If you scour the Internet looking for tips on entrepreneurship, you can read forever. Unfortunately, a lot of the advice is of mixed quality and comes from people who haven’t necessarily succeeded at anything.
To me, the “who” behind the advice matters as much as the “what,” because ultimately, you have to believe that the person giving you advice has actually been in your shoes.
This is why I’ve built my startup strategy using advice from billionaire mentors such as Mark Cuban and Richard Branson. They are the ultimate sounding board.
Related: 7 Life Hacks From Rebel Billionaires
I can test my ideas with them and feel confident that I will get honest feedback based on their depth of experience and success. Here, I’d like to share the five most important business lessons these billionaire mentors have inspired.
1Build something that actually solves a problem
If you want to build a valuable and sustainable business, approach your venture with a problem-solution framework. The most successful companies in the world emerge from genuine needs and consequently create real opportunities and value.
“Innovation” is just the process of solving a problem with a creative solution that’s never been thought of or executed before.
Your first attempt to develop something that has the right product-to-market fit probably won’t work. The sooner you understand what’s not working, the sooner you’ll arrive at a working solution. Therefore, the key is to iterate quickly and ship frequently.
Building something that provides value to its respective market will require multiple attempts and failures. This was the case with every company I’ve built.
3Build a great team and you’ll typically end up with a great product or service
Most entrepreneurs think startups are all about the idea. They’re not. Initially, most ideas are way off base and don’t have product-to-market fit.
Investors such as Cuban and Branson look at the team as much as the product. If you have a team that knows how to problem-solve and persevere, you can brainstorm, iterate and prototype until you arrive at the right idea.
The right team has the right blend of attitude, intelligence, perseverance, passion and domain expertise. Investors know it when they see it.
4Build culture from the start
Culture is the foundation of your company, and culture comes from people, not theory.
Today, I follow the SWAN formula: Smart, Works Hard, Ambitious and Nice. If you hire SWANs from the start, the company culture will be organic and build itself.
Ultimately, culture will give your company the momentum it needs to barrel through the roughest parts of entrepreneurship.
5Don’t be afraid to push the boundaries
Both Cuban and Branson have said that the most successful companies in the world create a legacy by breaking the rules and not following common beliefs or thinking.
When you think unconventionally, true innovation and disruption can occur. Call it a “paradigm shift,” “transformation” or whatever term gets you motivated.
Take the “road less travelled” if you really want to upend an existing business model or traditional industry.
Now, do your own thing. If you based your entire startup strategy around something I wrote here, you’re contradicting tip number five about pushing boundaries.
Mentors and commentators should push you to form your own strategy rather than provide fill-in-the-blank answers that apply to each and every scenario. No two startups follow the same path.
So use these tips, but if you want to create something the world can’t ignore, go do your own thing.
Make something we can’t read about in a blog post today. If you really want to emulate Cuban or Branson’s model, go build a company they wish they could invest in. Maybe they will.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
The Role Of Employers In Skills Development
Here are a few reasons why you should invest in skills development for your employees.
Recruiting talent in today’s working environment has certainly changed for the better. With the new B-BBEE compliance and Skills Development Act regulations, it has now become possible for business owners to make an impact by employing unskilled individuals and training them up to be valuable workplace assets. In such a competitive working environment, investing in one of the many skills programmes can benefit your human capital more than any impulse hire could.
From UIF to skills development levies and more, business owners need to be up-to-date with the latest labour law requirements as they are directly responsible for the growth and progress of their staff. Employer-endorsed skills development plays an important role in the future of your business. This, unfortunately, has made many employers shy away from skills development because they fear that investing in skills may result in employees leaving. While that certainly can be a reality, the Skills Development Act encourages businesses to invest in training to help contribute to society, and to generally increase their business opportunities with international and local companies.
Skills development is a powerful motivator for new and existing employees. Be it through learnerships, internships or workplace-based training programmes, individuals who feel that their company is investing in them, personally and professionally, are more likely to be loyal to your company.
Here are a few reasons why you should invest in skills development for your employees:
Attracts and retains valuable employees
Beyond the skills shortage in South Africa, employee retention is a major challenge for employers. While the hiring process might be easy, it becomes an unnecessary expense for business owners when positions aren’t fulfilled according to plan. Knowing that you can rely on your employees is both a benefit to you and the employee themselves.
Skills development programmes do not only build loyalty, increase your BBBEE scorecard rating and create a strong workforce, but it gives your business a good reputation. A company which invests in human capital creates new opportunities within and outside the company.
Helps you create promotable employees
Taking the time to upskill employees means that you’re making an effort to support them professionally, as well as contributing to the economy at large. By implementing skills development training in your business, you’re creating a capable workforce and giving them the tools they need to excel.
Employees become engaged at work
Employees who don’t feel appreciated or cared for are the ones who tend to come and go. When you provide them with an opportunity to learn and grow, you’re allowing them to challenge themselves. Most unskilled employees can’t afford tertiary education, so when you give your employees the help they need, they’re more likely to become loyal, motivated and value-adding employees.
Helps you save and earn money
When your company partners with a company like Proud Afrique, according to Sector Education and Training Authority (SETA) regulations, there are many ways in which your business can save money. One of the most beneficial ways is through tax claims.
There will also no longer be a need to hire and recruit talent as often because learning programmes will give your business the chance to build up a pool of trustworthy, willing employees who could, potentially, add value to your company in the long-run. Not to mention, a trained workforce contributes to a higher productivity and output level in the office.
Creates a forward-thinking mindset
Employee development is forever changing. Something that worked well this year might not work well next year. But the exciting thing is that your team will be up-to-date with the latest trends and innovations. Over time, you will be able to adjust your plan according to the employee and industry’s needs. While it might seem intimidating for employers, it means that you’ll constantly need to think ahead and try new ideas. This type of forward-thinking can also spark many valuable relationships.
Contributing to human capital development in South Africa will give your business the opportunity to grow, regardless of economic conditions. B-BBEE training offers countless advantages which will help you learn the process, the benefits and the goals of being B-BBEE compliant. Employment should be more than simply having a job or receiving a paycheque every month. A skills development training option is there to help your employees change their lives.
Leadership – Lead Your Team To Dizzying Heights Of Productivity And Business Success
To ensure your company’s success, you’ll need a productive, effective team. But first, you should ensure you have the right people on the bus.
What is productivity?
When pondering the answer to a very important question it proves often to be a good tactic to first think on what a concept is not. Productivity is not appearing to be busy.
Productivity is not spending most of your time actually being very busy, but busy with things that propel you forward on the journey towards great achievements and making your vision a reality.
Productivity is simply to produce results. Results that leaps towards your end goals and ultimate vision. Trying is not an option, doing the right things in the right way so that they produce results is the only option, that is, if you really want to build a legendary company.
The ground-breaking difference between effectiveness and efficiency
Efficiency means to do the right thing. It is the right thing to do in business to give quality service, right? So what if doing the right thing does not produce results?
Effectiveness on the other hand is doing the right thing in the right way so that it produces results.
Quality service given in the right way so that we obtain actual referrals and the client comes back for repeat business is an example of effectiveness.
What must you be busy with?
The Pareto principle applies but in overdrive. Really hone in on the 20% of things to do that really brings home the profits, the purpose of the business, and brings joy to customers and team members.
Yes only 20% of your activity as an entrepreneur (roughly on average) brings in the true results, the other 80% of your activity is pure fluff.
Entrepreneurs often revert to what they like doing as opposed to what they actually need to do to be a success. Business growth and productivity is not a game of meandering between the options of dislikes and likes , but instead, taking action on what needs to be done to reach goals whether I personally always like it or not.
Be busy with what works in relation to producing the desired results. If you do not know what actually does work, be busy in terms of researching what needs to be done to produce results.
Get the right people on the bus
Another critical question to answer is: Who must be busy doing the right things in the right way to produce results?
Well only the people who really want to be successful and are willing to pay the price of disciplined and purposeful action will sustainably be effective anyway.
Hire people that authentically believe in your business’ purpose. Hire people that love what they do and already are highly skilled, or alternatively will put in the required work to become very skilful. Remove toxic behaviour from your business by either coaching towards excellence or firing for misaligned behaviours.
Lead by example
Do not expect productivity in the true sense of the word, from your employees if you as an entrepreneur is not the living example of the results producing behaviour that you require from your team. Inspire your team, not only by producing excellent results, but by doing it in a creative, purposeful and joyful way.
As Mahatma Gandhi said: “Be the change that you want to see in this world.” Do not simply demand it, be it first.
“Slay the holy cows”
Most businesses have ‘holy cows’. That means things that do not necessarily produce any results, or even produce very negative results, but the team keeps on doing those things because:
‘That’s how we do things here’
‘That’s how we have always have done things here’
‘We love doing things in that way, here’
A troublesome example is the ‘meeting holy cow’. Some people just love the sound of their own voices and will carry on speaking for hours upon hours within meetings, which usually then leads to little or no action. A meeting is usually just talking whilst only action can really produce results.
‘Slaying the meeting holy cow’ does not mean we stop having meetings. We simply change the way we do them so that they become effective. By having shorter, very concise meetings, that are actionable, measurable, and results driven we have ‘slayed the meeting holy cow’.
Productivity is producing results that continuously move you forward on the journey towards attaining your vision. Be busy with the 20% of activity that produces the real and tangible results that you want for your business. Be willing to ‘slay the holy cows’ that take up time unnecessarily and that do not produce the desired results.
8 Lessons Rugby Can Teach Us On Achieving Peak Performance In Business And Life
Business is the ultimate test of wills, focus, determination and pushing through the pain when things get tough. In fact, if you can take lessons off the rugby field and into the boardroom, you’ll be a better entrepreneur.
Building your own business from scratch is tough. It really is not for people who enjoy predictability, low risk and comfort. There are often times of doubt, discouragement and outright confusion, accompanied by frequent unpredictable moments that can challenge your sense of humour and test your resolve.
So why do it then? Because you can. Because there is something in it that just makes the effort worthwhile.
I’ve been on my own entrepreneurial journey for the last ten years. I’ve always been interested in how human behaviour affects performance and so I’ve been drawn to work in competitive environments. These have included both the corporate world and sports, and I’ve learnt that there are a lot of overlaps between the two.
As an ex-rugby coach and someone who is currently still involved with international and provincial rugby, there are a lot of rugby lessons that are extremely valuable in the business world.
If you want to achieve peak performance in life and business, here are eight key lessons that you can learn from rugby.
1. It’s all about overcoming resistance
What gave you the belief that just because you had an idea that you knew would change lives and make money, the universe would lay down a red carpet for you and invite you to dine at the table of greatness?
In this scenario, setbacks come as a surprise, competition is seen as unfair and you discover alarmingly that the economy and your bank manager, strangely enough, are geared towards debt and failure rather than success.
You are the only one who believes. Remember that. This is your desire. If you don’t like being tackled you shouldn’t play. The same with your business. If you don’t like the hard hits, pick employment.
It’s up to you to get it to work and that means you are about to learn to push through: Three steps forward, five steps back, ten steps forward, two steps back, four steps sideways, one step forward…
Remember This: If you don’t believe that your destiny lies in your idea, you will give up. Guaranteed.
2. Passion does not last
Getting psyched before a game is all good and well. Yes, it makes you feel invincible, indestructible and as close to superhero status as humanly possible. But in the end, passion is just an emotion, and emotions can change. Very quickly in fact, especially after your first hit.
Don’t get me wrong. Passion is a fantastic emotion, but to base the success of your endeavours on an emotion is naïve and even reckless.
There is nothing glorious about the hard graft, no matter how you paint it. It’s sweaty, bloody and thankless. This is why desire is so important. Desire is deep seated and rooted in purpose, not emotion. It fuels the hard graft.
Remember This: People only care about what you do with the ball, not what you did to win the ball.
3. Control the ‘controllables’
A rugby ball is peculiar in that it has an unpredictable bounce. Life is like a rugby ball. One day it can stay in the field of play and you win the game. The next day it bounces out and you lose the game. Same ball. Same circumstance. If you don’t understand this, it can mess with your head.
If you try and control what is impossible to control, you will simply blow your mind, and your mind is your greatest weapon. Don’t give it an impossible task.
You can control what you do every second of the day.
You can control how you respond.
You can even control how you play the game.
You cannot control people.
You cannot control the economy.
You cannot control what is going to happen tomorrow.
In fact, your real genius will lie in how you handle the unknown and the unpredictable.
Remember This: Do what you can to control the bounce but don’t take it personally when it does not go your way. Just respond.
Related: Servant Leadership – Will You Serve?
4. Hit or be hit
If you’re passive in the tackle, hesitant or just put your head down you can get yourself into serious trouble, even break your neck.
Don’t avoid problems, tackle them. The key here is to ensure that they don’t build up momentum. The faster they are going, the bigger they seem to be. Hit them early.
Move towards them, get yourself into position and hit them hard, making sure you take them to ground, otherwise they can keep going.
Remember This: Fear is a killer when it comes to the hits. The problem is only as big as you make it out to be.
5. Play your game
Rugby is unforgiving to the team that tries to play a game plan that is borrowed from another team. The best teams in the world build a plan around who they are. They don’t force a game plan on the team, they take an individualised, tactical approach.
Your individuality is your greatest competitive advantage. Build everything around who you are, but keep an eye on why you are there. This is not an ego trip. You are there to get the job done better than anyone else.
Remember This: Use your uniqueness to craft an approach that is close to impossible to replicate by your competition.
6. Rugby has rules
In rugby, every time you break the rules you lose possession of the ball. Do it continuously and you can lose a player. Do something really bad and you never see the player again.
Innovation and invention are key change drivers. It’s what allows entrepreneurs to disrupt a market and attract new customers. But, contrary to the myths out there, disruption is not about breaking the rules; it’s about exploiting the rules.
The team that usually wins knows how to use the rules to their advantage. The same in business. So, if you really want to disrupt, change the rules. Ignore or break them, and you may find yourself with very little left and a whole lot of angry fans.
Remember This: The rules define the game. They make the game possible. Take the time to understand them. Then exploit them to your advantage.
7. Play into space
A crowded space on the field is busy, dirty and messy. It’s where you stand the greatest chance of losing the ball. The key in rugby therefore, is to create space. It is space that allows you to gain ground and set up a chance to score. Yes, the busy space is inevitable but to make it ‘normal’ is foolish and unnecessary.
You want minimal contact and maximum space. It’s the same in your business.
De-clutter and simplify. Keep things tidy. Do everything you can to avoid complex, messy situations that can bog you down and cost you unnecessary energy. But this will only be possible if you have a clear, tactical vision that keeps you moving into clear space that is easy to dominate. It has to be part of your thinking and planning. If you just ‘wing it’ you might be alarmed to find yourself in an expensive version of U9 rugby.
Remember This: Always look to create fresh space. Just make sure you are running in the right direction.
8. Know who you want in your team
Rugby is played by 15 players who are on the field to each play very distinct roles. Each role is an important piece of the larger puzzle and demands a very specific skill set, physical attributes and mental approach. You cannot simply just change position. Yes, some roles do allow for more flexibility and a fullback can play flyhalf. But a lock will never be a hooker or a prop. The best in the world play one position. Only.
Do you know who you need in your business or are you relying on ‘jack-of-all trades’? This may be great for a Sunday pickup game but if you’re aiming for the big leagues, plan properly. Don’t think for a moment that your generalist will suddenly become a specialist either. That is the quickest way to destroy talent. Ask any player who has been labeled a ‘utility back’.
Remember This: Specialisation is not an evolution. Be prepared. Start with great people who know exactly what they’re doing and put them exactly where you need them.
Pulling it all together
Above all else, never forget why you’re playing the game. Prepare to win. Practice to win. Play to win. Stay humble. And never forget that personalities make the game.
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