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Performance & Growth

What Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Aesop’s The Fox And The Grapes Fable

The best competitive advantage you can give your business is a solutions-orientated mindset.

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An old tale with a new take

What Aesop’s The Fox and the Grapes can teach us about strategic growth in business.


The Fox and the Grapes

A famished fox saw some clusters of ripe black grapes hanging from a trellised vine. She resorted to all her tricks to get at them, but wearied herself in vain, for she could not reach them. At last she turned away, hiding her disappointment and saying: “The grapes are sour, and not ripe as I thought.”

The lesson

People who speak disparagingly of things that they cannot attain would do well to apply this story to themselves.

Successful entrepreneurs don’t complain, they find solutions.


Related: 8 Telltale Signs Your Company Is Going Under

Putting key lessons into practice

Not every opportunity is suitable for every entrepreneur, no matter how famished they might be for new ideas — it’s sometimes better not to act on impulse and wait for more strategic positioning before chasing a new opportunity.

It doesn’t mean giving up, it means learning to look at a problem from different perspectives.

Hastiness and impatience lead to loss of clarity when making strategic decisions, and increase the risk of making decisions based on false assumptions. Patience, flexibility, methodology and good timing are important strategic elements of success in an entrepreneur’s toolbox; especially as problems become more complex and often involve many different areas and levels of professional knowledge and experience — passion isn’t everything.

Just because she wants the grapes doesn’t mean it’s in the old fox’s interests to have them in this manner and at this precise time. If she’s a successful entrepreneur, she might consider herself lucky she can’t reach the grapes, this doesn’t mean she’s going to give up; instead, she’s going to take a step back and approach the problem from a different perspective.

Finding a different angle

different-angle-fox

One entrepreneur’s opportunity is another’s complication and risk — they should pick their projects carefully and wisely. To a given problem, there are given solutions, depending on experience and levels of maturity. There was a time when the famished fox would have found a way to reach such low hanging fruit.

Instinctively, she may be disappointed she failed, but did she really give it her all? Her pride, sense of self-efficacy, curiosity and drive nags at her — there was a time when her emotions would have got the better of her — thinking the problem wasn’t with the grapes but with her attitude.

But over the years, she’s become more measured, her motivations shifting to new interests and areas of expertise.

She now has a different understanding of herself and her capabilities — she knows how to take a step back, and view the problem from a different angle. She has new skills and a mindset better adapted to visualising the big picture and thinking strategically.

The benefits of experience

After years as an entrepreneur she now has other strengths to take her projects to a new level. Her strengths lie in bringing together the different elements of her business model. Being unable to reach the grapes is a temporary setback. She knows she can’t completely eliminate risks; her aim is to reduce them to a level she can manage.

She’s done the research and has a great business idea and plan for how to process the grapes and add value by commercialising a consumer product for which she has a clear vision and a distinct market segment. She didn’t come to this spot by accident; these grapes are of the Fragolino varietal and a perfect match for her strategic needs and objectives.

She’s been working on her business model for weeks, and tried many different ways to ensure differentiation of her product in the market. According to her evaluation, backed by solid scientific and market research, the Fragolino grape is the key resource she needs for her product value proposition.

Entrepreneurs are risk management specialists, problem solvers. She needs to figure out how to harvest the raw materials she needs — a key activity in her business model — and which are currently out of reach.

Related: The Single Most Important Skill You Need To Succeed

A solution would be a key partner to help her secure the Fragolino grapes. A partner for whom this low hanging fruit isn’t too high; who can organise the crucial supply chain to bring the raw material to the processing plant, to be bottled, labelled, boxed and shipped to distributors.

A partner with the passion and drive to accomplish this key activity in her business model; and who could benefit from her strengths as a strategically minded experienced entrepreneur.

Leveraging partners for growth

Along comes younger fox, an aspiring entrepreneur, who spots the grapes. The older fox explains how she’s too old to take advantage of the opportunity, but has a lot of business experience and a great idea for exploiting the resource, if he’s interested in taking care of that key activity — thus turning the entire operation into a profitable business.

He certainly would love to get involved in the wine business, but he’s unsure, nervous, fearful and thinks entrepreneurship is too risky, preferring a steady job. However, she motivates him, explaining that risk is relative and requires a solid plan to mitigate its negative effects.

With her plan and his efforts and resolve they can reduce any risks to a lower level than a steady job could offer. Plus, there’s the upside benefit of much bigger financial gains, quality of life, and doing something for which he has a passion.

Combining knowledge to become a success

She offers to be his business partner and mentor; he’ll learn about the wine business, research, strategy, negotiation, how to effectively communicate with people, develop products, marketing, sales.

In her new role as mentor and partner, the old fox isn’t full of herself, thinking she knows everything. Rather, she sees the role as a great challenge and responsibility. This will be her first time as a mentor and she’s sure to learn a lot too.

They’re ready for business. This is exactly the sort of challenge the older fox loves and for which she has a passion. She knows these grapes are a special type with a unique strawberry-like taste, and perfect for small niche premium production runs targeted at luxury restaurants and fine food shops.

The younger fox benefits from her expertise and strategic planning vision, and she from his energy and resourcefulness. They are different types of entrepreneurs, each fulfilling a different function in the running of the business, contrasted yet complementary all at once.

Together they are stronger, than they would have been apart

As a partnership they stand a better chance of succeeding where alone they would have failed. At first, the old fox may have failed, but she failed fast, and quickly pivoted to find a better solution by looking at the problem from different angles.

Reframing the questions, she sought a better fit, seeking answers according to realistic facts on the ground, personal desires, strategic intents and motivations, business model experience, maturity and needs required for bringing about a successful start-up launch.

By taking her time, and a step back, thinking more methodically and strategically, she was able to take several steps forward, make smarter decisions, and a better plan — thus creating the environment for a more efficient and profitable way of working.

Related: 3 Ways To Stop Taking Your Most Loyal Customers For Granted

With the big picture in mind, she was able to zoom in on specific problems and find the ideal strategic partner to help her fulfil the needs of her business model. All preparation for the final launch action are falling into place, increasing her chances of not failing, and reducing risks to a manageable level.

If all goes according to plan, she’s already thinking about the next growth phase — to scale the business by raising capital, thanks to a carefully prepared business plan.

Moving forward

Famished for ideas, the old fox was determined not to quit until she’d discovered the right strategy. She would not act merely on a whim, but instead took a step back to properly calculate the risks and rewards to secure a higher probability of success — and by mentoring the younger foxes, took her game to a whole new level of personal growth and fulfilment.

For the old fox, it is better to have 50% of a business than 100% of sour grapes; or wait 50% longer for a 100% better chance of reducing risks and avoiding failure.

The younger fox thinks it’s better to have 100% of an experienced crafty fox as a mentor and actual hands-on learning-by-doing experience, than a 50% chance his office job will be unfulfiling, and teach him few practical skills with lower potential financial rewards. It’s a win/win.

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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Performance & Growth

How To Survive Exponential Change In Your Business

How to get out of the habit of thinking small, and start thinking in giant leaps for radical – and profitable – change.

Matt Brown

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I recently went to a meet and greet session at a company that turns over R13 billion a year. As I was introduced to other executives, I was referred to as ‘the guy who is at the pinnacle of podcasting in South Africa’. This kind of feedback is truly humbling, but after hearing that, the only question I had on my mind was: “But for how long is anyone or any brand at the top of any market?”

The Challenge of Change

Change is no longer happening in a linear fashion; it’s occurring exponentially. We love linear thinking, because we have been conditioned to think in small steps (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) but we totally suck at exponential thinking (1, 2, 4, 16, 32, 1 024). To a greater and greater extent this is the world we are heading into.

Almost inevitably, markets that used to be relatively predictable are winding up in an entirely new paradigm and some of the world’s largest and most reputable companies have been caught unaware. The main culprit? The exponential growth surprise factor.

For example, in 2012, Toys R Us was a $12 billion company with a retail footprint comprising 1 600 stores. In September 2017, they filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy… only five years later. The message is simple: Innovate or die.

But more importantly, there is a new challenge facing all entrepreneurs today: How can you prepare yourself and help your business survive in an exponential business world?

Related: Asking The Wrong Questions Will Break Your Business

Here’s a four-step process that can help you get started.

1. Look out for the Warning Signs

In my experience, the warning signs of disaster are present in every industry one to three years before disaster strikes. Ironically, many businesses are simply not paying attention to the warning signs in their market — or even worse, do not know what warning signs to look out for.

Because all industries and businesses are subject to different warning signs, a simple, yet highly effective way to know when your business is in the throes of a critical warning sign is when something within your industry doesn’t make sense.

When a linear industry is on the verge of disruption it generally manifests into something that doesn’t make sense for the incumbents in that industry.

In 2008, when blockchain technology and the Bitcoin first manifested itself, it didn’t make sense to many in financial services. Fast forward to today and there are over 1 000 cryptocurrencies that you can actively trade and the promise of the decentralisation of all industries — not just the financial services industry — is very real.

So, if something new enters your industry and it doesn’t make sense to you it’s time to apply step number three.

2. Ask Why

If you ask a group of incredibly smart people to solve a very difficult problem and they can’t seem to solve it, you may find that they don’t lack collective intelligence, but perspective on the problem itself.

Whenever this eventuality occurs the best thing to do is ask “why” repeatedly until you find the perspective that you need to make new decisions in your business. It’s one of most powerful yet completely undervalued questions that any business leader can ask.

3. Act

Almost all success in business comes down to execution. Toys R Us didn’t act. When all is said and done, they simply did not believe in the Internet and they paid the highest price. In an exponential world, the ability to not just act but to act quickly is priceless.

Related: 5 Answers From Digital Kungfu On Why Podcasts Are Your Best Self Development Tool

4. Move forward

No industry is immune. Let’s take podcasting for example. Our data shows that the addressable market for podcasts is already 16 million people; 50% of all podcast consumption growth over the last five years has happened in the last 12 months; and media consumption is shifting faster than we think into the on-demand space.

To address this exponential shift in media consumption, the Matt Brown Show is evolving from a podcast into a fully-fledged new media company. So, my question to you is simple: How is your business preparing itself for the future? EM


IN YOUR TOOLKIT

Get some perspective

the-innovators-dilemma-when-new-technologies-cause-great-firms-to-fail-by-clayton-christensenREAD THIS: The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail, by Clayton Christensen

While decades of researchers have struggled to understand why even the best companies almost inevitably fail, Clayton Christensen shows how most companies miss out on new waves of innovation.  His answer is surprising and almost paradoxic: It is actually the same practices that lead the business to be successful in the first place that eventually can also result in its eventual demise. This breakthrough insight has made The Innovator’s Dilemma a must-read for managers, CEOs, innovators, and entrepreneurs alike.

ASK WHY

Drawing from Matt Brown’s article, start implementing quarterly meetings that review the biggest challenges the company is facing, and start asking the question ‘why’ of even the most basic tenets that are being taken for granted.

The idea is to find a new perspective of the same problem.

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Performance & Growth

Too Big For Your Boots?

How to manage the complexities of a rapidly expanding business.

Greg Morris

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It may come as a surprise to many, but too much success too soon can result in a company’s failure. That’s often because the company out-runs its ability to sustain and control that success, and a decline follows.

Say, for instance, that an organisation reaches increasingly higher sales targets, but its infrastructure doesn’t scale at the same rate. Inconsistencies and weaknesses begin to appear in its management systems. Quality suffers, and, eventually, the positive trend plateaus and tips downwards.

The answer? Don’t misjudge the impact that business and management can have on realising a sustainable growth strategy. The systems you have in place today may not work when addressing new challenges – or, they may make it next to impossible for you to meet them.

Related: The Most Common Mistake with Global Business Expansion

If your organisation is on a growth path, consider these six elements:

1. The right talent

Develop a management system that measures accountability against specific standards and ensures that the quality of your products and services doesn’t waver. As service quality often depends on human capital, you’ll need the right mix of people at every level.

Give non-management employees the autonomy to contribute positively, and recognise them for it. They’ll reward you with good outcomes and ensure that the foundation of your growth is that much sturdier, while developing a robust working environment.

Identify the people in your organisation whose roles will be most affected by your expansion, and enable them to take initiative outside of their standard work requirements. This way, they’re more likely to get involved and help you to create new cross-organisational systems that address tasks in parallel.

2. Controlling quality

It’s easy to lose track of quality when your business is growing speedily, so give the task of maintaining quality to a loyal management team. Assign them the responsibility for overseeing everything from product development to internal systems and manufacturing.

It’s also important for you to remember that service-based organisations face quality concerns as they grow, and that finding the right talent (see Element #1 above) can be as limiting as a blockage in a production line.

Related: 6 Signs That You Should Stop A Business Expansion In Its Tracks

3. Processes that scale

Make sure that your processes and projects are executed in the same way every time. Don’t let your systems become un-scalable; establish which ones are most likely to come under strain as the company expands.

4. Manage cashflow

Numbers never lie. When your company is growing, beware of the danger of spending more than you can afford. More oversight or adjustments may be necessary to increase effectiveness, quality, and sales.

When determining if you’re going to front-load your capital investment, be confident that cash is coming into your account as a result of the investment. Remember that cash profits and accounting profit are very different. Cash profits are your bread and butter.

If you aren’t positioned to finance your own expansion and you require outside funding, carefully consider the pros and cons of getting into debt, as well as the length of the loan and interest rate.

Related: Expansion Funding Options For Your Growing Business

5. Finding investors

Conduct detailed research into potential investors, as each will have sector or industry interests, investment mandates, and value preferences. Pinpoint these, assimilate with them, and make sense of them before engaging.

Then, make the effort to thoroughly evaluate the potential investor. Do this by first determining where your interests are aligned and then uncovering:

  • The source of the investors’ capital
  • Their investment track records
  • The returns that they usually aim for
  • Their traditional risk profiles
  • Their investment mandates.

6. Communicating culture

Spend as much time determining, sharing, and entrenching your company’s current and growing culture as you do addressing your growth strategy.

With each new stage of growth, commit time and resources into making sure that the cultures of different departments don’t implode when put together – impacting on customers, important employees, or worse.

Make your employees aware of what the future will hold, how it is likely to affect them, and what the bigger picture looks like.

In essence…

No matter the size of your business or what your growth plans are, expansion can expose you to a host of risks. These may be existing problems that worsen, or new ones that are uncovered for the first time. Either way, it’s crucial that you identify them, prepare for them, and make plans to protect yourself in the face of growth.

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Company Posts

Driving Your Business Growth Towards More Customers

Designed to help its customers get the most from their businesses through the right telematics solution, New WEBFLEET can help you reach your customers quicker, get more done, improve efficiencies, save costs and boost your revenues.

TomTom Telematics

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Europe’s highly regulated operating environment has made telematics ubiquitous in business. On the one hand, this means industries across the spectrum have become safer, more efficient and highly productive across the EU. On the other, it’s much harder to stand out from the crowd when everyone follows the same best practice standards.

“We don’t have those same stringent regulations in place,” says Justin Manson, Sales Director, Africa at TomTom Telematics. “Our clients have realised what a huge competitive advantage this actually offers them though.

“Locally, everyone understands the role that telematics plays in tracking what your drivers are doing right and wrong, and use it as a tool for encouraging good driving practices, but there’s so much more to this solution, and we’re making it our mission to help business owners really use it to their benefit.

“When deployed across the organisation to its full capabilities, a telematics system can radically improve productivity and workflow. Done correctly, a business can save up to 10% on its bottom line, and redeploy that cash into the company’s growth, thanks to drivers reaching customers quicker and getting more done. The right data also increases productivity and ensures better turnaround times.”

Thomas Schmidt, MD of TomTom Telematics, loves visiting South Africa for this very reason. “Because so many business owners aren’t using telematics to their full extent, there’s such a huge opportunity for us to assist businesses in their growth here,” he says. “We deliver a high-value stack of products that can change the way companies operate, and most importantly help them save money and make money. The challenge for us is educating our customers so that they understand what our solutions offer, and the incredible impact they can have on a business. We consistently improve these solutions based on customer feedback as well, making them very much from customers for customers.

Related: Why Your Fleet Management Plays a Pivotal Role In Your Business

“Anyone can buy a map for less than R100. Why invest in such expensive devices? The answer is because we’ve developed solutions that change lives. With the right data — and access to that data — you increase safety, simplify your business, drive efficiencies, increase your output and customer service, and ensure you are always productive and reliable — across the organisation. And that impact can be measured, and given a real ROI value.

“Imagine the impression companies that operate at that level make on their industries. They stand out from their competitors. There is so much room for growth in South Africa as we deploy these solutions.”

Game-changing solutions

As an organisation, TomTom Telematics is focused on continuous growth and innovation as well, constantly learning from market conditions, its customers and industry needs to improve its product offerings.

The result is the launch of New WEBFLEET in February 2018. “We’ve increased the value we offer our customers,” says Thomas. “We’ve collated data from hundreds of thousands of customers around the world who gave us their feedback through surveys, and New WEBFLEET is a window into easy-to-use, smart fleet management that is a game changer for companies.”

“TomTom Telematics is in the business of helping businesses,” agrees Justin. “Our goal is help our customers master their challenges. The right data at your fingertips will help you change the way you operate. That’s our goal. How much cash is being left on the table in an organisation because of inefficiencies?”

Introducing New Webfleet

The smartest way to manage your vehicles and mobile workforce

tomtom-telematicsTomTom Telematics’ state of the art Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) fleet management solution, with best-in-class user interface, is inspired by two decades of working together with customers to achieve more for better fleet management. New WEBFLEET is everything you need to manage your vehicles in the cloud, in real time. It allows you to monitor reports and dashboards, manage orders/workflow, and improve driving behaviour, safety and service, helping you save fuel and reduce costs.

Best-in-class user interface

  • A future-proof platform with a completely renewed interface, based on the latest HTML5 technology and driven by continuous innovation.
  • Simple and clean interface, with minimised clicks for faster working.
  • Intuitive functionality, means it is more accessible for greater impact across your business.
  • User rights management and state-of-the-art data handing ensures the highest level of data privacy and data security.
  • Fast access to the right information.

Related: Fleet Tools Will Help You Get More Done In Less Time

Map view

Know where your vehicles are and where they have been. Different map options such as Google, Google Street View or satellite map are enriched with traffic information, giving you a more detailed view on what’s happening on the roads. Toggle between different types of information on the map such as traffic, addresses and areas and create specific views, so you only see the information you need.

Dashboard

New WEBFLEET’s dashboard gives an overview of performance at a glance. Up to 27 KPIs can be used to track the performance of vehicles, individuals, benchmark teams or give a simple overview. This helps you to track real-time performance against your pre-defined KPIs.

Reporting

New WEBFLEET gives you instant access to the information that matters, meaning you can spot trends over time and use real-time information to make smarter and more informed decisions. You can instantly download or schedule reports to help you stay on top of everything — from fuel efficiency and legal compliance to quality of service.

Manage on the move

New WEBFLEET is optimised so you can manage your fleet on any device by entering WEBFLEET through a web browser or by downloading the WEBFLEET Mobile app on your smartphone.

Send routes direct to drivers

  • Plan accurate routes in New WEBFLEET by adjusting multiple variables such as location, time of departure/arrival, traffic and vehicle type.
  • Get a choice of alternative routes, as well as suggested fastest route with traffic.
  • Customise your route by simply adding new waypoints, or dragging and dropping existing waypoints on a route. Then choose from guided or forced route* options.
  • Send planned routes directly to a TomTom PRO driver terminal to keep your drivers on the right track.

Related: Time Is Money And It’s Time You Saved Both When Running Your Fleet

Personalised Map views*

  • Create your own saved map view to reach information you need fast.
  • Switch between vehicle groups or areas, without needing to adjust the map filters and zoom levels. n

Personalisation

Many ways to customise WEBFLEET to suit individual requirements from personalised views to adding information to make what you see more informative on one page.

Plan a route the way you want it

Use multiple variables (including waypoints) to give fastest or most efficient routes.

Access WEBFLEET

Across different device types, allowing you to always stay on top of business.

Simple, clean and easy to administer

Toggle between views to get the right information to focus on the task in hand. Get the right information to the right people at the right time, keep data secure and in the right hands.

Send routes to driver terminals

In real time, ensure drivers follow or avoid specific routes.

Visit telematics.tomtom.com/tellmemore and follow us on Twitter @TomTomWEBFLEET

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