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MAD Leadership Skills: Our Perspectives

Let’s have a look at some aspects around reasons for starting a business, the challenges faced and critical lessons learned.

Spencer Horne and Tshinondiwa Thovhakale

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Some entrepreneurial skills can be taught while others need to be experienced. It is possible to gain skills while working for someone else, but there are perspectives that you can miss if you have not started your own initiative. Let’s have a look at some aspects around reasons for starting a business, the challenges faced and critical lessons learned.

The people who contributed to this content are from different fields of life, in various industries, with a variety of unique goals and ambitions.

Why Start an Entrepreneurial Initiative?

Some people start ventures because they have a good idea, some want to make a difference, and some are lucky enough to have witnessed a family member beginning a legacy. Three themes have been highlighted by our contributors this week:

Entrepreneurship is About Building Your Own or Expanding upon a Family

Member’s Legacy 

Tshinondiwa Thovhakale has started a transport company and has done this because of the memories she shares below: “Growing up I had a good relationship with my dad. I have some of the best memories of him. He owned his own taxi business and drove one of them. He would come to school and fetch me, and before dropping me home, we would go to the taxi rank, take people, and I’d sit in front next to him and count money for him. Then do the normal rounds of dropping people at their destinations, and then he’d take me home and go back to work. I think all that grew on me. When he stopped and made other deals with his taxis, I felt it was our legacy, and I couldn’t let it die like that.”

Related: The Kindling Of The Entrepreneur Spirit

Entrepreneurship is About Following Your Passion:

Spencer Horne stated:

“I wanted to work directly on the needs and problems that are my passion. The independence of starting a business and choosing exactly what to work on has been one of the most fulfilling aspects of my work. “

Entrepreneurship is About Making a Difference:

Many entrepreneurs start a venture because of a need that they would like to fulfil in the market. Some love the idea of feeling good by doing good and making a living out of it.

Things to Think About

Five challenges identified this week are:

  • Networking is essential: People don’t always seek new businesses to uplift, the help their associates, leverage this to your benefit and establish a network of influencers, support, and contacts in the industry.
  • Getting and keeping talent is a task: Especially initially when resources are limited, and you have a lot to do and achieve to grow your business, and cannot do it all alone.
  • You may encounter cultural/societal biases –  learn to use it to your advantage and set a precedent in the industry of what you can achieve: For example, being a female in transport, people may undermine you if they see the industry as a “man’s world” – show them why they’re wrong.
  • You need to make your opportunities when starting a business: There are fewer opportunities when on your own, and you need to build a relationship base to spread your reach. Tenders are often given to the same people and fundraising is one of the most time-consuming aspects of starting or scaling a business. It’s not something that is always enjoyed, and unfortunately, it must take priority over all else until it is achieved.
  • Persistence and flexibility should be balanced: Ironically one needs both an unfaltering belief in what you are doing and the flexibility to pivot out in response to the market. This is one of the most significant and most difficult responsibilities of a business leader.

Lessons Learnt

You need to make your own path

There is no blueprint. Your particular path to building your business will be different to that of others. At times you may learn from the experiences of other entrepreneurs, but be careful of comparisons. Be prepared for the detours and bumps along the road and be sure to take the time to enjoy the journey.

Related: Entrepreneurship Is All About Overcoming Obstacles

The importance of being patient

Patience is vital. Always have back up plans. It is best to venture into a business that you’re passionate about, because it’s the love for the business that will whisper the words “try again, just one more time” every time a challenge comes your way.

The importance of noticing the small wins

Entrepreneurship is a journey and in many cases, a challenging one. With this in mind, it is easy to get frustrated, lose patience and give up. At points, you may feel like no progress has been made. This is when people should remind themselves of the journey that they’ve already walked. It’s important to celebrate the small successes so that we stay positive and forge ahead.

Bringing it All Together

Entrepreneurship isn’t easy, but it is needed. It makes many people happy and helps create jobs and uplift communities. People start initiatives for different reasons, and we all experience challenges. It is through these challenges that we learn and grow.

Spencer Horne is a South African entrepreneur who is passionate about using technology to improve lives in developing contexts. He studied mechanical engineering at Harvard, where after he returned to South Africa in a management consulting role. He has previously worked for African startups such as Kenyan Car Maker, Mobius Motors; and South African electric car pioneer, Optimal Energy. His current focus is Cloudline, a company he founded to bring logistics access to the continent's most marginalised. Cloudline is an early stage unmanned aviation startup, that brings essential goods to people in remote, hard-to-reach places. It utilizes autonomous airships to bridge the infrastructural gap faced by 1 billion people worldwide, by sustainably carrying large payloads into areas that have no paved roads or runways. The concept has been recognised by the Airbus Bizlab and the World Food Programme Innovation Accelerator. Tshinondiwa Thovhakale grew up in a village with her family who relied on their entrepreneurship skills as their only source of income. It is no surprise that she shares the same passion and determination that she was surrounded with as a child. Tshinondiwa’s father is in the transport industry and has inspired her to follow in his footsteps. From a young age she shadowed her father in his taxi and has gained years of insights into the industry. At 22 Tshinondiwa began her own venture, Vayee Logistics, in the big city of Johannesburg. Vayee Logistics focuses on transporting the general public of South Africa, looking at venturing into bigger contracts by providing her service to bigger companies for staff transport. Not only is Tshinondiwa making movements in her career in transport but she also shares a love for acting. She continues to pursue her acting career alongside her transport company and has been featured on the 3rd biggest soap opera, Muvhango.

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Crisis Management In A Digital Age

If you’re at a loss for how to go about jumping into the fray of social media commenting and opinions, here are a few tips to protect you, your business, and your brand’s reputation.

Darren Mansour

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In business, you can’t ignore what’s being said about you online. Most importantly, you need to respond appropriately. The internet is a free-for-all of consumer commentary, inevitably, some of it can be damaging.

Crisis management comes with the Online reputation management (ORM) territory of changing negative sentiment around your brand into a positive.

It can be difficult to know how to respond, keep things positive, or change the sentiment around your brand. If you’re at a loss for how to go about jumping into the fray of social media commenting and opinions, here are a few tips to protect you, your  business, and your brand’s reputation.

1. Avoid a Knee Jerk Reaction

Reading what could be perceived as negative commentary on your brand, business, products, services, or employees, can cause you to jump straight into responding by justifying yourself or trying to show that the consumer is off the mark and misinformed. These are normal reactions, but it isn’t necessarily going to help your brand or positively push your online presence.

Rule number one is not to place blame, especially on the consumer or commenter, even if the comment is negative, false, or misleading. Rule number two is never to take it personally and do not to respond emotionally or in an accository fashion.

Pay attention, think it through, then respond in a calm, professional and appropriate way. Set a clear ORM response policy around commenting and responding to comments.

Related: Crisis Management: Fail To Prepare, Prepare To Fail

2. Consider Comments as Free Research

Think of the comments you receive on social media, both good and bad, as consumer research. Keep a record of your comments and responses, tips, questions, suggestions, and key problems. You’ll find that your customer, fan, and follower will give you valuable information that you would not otherwise have.

The idea is to change negative sentiment around your brand into positive while at the same time leveraging off the information and data gained through this process. This perspective will assist you to see the value in this engagement with your brand. Online Reputation Management should be a daily task. This is all part of maintaining your online reputation and digital media presence.

3. Remember That Everyone’s Reading Your Responses

The most important reason to respond to both positive and negative comments is because everyone else on that thread is reading the banter. The amount of people reading the comments usually outweighs those actively participating in the conversation by commenting. They are all paying close attention to how the business and brand responds.

Related: How To ‘Crisis-Proof’ your Company

Appropriately responding to less negative comments presents the opportunity to demonstrate how connected the brand is with their consumer, it is the perfect platform to solve potential problems and defuse particular situations. When a business listens and responds to feedback online, in an appropriate manner, a sense of trust is created. It shows that the brand is prepared to go above and beyond. This can stretch far beyond the commenter.

4. Hire Talent To Do Your Responding

In order to fully tap into the benefits of social media you should consider getting a specialist on board to manage your social content along with the responses that this content creates. It is important to be on the same page as your marketing team. If you are looking for an agency with the experience, guts, and glory to carry your brand, then get in touch with So Interactive for your digital marketing needs.

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How Entrepreneurs Can Make Good Decisions Quickly

Below are some tips on how you can do just that.

Amy Galbraith

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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.

Related: 6 Common Decision-Making Blunders That Could Kill Your Business

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.

Related: 5 Bad Decision-Making Habits That Can Destroy Your Business

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.

Keep calm

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.

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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.

Amy Galbraith

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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.

Related: Government Funding And Grants For Small Businesses

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.

Related: How South African Small Business Owners Can Overcome Economic Uncertainty

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.

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