Entrepreneur Traits: A word on ideas

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Ideas come to you.

You breathe life into them, take action on their behalf, grow them.

And then after a while they are stable and have a power all their own.

A power that will breathe life back into you when facing obstacles and opposition. A power that will coax you to take further action. And a power to sweep away the hurdles.

We bring them to life and then they bring us to life.

Entrepreneur Traits: Romance is hard work

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When a friend first pitches the idea of going on ‘nature walks’ on weekends, “oohs” and “aahs” follow.

Everyone is interested.

Everyone wants to do it.

“Such a romantic idea,”

“An opportunity to smell the fresh air and roses” are the sorts of comments that follow.

Then he follows up with next steps/the reality.

Wake up at 6am on a Saturday morning and then walk for 4 hours.

Suddenly, everyone has an excuse. The romance seems to wear out very quickly.

Here is another example;

Let’s all save up together and go on a road trip or a holiday destination abroad.

“Oh wow, yeah let’s do it”

“I’m in.”

“It will be so amazing.”

Two weeks before the trip, only two out of the initial 10 people are still keen.

Everyone stumbles onto the truth: it is all romance only in theory.

In reality, romance is hard work and we have to explicitly choose to do it.

Why take that detour to buy flowers for your wife/girlfriend when you can just show up.

Why spend all those months learning the piano when you can laze around watch TV?

Why stress yourself starting a business with not guaranteed income, when you can get a job and get paid at the end of the month?

Why go out of the way to treat a customer/client extra special when you can lean back on the default option?

Like it is the case many ideas, the problem is not the lack of romantic ideas, the challenge is the lack of requisite work ethic that makes romantic ideas happen.

It is all romantic in theory.

It is easy to dream, not so easy to make the dream a reality.

It is easy to fall in love, not so easy to stay in love.

The beauty of this is that once you put in the hard work, the results are….well….romantic.

Try asking the lady who unexpectedly received flowers.

Let’s put in the hours.

Entrepreneur Traits: No escaping hard work

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A good career takes hard work.

A good relationship takes more hard work.

A good life and happiness takes some more hard work.

Why, even a great vacation requires a lot of hard work.

True happiness and hard work come together.

We can never stop working hard if we want to live good lives. We just shift the focus of our hard work from our careers to our families to our personal projects and so on.

The challenges only get harder and never ever stop. But, on the upside, once we learn to work hard, we also learn to prioritise better, focus harder and bring more of ourselves to our lives.

So, we are left with two choices:

  • Attempt to find the short cuts and escape the work, look for short-term solutions, the instant gratifications or
  • Embrace the hard work totally, live well, and bring more of ourselves to the world.

We are successful when we stop looking for shortcuts that will catch up later and we are happy when we put in the hours, and get long term results.

Let’s put in the hours.

Sawubona: What you look for is what you see…

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There was an incident once performed on 2 classes that had interesting results.

I don’t remember the exact stats so I’m going to make them up.. It went something like this:

IQ tests were conducted on a class full of students and 2 groups were made out of them.

The higher IQ group had an average of 120 while the lower IQ group had an average of 90.

The idea was to give the smart ones special attention and the computer system grouped these into 2 separate classes for the coming year and in a funny computer error, mixed up the groups and named the ‘smart’ class ‘dumb’ and the ‘dumb’ class ‘smart’.

Now, the year progressed as per normal and IQ tests were again taken at the end of the year.

What was observed was interesting –

—–> The average IQ of the dumb class had gone up by a whopping 20 while..
—–> The average IQ of the smart class had gone down by 10..

What made the difference?

The attitude of the teachers. When they were in the dumb class, they treated them as ‘slow learners’, never gave them the challenges necessary and in due time, dulled the mind while the opposite was done in the other class.


The stats may not be accurate but I think it communicates the point..

What we look for is what we see.

Very often, external feedback, taints our opinion about a lot of things.

I am not talking so much about reputation but more so about external points of view that keep popping in.

Feedback is always good and it is important to listen to it with a balanced mind but it is also good to remember that what we will see after absorbing these points of view is likely to change based on the color of the lenses of the spectacles we are wearing as well.

Sawubona, means We see you. We see you beyond your physical. It means we understand you, we acknowledge you, we get what you are going through.

Sawubona means seeing your greatness, your majesty, your queenship.

Sawubona.

 

 

Pegging your self worth

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At different points in our life, we can find ourselves pegging our self worth to random measures without realising it.

Our self worth is a composite index, a weighted average of how we feel about various things.

At different points of time, we may overweight indicators such as the approval of a tough boss, the desire to get a fancier job title, the expensive car or bag, the sought after job or home in a leafy suburb, the popular cool friends, the famous university, obsession with attention or even the average number of likes on your social media updates.

I have come to realise that any lasting dissatisfaction we have is simply a result of unconsciously pegging it on the absolute wrong indicators.

David Foster Wallace, in his incredible speech,This is Water said it beautifully.

Because here’s something else that’s true. In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And an outstanding reason for choosing some sort of God or spiritual-type thing to worship-be it J.C. or Allah, be it Yahweh or the Wiccan mother-goddess or the Four Noble Truths or some infrangible set of ethical principles-is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things-if they are where you tap real meaning in life-then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you. On one level, we all know this stuff already-it’s been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, bromides, epigrams, parables: the skeleton of every great story. The trick is keeping the truth up-front in daily consciousness. Worship power-you will feel weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the fear at bay. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart-you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. And so on.

Look, the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they’re evil or sinful; it is that they are unconscious. They are default-settings. They’re the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that’s what you’re doing. And the world will not discourage you from operating on your default-settings, because the world of men and money and power hums along quite nicely on the fuel of fear and contempt and frustration and craving and the worship of self. Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom to be lords of our own tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the center of all creation. This kind of freedom has much to recommend it. But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talked about in the great outside world of winning and achieving and displaying. The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day. That is real freedom. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default-setting, the “rat race”-the constant gnawing sense of having had and lost some infinite thing.

These paragraphs beautifully lead to three lessons I have learned about self worth:

  • First: consciously examine what you peg your self worth to;
  • Second: do your best to peg your self worth on powerful principles/truths; and
  • Third: expect to check in with yourself from time to time as you will slip.

Let these tips strengthen your resolve to live a more principled life.

 

Capacity: Carrying more…

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A business with eight people in it might be happy, profitable and growing. The same business with twenty might be on the way to bankruptcy.

Ideas, markets, niches and causes have a natural scale.

If you get it right, you can thrive for a long time. Overdo it and you stress the inputs.

The earth has a carrying capacity, certainly. I’m not sure if we in our ever increasing masses, together with the sky-scrappers we are building will we ever be too heavy to weigh the earth down.

The earth might change as a result of technology [we know how to grow food more efficiently than we did a century ago] but in any moment of time, there is a limit beyond which degradation kicks in.

I don’t think many would say that we currently have a people shortage. [Impossible to pull off, but worth considering: what if we skipped a growth cycle in the population and everyone in a generation had just two kids? Or even one…]

Your industry might have room for six or seven well-paid consultants, but when you try to scale up to 30 or 40 people on your team, you discover that it stresses the market’s ability to pay.

When you load your car for a holiday road trip, you load enough for the capacity of the car to carry. If you overload it, not only are you weighing the car down and risk accidents, but you will get traffic fines.

The trick is to know the right amount to carry on the car.

If you want to increase the capacity of the car, you have to get a trailer and that way you increase carrying capacity.

A trailer means more capacity.

More lawyers in a market might create more lawsuits.

More engineers in the market might create more buildings.

More entrepreneurs, more jobs.

More effective ad vehicles certainly create more advertising.

More lanes on the highway have been demonstrated to lead to more people commuting to work.

Sometimes, adding capacity is exactly the right strategy if your goal is to add more revenue.

The next time you find your business struggling, take a minute to think about scale.

More people [or fewer] might be the simplest way to solve your problem.

Building capacity is not just a matter adding more, it is a matter of knowing when to add more and when to wait.

Capacity: The core idea

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The core idea in building your business, is that your business should not require you. It should run on its own without you.

This is an important thing to keep in mind for distinguishing between having a job, and building a business.

If your business needs you, it is not a business yet.

The purpose of going into business is to get free of a job so you can create jobs for other people.

Start with the end in mind. Build your business as if you are going to sell it.

If you are going to sell your business, then it has to operate even when you are not there.

 

 

Capacity: Your business reflects you

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When you go through a bad hair day, it is not the hair that started the day badly, it is what happened inside you emotionally that started badly.

Your business is a reflection of you.

When you don’t improve yourself as the owner, the business is likely not to improve.

If you cannot manage your personal finances, you will struggle to manage the business finances.

The work we do is a reflection of who we are.

If you strive for excellence, your business will reflect excellence.

A business that looks orderly says to your customer that your people know what they are doing.

If we are sloppy at it, it is because we are sloppy inside.

If we are disorganised, the business will be disorganised.

If we are late at it, it is because we are late inside.

If we are bored by it, it is because we are bored inside, with ourselves, not with the work.

The most menial work can be a piece of art when done by an artist.

So the job here is not outside of ourselves, but inside of ourselves.

How we do our work becomes a mirror of how we are inside.

Your business results will grow in direct proportion to your own growth.

Capacity: Akulaleki ma unemali [Can’t sleep when you have money]

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If you give a man who has a leadership capacity [ability] to lead 1000 people and you give him 200 people to lead, 800 other people will join him.

If you give a man who has a leadership capacity to lead 200 people and you give him 1000 people to lead, 800 people will leave him.

Our ability to lead is limited to our capacity.

You can’t lead more people beyond your capacity.

To led more people, you have to improve your leadership capacity. 

Here is another example:

If you have a financial capacity to manage only up to R10,000 of your personal finances and you win the Lotto or get a financial windfall or payout or R4 million, you will spend the R4 million until you get to R10,000.

It is until you spend the R4 million to get to R10,000 that you will start talking about budgeting your finances.

If you don’t have the financial capacity to manage money, too much money will give you itchy hands.

Akulaleki ma unemali, which means it is difficult to sleep when you have money, is a good example of lack of financial capacity.

This is why people who win the Lotto or get unexpected financial findfall or lumpsum are always broke after 5 years.

On the flip side, if a person has a financial capacity to manage R4 million of their personal finances and you give them R10,000, they will grow it to R4 million.

It is hardly about having more money or more people to lead, it is about developing your capacity to manage more.

Your entrepreneurial venture will not grow beyond your entrepreneurial capacity.

It is going to be difficult to build a million rands business, if you struggle to manage your personal finances.

If you don’t dream more, build more systems and processes, develop leadership skills, your business will remain small.

How do you develop your capacity to manage more?

  • Training
  • Mentorship to help you be accountable to your own goals
  • Reading books about where you aspire to be
  • Developing patience
  • Venturing out more
  • Working hard
  • On the job training
  • Developing better habits

Developing capacity comes first, and then the results will follow.

Develop your capacity before you have to.

Dig your well before you are thirsty. 

 

 

 

Capacity: Working in vs. Working on

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Most entrepreneurs have worked at a job for someone else before they decided to start their own business.

A typical workday involved completing tasks that your job required in a timely manner under the supervision of your employer.

We spend years of our working life, usually doing what we do best – but for someone else.

A mechanic is usually really good at fixing cars, a hairdresser is typically gives great hair cuts, and an administrator keeps the company in line by taking care of the necessary paperwork.

By habit and usually necessity, we spend years working ‘in’ our business.

That all changes when we become entrepreneurs.

Running a small business requires a shift in mindset.

Along with the actual task of completing the service that you offer, as a small business owner you also have to work ‘on’ your business.

I am sure we have all heard the statistics that claim the majority of small businesses fail within the first three years.

Part of that reason is because entrepreneurs decide to open a business in the area that they are extremely talented in, but they fail to understand there are many other pieces to the pie.

Running a successful car workshop takes more than just being a great mechanic.

You have to handle the bookkeeping, the marketing, the customer service, hiring and inventory.

In order to grow, you need to develop your personal capacity, to spend time on business development and training.

Technology changes require you to upgrade tools, equipment and software.

Depending on your area of expertise, a certain amount of time has to be spent on social media and keeping your business relevant and accessible to customers on-line.

Essentially, you end up wearing about nine different hats.

The simple fact is as a small business owner, you have to work both ‘in’ your business and ‘on’ your business.

Working ‘on’ your business requires you to think a little differently.

It means taking a step back and evaluating if your advertising is working for you, and if not then trying a new type of advertising.

It also means experimenting with different ways to grow your business, such as on-line or asking previous customers for referrals.

It involves taking the time to sit down and go over your numbers on both the revenue and expense side of your spreadsheet so you know exactly what your costs are and how much revenue you need.

Going to new, uncharted networking events also counts as working ‘on’ your business as you may meet someone who hasn’t heard of your business or service.

Reading about new trends or technologies that others are using in your industry also counts as working ‘on’ your business.

If you have spent time working ‘on’ your business you will know your numbers and the value of your time.

By knowing what your time is worth, you can assess that usually it is cheaper to hire someone to handle tasks that you are not skilled at while you are out recruiting new business or doing what you do best.

Successful small businesses owners lead, and surround themselves with talented people so they are free to do what they do best.

Developing systems and processes are crucial in moving from working in to working on your business.

The shift from working in your business to working on your business requires the entrepreneur to develop capacity.

 

Capacity: The E-Myth revisited

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Sipho has been working at the car services division of the car dealership for 15 years. He resigns and start his own workshop fixing cars. Is Sipho an entrepreneur? Not really.

Dineo has been working as a hairdresser at a local salon for 5 years. She decides that she knows all there is to know about hair, wants to starts her own salon. Does that make her an entrepreneur? Not really.

Mpho is a very good graphics designer, he wants to starts his own graphics design studio. Is Mpho an entrepreneur? Not really.

Having the technical skills to do something is important, but not enough.

Over 25 years ago, Michael E. Gerber wrote a best-selling business book called The E-Myth: Why Most Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It.

The E-Myth [“Entrepreneurial Myth”] is the mistaken belief that most businesses are started by people with tangible business skills, when in fact most are started by “technicians” who know nothing about running a business. Hence most fail.

Sipho, Dineo, and Mpho may have entrepreneurial intentions, which is important to have, but they are technicians. They know how to fix a car, do hair or design amazing graphics.

Technicians are everything in the business, they are the business. The problem with being everything in the business is that your business depends on you to function.

When technician is sick, the business is sick. When the technician is on vacation, the business is on vacation.

Technical skills are important in any business. However, just because some business owners are experts in the technical work of their business, does not mean they are able to build and run their business.

Understanding the technical work of a business does not mean you understand a business that does that technical work.

Technicians need to develop business skills. How to sell, proper costing and pricing, cash flow management, managing clients relations, leading a team, negotiating deals, etc.

Technicians need to develop management and leadership skills, so that as the business grows, they can employ more people and lead them.

People who are exceptionally good in business are so because of their insatiable need to know more. To increase their capacity.

Developing your capacity means growing your skills and competency to do more than what you currently know.

Growth in business does not happen automatically, you can remain a small business owner forever, as long as you don’t increase your capacity in your business the reason being that the technician builds a job, but the entrepreneur builds an enterprise.