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An Entrepreneurial Fable Of How the Tortoise Beat the Hare

In entrepreneurship, the impossible can become possible – you just need to know how to reframe the problem to find your best opportunity to win.

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A hare ridiculed the short feet and slow pace of the tortoise, who replied, laughing: “Though you be swift as the wind, I will beat you in a race.” The hare, believing her assertion to be simply impossible, assented to the proposal; and they agreed that the fox should choose the course and fix the goal.

On the day appointed for the race the two started together. The tortoise never for a moment stopped, but went on with a slow but steady pace straight to the end of the course. The hare, lying down by the wayside, fell fast asleep. At last waking up, and moving as fast as he could, he saw the tortoise had reached the goal, and was comfortably dozing after her fatigue.

The lesson? Slow but steady wins the race.

Putting the lesson into practice

Environments are dynamic, always changing, and plans, tactics and strategies in action are the great equalizer. In theory the hare cannot lose, on paper his physical advantages over the tortoise are undeniable. But the hare’s weakness is not realizing that success is dependent on a combination of skills.

The hare assumes that his physical advantages are sufficient to win, ignoring the importance of other elements of success. The tortoise understands that being short on legs is a disadvantage, so instead she works on exploiting the hare’s vain presumptions.

She will force him to make an unforced error, she’ll have nothing to do other than merely walk at her tortoise pace to the finish line, he’ll do the losing for her. In action, old assumptions are disrupted as new facts on the ground create new realities, new facts, new opportunities; it’s in these types of environments that entrepreneurs thrive.

There are advantages to doing research and relying on past data to make predictions and better decisions about future events. There are also disadvantages to letting personal biases and assumptions alone dictate future actions. Entrepreneurs look at data critically to spot trends which help them better identify wealth creating opportunities and make more informed decisions.

The hare is arrogant because he knows the data clearly establishes that a hare has never lost to a tortoise, that’s it’s physically impossible, therefore he has nothing to fear. But it’s not entirely impossible, there are other factors than merely physical. The hare is guilty of confirmation bias, he only looks at data that backs up his wishful thinking and eliminates all fear of losing.

“That’s the thing about counterintuitive ideas, they contradict your intuitions. So, they seem wrong.” Paul Graham


Good research and solid data can in fact help make better decisions, offering some visibility into the future, like a crystal ball, but only if its objective and looks at a problem from all angles, not just the physical, otherwise it acts more like a ball and chain.

Physical attributes are important to the hare, but the tortoise will win on her mental advantages. She looks at data from a more holistically perspective, rather than only that which will suit her false assumptions. Thinking holistically is an important skill for entrepreneurs who cannot reach their full potential if their thinking is rigid, dogmatic, grounded only in theory.

Exploiting opportunities successfully requires flexible, creative and critical outside the box thinking; the strategy must be aligned with the facts on the ground, adaptable and able to manage change in a dynamic environment. A holistic entrepreneurial mindset is always connecting dots, and is able to not only recognize but also capture, and exploit new opportunities. In a competitive environment, holistic and consequent strategic decisions and actions is where the rubber meets the road, which leads to a real world where the impossible becomes possible, where the tortoise can beat the hare.

As it turns out, it isn’t the tortoise who wins, but the hare who loses. The story is counterintuitive because all are guilty of looking at the problem from only one direction – except the tortoise. She’s in her comfort zone – entrepreneurs thrive in counterintuitive ambiguous environments.

She seeks a strategic advantage and turns the expectations of loss into a disruptive event – she’s in the game of finding solutions by thinking out-of-the-box. She turns the problem on its head, understanding that to win, slow must become fast, and time must become an ally, an advantage, a critical component of her strategy. The tortoise knows she has weaknesses; but by redefining the problem, the hare’s weaknesses are greater and become his fatal flaw.

She knows the hare thinks emotionally, not strategically, easily loses focus and distracted, with a short attention span, his mind clouded by his massive ego and conventional thinking. He doesn’t calculate, he prefers to wing it, she not. The hare not only underestimates his opponent’s mental strength and determination, but his own undisciplined mind plays tricks on him, and he overestimates his own inevitable victory.

Hubris blinds him, his rigid and false assumptions seal his fate as he falls asleep on the job, miscalculating, losing control, and bankrupting his chances. Thinking like an entrepreneur the tortoise focuses on her objectives, steadfast, mentally strong, strategically focused, racing all the way to the finish line on her short feet, and destabilizing her faster opponent precisely because she’s slow, very slow, so very, very slow.

“Time can be an ally or an enemy. What it becomes depends entirely upon you, your goals, and your determination to use every available minute.” Zig Ziglar


Alexander F. Goldsborough previously researched entrepreneurship at OECD (The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) and was an Associate Professor of Practice at the China campus of Liverpool University (XJTLU). He is now the creator of Aesop For Entrepreneurs and the author of Creativity, Strategy and Leadership for Entrepreneurs. Visit www.aesopforentrepreneurs.com for more information.

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Compete to Win

How You Can Over-Deliver To Gain The Advantage

Go over and above for the people you serve, and you will enjoy the benefits of an abundant relationship.

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Wise, established entrepreneurs know that over-delivering value — which simply means going above and beyond for the people we serve to deliver more satisfaction for our service and thus exceed expectations — is crucial to a business’s survival, growth and future. It represents the core of a company’s foundation. And without a solid foundation, a business is always vulnerable to a person or company that does over-deliver.

To ensure you don’t ever forget the importance of over-delivering value, here are three ways it will give you and your company a distinct competitive advantage:

1. Creates abundance

Success comes most to those who are surrounded by people who want their success to continue. When you over-deliver value, people may be sceptical at first, thinking that you are expecting something in return, but when you are consistent and genuine with your intentions, they begin to trust and appreciate that you are just thinking of them.

Related: Your Questions Answered With Alan Knott-Craig

You never know the value of the value you are delivering. But I’ve learnt that if you are consistently delivering greater value to people, your value becomes more and more aligned with the immediate needs of the people and companies you are serving — and abundance in the relationship is created. This is what over-delivering value is all about.

2. Earns respect

Entrepreneurs who take the time to over-deliver value are the ones who earn respect. Typically early-stage entrepreneurs tend to find ways to be the recipient of someone else’s value in a search for momentum.

You never know which transactional seed is going to grow, but when adding value to others, this type of seed is never forgotten.

For example, every quarter, I deliver a white paper to clients with the intention to challenge their thinking. My goal is for them to know that regardless of whether I am conducting business with them or not, I am thinking of them and thus strengthening our long-term relationship. And since my white papers focus on predicting future leadership trends and business strategies, when a related topic arises in one of their strategy meetings, they don’t hesitate to call me to discuss an opportunity for us to engage.

3. Enables distinction

Entrepreneurs who add value to others create and sustain a distinction in the minds and hearts of those they are serving. After all, most people are simply doing what they’re told to do inside the box they are given. Entrepreneurs can’t afford to do that.

Related: 7 Steps To Optimise Your Cycle Of Customer Service

We are the originators, the innovators and the opportunity seekers. We live our lives constantly in search of ways to add value to make things better. We disrupt the status quo. We are not in the business of fixing the old ways of doing things. We create new ways of doing things. If entrepreneurs are technically the experts at adding value through our products, services and brands, why can’t we add value through the people we depend upon most for our success?

Over-delivering value is the key not only to being a successful entrepreneur but also to the entrepreneurial mindset we must continually cultivate in ourselves and others. No one is successful alone. We must see the value in over-delivering value by being other-directed and connecting dots of opportunity with focus and purpose to become smarter and wiser, while making ourselves invaluable to the people and businesses we serve.

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How Netflix Is Now Disrupting The Film Industry By Embracing Short-Term Chaos

One wrong move and Netflix could have been nothing more than a footnote in the history of entertainment. But by staying ahead of the curve and embracing disruption, the company is threatening some very entrenched competitors.

GG van Rooyen

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Attendees of the annual Cannes Film Festival are typically not afraid to be vocal in their dislike of a new film — booing and hissing are both surprisingly common — but the recent film Okja possibly set some sort of record. The crowd was booing and jeering before the film had even properly begun. In fact, all it took was the name of the studio behind the film: Netflix.

Why the animosity? Netflix is disrupting the film industry, and the traditionalists aren’t happy. After debuting at Cannes, Okja wasn’t released in cinemas. No, instead it was released right to Netflix, free to stream as long as you have an account.

Of course, few would have guessed a few years ago that Netflix would ever get into the business of making its own television shows and movies. According to industry lore, entrepreneur Reed Hastings launched Netflix because he was annoyed with the exorbitant late fees of video/DVD store Blockbuster.

Instead of having to return a movie once you’ve watched it, he conceived of a business that would ship DVDs right to your door through the mail.

Related: Meet The 40 Richest Self-Made Entrepreneurs On Earth

It was a clever idea, but not one that seemed terribly disruptive. The whole process could be a bit of a hassle, and it required you to schedule your entertainment well ahead of time. Blockbuster even had a chance to buy Netflix, but decided that it wasn’t worth it.

The rise of streaming

Even as Netflix was hitting its stride in the early-2000s, the tide was already turning. It was becoming increasingly clear that the Internet was going to be an incredibly disruptive force, but many companies failed to notice. Or, if they did notice, they failed to take adequate action.

By 2007, the potential of streaming TV shows, films, music and books online was clear, but the DVD business was still doing well. However, Netflix decided to prepare for the future (and disrupt its own operations) by launching a streaming service. It did this by going to the traditional movie studios and television networks, and asking to licence their old content.

In the view of these studios and networks, old pieces of entertainment had run their course, so they were pleased with the new revenue stream.

This brings us back to Okja. Netflix has been creating its own content for the last few years because it realised that studios and networks would eventually catch on. At some point, they would understand that they were giving Netflix the ammunition needed to disrupt the industry. Why have Netflix stream your content if you could create your own streaming service?

“The goal is to become HBO faster than HBO can become us,” Hastings said of one of the most popular American cable channels back in 2013.

In a mere 20 years, Netflix has gone from a low-tech operation that sends DVDs through the mail to one that not only streams content online, but is also producing its own content — content from some of the most respected actors, producers and directors in the world. All of this is costing Netflix hundreds of millions of dollars, and it remains to be seen if this strategy will ultimately pay off, but betting against Netflix is risky.

Related: How To Make Money Investing, According To Ashton Kutcher

Netflix has shown itself to be uniquely capable in drastically shifting its business model. Here is how Hastings explains it: “Short-term optimisation about being efficient is the death of long-term success and innovation. Building Netflix, we created a company that tolerated some short-term chaos, and we manage right at the edge of chaos. The value of that is keeping and stimulating the amazing thinkers, so when the market shifts, like DVD to streaming, or licence to original content, we have in Netflix all kinds of original thinkers, and that is the long-term optimisation that all of us in organisations want.”

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SME Leaders: How You Can Manage Growth

Fresh growth is all around us this Spring – find out how you can powerfully manage growth as you provide leadership to your SME.

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In the transition from start-up to scale-up, a critical factor for a growing business is the quality and strength of its leadership team.

Learning to trust and empower staff is a crucial step for SME leaders who wants to grow their business upwards.

As a business grows, one of the biggest challenges for the business founder and leader is the hand-over of an idea from the founder to the people who work there, The brand moves from being one person’s idea to being the professional focus of a whole group of people.

Without effective leadership, small businesses will be held back, more than three-quarters of SMEs provide no leadership development for their staff. What does this mean for you?

Related: We Went up Against A Highly Regulated, Entrenched Industry. Here Are 4 Tips For Getting Your Foot In The Door

If you lead your business with vision and clarity, you set yourself apart from your competition. Here’s how.

Lead the pack

A growing business creates more work than a leader can handle alone.

As the team grows, founders often react by micromanaging the details of their business. In trying to take on everyone else’s job, the founder often leaves the most critical position vacant: strategist and vision-setting.

Learn to trust and empower others in the organisation and you will find you have room to innovate, which is critical for business growth.

Related: What I Learned About Dating That Will Transform Any Business

Steady the ship

An effective leader will also engage others in the business to embrace and adapt to change as growth continues.

  1. Vision: First, plot the course for where the business should go in the short term, and the long term.
  2. Change: Understand what needs to be put in place to grow the business. You might need to source better business operating systems to streamline this growth, or change a few internal business processes, or rethink how you calculate your hourly rates.
  3. People: Growth equals change, and change equals pain, so if you want growth, budget for pain. Understand that you will need to guide and coach the staff into changing their mindset and adapting to these growth changes.

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