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The First Rule for Fast Growing Businesses? Scale Yourself

If you don’t, you might find that you’re your business’s own worst enemy. I’ve had personal experience with this. If you don’t scale yourself into the leader your business needs, you’ll just end up dragging everyone down.

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In 2007, at the tender age of 25, I made the leap from a background in strategy consulting, corporate management, and SME management, to starting a business. Driven by a passion to solve the unemployment crisis in South Africa, I launched Edge Growth to help entrepreneurs grow their businesses fast.

In 2008, we built our corporate advisory business, to help large South African corporations grow their suppliers. In 2009, I handed that over to start building our second business unit, an SME investment business. We raised capital from a bank and started a fund to provide risk capital to high-growth businesses.

Related: Are You A Calibrator?

Trying to grow through the financial crisis

The timing was awful, coinciding with the global financial crisis and recession of 2008 to 2010. All banks were under immense pressure and that pressure translated directly into highly stressed executives placing immense pressure on us.

At one point, we were given an ultimatum to achieve totally unrealistic targets or we’d be fired (resulting in our business being shut down). The pressure was unbelievable. I felt like I was gripped in a bear hug, inside a pressure cooker, at the bottom of the ocean. I was sleeping two to three hours a night and was chronically hyper-anxious.

Could you be the problem in your business?

Increasingly, I realised my team hated working with me. The pressure was breaking down trust and we were constantly in conflict. Team performance took a dive, and good people left. Slowly I had to confront the reality that it was me. It was my fault. I was the problem. It’s not easy realising the biggest problem in your own business is you.

The level of leadership required under the circumstances had outgrown me. I had become the main constraint to our business.

Nearly a decade later, with a few honorary degrees from the school of business building (plus a litany of battle scars) under my belt, it’s become obvious to me that the experience was inevitable. Building a business is tough, full stop. But I was also building a fund for the first time and building a business for the first time. I was an executive with zero support structures (unlike in corporate settings) for the first time. I was figuring things out along the way and frankly, at the age of 30, I had a lot to figure out.

You need more skills to experience prolonged growth

The problem is that 18-hour work days don’t give you much room or time to think about yourself, your business or where you need to improve and develop. Growing rapidly under those circumstances, it was inevitable that I’d discover the ceiling of my business management ability was too low. I’ve since learnt that this is true of almost all entrepreneurs scaling a business fast, for the first time.

Over the years, I’ve seen the same pattern playing out in most of the fast growing businesses we invest in or advise: The business outgrows the leadership and the CEO or top two to three people become the biggest constraint in the business.

It was through my own painful experience — and that of other CEOs I walked the road with — that I learnt the painful lesson, what got you here, won’t get you there.

Keep upskilling yourself to continue your business’ growth

The skills and disciplines that made you successful up until now and created your current opportunities, are insufficient to make you successful in those opportunities. As a business grows, the skills required to run that business change, and get increasingly difficult to build.

Most entrepreneurs don’t have the skills to run a larger, more complex organisation beyond a 20 to 50-person headcount. These businesses take a lot of time and effort to build, and the owners are so trapped in the hyper-pressure vortex of day-to-day business that they do nothing about gearing up their own management capabilities to match the needs of a scaled business.

Soon enough, the business ‘gets stuck’ in No Man’s Land, constantly repeating a chaotic fight for survival, because its complexity is just too much for the level of managerial competence.

Related: Learn From The Best: This System Helps Google Measure Their Success

Seeing this pattern play out painfully in business after business has convinced me that the single biggest constraint to economic growth and job creation in South Africa is this issue: CEOs in fast growing businesses becoming outgrown by their successful businesses.

I’m so passionate about this issue I’ve launched a new business to solve this problem. It’s called The 10X Entrepreneur. Our mission is to help founders 10X themselves and their teams, so that they can 10X their businesses.

4 Key tips to scaling a company

If you’re scaling a company for the first time, here are my key tips:

  1. Study business scaling. Jim Collins and Jack Welch books are great. An MBA is useful, but they are woefully inadequate for the job of scaling a business from the ground up. Know the specific journey of scaling a business: The crises, transitions, and what it means for your job as a leader.
  2. Focus on your skills. Implement an accelerated personal growth system to build your Scale-Up CEO skills – See Are You (Realistically) Ready To Scale Your Business
  3. (Carefully) add competent executives to your senior team. Building critical mass of executive management competence radically accelerates your own growth as a competent entrepreneurial executive. Make sure they are the rare breed that thrive at building from the ground up, not just running organisations that are already built with procedures in place.
  4. Make the building of great management systems a primary priority. Learn by doing. But get the help of consultants. Learn from gurus in a quasi-one-on-one coaching relationship and attend business bootcamps.

Jason Goldberg is co-founder of Edge Growth, the Vumela Fund, and 10X-e. He is an electrical engineer, former Bain & Co strategy consultant, and has spent the last ten years starting, funding and scaling businesses. He specialises in helping scale-up stage CEOs on the road from ten to 1 000 people. @Edge_Growth

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Leading

Leadership: What Is Your Why? (Read Purpose)

Stop the violence that you inflict upon yourself with that type of nonsensical chatter and replace it with loving words. Most importantly…… (Wait for the drumroll) …….. Yes you guessed it …………FIND YOUR WHY!!

Dirk Coetsee

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“We know what we are, but know not what we may become” – William Shakespeare

What moves you?

What moves you? To me it’s Connor McGregor straining his potential in every training session and then some more. When everyone tires and wants to give up during training with him, he asks everyone, “How badly do you want it?”, and then providing the example, trains even harder.

Rumi’s’ poetry reaches the depth of my soul and reveals my own scars to me. Rag ‘n Bone Mans’ song “Skin” stirs within the depths of my heart and beckons me to a deep sense of longing. Above all what moves me is the transformation from disbelief to belief. From hate to love and from lack of self-confidence to being on fire. That look in someone’s’ eyes when they truly and unconditionally love you shakes the very ground around me.

Related: Leadership: Honesty Is The First Chapter In The Book Of Wisdom

That is my purpose, my why to facilitate transformations and to coach and teach whether it is by voice or ink. What is yours? And how badly do you want it? Are you prepared to do what others will not to be a success as an entrepreneur? Are you willing to fail several times and tirelessly apply the learnings from it?

Find your why. If you cannot find a coach to help you find your why, but find your why. Not finding your why means a life of doing things that you have no real passion for, doing things that is not authentically you. That saddens me and hopefully you too, because there is nothing that ensures your long term failure more as an entrepreneur than doing things that you have no passion for, purely to survive.

Are you happy?

Most of all: Are you happy, truly happy?

If not that is your queue for a transformation. Money without happiness is trivial, business success without a full heart is empty. Can you have both business success and happiness? Yes, a yes that echoes throughout eternity, which is if you have made money as a by-product of living your “why”.

William Badenhorst, (MD of Global Strengths) a coach to the coaches says, “Let your test be your testimony, and let your mess be your message.” I want to add to that and say, AND FIND YOUR WHY. Socrates wisely exclaimed: “Know thyself”. How can you know yourself if you haven’t found what truly moves you, what you are truly passionate about?

When you have found you’re why you are willing to work harder than anyone else. And when you have worked really, really hard at something it is very much harder to give up on it as opposed to something you have made half-hearted attempts at.

Both attaining entrepreneurial success and happiness is indeed reaching dizzying heights and therefore very challenging. Indeed therefore everything worth attaining is challenging. Most people find at least some comfort in the status quo even when the status quo does not paint a very appealing picture. It is challenging to leave the known of the status quo for the unknown of your true purpose.

Are you brave enough to transform? Have you suffered enough? Or do you want to linger a little bit longer in the ease of your comfort zone where, unfortunately, no growth is possible?

True Leaders and Entrepreneurs become comfortable with the discomfort of growth. Is this a tough ask? Yes, the ones telling you it is easy are in general, delusional. I will always advocate being mentored or coached purely because it is extremely hard to be totally objective about yourself, by yourself.

Related: Leadership: Total Commitment To The Purpose Of The Business

Self-confidence

Self-love (tempered by humility) and Self-confidence (not arrogance) is a requirement to live an exemplary life of purpose as a leader which others would love to aspire to. As Ralph Waldo Emmerson said:

“If I have lost confidence in myself, I have the universe against me.”

Find and have faith in your purpose and back yourself because if you will not, whom will? Love yourself by speaking to yourself with love. Honestly answer the following question: Would you speak to others openly as you would speak to yourself? Why are we in general violent to ourselves saying things like: “ I am worthless”, I am not good enough”, “I am not as good as….”? Stop the violence that you inflict upon yourself with that type of nonsensical chatter and replace it with loving words. Most importantly…… (Wait for the drumroll) …….. Yes you guessed it …………FIND YOUR WHY!!

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Leading

3 Tips For Succeeding After You Fail

Failure is pretty much inevitable. What comes afterward is a choice.

Tor Constantino

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If you’re an entrepreneur, you will fail. It might not be a complete meltdown, but you will experience a failure of some aspect of your venture at some point.

My first business failure occurred during my mid-20s. I tried to launch a product I invented, which was a durable, pocket-size strap that carried different kinds of recreational sports gear.

After determining the market need and securing piece-work manufacturing, as well as retail packaging complete with trademarked logo, I had several thousand units in hand.

Distribution was, ultimately, the one trick I couldn’t turn and ended in failure. I tried everything I could think of. I engaged several independent and sporting goods retail chains that weren’t interested in the hassle of adding a single-product vendor to their ops management systems.

I offered to give hundreds of units away to dozens of specialty ski, skateboard and inline skating shops on consignment to “seed the market” but was rejected. They all said my product undercut higher-margin competing products.

I tried to contract with different retail brokers to add my product to their sell-in portfolios, but was rejected three times due to the low-price point for my product and limited margin potential.

Related: Flourishing Through Failure And Finding Fortune

The greatest success I had was when I broke even for a catalog ad I purchased in a Sharper Image-type printed publication.

Mind you, this was all pre-Google, Amazon, PayPal or eBay when ecommerce was still finding its way on the Interwebs. However, my lack of offline success drove me to have a developer build my own ecommerce website (at great expense at the time) with an incredibly clunky, pricey payment system managed by Visa.

Sad to say, I shuttered the website after six months due to lack of sales and lack of traffic caused by the overall lack of consumer confidence in the whole “internet spending thing” at the time. During the three-year span of this odyssey from my initial concept to collapse, I had spent countless hours and in excess of $40,000 trying to convert my vision into a viable venture.

As a 20-something kid, I felt like a complete failure. I was afraid to ever try again, but eventually I did – several times – and had success. Fast forward 20 years and here’s what I would share with the failed entrepreneur I was back then.

Failure is painful but not fatal

Failure is not final, fatal nor forever. I had a great mentor who completely re-framed my thinking regarding failure when he told me:

“If you’re not failing, you’re not trying hard enough.”

That phrase has been a touchstone through tough times during my subsequent entrepreneurial endeavours.

Related: Why, When You Fail, You Should ‘Fail Forward’

Fail faster

Back then I thought I had to exhaust all my distribution options, which took a significant amount of time and resources, because I didn’t want to look back in 20 years and say “what if?”

In retrospect, I’m glad I did it then but there are signs I should have seen sooner. For instance, the first retail broker who rejected my product was very clear that my effort to keep the retail price under $10 for the consumer did not make it worth his while to sell it.

I should have bundled it with another product or enhanced it in some way to boost it to a higher price point, but I naively thought he was just being porky before two other potential brokers I engaged had schooled me on the economics of their services.

Looking back now, I could have compressed my failure cycle by at least 50 percent if I had been more teachable then.

Find insights from failure

At the time, $40K was all the money in the world and (thanks to scholarships I had earned) was eight times more than my total college student loans. But, I learned a lot about intellectual property, financing, materials sourcing, vendor research and selection, production timelines, operations management, sales and marketing as well as ecommerce. I came to view that lost $40K as a masterclass in real-world business. Most importantly, I learned what I didn’t know and that propelled me to pursue my M.B.A.. degree, which my then-employer paid for.

In hindsight, I perceive this greatest failure has been my greatest success because I earned it and learned from it. No one is immune to failing, but we must understand that it is not an ending but rather a beginning – if we choose so.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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4 Tips To Become A Team Whisperer (And Improve Your Employee Engagement)

Engaged employees are motivated, innovative and willing to take on more responsibility.

Pieter Scholtz

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Your team needs to be nurtured on an ongoing basis if you want to attract and retain the best employees. You can hire people, you can fire people, and you can tell them what to do. But you can’t make them like what they do. Some business leaders are content with having an unhappy team; as long as they do what they are paid to do then the state of their mental health is seen as superfluous.

This line of thinking is not only wrong, but it is entirely counterproductive to the continued survival of a business. Gallup has run some excellent pieces that demonstrate the difference between engaged and disengaged employees. In particular, they list several additional things that engaged employees bring to the table: Motivation, innovation, and a willingness to take on more responsibility within the company. So how can you keep your team engaged?

That level of motivation contrasts greatly with employees who don’t even want to be there. They do their jobs, but they never put in more than the bare minimum of effort. Don’t expect them to ever go beyond what their job description requires, and if there is a chance for them to duck out of work without getting fired, they’ll take it. Obviously, you don’t want to have a team that consists of these people. But without the right knowledge of how to motivate a team, you’ll find yourself unable to inspire your employees to go above and beyond what is required of them.

Related: How You Can Make Leadership Excellence An Effortless Effort

A great company cannot exist without great employees, and there are steps you can take to mould them into the people you want to have working for you. These tips are proven methods of getting your employees to be engaged in what they do, and anybody can learn to apply them.

1. Be a team, not a dictatorship

Every ship needs a strong captain, but that doesn’t mean that you have to spend every second reminding your employees who’s the boss. Your employees look to you for guidance, but they also want to feel as though you are in tune with everything that is going on. Some managers come off as though they are giving mandates from heaven, or worse, they rattle off long lists of orders because they don’t want to do the work themselves.

If you give the directive and then pitch in to reach the goal, you’ll show your employees that they are all part of a team, and they sink or swim together.

2. Give them a chance to shine

It’s true that some people are placidly content with being a cog in the wheel. I’m sure you know of at least one person who is sitting in a job they are relatively indifferent to just so they can collect a pension in twenty years. Those that fit that mould will gravitate towards jobs that give few chances to stand out and plenty of job security. For those who want to achieve more, they will never settle for a job pushing pencils all day.

Related: Effective leadership – Serving Your Team To Serve Your Clients

These restless employees are always looking for a way to prove to you that they are capable of so much more than low-level work. Denying them this opportunity will either push them to greener pastures, or if they can’t/won’t quit, cause them to become disillusioned with what they do.

If you find somebody who wants to prove themselves, let them. An employee who shows the initiative and drive to better themselves is a person who will bring your business an incredible amount of value. Don’t waste this potential.

3. Don’t take them for granted — show your gratitude

This goes beyond a simple “thank you,” although those two words can have quite a bit of power in themselves. If your employees feel like their contributions are not recognised or rewarded, they will feel little incentive to go above and beyond in what they do. How you show this gratitude is as important as the action itself, because a perceived token gesture is even more insulting than a lack of a reward. Put another way, if somebody comes up with a million-dollar idea and you give them a monogrammed lanyard as a gift, don’t expect that person to stick around. Rewarding achievement is the flip side to punishing failure, and a balance between both is necessary to craft the ideal team.

As intuitive as these three traits seem, you probably know from personal experience that a lot of managers don’t quite know how to implement these strategies effectively.

Related: Leadership Hustle: A Modern View On Leadership

4. Share the bigger picture with them

A really important element of keeping your team engaged is to share the bigger picture with them. This involves amongst others:

  • Constantly communicate the Vision and Mission of your business to your team. If your team can buy into why the business was started, where it is headed and why you exist as a business, they will be able to be as passionate as you are.
  • Provide a monthly update on how the business is tracking against its plan and this will empower them to focus on the areas that matter most to the business at that time. This includes sharing financials with the team — here one needs to take into account any legislation that might be applicable — but the more you share, the more you show your team that they are trusted with the information as well as being able to make better decisions that affect the business.
  • Keeping your team engaged, excited and energised is a pre-requisite to developing a high performing team that is able to take the business to the next level. It takes a team of dedicated people to build a successful business. Without this team, your ability to expand at the rate you had planned to will be severely hampered.

IN YOUR TOOLKIT

Become a leader that inspires greatness

multipliers-how-the-best-leaders-make-everyone-smarter-by-liz-wisemanREAD THIS: Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter, By Liz Wiseman.

Multipliers is profound. It’s been lifechanging for me and everyone that works with me. Leadership is not about having the best answers. You need to ask the best questions, and what happens is that you are turning people into productive engines. Micro-managing stops people from thinking for themselves as they wait for answers from you. The principle is that micro-management on that level means you are paying people 100% salary for 50% productivity. The multipliers effect allows you to pay 100% salary for 200% productivity.” — Robin Olivier, co-founder and MD of Digicape, a R240-million business based in Cape Town. Go to multipliersbooks.com for additional tips, tricks and surveys.

 


WATCH THIS

Radical Candor means challenging employees directly and showing you care personally at the same time. It will help you and your team do the best work of your lives.

Developed by Kim Scott — who led AdSense, YouTube, and Doubleclick Online Sales and Operations at Google and then joined Apple to develop and teach a leadership seminar — Radical Candor is all about becoming a leader who is both respected and followed, without being falsely ‘nice’.

There are two great YouTube videos that will give you her tips and lessons in under 20 minutes:

And if you’re interested in really unpacking the lessons behind radical candor, read the book: Radical Candor: Be a Kickass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity.

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