StartUp Tip #74: Create memories

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You have a choice:

  • Join a company and pursue a low-risk career, pay the bills, retire when you’re 65; or
  • Start your own business, have highs, have lows, flirt with disaster, hopefully make a lot of money, never retire.

The former is a life where the days are hard to distinguish from another.

The latter is a life where you have many memories [good or bad], indelibly etched in your brain.

The life of an entrepreneur is filled with memories, like that of an adventurer.

The entrepreneurship path is littered with glory and failure, both of which are guaranteed to make great stories for you and your grandkids.

You may not make money, but you are guaranteed to make memories.

Good or bad, make your days memorable.

When the sun sets, have more memories than dreams.

We remember memories than days.

 

 

 

Startup Tip #73: Put the past behind you

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We have all made mistakes in life.

We all have regrets.

The difference between those that recover to go on to success, and those that don’t, is the ability to put the mistakes behind them and move forward.

Stop wallowing, flagellating, and ruminating.

What is done is done. Triumphs or disasters, wins and failures, successes and mistakes.

Pause, reflect, then move on.

Forgive others.

Most importantly forgive yourself and keep trying your best.

In building something worthwhile, you will make mistakes.

The key is to make new mistakes, not the same mistakes over and over again. Fail forward.

Keep moving forward.

StartUp Tip #72: Negative vs. Positive Marketing

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I believe marketing is the work an organisation or person does when they tell a story that resonates with us.

Marketing is the product we make, the service we offer or the life we live.

 

Marketing [the use of time and money to create a story and spread it] works.

Human beings don’t make rational decisions, they make emotional ones, and we have seen time and again that those decisions are influenced by the time and money spent by marketers.

As a startup entrepreneur, here are two choices to marketing:

  • Do you seek to push to the world an idea that doesn’t hold up to scrutiny, that is not true or valid, but you can trick people into buying from you. This is sort of negative way to approach marketing.
  • Or do you build an organisation, build a life and build a career, where when someone knew the truth about your and your business, they will want to work with us. This too is also marketing.

The question you have to ask yourself going forward is:

Will you choose the ethical marketing, that does not involve yelling and manipulating people, seeking attention, or networking your way to the top, spamming people, and lying.

But instead involves weaving a story that resonates to a small group of people, and doing work that matters.

The fact of the matter is that weather or not you choose to be a marketer, you are one.

We are responsible for what we sell and how we sell it. We are responsible for the effects (and the side effects) of our actions.

It is our decision. Whatever the decision is, you need to own it.

If you can’t look that decision in the mirror, market something else.

 

 

StartUp Tip #71: Live a simple life

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If you want to follow your dreams to be an entrepreneur, you need to become comfortable with not knowing what is going to happen tomorrow.

You need to be comfortable with uncertainty.

Do everything you can to increase your tolerance for uncertainty. Put yourself in a position where there is no such thing as an unpleasant surprise.

Nassim Taleb’s book, Anti-Fragile, is a treasure chest of advice for ensuring that you not only are immune to adverse events, but that you actually benefit when things don’t go your way.

Being anti-fragile means all surprises are pleasant.

Being anti-fragile allows you to take the path less travelled.

Living a simple life will make you anti-fragile.

The most important tool for taking risk is to live a simple life. Don’t be ostentatious and don’t be flashy.

Keep your overheads low, regardless of your income.

Keeping your life simple has benefits other than allowing you to take risk.

  1. You will avoid the wrong spouse. It is easier to attract the right spouse if you are not driving a Ferrari. Do you really want to marry the kind of person that finds a fancy car irresistible?
  2. You will avoid doing stupid things. The high life brings temptations to go to the dark side. Why test your resolve? You have enough on your plate making your business a success. Rather avoid temptation. A simple life keeps you away from doing bad stuff.
  3. Will will extend your runway. If you keep your personal overheads low, then your runway gets longer and you can plug away at your startup for longer. High overheads equals shorter runway.
  4. You will maximise profit. The habit of frugality in your private life will transfer into your startup. Low overheads equals more profits.
  5. You will stay humble. If you are flashy you will be perceived as arrogant. No one likes arrogant people.  When you have a setback there will be a pile-on whilst people savor the schadenfreude. Rather stay humble.

If you can’t be humble, then look humble.

     6. You will think clearly. How can you think when you are constantly surrounded by courtiers, flashy cars, mansion houses and stuff?

The less distractions you have in your life, the more you can focus your mental energy on your business.

The only meaningful thing is whether you left a positive impact on the world during your short time alive. Owning a super-yacht is not a “positive impact”.

Build a profitable business that helps its customers and that can outlive its founder.

That’s a positive impact.

Living a simple life doesn’t mean living a common life.

You can still be extraordinary. You can eat great food, send your kids to world-class schools, travel to amazing places, and create great memories.

You can still be rich, and have the peace of mind that comes with financial freedom.

Just keep your lifestyle simple. It is easy to be simple when you are poor. It is also easy to be flash when you are poor.

Easiest of all is being flash when you are rich.

Live a simple remarkable life that matters.

Choose the hard path: Keep it simple even when you don’t have to.

StartUp Tip #70: Give credit to others

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“It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you don’t mind who gets the credit.” Harry Truman

A leader should not take credit when things go right if they are not willing to accept responsibility when things go wrong.

Every time you try to take credit, check yourself.

Why do you need the credit?

If the job is done, then that should be enough. Unless the only reason you were doing the job is to get credit.

In which case you are doing the wrong job or doing the right job for the wrong reason.

The urge to claim credit comes from your ego.

Get your ego out the way.

Give credit to others.

Challenge: Give credit to three people in the next few days and see what happens.

StartUp Tip #69: Startup life is just one thing leading to another

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Most of the time, startup life is not a great big epic adventure.

It is just one thing leading to the next thing, and you trying to survive.

The greatest businesses often start with a simple task. A small job. A nondescript problem.

Not only does it feel your mission is petty, but the experience rarely seems enjoyable when you are enduring it.

You are mostly in a fight for your life and wondering, “Why am I doing this?”

You cannot see the end result, so you can’t know it’s worth it. Which makes it harder to endure.

Success is not easy. If you succeed, it is because you held on longer than most, worked extra hard than most and got a bit lucky in the process.

And also because you did not romanticise the struggle.

Sometimes you just have to hold on & not let go, irrespective how painful it gets, hold on & hope that at some point it will come to an end.

I survived because I hustled more than most people in a way that indicated that I was not prepared to give up.

But that hustle, that focus on making sure I didn’t lose by missing cash flow or not getting a salary, was self-defeating in that what actually has worked the best is realising that I’m going to be doing this for a long time and taking my time.

Entrepreneurship is a Russian novel. It is not a short story.

It is a marathon, not a sprint.

Take it one day at a time, one step at a time. 

 

StartUp Tip #68: Business is not a race

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It’s tempting to compare everything to a race: Life. Kids. Business.

The very meaning of “race” is to compare: Are you faster than the other person?

But some things are not comparable. They are not relative.

Some things are absolute.

For example, your children. It doesn’t matter how they compare up to other kids, it only matters that they are happy.

Same for your life.

Measuring your success by comparing yourself to others is the path to unhappiness. Life is not a race against other people.

Same for your business.

Sure, you will have competitors. And you will occasionally benchmark against them. But your goal is not to race them.

Your goal is to keep moving forward, keep improving, keep growing. One day you will look up and find yourself at the head of the pack, or the last in line. Doesn’t matter.

It only matters that you build a profitable business.

It’s hard enough succeeding in isolation. Don’t complicate matters by comparing yourself to others.

Work hard, be focused, persevere, by all means don’t be comfortable.

But slow down. Savor and enjoy the moments.

Enjoy your kids grow, experience the sound of live music, smell the rich taste of coffee, enjoy the soundtrack to your life.

Take it one day at a time.

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.

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.

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.

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.

 

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.