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Vusi Thembekwayo On How To Be A Jugger-niche

Perhaps the greatest challenge we face as entrepreneurs when we scale our businesses is how to scale ourselves.

Vusi Thembekwayo

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In the early days, you know your customers by name, their likes, dislikes, price levels and tolerances. You recruited each one of them. You remember the long, hard and arduous journey you had to walk before they committed to doing business with you.

They are the reason you exist. So you treat them with kit-gloves. You meet them at awkward hours.

We-recommend-tickWe recommend: Vusi Thembekwayo’s Winning Lessons For Success

You even miss a family gathering convened by the elders to discuss amadlozi or shock, horror, your sons’ school soccer tournament because you have a ‘meeting with the client.’

Going the extra mile

What you are actually doing is delivering a personalised customer experience.

Your mantra? ’My client won’t leave me, not because I am cheaper than others but because I am better than others.’

So you’re good. Better than most. Because you’re good, clients start spending more money with you. This is good. You begin to hire people into your business to help you deliver this amazing experience.

But there is one problem: The bigger the team gets, the further removed from the customer you become, the more sterile and standardised the customer experience. You begin to look like that company you swore you’d never become. Are all growth entrepreneurs doomed to suffer this fate?

I have been looking at answering this question for a long time. When we grew, consistently brilliant customer experiences were a non-negotiable for us. So we built an architecture to deliver great customer experiences, regardless of how large we became.

Today, we deal with hundreds of customers, across six businesses, in four different continents and have teams in three countries. This model has served us well.

1. Be responsive

Client experiences are fast-moving, vast and varied. What is required is for you to build a ‘responsive customer management’ culture into your teams.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do we listen to our customers?
  • Do we listen with the intent to understand or to respond?
  • As we listen, where do we collect and organise this information?
  • Do we have a plan to act on what we find, hear or understand?

Build a team that cares about customer experience. You can build the system to deliver experience later. Attitude is key.

We-recommend-tickWe recommend: Vusi Thembekwayo on The Art of Pursuing Crazy Ideas And Turning Them Into Profit Machines

2. Be tailored

Most people listen simply to feel better about the fact that they are listening. They don’t actually convert that insight into action. What made you successful in the beginning was that you listened and acted.

How do you get this culture of insights-driven-action into your team:

  • Monitor them by having regular feedback sessions on what they are doing and how that is linked to feedback from the customer.
  • Reward them when they do something that is meaningful for the customer and impactful for the business.
  • When you see or find someone doing something beyond their call of duty, make that person the hero for that moment. More people will look for opportunities to showcase their own initiative.

3. Be predictable

Customers want a predictable experience. Inconsistency is the silent killer of return customer revenues. So document the ideal customer journey. Then communicate it and make your people aspire to deliver that journey.

If there is certain music that you play at midday to liven up your shop, make sure everyone in every shop knows that playing that music is a non-negotiable.

For the team at Vida e Caffé it’s chanting affirmations every time they feel their energies dwindle. For Nando’s in Picadilly its Miriam Makeba’s Pata Pata at 4pm everyday. They have a predictable experience for the customer.

4. Be reliable

If customers can’t trust that the experience will be of the same high standard each time, your efforts will be in vain. You must ensure that your team delivers a reliable experience every time. Not most of the time.

We-recommend-tickWe recommend: Vusi Thembekwayo on How he Financed Growth

If your phone or computer crashes or freezes every other day, it doesn’t matter how amazing the user interface is, or how great the hardware looks, you will be left feeling short-changed. Similarly, being reliable is something you earn and have to continue earning.

5. Measure, monitor, improve

Measure everything that delivers a customer experience. Monitor the areas that need attention and improvement. Work to improve the weaknesses so that you are not caught with the same deficiency twice.

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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Strategy

6 Questions You Should Be Asking When Coaching

Top athletes have coaches because they’re winners. Business leaders should be the same.

Nadine Todd

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Whether you’re a CEO looking for a mentor, coaching your management team, or structuring a coaching programme for your managers to implement, there are six questions that can help anyone get better at anything.

The expert

Dr Marshall Goldsmith is a best-selling author and world-renowned business educator and coach. He has coached top CEOs, including Alan Mulally, former President and CEO of Ford Motor Company.

The key to a successful coaching programme is simple dialogue and establishing responsibility. The person being coached must understand and agree that success lies in their hands. They must take responsibility for their actions.

Related: How Business Coaching Can Help You Achieve Your Goals

The method

Once every few months, have a direct coaching session. Ask (or answer for yourself) these six questions:

  1. Where are we going?
  2. Where are you going?
  3. What are you doing well?
  4. Do you have suggestions for my improvement?
  5. How can I help you?
  6. So you have suggestions for me?

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Strategy

4 Ways To Develop The Leaders You’ll Need In The Future

One of the most challenging aspects of leadership development is consistently and effectively identifying the next wave of leaders.

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One of the most challenging aspects of leadership development is consistently and effectively identifying the next wave of leaders.

It can be easy for those at the top to forget that eventually someone will have to take their place at the helm. And ignoring that fact has lead to issues with succession planning, unwanted turnover and other challenges in leadership development in many organisations.

2016 High Impact Leadership research from Bersin by Deloitte asked 2,422 HR and business leaders from around the world how well they believed they could discover new leadership talent. Just 35 percent of respondents said they were above average when it came to successfully identifying and developing leaders.

To understand why this is, consider the typical leadership development paradox. Traditionally, the first step is to choose who has leadership potential, then develop their skillset. Logically, however, this makes little sense.

How is it possible to identify effective leaders if employees have yet to receive any type of leadership development?

Here are four ways to properly identify better qualified candidates for leadership positions:

1Stop choosing potential leaders based on unrelated skills

Gallup’s 2015 State of the American Manager Report, which studied 2.5 million manager-led teams in 195 countries, found that the top two reasons employees are promoted to management positions are because they were successful in a non-managerial role or because of their tenure with the company. Neither of those criteria have any proven correlation with leadership skills or relevant experience.

Create a better means of measuring for true leadership potential. Look at the culture of the organisation and envision what it would look like for someone to lead by those values.

Also consider how successful leaders evolved over time in the organisation. Then use that information to make a list of recognisable traits to look for as signs of leadership potential.

2Broaden leadership development to more employees

People learn and grow at their own unique pace. Requiring that an employee reach a certain position or be with the company for a certain number of years before they’re offered leadership opportunities holds back those who might be ready for more responsibility now. Or even worse, it might push those who aren’t yet ready into leadership roles.

Instead, let leadership development be a company-wide initiative. This gives more people the chance to take the next step in their career. It also creates a larger pool of possible great leaders to draw from across the organisation.

3Track progress and growth

Track progress and growth

There’s no way of knowing who is ready to step up and lead unless development is monitored. Remember that this is a process. Employees need feedback from their mentors and coaches to know for certain what skills they’ve mastered as well as where there can still be improvements made.

Develop a way to assess progress for different leadership positions, and be clear with employees and coaches about what success would look like in different situations. For instance, explain what is expected of a first time project leader.

Get everyone on the same page about the developing leader’s responsibilities and how that should guide their team.

Then collect thorough feedback from all those involved. Ask the leadership candidate what challenges they faced as well as where they think they thrived. Pose the same questions to those they supervised and organisational mentors.

Over time, this will reveal patterns that make it easier to identify who is best suited for leadership in the long-term.

4Focus on continual leadership development

There is no such thing as too much experience. There is always more that can be learned. After leadership candidates have been identified, continue to nurture them. This keeps employees from feeling that they have plateaued, which is unfortunately common.

The 2014 Insigniam Middle Management Survey: Middle Management’s Critical Role In Saving Company Innovation looked at responses from 200 middle managers from around the world. It found that only 15 percent of managers believe they will ever be promoted to the next level of leadership at their company.

Whether intentionally or not, employees who have proven their leadership abilities are being told that their leadership journey is over – and this hurts both them and the organisation. Encourage a steady stream of highly trained and skilled leaders working their way up by demonstrating that there is no end to development.

In order to clearly see who the next wave of leaders is going to be, employees need to be given the chance to hone and exercise their skills.

That means redefining how leadership potential is identified and providing each employee with the chance to develop personally and professionally.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Have You (Really) Put Your Business To The Test?

You should constantly test things in your business to see if they’re working. In that direction lies success.

Nicholas Haralambous

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There’s a pretty famous saying that people in business like to use: Always be closing, or ABC. It’s a very sales-driven concept that suggests that whatever you do, you should always be closing a sale.

I used to like that way of thinking: Drive your pipeline growth, work on the numbers and push the sales as hard as you can all the time.

That approach definitely works for certain types of businesses, but after a while it can be soul destroying work that leaves a business a bit hollow. So over the past few years I’ve been working on a tweaked methodology.

I call this method of building and selling: Always be testing or ABT.

Related: 3 Sure Fire Ways To Improve Efficiency And Find Your Business’s Productivity Sweet Spot

The concept is simple. You should constantly be testing things in your business to see if they’re working. If they are working, great, you can then start testing how to improve them. If they’re not working, you find out and can start testing fixes for the problem.

This applies to your team, your product, your day-to-day strategy for selling, customer acquisition and anything else you can think of.

Start testing yourself

The obsession with testing things started in my personal life. I was doing it without realising what I was doing. I started waking up 15 minutes earlier every month and after a while I was spritely and awake by 5:30am and walking my dogs or working while everyone else was asleep.

Then I stopped eating sugar for a while to see if I’d feel better. I did. That didn’t last but I then stopped drinking coffee to see if I’d sleep better. I did. So now I don’t drink caffeine of any kind after 3pm.

I found that I was constantly testing out everything that I did and tweaking my life accordingly. So one day I realised that this model would probably work in my business: Small, frequent tests with specific goals in mind to try to learn something new or verify something old.

Related: How You Can Make Those Sales When Nobody’s Buying (Yes It’s Do-able)

business-reporting-structure

Testing requires reporting

Setting up tests is not difficult. But tracking the results of the test requires preparation. Interestingly, when I moved Nic Harry from a pure e-commerce company into physical retail, I discovered how slow real world retailers have been to use technology to track changes they make in store.

With nicharry.com we have been able to test, tweak and track results for years. I have many tests and lots of data to pour through when I want information about a decision. I can make a change on the homepage and see if it leads to more transactions than the previous homepage tweak. If it works, great, if it doesn’t, I go back to the way it was.

I decided to take this type of thinking into our flagship store by treating each wall and window as a web page. We kept notes of which socks were on which walls and which socks sold better where in the store.

After a few months we had figured out which walls were the hotspots in the store. Then we started to move the socks around and see if we could influence who purchased what just by placing the socks in a different place.

This type of tiny testing environment helps me understand my stores, my team and me products with granular detail. However it wouldn’t be possible if my systems weren’t set up properly to help me track these changes.

Why test something that works?

People often ask me why they should test something that is clearly working. Well, what if one day your product stops selling and you don’t know why? What if your core revenue stream dries up over the course of a few months or years and you haven’t noticed?

Testing helps me to stay in front of my problems. I can think of a stand out example of a company that stopped testing and ended up losing: Blackberry. Do you remember them? I do, but not many people will in a year or two.

Related: 10 Brilliant Responses To The Customer Who Is ‘Just Looking’

It’s also worth remembering Kodak. Kodak was founded in 1888 and thrived for a century, literally. Then it stopped testing in the face of innovation all around the company and from within. In 2012 Kodak filed for bankruptcy protection. The ironic part of the Kodak story is that digital photography killed their business. Why is this ironic? Kodak developed the first digital camera in 1975 but didn’t test it in the market. They were worried it would eat into their existing business.

If only they had tested the product before they dropped it. Tests do not have to be large and complex. Implement systems that allow you to track the changes in your business whether online or offline. Then engage with your team about how they can help you to measure and manage the tests and then start with something small.

Testing for no reason is futile. It’s imperative to know what you’re testing and why. Once you’ve figured out your goals, start testing and never stop.

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