While finishing up a meeting one morning with an old friend, Alice recommended a business to me that she felt would be an ideal company for Raizcorp to partner with. I had met the entrepreneur she recommended a year earlier and remembered that Peter* lacked energy. He showed no excitement or interest in his business and was not clear on where he wanted to take it, referring to it as “a nice way to make some money.”
His general demeanour was one of someone who drained you of energy, and I remember feeling relieved when he left the party.
A promising prospect?
I valued Alice’s recommendation and opinion on the business because I’d known her for many years, and I concluded that Peter could have perhaps just had an ‘off’ night at the function where I met him. I raised this contradiction at my next meeting with my mentor.
I explained my dilemma to him, as well as the fact that I had known Alice for many years, and her decisions to invest in companies had always been extremely accurate and strategic, because they were based on large amounts of thorough research. Yet I felt uncomfortable with the experience I had had with this particular entrepreneur. Her recommendation contradicted the experience.
“What about this business has you feeling anxious?” my mentor asked. “I am not convinced that Peter has adequate business knowledge because he is in his early 30s and has only just started his new venture,” I explained.
“My first impression of him when I met him at the dinner was that he was low on energy and quite unfocused. I asked him about his business and his replies were short and imprecise, which left me feeling unsure of his ability to pull off what he was trying to sell to me.”
“Have you asked anyone else for feedback on this young entrepreneur and his business?” my mentor asked.
“Alice is someone I deeply respect, so I contacted Peter’s previous employer for a reference and they gave him a phenomenal one. However, working for a corporate is not the same as working in your own business where you are the owner and leader.”
Culture follows character
“A dog looks like its owner, just as a business looks like its leader,” commented my mentor. “In my experience, high energy and highly driven leaders create high energy and highly driven organisations. Low energy and timid leaders create low energy and uninspired organisations. So when you met Peter, if your first impression was that he was lethargic and unfocused, his business’ culture would most likely take on those characteristics.”
After considering my concerns about Peter, my mentor asked: “Does Peter have a business partner? Very often two business partners will balance each other out and bring two sets of skills and characteristics into a business.”
“No,” I replied, understanding the implications of the answer. “But he received such a good reference from his corporate boss?”
A tennis match on a grass court
“Tennis players who are strong at playing on clay courts are generally not as strong when it comes to playing matches on grass courts – they are two completely different games, each with their own set of conditions,” my mentor said.
In this story about the tennis matches on different court surfaces, I understood the lesson he was teaching me. If Peter had spent the last few years finessing his clay-court game for the corporate environment, then that would not automatically mean he would do well in a grass court game, which equates to running his own business.
“I would back my own experience of the entrepreneur over the recommendations of others, especially others who have experienced him in a different context. However, listening to your feedback, I would not back this one,” my mentor said confidently.
I later sent an email to the young entrepreneur and declined his offer.
* Not his real name.
Be Clark Kent, Not Superman: 5 Simple Ways To Become The Office Superhero
Not all heroes wear capes. Here’s how you can build goodwill in the workplace and have coworkers singing your praises.
A superhero goes above and beyond to help others, and if you work in the same space as your team, you know that working together isn’t just about, well, work.
It’s about creating a harmonious environment where people feel included, important and happy. You probably spend nearly as much time (if not more) with your coworkers as you do with your family.
So why wouldn’t you take the time to cultivate office relationships, the same way you do in other walks of life?
It doesn’t have to be a grind developing these relationships. You don’t need to bring in bagels or coffee every morning or put in 60-hour weeks. All it really takes is a little thoughtfulness and the willingness to do things outside of your job description.
Here are five great examples of what you can do in your office that will make you the office superhero.
1. Do the dishes
If your office has a communal kitchen, you’ve probably gone in for a snack, only to see the sink is so full of dirty dishes and leftover food that you lose your appetite. Who wants to deal with that? Often, this situation can result in passive-aggressive emails about community hygiene.
The problem, though, is that no one wants to think of themselves as a dishwasher. They think it’s not part of the job description — and they’re probably right.
But, if your business has a kitchen, you probably know which person in the office washes the dishes and appreciate their effort.
It’s not as though you need to hand-wash everything. Simply being willing to occasionally unload the dishwasher is an appreciated gesture that your coworkers will notice.
2. Remember birthdays
Your coworkers want to feel special and seen, and remembering a birthday will make them feel like they’re more than just another cog in the machine.
Set some sort of calendar notification on your smartphone so you know when it’s someone’s birthday. Then, either before work or during lunch, you can go out and grab a card or small treat that will let them know you remembered and care.
3. Solve tech issues
So many businesses are dependent on computers, iPads, WiFi and a million other tech tools and gadgets, but many of those businesses don’t have a dedicated IT worker. However, the great thing about the internet is that you can learn how to fix a lot of tech problems just by Googling it.
I have very little tech expertise, but I am always willing to learn how to do new things — plus, I enjoy fixing things. I recently helped set up a printer in our office, which allowed all of my coworkers to look at important business and personal documents.
Now, whenever someone in the office needs help with a tech problem, they ask me first. I help new employees set up their tech and help everyone else stay happy with their devices.
It’s an essential service for a digital media company like Entrepreneur, and I know the people in the office appreciate my willingness to find solutions.
4. Come in early or be willing to stay late
It’s often a good idea to arrive early at work, because it shows you are responsible and sets the standard for the rest of the day. (However, I’m not saying you should make it a habit to both come in early and stay late.)
But, if your coworkers are stressed out and working on a tight deadline, you can look like a hero by staying late and helping them accomplish their mission.
People remember the people who help them, especially when they go out of the way to do so. Working late into the night to complete something important can be incredibly rewarding and can bond colleagues together. Just make sure you are selective about your moments to step in and help — you don’t want to become the person who stays late all the the time.
5. Be graceful when someone makes a mistake
Everyone makes mistakes in the office. Some of those are big, some of them are small. Most of them you don’t even realize you’ve made until someone else points them out.
That’s why it’s great to treat others’ mistakes with grace. If someone makes an honest mistake, try to help them without embarrassing them.
For example, if I make typos in my stories, my coworkers and editors step in and clean up the typo without shaming me.
Sometimes, they tell me my mistake so I can do better in the future. They’re not looking for credit. They just want to help. And that’s what being an office hero is all about.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Here’s Why Every Entrepreneur Needs A Business Mentor
There’s no success to be found when you’re standing still or alone.
Some entrepreneurs may look at their success and think it insulting to consider talking to a business mentor. And others may look at their struggles and think it’s the only solution to getting the business back on its feet. Neither of these views are correct in terms of what a business mentor can do for a business.
What a business mentor is
Before we get into reasons why, we need to clearly define what a business mentor is and that should already start clearing up the reasons why you’d need one. A business mentor is a well-established person in an industry who offers to impart their knowledge and experience to lesser experienced entrepreneurs and employees.
One could consider business mentors as a more personal relationship than one would have with a business consultant, but just as beneficial (if not more). Business mentors are basically business consultants, except you don’t (always) have to pay for their advice and mentorship. It’s a mentorship relationship and partnership. So, regardless of who you are and how successful your company is, every entrepreneur needs a business mentor and here’s why.
Related: How can I find a mentor?
There will never be “nothing more to learn”
At no point in any person’s life will they be able to say “I know absolutely everything and there’s nothing more for me to learn”. It may feel that way, but sit down with a business mentor for five minutes and your mind will be swirling with questions. We learn something new every day and with the help of a business mentor, the “something new” will always be related to business and have the potential to lead to business success. Isn’t that something that every entrepreneur dreams of?
There will always be something for entrepreneurs in every industry to learn. Technology is forever developing and providing new innovative ways for industries to work and that’s something entrepreneurs need to stay on top of.
Every bit of experience is beneficial
Now, you may be wondering how a business mentor can help when the years of experience they offer is from a time period where technology wasn’t as great a factor as it is today. And the answer is consistency. While the face of the world changes, there are certain constructs that remain exactly the same and business mentors will be able to teach you about these fundamentals that consumers rely on and need in order to adapt to the changing world.
Every bit of experience that mentors offer their mentees is valuable and beneficial. Entrepreneurs are usually so caught up in the bigger picture that they forget about the smaller, background details that are, in fact, the cornerstones of that end goal. Mentors have been there, made those mistakes and are here to make sure you don’t go down the same paths that caused them business trouble.
So, while their information may seem “outdated”, basic principles never change and should not be overlooked.
Everyone needs a support system
Having the weight of the business rest on your shoulders can be a mentally and emotionally draining responsibility. Entrepreneurs don’t only look to business mentors for advice but for support as well.
Everyone needs a support system and, in business, this means having a mentor. Someone who can back up the difficult business decisions you make and who can listen to the inevitable ranting sessions that follow a rough day in the office. They’re also someone to let you know that you’re doing a better job than you give yourself credit for and someone who can talk some sense into you when you go off the rails a little bit (this happens to all entrepreneurs, don’t worry).
It opens doors to networking opportunities
Generally, business mentors have been in the game for years. And over all those years they have met with some of the most influential people in the industry and business world. Every entrepreneur needs a business mentor even if it’s only for the networking opportunities that come with the relationship.
Business success, these days, is highly influenced by who you know and the importance of networking is not something that entrepreneurs can dismiss. Your business mentor will be able to introduce you to the biggest names in the industry and get you into networking events where you will have the opportunity to meet new people who can help you on the path of innovation.
You need someone to challenge you
Speaking of innovation, another reason why you need a business mentor is so that you have someone who is knowledgeable about the industry to challenge you. Through challenges, you’ll be forced to think about business in a new way and create innovative ways of dealing with standard business issues.
The problem many successful entrepreneurs have is that they tend to stick with what works and choose not to push any boundaries for fear of failure. That type of thinking will only get you so far in the business world and then your competitors will be overtaking you. Any business mentor will be able to explain to you why failure isn’t always a bad thing and that by challenging yourself and innovating, you’re growing. There’s no success to be found when you’re standing still.
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.
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
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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