StartUp Tip #2: The hard part


What is the hard part of your business?

If you don’t have a hard part, you don’t have a business.

Spend all of your time on this.

There are so many easy parts of your business. If you are about to do something, it will fall into these three categories: planning, organising or contributing.

From my personal experience, as well as through advising other entrepreneurs, the first two parts [planning and organizing] are easy and that is where many entrepreneurs spend their time.

Way too often will an entrepreneur spend their time planning what to do and organising things.

These are activities that should be:

  1. Minimised; and then
  2. Outsourced.

This is why you hire a CEO, CFO and COO right?

Every project [product, play, event, company, venture, non profit] has a million tasks that need to be done, thousands of decisions, predictions, bits of effort, conversations and plans.

Got that.

But what is the hard part?

The CEO spends ten minutes discussing the layout of the office with the office manager. Why? Was that a difficult task that could only be done by her? Unlikely.

The founder of a restaurant spends hours at the cash register, taking orders and hurrying the line along… important, vital, emotional, but hard? Not if we think of hard as the chasm, the dividing line between success and failure. No, the hard part is raising two million rands to build more stores.

Hard is hiring someone better than you to do this part of the job.

Hard is not about sweat or time, hard is about finishing the rare, valuable, risky task that few complete.

Don’t tell me you want to launch a line of winter soups but don’t want to make sales calls to supermarket buyers. That’s the hard part.

Don’t tell me you are a great chef but cannot deal with cranky customers. That’s the hard part.

Don’t tell me you have a good heart but don’t want to raise money. That’s the hard part.

Identifying which part of your project is hard is, paradoxically, not so easy, because we work to hide the hard parts.

They frighten us.

Entrepreneurs end up into analysis paralysis, analysing is easy, implementing is hard.

“The truth of the matter is that you always know the right thing to do. The hard part is doing it.” – Robert H. Schuller

Contribute to your business by spending time on asking and answering the hard questions.

The value and strength of your business lies in how well you deal with the hard parts.

Everyone can do the easy parts, success lies in the overcoming the hard parts of your business.

Ps: LORA Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship is open for 2017 registration. We are run a couple of entrepreneurship short courses from February. Register now online at:


StartUp Tip #1: Storytelling


It is about storytelling, a story about the value you create for people.

There is art and science to marketing.

The science of marketing refers to courses, books and consultants who assists with marketing tools [4-P’s, market segmentation etc]

The art of marketing refers to amongst others the story you tell.

People connect remember stories than facts and figures.

However no matter the execution, if the story does not resonate with the tribe you are connecting with there will be no transfer of emotion. They will feel nothing, they won’t respond, they won’t care, and you will be ignored.

Perhaps this happens when we try market to the masses instead of selecting our tribe.

Great stories succeed because they are able to capture the imagination of large or important audiences therefore creating a tribe of customer.

It’s great stories that people like us do things like this are attracted to.

A great story is true. Not necessarily because it is factual, but because it’s consistent and authentic. Consumers are too good at sniffing out inconsistencies for a marketer to get away with a story that’s just slapped on.

When you are remarkable, people talk about you. They tell your story and it spreads amongst your tribe.

When you are remarkable, more people want you. The more remarkable you are, the more you can charge.

It’s not you that needs to be remarkable. It’s the story of your product, or your startup.

By all means have your 4 Ps, but more important is your story.

What is your story?

Ps: LORA Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship is open for 2017 registration. We are run a couple of entrepreneurship short courses from February. Register now online at:



Who Cares?


“Just because you made a product doesn’t mean we care.”

“Just because you made with offering doesn’t mean we have to buy from you.”

This is one of the many heartbreaks of entrepreneurship.

You toil and sacrifice and expose your yourself, and yet you hear, ‘Someone cares, perhaps, but not us.”

You work so hard to curate this product, and no one buys the tickets except your friends and family.

Rejection says something about the critic, but not about you.

Perhaps it means you chose the wrong audience. And yes, perhaps, if you have exhausted all possible audience, it means that you need to make a better product.

I’m walking a fine line here, and I know it.

I’m suggesting that the masses are not your audience, a weird segment of the population is.

But at the same time, just because you think you are brilliant, or you have sacrificed, or you have faced down your fear, this doesn’t guarantee that you have made anything good.

Your effort is rarely correlated with how much the audience cares.

The eye of the needle here is small indeed. Your puzzle is to find an idea or a product or an interaction that touches the right person, in the right way, at precisely the right moment.

The puzzle is to find people like us who do things like this.

There is always someone who cares for you, for what you do, for your mission, without your knowledge.

Connect to people who care, not everyone will care, but those who matter will.

Ps: Once you find those who care, do your best to deliver the best you have. You owe it to them because they believe and care for you.

The Problem with Blaming the System


…. Is that we know the system is broken.

If you blame being late to the conference on the airline’s messing up your flights, we have no sympathy because that always happens.

If you blame the government for not delivering, we don’t listen to your rant because you brought them in.

If you blame your poor quarterly financial results on the declining power of television advertising, we cut you no slack because we see it dying all around us.

And you blame the lack of job prospects on the slow economy and the fact that robotics are taking up most industrial jobs, you haven’t told us anything we didn’t already know.

Blaming the system is soothing because it lets you off the hook.

It’s their fault, not mine.

They need to fix it, I don’t have to do anything.

But when the system is broken, we wonder why you were relying on the system in the first place.

People like us: Who are you changing?


You can’t change everything or everyone, but you can change the people who matter

Marketing is about change, changing people’s actions, perceptions or the conversation.

Successful change is almost always specific, not general.

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

The challenge of mass media was how to run ads that would be seen by just about everyone and have those ads pay off. That problem is gone, because you can no longer run an ad that reaches everyone. What a blessing. Now, instead of yelling at the masses, the marketer has no choice but to choose her audience. Perhaps not even with an ad, but with a letter, or a website or with a product that speaks for itself.

And yet, our temptation is to put on a show for everyone, to dream of bestseller lists and the big PR win.

So the first, most important question is, “who do we want to change?”

What does he already believe?

What is he afraid of?

What does he think he wants?

What does he actually want?

What stories have resonated with him in the past?

Who does he follow and emulate and look up to?

What is his relationship with money?

What channel has his permission?

Where do messages that resonate with him come from?

Who does he trust and who does he pay attention to?

What is the source of his urgency, why will he change now rather than later?

After he has changed, what will he tell his friends?

Now that you know these things, go make a product and a service and a story that works.

Not fair changing the answers to the questions to match the thing you have already made.

You can change the desired audience, but you can’t change the truth of what they desire and believe.

People Like Us: Find your weirdos


Often when I get the opportunity to talk to startups entrepreneurs, I always advice them that since they don’t have a big marketing budget, they will have to be very clever about how they use their limited resources.

This means that instead of adopting the traditional industrial mindset of marketing with big flyers, billboards etc, they adopt the approach of creating a group of like-minded customers.

Change starts with a small group, innovators and early adopters. The majority follows.

It is better to talk to people who want to listen to you, than printing 1000 flyers, distributing them to strangers and hope to get some customers.

The approach is look for a group of like minded potential customers.

Once you are able to say “people like us do things like this” then you have found a tribe.

People like doing what other people in their cohort are doing

Tell a story that resonates with the person you are telling it to & it has to be true.

We doubt ourselves sometimes, we let our fear take over, but when realise that we are not alone who feel this way, it becomes easier to feel in company of people like us who do things like this.

Ignore the ‘normal’ and embrace the weirdos. It’s the weird people who do things first.

They are the early adopters, the people who create trends, the individuals who find strange and innovative tribes to be a part of – especially in using disruptive ideas like Uber and AirBnB.

It’s easy to roll your eyes and say what I’m talking about is not real. But all the stuff that is real, the real boring stuff, has already been done and it is not working like it used to.

Don’t look for average clients for average products.

Being “reasonable” means lowering your standards, doing what everyone expects you to do, living an average life. Be unreasonable.

If you stop trying to make average stuff for average people, it opens all sorts of different doors about what you ought to be doing all day.

If you are lucky enough to find a weirdo, never let them go.

People Like Us: And those who don’t like us


Critics are always wrong about “Everyone,” but they are entitled to their opinions.

The worst sort of critic is the one that will say “I didn’t like, therefore no one will like it.”

No one is going to buy this product, it is classes.

The critic says, “This play was terrible,” when she means, “I didn’t like the play, but you might.”

The critic says, “This book will never sell,” when she means, “People who have the same taste as I won’t buy this book.”

Universalising negative feedback takes the pressure off the critic. The critic is putting the blame back on you instead of taking responsibility for her opinion.

What we know is that not everyone will buy your offering, not everyone will accept your proposal, not everyone will go crazy on your product.

But what we also know is that not everyone will reject you, not everyone will say no to your proposal.

You task is to find people who will say yes.

Ps: Not everyone who critiques you is a hater, some people might be telling you the truth you need to hear. When you have no critics, you will likely not succeed. It is always better when the criticism comes from people like us.