot of advertising. Or they have no competitors. Or because their name is first in the alphabet. Or people have resistance and don’t want to switch. There are a lot of reasons. It is a fallacy to think that just because something happened/was elected/was decided, it was the “best” decision.

What makes a great work of art? Almost entirely, it is how much it sells for. An expensive avant-garde painting that breaks through a price barrier will define an entirely new school for years to come.

We do the same thing with music… if a song takes off, sells lots of copies and makes the musician rich and famous, we assume that there is some sort of inherent ‘quality’ in what they did, as opposed to deciding that our definition of quality in that field is: what sells.

The critic in me cringes to write this.

After all, what makes a great work of art should have nothing at all to do with how much it sells for and everything to do with how it makes you feel.

I think the game here is in the definition of ‘great.’ And what society has chosen, for a coffee shop, a song, a poem, is that ‘great’ means successful. Not the other way around.

So the challenges, I guess, are to get good at predicting ‘great’ before the market takes action, and to be clear with yourself and your colleagues about what exactly you are trying to build.

Some of what I consider as good articles on  my blog are not necessarily the most popular.

Are you doing what you are doing because you want to be popular or because you want a specific niche, a tribe you are looking for.

Popularity is not a guarantee of quality. It is always better to choose quality over quantity, substance over form and simplicity over complexity.

The level of quality is not affected by whether it is popular or not. Quality is quality, even when no one is looking.

Your self-worth should not be determined by your level of popularity or how good you look to other people. It’s always better to be comfortable in your own skin.

Popularity: The irony of popular

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Most things are liked because they are popular. We follow popular soccer teams, popular artists, popular songs, and popular politicians.

I know this is a popular thing to do, but let’s decode this deeper.

House music is popular because it listened by a lot of people, certain soccer teams are popular because they are followed by a lot of people, certain reality shows are popular because they are watched by a lot people, all these and more are popular because they people want to be in sync with everyone else.

Lectercity, Wits University or Supersport are not the most popular soccer teams (compared to traditional big teams) even though they perform very well in their leagues at the moment.

People follow popular because they want to fit in, because they want to belong to the most popular, because of the fear of missing out if they don’t belong to most popular. It is popular because it performs well, but performance is but one aspect.

The paradox, the irony, is that you have to walk through a huge valley of unpopular before you arrive at the population that will embrace you because that’s the thing to do.

The mass by definition are average, and average people follow what is popular. People who bring change are very few (not the mass).

The focus on mass acceptance, on the big company or the mass embracing you, distracts you from the difficult work of being embraced by people who lead, not follow.

Follow your art, your craft, be the best in your area of focus. Do it because it is what makes you alive, don’t do it because you want to be popular and want applause. 

Doing something because you want to be popular will water down your art to be average because the masses are by definition average.

Focus on your art, not everyone will embrace it and that’s okay, but importantly not everyone will reject it.

Focus on delighting those that embrace it, even if they are not the masses.

The idea of your art is to connect to those that gets it, not to make average art that it appeals to everyone.

Art is not limited to painting only. Art is anything that’s creative, passionate, and personal.

Popularity does not mean success.

Popularity: What’s the point of popular?

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You would think that being popular is the most important thing in the world. TV celebrity, SRC president, the most Facebook friends or Twitter followers, awards winner, how many people attended your birthday party, or are waiting in line at the book signing…

A lot of people want to be popular, to appear on TV (even if sometimes they ridicule themselves), people want to be on radio, stand and speak in front of crowds, attend events and be VIP and be seen by everyone that they are VIP, they check-in at fancy places etc. Most take pictures with “important” people and post them on their social media. In South Africa, awards ceremonies with the glitz and glamour are the fast growing industry, with an awards event every second weekend.

Popular is almost never a measure of impact, or genius, or art.

Popular rarely correlates with guts, hard work or a willingness to lead (and be willing to be wrong along the way).

Being popular is overrated. Focus on growing as a person.

I will grant you that being popular (at least on once in five years) is a great way to get elected President. But in general, the search for popular is wildly overrated, because it corrupts our work, eats away at our art and makes it likely we will compromise to please the anonymous masses.

Worth considering is the value of losing elections and other popularity contests. Losing reminds you that the opinion of unaffiliated strangers is worthless. They don’t know you, they are not interested in what you have to offer and you can discover that their rejection actually means nothing. It will empower you to even bigger things in the future…

When you focus on delighting an audience you care about, you strip the masses of their power.

Popularity is not success and not necessarily an indication of quality.

Go ahead and do your amazing art, art has never been a popularity contest.

Even after all this time…

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We go through challenges, struggles and heavy weight. During these times, there will always be people who stay around to witness our trials and tribulations.

These people are always there to listen, help, comfort, endure and embrace our struggle as their struggle. These are people who could have had good reasons to leave but they stayed to witness.

The witness is loyal to you even when it is easy to leave.  

It’s is unfortunate that when the struggle is over, the dark clouds are gone, the sun is shining, the weather is blue, the witness is always discarded as if she was never there.

It’s unfortunate that when victory beckons, the witness who was always there to help carry the weight is now a burden that needs to be avoided like a bad rush.

In her blog,  Wide Eyed in Wonder, Regina Martins talks about The Witness as follows:

“People are people, human, full of feelings and emotions, and we all come with back-stories. Those stories not everyone is a witness to. We judge based on what we see. And that is not always accurate.”

Often we judge people based on what we see outside, not knowing, witnessed the trial and tribulations they went through.

The biggest secret to a happy life is not to live to make lots of money, or to be a celebrity, the biggest secret to share your life someone you can count on even when the chips are down, someone you know will always be there when you go through a difficult time.

In the movie Shall We Dance, the private investigator asks Beverly Clark why is she still staying in a relationship and she responds:

“We need a witness to our lives. There is a billion people on the planet… I mean, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you are promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things… all of it, all of the time, every day. You’re saying ‘Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness’.”

You need a witness who will be there when you have nothing and when you have everything, when you have no money, and when you have lots of money, when you are sick and healthy, when you are irritable and joyful, when you are family issues and no issues.

You don’t need a witness who is only there for holidays, hotel rooms, VIP events only.

The Witness is someone who is always there, she asks nothing in return except that you will also be there when she is down.

The 13th century poet Hafiz wrote:

“Even after all this time
The Sun never says to the Earth,

“You owe me.”

Look what happens with a love like that,
It lights the whole sky.”

The witness is someone who is there even after all this time. The witness never says “You owe me.” because she knows there will never be a situation that leads to such words being uttered.

Life is always better when you have a witness who will always be there “even after all this time” and not say “You owe me” and you will reciprocate the feeling without saying the same.

 

 

Ask for forgiveness, not permission

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We live in a world that prefers to maintain the status-quo, to keep it safe, follow the rules, do what everybody is doing, asking for permission to change the status-quo, to step out of the norm, to connect to new things is permission that will not be approved.

“Here, look at what I did, what do you think?” is always better than “what if I did something like this, what do you think?”

Many ideas that revolutionised the world would not have been implemented had permission being sought first.

Change is not made by asking permission. Change is made by asking forgiveness, later.

Improve the status-quo, make connections, do work that matters, create amazing art, outlove, outwork, ideate, innovate, implement, be remarkable, create new rules, dazzle us with something ridiculously amazing that we didn’t expect and then be humble enough to ask for forgiveness, later.

If you want to achieve greatness stop asking for permission.