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Why Growing Your Business Can Feel Like Sailing Over The Edge Of The World

Successful business leaders understand that the learning is never done.

Vusi Thembekwayo

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Business leaders love to say they’re all-knowing. Its macho, rewarded and even expected that when you reach a certain level of leadership in business you must have the tools and knowledge to navigate all the challenges that come your way.

I have come to learn that this is just fallacious ego talk. Nobody was born a business leader. We all learn the skills and acquire the competencies and attributes required to succeed at a certain level in business. We all LEARN.

Confession: The past two years have been particularly difficult for me. I have had to pivot my business three times. I have entered into new partnerships, tested them, tested market assumptions and exited the relationships and markets that don’t deliver value.

I have had to hire, fire and hire talent more suitable for the destination I was taking the business to, not the place from which we come. I have been investing a substantial portion of my personal wealth in the future growth of the business.

Related: Leadership: A Potent Combination Of Strategy And Character

The literature written about the visionary CEO or leader that took the risks in the face of overwhelming opposition and evidence that they would fail makes for gripping reading. However (and take it from me), living the reality of it is a vivid, testing, messy and scary thing.

Be daring enough to sail passed the edge of your world

end-of-the-world

There was a time not so long ago when man held the conventional wisdom that the world was flat and that if you dared sail the horizon of the oceans you would fall off the edge of the earth.

Changing direction in your business, pursuing a new strategy, testing new markets, growing your product mix or simply starting a thesis of the business and then testing it is just as scary as pre-historic man daring to sail the oceans in an attempt to prove there was no end to the earth. So to grow your business and develop yourself beyond your competence requires a willingness to test your knowledge, unlearn old knowledge, embrace new thinking and repeat this cycle consistently to stay ahead of the curve of change.

For entrepreneurs, the end of the earth is markets we know exist, clients we know buy what we sell and the traditional competitors against whom we know how to compete. Our knowledge (things we know to be completely true) is what impedes us in the quest of perpetual knowledge acquisition.

Conventional wisdom is conventional because it is universally accepted. That is what makes it dangerous: The comfort of knowing that what we know is accepted by everyone.

Related: 25 Leadership Lessons From Millionaire Business Owners

Navigating through uncharted oceans

Perhaps the hardest thing about navigating blue oceans is that there simply is no certainty. Neither you, your skills nor your intellect are certain about your fortunes. What you know for sure is that the way things were is no longer how things are.

What is certain is that remaining still, whilst an attractive proposition, is too dangerous. The possibility of being left behind by evolving markets, disruptive newcomers and demanding customers is all too real.

Perhaps my most important class session over the past two years has been moving from manager to leader. I have migrated from managing director, involved in the daily operational decisions of the various functions of the firm, to CEO, setting the strategy, hiring a competent skilled team of professionals and keeping the firm enthused about the prospects of the future.

I still find myself meddling in the tasks and functions that the various MDs are driving and my justification is that I was MD of the business through its organic growth into new markets, new opportunities and new territories for a decade, so it is difficult to unlearn this.

If you want to walk a growth path, you have to be able to ask — and answer — these three key questions:

  • Why is it so hard to make the shift?
  • Why is it so hard to allow yourself the room to develop and grow?
  • Why is there such pressure from society to be the perfect business leader all the time?

Related: 5 Leadership Secrets Stolen From Famous People

1. How to make the perfect decision

strive-for-progress-not-perfection-quote

Much of the literature about leaders that have built great businesses and delivered superior shareholder returns portrays them as cloud-bearing halo-wielding messiahs.

The storyline usually involves a courageous and visionary leader who saw things that others didn’t, pursued them and achieved them.

Words such as guru, genius or, the one most en-vogue in contemporary business literature, maverick are used to define them.

Keep Second Guessing Yourself

The stories usually describe a series of events that follow a smooth straight line. And that’s the lie. You live in the day-to-day mirage of constantly evaluating and re-evaluating whether or not you’ve made the right call. You are constantly questioning yourself.

Sleep becomes an expensive commodity that you can barely afford in the midst of restlessness and uncertainty. At a financial level you are under pressure to be prudent with your runway, to maximise the resource of currency. But worst of these you are constantly scrutinised by the hardest to ignore: Your own shadow. Fighting a battle between the man you are and the man you want to be.

I have come to accept that there is no such thing as the perfect decision. Only a decision made perfect. The truth is that leaders make more poor decisions than they do good ones. However the gains from one good decision outweigh the losses from many poor decisions. So I am learning to forgive myself.

I am learning that it doesn’t have to be perfect, only good enough. I am learning that ‘perfect is the enemy of good enough.’

Related: Your Leadership Journey Starts Now… And Go!

2. How to have perfect timing

This is by far the trickiest consideration in the life of a growing business leader: When should you do something? The answer is almost always ‘yesterday’.

When the market is growing and the business is growing you tend to want things done perfectly yesterday. However you soon come to realise that few things are as demotivating to your people as unrealistic expectations dogmatically applied through a system of performance pressure. If you’re anything like me, you manage the detail and performance management routinely.

You drive your people hard on the matrix that they have to deliver and then expect that they are nimble and agile enough to learn the best ways to do those things daily. You want the strategy to be implemented at the end of the strategy meeting.

You want the product to be launched at the end of the meeting about the product launch. You want the debtors to be reduced and your working capital cycle within your parameters before the
end of the meeting with your finance team.

You want it all. You want it perfect. You want it yesterday.

Learn with your team

I have come to learn that just as I am having to learn to work anew so too are my people. Expecting that they are going to drive the perfect P&Ls is fallacious and frankly, demotivating.

Learning is a not a weakness. Literature of business leaders of the modern day needs to tell the truth. The truth is that:

  • None of us know with certainty what will work.
  • Testing is the only way to know what doesn’t work.
  • Failure is part of the process of success.
  • Learning is more powerful than knowing.

Mr. Vusi Thembekwayo has been an Independent Non-Executive Director of at RBA Holdings Ltd. since May 14, 2013. Mr. Thembekwayo has already collected numerous accolades and awards as businessperson, entrepreneur and international public speaker. Mr. Thembekwayo completed a PDBA and a course on advanced valuation techniques with the Gordon Institute of Business Science and completed a Management Acceleration Programme (Cum Laude) with the Wits Business School. His speaking achievements include the international hit talk “The Black Sheep” which he delivered to the Top 40 CEOs in Southern Africa, addressing the Australian Houses of Parliament and speaking at the British House of Commons. To add to this, Vusi speaks in 4 of the 7 continents over 350 000 people each year.

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Leading

Become Your Best In Business

How can you streamline the actions you take in your business?

Dr John Demartini

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A few of the primary keys to becoming successful in business include having a clear intent or purpose, a truly inspiring vision, a grand message to share, a genuine social calling and a targeted niche to serve. From these initial basics arise the primary strategic objectives you would love to accomplish or achieve and a plan for their implementation. But before these objectives can be met, the mastery of the mind is to be initiated.

True business leaders are those who are congruent and integrated and who can organise and lead their inner parts purposefully. Once leaders govern themselves, they can govern others.

Time Is Life

When you loaf about, your mind starts thinking about all kinds of doubts, insecurities, fears, other people’s beliefs and worries about what’s happening and what isn’t happening. Such dead time can zap your energy and confidence levels and distract your mind from your purpose. Any time or space that’s not filled with high priorities often automatically becomes filled with low priorities.

Have you noticed that when you’re busy, you often accomplish and create much more? The more intensely you’re focused and active and the longer you maintain such a focus, the faster your accomplishments (time x intensity = results). Time spent on doubt, fear, or low-priority actions slows down your accomplishment process.

When you take your mind off your focus, all you see are obstacles. When your mind is focused on your dreams, you don’t have time for the many self-doubts that block them.

Raise Your Standard

Anything you do consumes time. To maximise the value of your time, prioritise your interactions. People who seem less busy and want to consume your time may think you’re being rude when you say no to their invitations, but busy people understand immediately that you’re just choosing to prioritise and wisely manage your time.

People who don’t value their own time want to take up yours with small talk, and if you keep associating with people who talk small, you could end up with a small life. You’ll find out what kind of people they are by putting a fee on your time and raising that fee regularly. If people really value your skills and time, they’ll pay for it.

“A man’s growth is seen in the successive choirs of his friends.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Efficiency and Effectiveness

Often when you perform a service for less than you feel you deserve, you lower your worth and enthusiasm and slow down your business. Even though you may be working like a ‘dog’, it’s neither efficient nor effective.

Any aspect of your work that pays less than you truly feel you deserve can become the weak link of your business. In addition to undermining your motivation, inefficiency and ineffectiveness can also reduce profit margins. When you or your employees perform effective actions in an inefficient way, ineffective actions in an efficient way or ineffective actions in an inefficient way, your business becomes undermined. Your worth can be determined by how efficient and effective you are at performing high-priority actions. Business masters are those who love what they do, do what they love, and work efficiently and effectively. They delegate everything else to those who desire to do the same.

How can you streamline the actions you take in your business? Ask yourself, “What can I delegate?” You’ll be far more productive, energised, and inspired at the end of the day when you can stick to actions you deem to be high-priority. Unless you value your time, neither will the world.

For more information on Dr Demartini’s teachings, visit www.drdemartini.com

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Leading

How To Be A Leader

Lead by example and you’ll win the respect and loyalty of your staff.

Richard Mukheibir

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Being a successful entrepreneur is not about locking yourself away in your workshop and bringing a great innovation to life. Certainly, you need a must-have product that will have customers beating a path to your door. But you also need the business skills to ensure you can scale up production – and the leadership skills to motivate the staff you have employed to help you make this happen.

It is rare to find these three key skills balanced equally in an entrepreneur. Most have more of one quality than another – but there is one of these qualities that we tend to fool ourselves about.

Most of us know whether we have creative skills that can produce great innovations or whether we need to improve our business skills. Almost all of us assume we can be leaders if circumstances mean we have to step up to the plate. However, almost all of us are wrong about that.

Leadership skills are something that you develop and hone as your career progresses. You might think that being head girl at school, rugby captain or president of your Toastmasters’ branch means that you have got leadership nailed.

You would be right that you have some leadership experience. But you are wrong because so much about leadership depends on context. Just as what works on the rugby field and what works in the debating chamber are not the same, so what works in business is different.

In part, it can depend on the size and sector of your business. That in turn is partly because your understanding of the context – your business savvy as opposed to your business skills – is as important as your credibility as a leader.

But there are some common traits in leaders that work in all business contexts. Once you have these nailed, you will find that you can reuse them in different businesses as you expand your entrepreneurial interests.

Here are three starter principles to put into practice today:

1. Be first

Get to work first and leave last. As an entrepreneur, one of the prime qualities you need is energy. You need to put mental and physical energy into knowing the detail of what is going on in your business.   Listen to the insights of your staff as to how your systems are taking strain or could be streamlined. If you are serious about growing your business, you cannot expect to achieve this as a sleeping partner who drops by the business premises at best once a week.

2. Be a team player

Make it clear that you are not giving yourself privileges just because you are the boss. If your business involves any kind of production line, whether actual or virtual, you should be able to pitch in and help out if there is a rush of demand or an unusual number of staff hit by the virus that is going round. This is also an opportunity to check personally on the effectiveness of the systems you have set up and make tweaks where you see bottlenecks or downtime occurring.

3. Be last

As well as leaving work last, you should also pay yourself last. Consider this part of your investment in your business – and also an investment that will pay dividends in consolidating staff loyalty.

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Leading

Peak Performance – How To Become A Strong And Legendary Business Leader

The starting point is to consistently and constantly build and mould an unshakeable character and add a clear strategy for your personal life and your business.

Dirk Coetsee

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‘Leadership is a potent combination of Character and strategy’

– General Norman Schwarzkopf

Leadership has long fallen into the category of the enigmatic. It is no longer the case considering the ‘deep dive’ neuroscientists, psychologists and industrial psychologists have taken into understanding the brain and human behaviour in general.

For those that have a deep and driving desire to understand themselves better volumes of highly beneficial research are available to you. How willing you are to seek for and apply the infinite amount of knowledge out there is dependent upon your priorities, your ‘grit’ and your level of desire to personally transform and be impactful in this world.

Most of all a strong belief in your own abilities to become a legendary business leader is a basic requirement for the alchemy from follower to leader to take place.

The human nature guru Robert Greene describes a strong character as follows:

“Strong character has a tensile quality like a good piece of metal – it can give and bend but still retains its overall shape and never breaks”

Character is who you really are, not what you want others to think of you. Who you truly are is especially revealed under the most challenging circumstances. How your investors, co-founders, employees and clients view you is highly dependent upon your actions during times of business crisis, failure or when you as an entrepreneur are faced with turbulent personal circumstances.

The ability to authentically and empathetically (towards yourself and others) take a stand for your beliefs, admit (to yourself most of all) to your mistakes, rectify them (the highest and truest form of an apology) within times of strife and difficulty leads to a strong and un-breakable character.

Through this writing you are strongly urged to reflect on the fact that a strong character will not fall from the sky and simply be bestowed upon you, instead a strong character, akin to steel, is moulded and shaped by fire meaning that your character is mostly shaped by challenging times.

As the late master poet Leonard Cohen said –

‘There is a crack in everything that is where the light seeps in’

Nothing is perfect and when you truly learn from failures and mistakes your wounds can become blessings, your tests can become testimonies and you can lead others to achieve the same.

Those that have a slight and very determined smile on their face and maintain belief and even dramatically increase their levels of performance the moment they recognise that they have arrived within a highly challenging space are the ones that have trained for that exact moment.

The Navy Seals say:

“You do not rise to the challenge you fall to your level of training”

All external information gathered within each moment enters the brain and is processed through the Amygdala first – that part of the brain that provides housing for the ‘fight or flight’ response. Information is first filtered through your very own doubts, fears and insecurities.

If you have not worked on your own fears diligently and instilled habitual mechanisms of effective action triggered by fear your re-actions of lack of action (procrastination) will not be optimal at all. ‘Grit’ is born at the intersection of passion and perseverance and can be trained. Bravery can be trained. Leadership can be trained. Character although influenced by genetics can be trained.

All tools to succeed at the aforementioned subjects are within us all, in a lot of cases lying dormant and anxiously awaiting your increased levels of awareness which will empower you to use the tools required effectively.

As a practical example I coach my ‘Peak Performance’ clients to train for Grit in the following way – Choose a day of the week when you are especially tired and not in the greatest of moods force yourself to the gym and train the toughest muscle group for you (usually legs) and where you normally do three sets of squats do seven and make those sets harder than before in every way.

Or again choose a day of the week again where you are very tired and instead of taking a plunge onto the couch to watch ‘Game of Thrones’ or whatever it is, go and hike, a long tough hike that will really test you.

It does sound harsh but you will thank yourself when the tough times occur and they will, that you have willingly trained yourself for grit.

On to the subject of Strategy which forms a potent combination with character and results in Leadership.

Dictionary.com defines strategy as:

A plan, method, or series of manoeuvres or stratagems for obtaining a specific goal or result.

For a strategy to be effective a basic requirement of many requirements is that a clear and highly specific end vision and/or goal, and/or result must be defined. Visions, goals or desired results are often vaguely defined because the often subconscious fear of clearly defining our failures by setting clear and measurable goals plagues us.

The mind struggles with finding solutions, answers and strategies when vague goals are set. It is also very hard to retain focus on anything that is very vague. As the importance of an effective plan to achieve your well defined Vision and goals cannot be overstated I strongly recommend getting expert help to facilitate a future session.

Once the desired end result, goals and vision is crystal clear we can ‘reverse engineer’ an effective plan that can actualise our dreams. We need to create a metric system that constantly, consistently and visibly measures our progress and success of our plan. The metrics will notify us of challenges and will signal a need for adjustments within our strategy.

The very good news emanating from this article is that anyone can be a legendary leader should they not only sincerely wish to be a leader but also take effective action on becoming one. The starting point is to consistently and constantly build and mould an unshakeable character and add a clear strategy for your personal life and your business.

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