Success comes in many forms, but the journey to get there is rarely a simple one. There are ups and downs, twists and turns, and often an ongoing struggle of trial and error before you find success – whether it be personal or professional.
There is no “one size fits all” solution, and if you were to speak to a hundred successful individuals, they would cite for you a hundred different approaches. Yet, despite this array of issues, there are trends and patterns we can all use to our advantage, including examples of how successful folk have approached mistakes and failure.
In fact, the truth is that those you admire have built a career on the backs of mistakes and failures, learning from them and progressing a little further each time. They are no different from you and me; they are not immune to obstacles. What’s different is that they use these obstacles to their advantage.
I realised this after interviewing 163 entrepreneurs for my latest book (The Successful Mistake) about how these individuals transformed past mistakes into subsequent success. They taught me that mistakes happen regardless of money, fame or fortune, and that it’s your job to turn things around (and spot these issues before they have a chance to build).
From the anecdotes my interviewees shared, I want to share four such mistakes that you may be making right now. If you happen to be making one or more of these errors – and you allow them to continue – they potentially could transform into business-threatening failures.
If you catch them beforehand, however, they’re all often easy to fix.
1. Don’t listen to the “yes men”
When I interviewed the New York Times best-selling author Steve Olsher (What is Your What?), he told me how he built a successful online business (Liquor.com) before the dot.com boom. Because he was in the right place at the right time, Olsher said, he enjoyed a lot of success, and had many people “beating down my door.”
Investors and “experts” alike showered him with advice and promises of this and that. But, a caveat: “They wanted to see experienced CEOs and CFOs [join his company].” So, Olsher told me, when I interviewed him: “I literally signed away my management rights to the company.”
Within a few months of signing over those rights, he – and so many others – watched as the dot.com crash disrupted their lives.
Those “yes men”? They disappeared, and Olsher realised that he was the only person who could run his business. It wasn’t that he didn’t speak enough or listen enough, but rather that he didn’t filter out the noise. The takeaway? Once you build a successful company, this “noise” will surround you. It’s your job to disregard it, and get rid of those yes men. They represent a mistake that’s easy to fix when there are just a few of them. But the more there are, the harder it gets.
2. Don’t get stuck in your own head
The flip side to Olsher’s issue of listening to others is to lose yourself in your own ideas.
Few people create greatness on their own. It takes collaboration and communication, which teenage prodigy Fraser Doherty lacked during the early days of his startup, SuperJam.
Having learned how to make tasty jam from his grandmother, young Fraser began to make it and sell it around his local community as a young teen. Word took off. Local shops wanted to stock it. Fraser quickly outgrew his operations, so he decided to go “all in” and build his brand (so he could pitch to the U.K.’s major supermarkets later that year).
The teen hired a local design agency to develop his brand, but he had his own ideas and insisted they stick to them. That’s how he lost himself in his own ideas, forgetting to involve other people in the lead-up to his big pitch. When that day arrived, things didn’t go according to plan. The supermarket chains rejected him. They said no.
Devastated, Fraser had to pick up the pieces, soon realising that his own lack of communication had been the issue. He had lost himself in himself – an issue we all face at some point. Your job is to stop this from happening, and force yourself to involve others in the process.
3. Don’t play the blame game
When hardship hits, it’s easy to play the blame game (by blaming either yourself or someone else).
Tech entrepreneur Brian Foley and his team of co-founders experienced this as they committed to turning their app-idea to app-reality. They spent months designing the Buddytruk app, and after positive feedback, knew their Uber-like service would prove successful.
The problem was, nobody on their team had the experience to develop the app’s framework, so they hired a programmer.This tech expert soon finished the app, but the result fell short of Foley’s and the team’s expectations.
“At first, we blamed the developer,” Foley told me, during our interview. “They didn’t a do a good job, but then as we thought about the situation more, we realised we’d never communicated what we wanted – and didn’t fully appreciate what we wanted as a business or team.”
Blame didn’t solve the problem (it rarely does) for the team members; but taking a step back, and summing responsibility for their own lack of communication, did. They soon got on the same page. They build a better app. They articulated their idea and then some; but that happy upshot occurred only after they quit playing the blame game.
4. Do not presume . . . anything!
This final mistake is possibly the most dangerous of all, because you know what you know, and it all seems so simple to you.
You build a business, perform a task, work through a process and tell yourself that the process is second nature to you. It’s easy for you, and it’s easy to presume other people will find it easy, too. Big mistake.
Podcaster and serial entrepreneur Ben Krueger found this out the hard way during the early days of Cashflow Podcasting.
Initially, Krueger told me, he found success after success, because the popularity of podcasting meant that more people needed help creating, launching and promoting their shows. He offered a high-quality and personal service, and soon had so much work that he couldn’t keep up.
That’s when he hired his first employee to ease the strain, and after showing that person how to use the successful process he had developed, he got back to work under the assumption that all was well.
Soon after, however, a few of his customers noticed a drop-off in quality, and his previous happy customer base grew increasingly unhappy by the week.
It wasn’t that Krueger’s new employee didn’t have the right skill set, but rather that Krueger, the founder, didn’t take the time to communicate the exact process his customers were used to (step by step).
The takeaway: As a leader, you cannot presume that those around you know what you know. What is easy for you may not be easy for them. How you work may not be how they work.
This isn’t their problem. It’s yours; it’s your job to communicate what you want, how you want it and why you want it that way – and then, show your employees/interns how to do what you want them to do.
These are just four mistakes that have the power to shake your world; and if you cannot relate to at least one of them, I’ll be amazed. So, right now, I ask you to take a step back and honestly answer:
… Am I making one of these mistakes?
If you are, don’t worry. Get back to work, turn things around and fix these issues before they grow into something much larger.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
4 Common Myths About Leadership That Can Hold You Back
Alignment with your values and belief systems is the foundation of becoming an effective leader.
To be a great leader in today’s world, being a brilliant knowledge expert or technician is no longer enough. Even harder is trying to learn the golden rules of the wrong and right ways to be a great leader. The amount of content spouted in countless books and resources is overwhelming let alone confusing.
To be unstoppable leaders for our businesses and our people, tuning out from the noise and distractions potentially misguiding us is pertinent now more than ever. Pay attention to any presence of these four myths and make guiding your people a more soul-enriching journey that they and you will want to continue well past your leadership term’s end.
Myth 1: Great leaders are highly ranked individuals
Richard Branson proves a classic example of how great leaders can get to the top without having ivy-league school connections and astounding qualifications. Having had enough of struggling at school, Branson dropped out of the highly reputed Stowe boarding school at the age of 16 to start a magazine called Student. The first publication sold $8000 worth of advertising. We all know the Virgin story from there on. Then there are the likes of Rachael Ray, food industry personality whose empire has amassed a $60M fortune without her having any culinary qualifications whatsoever.
There’s a common entrepreneurial DNA that runs through the veins of such leaders. An avant-garde vision, tenacity and patience seem to be common underlying themes for many. For others, it’s about making sacrifices and taking risks that could cost their life to serve a cause extending far beyond serving their own needs.
By publicly speaking out against the Pakistan Taliban’s extremist rulings, one of which of was to prevent females from accessing education, Malala Yousafzai became a target. At 15 years of age, a masked gunman boarded her school bus and shot her in the head. She survived and many months of rehabilitation spurred her determination to fight for every girl to have the opportunity to attend school. The work she achieved through establishing the Malala Fund with the undying support of her father, earned her the Nobel Peace Prize in December of 2014.
Whether from desperation or a happy place there is always the genesis of a passion driving a persistence to go against the grain and to continue the fight. Often there’s no formal training, qualification or certification in sight.
Myth 2: Following a certain checklist of behaviours will make you a great leader
The ‘fake it ‘til you make’ adage has become a common throw-away phrase consultants and coaches spout as a means to quickly build confidence. Following advice to merely emulate the behaviour of those you admire and respect can pose grave risks, especially when you become a leader by default as opposed to by your own audition. Smart teams can smell falsehood and copycats a mile away. Your integrity will often be scrutinised and your jury will constantly evaluate the values and principles you lead by. One foot wrong might end your leadership term just as quickly as it began and not necessarily by your team’s choosing.
Imagine being tasked with driving credit card sign-ups yet you yourself struggle to make repayments on your own overdraft. How long can you resist your inner conscience? You’ll feel the tug every time you invite a customer to sign up and at every request to your team to follow suit. At some point, you’ll be struggling to face yourself see in the mirror.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
9 Ways To Get Employees To Buy Into Your Vision
Your business is your dream come true, now it’s time to include your employees in your vision to drive future success.
Your vision statement is the foundation of your business. It is the baseline against which all strategic planning is assessed and the benchmark against which all results are measured. However, as important as it is to have a vision when it comes to business success, it is equally important to get your employees to buy into this vision to ensure that success.
Here are nine ways to get your employees to buy into your vision by making it their dream, as much as it is yours…
- It must be believable – Your company vision needs to be within the realms of possibility otherwise people just won’t believe in it. It must be steady, achievable and relevant.
- It must be inclusive – Employees need to see how they can play a part in achieving this vision to make it relatable and inclusive. If they don’t understand what the business does, they won’t care how well the business does.
- It must be reinforced – Talk about your vision all the time. Don’t assume everybody has read it or is familiar with it as new people may not have seen it and older people may have forgotten. Constant communication is critical to ensure everyone is, literally, on the same page.
- It must be transparent – Make sure your communication around your vision is open and clear. Talk about it with clients, with all staff members, at all meetings and keep on talking until everyone understands it. When a vision is tangible and accessible it is far more achievable than when it is ethereal and vague.
- It must be practical – Don’t make flamboyant statements that are almost impossible to achieve like, ‘We will be number one in X!’. Be practical. It doesn’t matter if you’re not number one, it does matter that your vision is practical.
- It must be shared – Connect people’s careers to the vision by creating opportunities for them. Show them how the work they do is tied back to the vision and the business. If the business is only about profit and customer, then employees often don’t see how they fit in or why they are important. Create opportunities for them and they will be inspired to achieve your vision.
- It must be people-centric – People make up the core of your business. It is bigger than just one person or one idea. So, give them something to aspire to with a realistic, practical and human company vision.
- It must have purpose – Embed your vision and its values into the way you do business. The way you treat your employees and your customers and the choices you make should all reflect your vision. Take it beyond just ‘We want to make money’ and show how your vision positively affects your community and others.
- It must be visible – Put your vision on doors, in emails, on letterheads, in proposals. Show what you stand for at every opportunity. Employees need to feel that there is a cohesive plan for the future. This will not only drive engagement but it will keep them steadfast when times get tough – they believe in the ship too much for it to sink.
What’s Your Number? How To Unpack Company Valuations
Business is booming. Investors want in. But how do you put a price on the value of the company you have built with your own hands?
Company valuations is such a hazy part of the scale-up journey of a private company. Putting a price tag on a business is both art and science. At the end of the day, the number that makes the headlines (if ever disclosed) will be where willing buyer and willing seller meet.
But how do you , as business owner, go about setting your asking price? Before approaching investors, it’s a good exercise to determine your own valuation range for the business. Choosing the right valuation method is the first big question. The answer has many parts to it, but the most important driver is the stage of the business.
Let’s look at some of the most commonly accepted valuation methods in our market:
Applicable stage: Established, profitable companies
Listed companies, institutional players and private equity investors normally invest in a company for its cash flow profit that can contribute to their portfolio income. More often than not, companies will be valued based on their current earnings (bottom line profit after tax).
This method can only be used for companies that consistently make a profit. A multiplier will be chosen based on the company’s perceived risk. Younger, more risky businesses will likely have lower multipliers (as low as 3 and 4) and high growth, well established, lower risk companies will get higher multipliers (8-15).
Sometimes small adjustments are made to current year earnings (like non-standard, non-repeating income statement items) after which the valuation is set at Earnings times multiplier equals company valuation.
Discounted Cash Flow (DCF)
Applicable stage: Post-revenue start-ups, growth companies and established businesses
The most commonly used method in practice, the DCF method argues that a company’s value is determined by the future cash flows that it will yield to investors.
The starting point is creating a five to ten year cash flow forecast for the business. This is no small feat. In order to create a full financial model – income statement, balance sheet and cash flow statement – for the next decade requires a lot of work, both from a strategic and technical perspective.
Investors love this model because if forces the owners to put a clear strategy and expansion plan for their business into numbers. It will include dozens if not hundreds of assumptions – all of which can be scrutinised for reasonability. The result of financial model will be five to ten years’ worth of projected cash flows. These amounts are then discounted to present value at a discount rate that reflects the company’s risk and expected cost of capital.
The sum of the discounted future cash flows plus a terminal value (that represents the value after the five or ten year period of the model) then represents the valuation of the company after some final small adjustments for things like existing debt in the business.
A revenue multiple valuation approach is focused on the market for similar businesses and is underpinned by your company’s current turnover. It seeks out the sales price of other similar companies in the country or worldwide, adjusted for size, stage and market differences.
A company that sold for R100 million at a turnover of R50 million would have a two times revenue multiple (valuation/revenue). If the average revenue multiple for similar companies is in a certain range, this multiple is then slightly adjusted and applied to your business.
If the average sale in your industry has been two times revenue but you are growing much faster than the average with a better competitive advantage, you can argue that two and a half times revenue is a more applicable number for your business. Revenue multiples are often used as a reasonability check in the market for the current asking price.
Most established companies are valued using one or a combination of more than one of the above three methods. At start-up stage, there are a number of other methods like Cost to Replicate or the Scorecard Method that early stage investors look to. When a company is simply in too early stage to practically value it, seed stage investors would also consider SAFE Agreements (Simple Agreement for Future Equity) – an instrument that determines that the percentage of the company the investors are buying with their investment. This is only determined when the Series A round is raised at a future date and under certain conditions, generally at a discount to the price the series A investors are paying.
Company valuations are complex. Many of the above technical factors play a role. A lot of it also comes down to the salesmanship of the owners and the negotiating capabilities of the parties. In ‘How Yoco Successfully Secured Capital And The Importance Of A Pitch’, the Yoco team speak about the importance of the right approach in their recent R248 million fundraising
Don’t go into this process without seeking some kind of expert advice. The price of the wrong valuation is simply too high. Make your numbers and your arguments bulletproof and you will be on your way to defending a strong and exciting valuation for your next raise!
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