In the year 1978, my grandfather opened his first retail shop. It was a year after the brutal murder of Steve Biko and the townships were a volatile and frankly uninspiring place to do business. My grandfather started the business with a single mission: To create an extra income for his family.
In that same year, some Stellenbosch entrepreneurs gathered to start a retail chain. They built what is now the most successful retail chain in Africa. My grandfather’s spaza shop died when he left us in 2005. These Stellenbosch entrepreneurs have grown to become a R118 billion business, doing in essence what my grandfather did, selling household items to communities.
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While I know that the reason my grandfather couldn’t build a successful business chain was because the government of the day had effectively outlawed black entrepreneurship with draconian apartheid laws, trading limitations and zoning, for the purposes of this article, I will talk about how to make the change from founder to CEO, growing a large organisation in the process.
The Great Divide
There is very little evidence to suggest this is possible. There tend to be two types of founders: Those who sell their businesses and exit with handsome payouts; and those who continue to run their businesses because they provide a certain lifestyle, but sooner or later fade into the abyss of irrelevance.
Certainly, these businesses are often difficult to sell because they are so firmly dependent upon the founder’s networks and skills set.
Founders lead with heart and emotion. They galvanise people with similar value systems. They build niche teams that tackle big problems with limited budgets. They don’t believe in bloated labour forces.
CEOs lead with rationality and emotion. They are equally attuned to the heart of the business and the strategic issues it faces. They often want to ‘take over the world’. They worry about personnel numbers relative to return on assets and are driven by shareholder returns as they are making a difference in society.
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Here are five things to do in making the transition from founder to high-growth CEO.
1. You Don’t Need a Suit
In the movie Jobs, you see Steve Jobs change his hippie attire for a suit symbolising that he had become the CEO of the firm, no longer the founder. Wearing a suit does not a CEO make. It’s about the mental state, not the dress code.
2. Delegate, Don’t Obfuscate
This is the most important lesson I had to learn when making the transition. Just because I had delegated a task to someone in my team, didn’t mean I was no longer responsible for that task or its implications.
Yes, I must hold that person accountable, but I retain the ultimate responsibility for that task. So what you want to do is set up a matrix of delegation that helps you manage who you have delegated to, what their framework of delivery is and what the reward or consequences are for non-delivery or over-delivery.
3. Create Financial Accountability
This is the Achilles Heel of most founders. They are accountable only to themselves. Getting in someone that you can be accountable to around the financial decisions you make is the single purest way to help you make the transition.
It forces you to think about what you are doing, why you are doing it and how it will generate a return for shareholders. For purposes of achieving this, I gave 5% equity to my mentor. This bought time to reflect with him every quarter but also created a greater sense of responsibility and duty.
4. Transfer the ‘Soul’
This is the most challenging thing to do. The ‘soul’ of the business is the reason you exist. If you cannot transfer this, the business will lose its direction. The soul is the directional underbelly for everything that you do.
Here you need to hire people that not only see what you see but can execute in a direction consistent with your reason for existing. Right people. Consistent vision. Right beliefs.
5. Build the Team
Great businesses are great teams. Building that team is the CEO’s responsibility. Make sure you have people who will take the business forward, who are as capable as you and give them a percentage of the upside. So before you decide on where the bus is going, ensure that you have the right people onboard seated in the correct seats.
3 Keys To A Vision Others Can Own
Trying to get others to buy into a vision that is all about you getting more money is not going to excite people.
I get really excited about my dreams. Over the years, as I have led my team, I have realised that they aren’t as excited about my dreams as I am. I own two restaurants and employ minimum wage employees. In the early years of owning my restaurants, turnover killed me. I used to fight for them to have the same passion for my goals and dreams as I had and as a result I had extremely high turnover. Confused and frustrated, I knew I needed to change the way I was leading a team.
A few little changes have created a committed team and extremely low turnover. If you don’t have a passionate, committed long-term team, check these simple vision casting strategies.
Often our vision that we cast is shallow and self-serving. A vision that is all about you getting more money is not going to excite people. Take some time to uncover what you are trying to accomplish. When you can cast a vision beyond your selfish desires, others can sink their teeth into the vision. For my company, I wanted to raise up leaders to change the community.
My focus changed to my crew and they could feel the shift in perspective, which also helped me to earn a bi-product of more money, my original desire.
Our deeper vision helps us keep and build a team, but it’s still our vision. We need to really understand the goals and dreams of our team to find untapped potential and loyalty. No one will ever care as much about our vision as us because it’s ours. The more focused you get about helping your team and their wants and desires, the more they will care about yours. In my restaurant I had a young lady who wanted to be a teacher. I thought about what it takes to be a great teacher and how I could help her toward that. Find out what they care about and dig deeper to see what is behind that desire.
Marry the Two
If you have a team running around caring only about their vision they may be loyal and passionate, however, they will not be united in one direction. Magic happens when we combine our vision and their vision. At the points of intersection, our interests and theirs are united to accomplish more. I want to encourage leaders who can change the community.
As for the employee I mentioned above who desired to be a teacher, I trained her toward being a better teacher so that she could raise up young leaders to change the community. Now she is one of my top supervisors and teaches many other crew members. She will be an awesome teacher someday, but in the meantime, she is a valuable team member.
Caring for a team and helping them see how your vision and their vision can help each other will change everything. Growing people is the business no matter what business we are in. Care for others and they will care for you. Care only for your own wants and you will never get the most out of your team. Find a deeper vision, figure out your teams’ vision, and combine the two and your business will transform.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
3 Signs You Are Your Own Worst Business Enemy
It’s hard to be objective about ourselves but if we really pay attention our colleagues will reflect how we are perceived and what it means for the business.
Sometimes, it’s hard to get out of your own way.
Entrepreneurs and business owners have to keep all the trains running on time, as well as figure out the next place they’d like those trains to go, metaphorically speaking. It’s a huge, complex job. So it shouldn’t be a surprise to realise that in many cases, the problem behind an underperforming company is the boss.
How do you know when it really is “just you,” though? We human beings have a notoriously difficult time being objective about our own behaviour and choices.
So, try looking for the following signs in the people and circumstances around you.
1. Your employees seem unusually tense or flat lately
Has the camaraderie vanished? Is the workplace one big collection of really bad moods, most of the time?
Of course, the boss’s mood can infect the entire office. As the leader of your team, you set the example and the atmosphere, and your employees follow your lead.
Getting along with others, both inside and outside your company, is imperative for success. If your employees and customers sense a negative change, then it’s worth examining your behaviour. These signs could be symptoms that you’re becoming a toxic boss.
To address this, first make sure you’re acting with integrity and in accordance with your personal values. Next, make an effort to demonstrate empathy with your employees. You don’t have to agree with every single point they make to do this. Respect their boundaries and try to see the issue from their perspective.
Finally, make sure you listen deeply. Employers who simply command and demand compliance find themselves stuck with the “toxic” label all too quickly. Instead, be curious about your employees’ perspectives and problems. Ask open-ended questions to get them to tell you more, and listen to what they say.
2. You feel deeply frustrated with your employees
Are you feeling unusually impatient around new workers? Do you find yourself snapping at experienced workers over small annoyances or accidents?
If so, there could be some deeper issues at play.
Insisting on perfection, or even just on competence in an unreasonable amount of time can eventually sour your entire workforce and drive away valuable employees. You’ll have a hard time attracting and retaining talent if you create an awkward, uncomfortable or outright hostile environment.
Instead, try practicing a “talk-down” method on yourself. When you feel your impatience or annoyance growing, mentally talk yourself down from these emotions to a state of greater calm. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- On a scale of one to 100, how bad is this, really?
- What’s the worst that can happen here, realistically speaking?
- If that happened, how would we respond?
- Is this more important than my relationship with my employees? Or my reputation?
In most cases, reflecting on these questions helps you keep small issues in check. You’ll also want to give some thought, however, to whether there’s a bigger issue just beneath the surface. Using smaller problems as a diversion from the bigger ones provides an effective distraction from tackling life’s larger challenges, but doesn’t do much to help us solve underlying issues.
3. Minor projects are infinitely refined and “perfected” but your company hasn’t come up with a strong new idea in ages
One of the most common ways entrepreneurs become their own worst enemies is by focusing too heavily on things that don’t deserve so much attention. For whatever reason – be it fear of failure, fear of success, or something else altogether – people fall into the habit of spending too much time perfecting existing projects when they should be thinking about what’s next.
Not giving yourself enough time to create and innovate is one of the biggest ways to become your own worst business enemy. Your primary job as the business owner is to create that overarching vision for your company, and then work with your team to figure out how to achieve that vision. If you’re not even allowing yourself the time to do so, you’re fighting an uphill battle without reinforcements. After all, no one else can really do this kind of work for you.
To combat this tendency, try keeping a log of your time for two weeks. Track your time in fifteen minute increments to help figure out where you’re spending the majority of your attention and energy. Then carve out uninterrupted “CEO time,” and schedule it as if it’s a firm appointment you cannot reschedule or miss. Give yourself at least three hours a week to work on new ideas for your company.
It’s hard to be objective about our own behaviour and surroundings. Instead, use your colleagues, employees, and environment as a mirror to reflect back to you the reality of how you are perceived and the ways that perception is impacting your business. Then take the appropriate action to mitigate those challenges.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Why Elon Musk’s Vision Should Change Your Business
If you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backward, there’s no sitting on the fence, its one or the other.
It’s about the big picture
Elon Musk is the kind of guy who probably divides the room wherever he goes; in the same way that people either prefer Superman or Batman, soccer or rugby, maybe summer or winter. There’s no sitting on the fence. It’s one or the other. You either like Elon Musk or you don’t. But this article is not about him, its about you and how you are leading your business.
Love him or hate him, I don’t believe any business leader can get away from the fact that Elon Musk, possibly more than any other contemporary entrepreneur, is going to have an influence over your business. And if he doesn’t, he should, not as an individual as much as an archetype.
In the early 2000s another famous South African born entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth was the first South African to become a space tourist. We were all proud, and asked ourselves what we would do if we had billions of Rands… how would you spend it? Mark’s rigorous preparation and orbit in space riveted the nation, from coffee break conversations to television documentaries and Grade 5 school projects. Everyone was talking about it. Mark’s trip was ultimately the fulfilment of one man’s personal ambition, a dream long-held and finally fulfilled.
Aligning the planets
Elon Musk seems to be a different kind of dreamer. He does not only dream for himself, he dreams for humanity and that is rare. It is also why I think that his vision is something that every business leader should take note of. Look at any Start-up:101 Pitch Deck and you’ll likely see Guy Kawasaki’s famous 10, 20, 30 format and the first slide trying to answer the question, “What problem are you solving?”
Imagine setting yourself the problem of transitioning humanity into becoming a “multi-planetary species”, as Musk famously declared in a 2017 TED interview, and if that’s not enough, you are also working to revolutionise transport and save the environment through clean energy. In my view, Elon Musk (flawed as he may be) represents, two essential qualities that are absolutely indispensable for leaders and businesses of the future: Hope and Vision.
The lever that Musk has chosen to crank open the future, restore hope and unlock his vision, is technology. Misunderstood and much maligned, technology; like Musk, also instantly divides a room.
Technophiles on the one side, technophobes on the other and you must choose. You cannot half use technology, you either opt in or you opt out. The only choice is whether you will use technology responsibly or not. This is no small question and something that many business leaders (including Musk) have shown some commitment to by adding their support to organisations such as the Future of Life Institute.
Ships are not built to stay in the harbour
Technology is agnostic, it is neither good or bad. It’s influence lies in how you choose to use it. With so much talk about the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), and how it is going to impact our lives and, in a business context, the lives of our employees it seems prudent that, as leaders, we establish a clear vision for technology in our businesses with due cognisance of how it is likely to impact our staff and our customers alike.
A business that integrates machine learning and AI into its business management system, for example, may in future have unprecedented access to information, provide intuitive robotic support 24/7, and the power to influence behaviour. This goes beyond ‘old-school’ marketing and advertising, heading into untested waters.
While we should rightly rely on our policy makers and legislators to put regulatory frameworks in place to guide how we use technology, as business leaders we should already be taking the first steps towards developing a technology-use policy in our businesses.
Like Musk, our aim should be to bring hope and share a vision. A hope that, even with the threat of diminishing resources in our businesses, we are up to the task of conceiving novel and exciting alternatives that, even if it looks different than in the past, are able to meet the needs of our people. And a vision, not just to increase shareholder value or to be the leaders in our field, but something aspirational.
A commitment to lift eyes and hearts with a big vision, maybe not for interplanetary travel, but at least to let your Enterprise boldly go where it has not gone before, not as a tourist, but as the captain of your ship. Because if you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backward, there’s no sitting on the fence, its one or the other.
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