Some people are so passionate and dedicated to innovation, they seem destined to change the world. Clearly, Wilbur and Orville Wright, the fathers of flight, were two such world-changers.
David McCullough’s recent book, The Wright Brothers, describes how the brothers overcame setbacks, competition and naysayers – not unlike the challenges many entrepreneurs face.
With more than a little intestinal fortitude, the Wrights fearlessly followed their vision all the way to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, and history’s first successful flight of a fixed-wing aircraft.
The following five lessons from the Wright brothers’ experiences provide valuable strategies for entrepreneurs looking to create change today:
1. Early experts might not be experts
Orville and Wilbur’s earliest models were based largely on the research of the top thinkers of the time. Through their own experimentation and the repeated failures of their competitors, they realised many of these early “experts” were dead wrong.
When venturing into new terrain, it’s OK to look to the “experts” for ideas. But it’s important to test and validate information in changing conditions rather than assuming that it is fact. Build upon the work of those before you, but use your own ideas to make yourself the new expert in your field.
2. Nothing replaces rolling up your sleeves
Wilbur Wright once said, “You [can] sit on a fence and watch the birds, but if you really wish to learn [to fly], you must mount a machine and [learn] by actual trial.”
It was that hands-on approach that set this duo apart from their competitors. While others sponsored innovation, the Wright brothers personally tried and tested hundreds of flight conditions, materials and prototypes to get a firsthand feel for their machines.
They became experts through trial and error, knowing firsthand what worked, and why. Be close enough to your work to learn something from each experiment, prototype and failure.
This also sets you up as a continuous learner – an essential habit for innovation. Paul Allen of Microsoft has often noted the lessons he and Bill Gates learned from their first piece of technology, Traf-O-Data. Allen noted, “I have made my share of business mistakes, but Traf-O-Data remains my favourite mistake because it confirmed to me that every failure contains the seeds of your next success.”
3. Combine self-reliance with smart advisors
The Wright brothers became experts on early flight, yet they knew their limitations. They had advisors to help with gaining sponsorship and funding, finding the best location for testing and even the construction of the first flying machine.
Pick your mentors, advisors and team members with strategic intent.
Recognise that it’s not about whom you enjoy talking with the most, but the value a person can bring to your work.
Effective leaders encourage these multiple perspectives through collaboration, team input and new ideas (and relying less on hierarchical structuring).
4. Be persistent while constantly adapting
The Wright brothers had plenty of reasons to quit. Their pursuits survived mockery from critics, thousands of revisions, hundreds of test flights and broken bones. But the brothers – determined to succeed – constantly reassessed their progress based on their results.
Setbacks will happen. But rather than focusing on your failures, learn from them, adjust your methods and regroup tomorrow. Implementing an incremental approach can help guide this process and limit negative effects from sweeping decisions. By creating a succession of short-term plans, your team can evolve as the situation becomes clearer.
5. Don’t be threatened by the competition
The Wright brothers knew other teams were trying to achieve the same goal. They didn’t concern themselves with their competition unless they believed they could learn from their work.
By immersing themselves so completely in their own plans and ideas, they developed a unique expertise that created an advantage over all of the others.
Focus on what you can influence and control. Learn from your competition when that’s relevant, but don’t gauge your success on everyone else’s progress.
We recommend: These Are the World’s Top 10 Young Billionaires
The Wright brothers’ lessons on work ethic, perseverance and constant experimentation are as relevant today as they were in the early 1900s. Their example can continue to shape the minds of dreamers, creators and leaders, much as they did more than a hundred years ago.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
How Entrepreneurs Can Make Good Decisions Quickly
Below are some tips on how you can do just that.
As an entrepreneur, you have to face difficult decisions on a near-daily basis. These can range from deciding on what marketing strategy suits your business best or choosing what new talent to hire for your team. Making good decisions quickly can be tricky, even more so if you are pressed for time. However, there are methods you can use to do this.
Decision-making is an intrinsic part of being an entrepreneur, and once you know the answer to “What is decision-making?” you will be better able to make good decisions, quickly. Below are some tips on how you can do just that.
Acknowledge what you are trying to accomplish
Making decisions can be difficult if you do not know what, exactly, you are trying to accomplish. Before you reach a decision, you will need to carefully look at what you are trying to accomplish and optimise. Once you have done this, you will be able to make the right, and quickest, decision.
An example of this is changing a marketing strategy. Are you trying to reach a new audience? Are you trying to release a new product to the public, or are you trying to change your brand’s image? Once you have acknowledged what you are trying to accomplish, you can decide on what options best suit the situation. This process might take time at first, but, once you have done it a few times, it will become second nature.
Use available data
Having evidence or data to help with a decision can be highly useful for any entrepreneur. And in today’s online world, you will be able to find enough of both to help you make any decision, whether it is big or small.
Using data and evidence, you will be able to see how your company is currently performing and make a business decision based on this data. The key to making good decisions in the shortest amount of time possible is having the right evidence and information available. You will need to be sure that you understand the data and evidence in order to use it as part of your decision making.
Give yourself a deadline
It is important to set deadlines for decisions. This way, you will be able to make them quickly, effectively and before any problems become bigger than they need to be. For example, set a deadline for deciding on a new employee a week from their interview date. This gives you time to examine their strengths and weaknesses in depth before deciding.
Having a deadline creates a sense of urgency, meaning that you will spend less time procrastinating and more time on the actual decision-making. It will keep things moving forward and you will avoid “paralysis by analysis”, a common occurrence in entrepreneurs and business owners. Deadlines help to keep the goal in sight, allowing you to make a decision quickly and easily without overthinking it.
Get an outside opinion
Even the Khaleesi in Game of Thrones has an advisor to help her make decisions. And if she has one, it makes sense that a business owner or entrepreneur should too. It is a good idea to get an outside opinion, especially if you have been thinking about a decision for a long time.
An objective voice can help you to reach a final decision, as they can help you consider points that you might not have thought of. You could ask your friends or your colleagues for help, but be sure that they do not have any attachment to the decision. This can make it difficult for them to give objective advice. If you have a mentor, this is the best person to ask for advice.
Reframe the problem
Step back from the problem or decision you are facing and look at it from another angle. Often, reframing a problem or situation can help you to reach a speedy conclusion, especially in terms of business.
Try to see the issue from as many perspectives as possible, as this will help you to ensure that you are not emphasising one aspect and neglecting another. This is all a part of the answer to “what is decision making?” as seeing a problem from another perspective can help you to see the bigger picture. You should try to think of at least three different ways to see the problem and work from there.
One of the most important ways to make good decisions quickly is to keep calm. By keeping your emotions in check, you will better be able to make a decision that is smart and objective. The steps in decision-making include knowing what you want to accomplish, using the data available to you, giving yourself a deadline and asking for an outside opinion. Once you have taken all of these steps, you will be able to make efficient and effective business decisions.
Simple Ways To Make Your Small Business More Professional
If you are looking to boost your business success and look more professional to clients, read on for some top tips on how to do so.
Owning and operating a small business can be tough, time-consuming and at times, frustrating. There is always a business out there that is more efficient, funky or more professional than you. But you can get an edge on the competition if you strive to be better.
One way to bring in more professionalism is to send your staff on office administration courses so that they are able to perform administrative tasks to improve efficiency, or you could hire a professional administrative assistant to do the job. If you are looking to boost your business success and look more professional to clients, read on for some top tips on how to do so.
Create a modern website
In today’s modern, digital age, the very first thing that people see when looking for your business is your website. And, having an unprofessional, outdated and badly designed one will send potential clients running for the hills before they even contact you to find out about your products or services.
It is not enough to have a Facebook Business Page, you will need to have a professional, modern website that tells clients exactly who you are, what you do and (most importantly) what you can do for them. You will also need to include your contact details, office address and business hours, so that your clients can reach you when they need you. A modern website will entice customers to find out more about your company, too.
Always use a business email
You might think that creating another email address is tedious, but think about how embarrassing it would be to email clients from your current one that you might have created in high school (BarbiePrincess89@hotmail.com is hardly going to impress anyone).
If you already have a business website, then setting up a business email is quick, simple and more often than not, free. You can use Google My Business or other similar tools to create a business email that reads YourName@yourbusiness.com, which is much more professional and will send the right message to your clients. A business email also makes it easier for you to answer work emails quickly and efficiently, as you will not be scrolling through your personal inbox, trying to find them.
Have someone to answer your phones
If you have employees for your small business, you should look into sending someone on office administration courses so that they are able to answer your office phone quickly, effectively and in a professional manner.
Having a receptionist or office administrator to answer your phones immediately makes your small business seem more professional. And it will allow you to focus on more important tasks, rather than having to answer a ringing phone all day. Your office administrator will be able to forward calls to you, take messages and answer any queries that clients may have. This will give clients a positive experience when dealing with your business too.
Avoid formal titles on your business cards
If you are a “one-man-band”, so to speak, it can be tempting to call yourself the CEO of your business, or a similarly formal title. After all, you are the one putting in all the work, right? However, clients will not be impressed by this title and it could backfire rather than work in your favour.
More often than not, calling yourself the CEO of a one-person company will make you look unprofessional and appear to be a “small-time” operation, especially as the CEO is the one chasing up clients and running around doing all the grunt work. It is best to simply leave it at your name and the name of your business. You do not need a title to prove that you are good at your job, rather let your products and/or services speak for you.
Lease a professional office space
If you are just starting out or your small business has not yet taken off, you may not have a professional office address or space. While it can help to cut costs to operate out of your home, it will not help to raise your level of professionalism in the eyes of your clients.
You could look into leasing a workspace in a coworking space such as No 80 Hout Street in Cape Town or Worq in Pietermaritzburg. Having a professional space to meet with clients and to conduct your business will increase your success and will help you to stand out against the competition. Coworking spaces are highly popular among young entrepreneurs and you might even meet like-minded people who you can collaborate with on projects for clients.
Professionalism is in the eye of the beholder
Going on office administration courses, having a modern website created for you, creating a business email and hiring someone to answer your phones are all highly effective ways to make your small business more professional. Clients will appreciate the effort that you have put into crafting a professional presence, no matter if you have one employee or ten.
8 Steps For Conducting Difficult Conversations At Work
There’s no avoiding it. Whatever your role, it’s inevitable that sometimes, you’ll need to have difficult conversations at work. Handled poorly, these conversations can make bad situations a lot worse. Handled right, they can improve performance and strengthen relationships.
Whether you’re an entrepreneur handling a crisis with a client, a manager addressing a performance issue like absenteeism or an employee tackling a disagreement with a colleague, these eight actionable steps will help you navigate a tricky conversation with finesse.
1. Set a date
Formally schedule a meeting and send the person you need to speak with an invitation, briefly outlining what you’d like to discuss. Avoid going into too much detail, especially if there’s potential for conflict. Stick to facts and don’t get personal. This way, you keep the playing field open and neutral, and allow the other party to prepare for the discussion.
2. Create a safe space
People communicate best when they know they’re in environments where they feel safe. So ensure the space you meet in is private, reasonably comfortable and free from distractions.
3. Prepare what you’d like to say
Get all your facts straight. Gather and review all the information that led you to identify the need for a discussion in the first place. Then take time to write down what you want to communicate. It’s important to do this so that during the actual conversation, you don’t get side-tracked or drawn into making unnecessarily personal comments. Plan to end the conversation with a resolution on the way forward.
4. Find a common goal
According to author and leadership advisor, Mike Myatt, people are more likely to be open to collaborating and resolving issues when they feel their objectives are being taken into account. Initiate this process by introducing a shared goal for the conversation – like agreeing to find a way to work in harmony.
5. Stick to “I” and avoid “you”
Speak from your perspective and avoid playing the blame game. If you’re at fault, accept responsibility, and, if the situation allows, offer an alternative you can commit to. If you need to address poor behaviour, focus on exactly that – the behaviour, not the person.
“Late reports make us look unprofessional” is much better than “you’re tardy and making us look bad”.
Summarising what you’ve heard the other person say in your own words forces you to absorb their perspective, gives them the opportunity to correct you if you’ve misunderstood, and proves you were really listening and trying to understand.
Related: Can Your Words Be Used Against You?
7. Anticipate strong reactions
Ensure you’re emotionally ready to handle an intense reaction. Tears, denial and finger-pointing are all likely responses to hairy conversations. If you’ve anticipated these types of responses, it will be easier for you to control your own emotions. Keep calm and either steer the conversation back to finding a solution or, if appropriate, end the conversation. If someone is too emotional to talk about something, it’s healthiest to reschedule the conversation for a better time.
8. End with a plan
Make sure you conclude with a plan that meets both your objectives and serves the common goal established near the beginning of the conversation. Aim to get the other person’s agreement to strive to meet this target and book a follow-up meeting where progress can be reviewed.
See difficult conversations as an opportunity
Although difficult conversations can be stressful they can provide you with the ideal opportunity for positive change and growth. Shoving issues under the carpet can breed resentment and distrust. Having hard discussions that focus on finding solutions gives you the chance to build better relationships.
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