StartUp Tip #154: So, what do you do?


This is often the first question we ask strangers at networking event, in the Gautrain, at a conference, at a wedding, braai [barbeque].

On the surface it seems like an innocuous query, one we ask each other every day, a nicety we utter so we have something, anything, to talk about.

The majority of the answers are boring, soundbite-ish replies we have standing by at the ready, prepped for the next dinner party or networking event: I am a director of operations. I’m an investment banker, I am a regional manager. I am the CEO of of Who-Cares. Sometimes they throw in their qualifications, I’m a CA, a doctor, a scientist, I hold a Phd in Whatever, I’m a certified this or that, I did my MBA at This-so-called-Prestigious-Institution. 

Truth be told, we regurgitate these canned answers because they are easy to repeat, trance-like and semi-conscious, over and over and over again.

Like fashion accessories such as designer handbags, designer watches, sports cars, we use our titles and job positions are accessories when answering this question.

No one wants to talk about their boring day job ad nauseam, but it sure is easy to state your name, rank, and serial number: it is easy to prove you are a cog in the wheel or a rung on the ladder, just like everyone else.

It is much harder, however, to talk about other, more important aspects of life.

It is much harder to talk about work that matters, about how you had to exert your emotional labour to make a person far much better than you found them.

So, instead of finding more worthwhile discussions, we go about our days providing lifeless answers to this lifeless question, our collective discs set to repeat.

Okay, so let’s double-click on this question: it is such a broad, salient inquiry any answer would suffice.

What do I do?

I do a lot of things: I drink water. I eat food. I write words sloppily on this web-page, I talk to and listen to amazing hardworking people, I people watch, I observe people.

They ask you what do you do for a living so that they can decide the level of status they attach to you.

Sadly, what we are actually asking when we ask this question, albeit unknowingly, is:

How do you earn a paycheck?

How much money do you make?

What is your socioeconomic status?

And based on that status, where do I fall on the socioeconomic ladder compared to you?

Am I a level above you? Below you?

How should I judge you?

Are you worth my time?

I think there is a better way to answer this dangerous question, though: by changing the question altogether.

The next time someone asks what you do, try this:

Don’t give them your job title.

Instead, tell them what you are passionate about, and then change course by asking them what they are passionate about:

“What do you do?” asks the stranger.

“I’m passionate about writing [or art, or mentoring local entrepreneurs, reading, or curating],” you say, followed by: “What are you passionate about?”

At this point, you will likely get one of three responses:

1) A blank stare;

2) The person will tell you they’re also passionate about X, Y, or Z, and the conversation will veer off in a more heartfelt direction, or

3) The stranger will attempt to recite their job title, to which you can respond, “That’s great. So you are passionate about your job?”

Eventually, you will both discuss the things you enjoy, instead of the jobs you don’t.

This exercise will remove the importance of job titles from people’s lives, and it sure opened me up to discussing with others my passion for writing, doing work that matters.

Think of this shift as changing a noun into a verb.

Instead of giving people a title [i.e., a box to put you in], let them know what you enjoy doing, what you are passionate about, and then discover what they enjoy.

The conversation will get into something far more interesting, and you will learn a lot more about each other than your silly job titles.

Maybe instead of asking “what do you do for a living?”, ask: “what do you do for the universe?”

StartUp Tip #153: Choose your customers


Pick your customers.

For you to pick your customers means you need to know what customer you are looking for.

Picking your cusotmers means you need to know that not every customer should be your customer.

Fire the ones that are wasting your time and effort because they not pushing you to do great work.

Yes, you get to choose them, not the other way around.

You choose them with your pricing, your content, your promotion, your outreach and your product line.

When choosing them, consider:

How much does this type of customer need you;

How difficult is this sort of person to find;

How difficult to reach;

How difficult is this sort of person in the first place;

How valuable is a customer like this one; and

and how demanding is this sort of person?

It is not a matter of who can benefit from what you sell. It is about choosing the customers you would like to have.

If you can make that commitment, then six months from now your client list will look different, you will not be working more hours, you will be making more money but more importantly you will be making a bigger difference.

I know it is hard to do, but every time I have done this on my career, I was glad I did it.

I have since learned that you don’t just accept who you find, you choose who to attract.

Just because they can be your customers, doesn’t mean they should.

As Seth Godin nicely puts it:

“Choose your customers, choose your future.”

StartUp Tip #152: Choose the smart hustle


There are two different types of hustle:

The one hustle is of always asking, of putting yourself out there, of looking for discounts, shortcuts and a faster way.

This is the hustle of what you don’t know won’t hurt you, of the ends justifying the means.

This hustle is about cutthroat, shrewd business, nothing personal but business.

This hustler propositions, pitches and works at all times to close a sale, right now.

This kind of hustler always wants more for less.

This kind of hustler will cut corners if it helps in getting picked.

and then,

There is the other hustle,

The reputable and respectable hustle which revolves around generosity and connection.

This hustle is actually difficult but effective.

It is difficult because it is the hustle of doing work that matters without seeking popularity.

It is effective because once you connect with people that matters, with the people who support your why, you will have clients or rather partners for a very long time.

This is the hustle of being more generous than you need to be, of speaking truthfully even if it delays the ultimate goal in the short run, and most of all, the hustle of being prepared, of not taking shortcuts, but of taking long term view and doing the work.

It is a shame that one approach is more common, while the other sits largely unused.


StartUp Tip #151: To niche or not to niche?


It is very important to focus on a niche market as opposed to a broad market or industry.


There is no conflict.

The smallest viable market is the biggest insight any startup can have.

Become a meaningful specific, not a wandering generality. Play to your minimum viable audience. 

Specialists get the critical mass.

Get very specific: “We specialise in THIS only”

The goal is not to be famous to everyone. You cannot be this, the goal is to be famous to the family, to the circle.

Find the smallest viable group of people who will listen to you and solve their problems.

Smaller niche is always bigger. Focus makes perfect.


LORA Entrepreneurship Series: Ms. Leeko Makoene – Saturday, 09 June 2018


LORA Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship strives to bring thought leaders, men and women who are pathfinders, entrepreneurs and change agents, men and women who have affected the very fibre of our thought processes, who influence our set of beliefs, and engage our mindsets in elements of value.

LORA has invite experienced entrepreneurs to share their stories with us.

On Saturday, 09 June 2018, we are hosting entrepreneur Ms Leeko Makoene.

Born in Makapanstad Village, Hammanskraal, amongst a family and a community of subsistence farmers, Leeko completed her Junior degree at the University of Cape Town, followed by a post- graduate Business Degree at the Gordons Institute of Business Science

She has completed short-courses in Chicken Hatchery Management, farm Management and Bee-keeping.

She is the founder of Made with Rural, a platform that links small and medium scale farmers in rural areas to sustainable market by first; assisting them to be market ready and to understand the business side of farming. Our “Group-Buying & Selling” Model has successfully linked 25 farmers with formal markets, across the Province, moving between 8 and 35tons of fresh product out of previously in-active communal farms.

She is currently supplying McDonalds, KFC, Pick N Pay, Fresh-mark, Burger King & Spar, through the enterprise development program with Dew Crisp, and also supplies some small restaurants and vegetable stored directly.

Leeko is also the founder of Chilladiddo Foods, an agro-processing business that produces tasty chili relishes and condiments and will soon be processing vegetables of our Made with Rural network farmers that don’t meet spec. 70% of ingredients used in our Sauces are supplied by rural farmers in our network and every R2 spent from purchasing these products is donated back to these farmers in the form of chili seedlings so they can be able to continue supplying us with raw ingredients.

She is also a co-founder of Farm-Connect an exciting Agri-tourism business that exposes young people and rural farmers to the world of commercial farming and food production, through a camp and tour. Our rural villages and communities have a lot to offer and

Come join us and interact with Mme Leeko Makoene on her entrepreneurship journey.

Date: Saturday, 09 June 2018

Time: 13:00 – 14:30

Charge: R100  

Space is very limited.

To RSVP and pay:

[LORA Centre students and alumni get 100% discount]

Venue: Midrand [3 Tybalt Place, Waterfall Office Park, Bekker Road, Vorna Valley, Midrand. [there is secured parking]

An autobiography in five very short chapters


Chapter #1

I walk down the street. There’s a hole in the sidewalk.
It is a very deep hole. I fall in … I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter #2

I walk down the same street. There’s a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it. I fall in … again.
I can’t believe I’m in the same place, but it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter #3

I walk down the same street. There’s a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there. I still fall in … it’s a habit, but my eyes are open.
I know where I am. It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

Chapter #4

I walk down the same street. There’s a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

Chapter #5

I walk down another street.

You can blame the government, the cow that hit you when you are 10 years old, the girlfriend who left you, you can blame your business partner, or the rooster for crowing and waking you up very early in each morning or the Andiccio24 cupcakes for making you gain weight.

But here is the thing about responsibility and taking it:

The moment you take responsibility for everything in your life is the moment you can change anything in your life.

Leadership is taking responsibility while others are making excuses.

Ps: Courtesy of Portia Nelson for the five chapters

When everyone is watching and when no one is watching


Recently I have been around close people who are temporarily confined to crutches or wheelchair.

It interesting to see the looks people give when they see someone on crutches or wheelchair.

They are probably asking themselves: “What happened?” “I hope she will be fine,”

I guess this is human nature to stare when a person is hobbling, but to walk on by when a person walks like everyone else.

Here is a thought:

When you are doing something you would rather hide, when you are cutting corners, breaking promises or acting like a bully, it is fair to assume that plenty of people are watching you hence hiding.

But when you have a new project to launch, an act of generosity you want to share or an announcement to make, it is useful to imagine that those very same people are busy doing something else and not watching you.

You do something negative, you hide it because you assume everyone is watching you. You do something positive, you advertise it because you assume everyone is not watching you.

Seemingly positive signals are often weak signals.

I guess this is why negative news sells more than positive ones.

Selling positive requires more effort.

We need to be prepared to offer them with consistency, to keep showing up in the face of apparent apathy.

It is not apathy, it is merely people who are too busy and distracted to slow down and hear you enough to appreciate you [at first.]

Do good even if no one is watching you and do it as if everyone is watching you.