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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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Company Posts

How To Immigrate With Your Family By Starting A Business In The UK

The simple way to make your entrepreneurial dreams come true in the UK.

Sable International

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Many people, especially those with families, are reluctant to up sticks and move to the UK. These would-be movers are often worried that they will not be able to secure employment in the hugely competitive UK job market. This source of stress alone is enough to discourage some from pursuing their dreams of living in the UK. But, there is an innovative and accessible solution.

The UK has several visa classes aimed at individuals who wish to invest in the country. These give an individual the right to live and work in the UK with their families, if they make a defined investment. A visa that interests South Africans is the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa. We have developed our UK Tier 1 Entrepreneur Investment Programme to help South Africans looking to immigrate to the UK alone, or with their families.

The basics of the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa

To be awarded a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa, you will need to invest at least R3,5 million (£200,000) in an existing UK business or one you start up. There are certain other requirements, but these are not particularly onerous, and most investors will qualify if they submit their application correctly.

The entrepreneur visa allows you to live and work in the UK, and take dependant family members with you, defined as your partner and your child under 18. If you have the capital, or are willing to liquidate your assets in South Africa to raise it, the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa is a great way to relocate your entire family to the UK.

Do note: You will need to make specific applications for each dependant, so it is vital you consult with an immigration expert before beginning the application process.

You’re not just immigrating, you’re investing in the UK

By starting or investing in a UK business as part of our programme, you will be granted the right to live and work in the UK, and earn an income from that business.

Related: Want To Start An Import Business – Here Are The Importing Terms And Documents Involved

The business you invest in will want you to play an active role, not just contribute seed capital. If you want to invest in a business without being an active director you will be allowed to do so, but you may not be eligible for the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa.

Another restriction is that you cannot hold this visa and work for a business other than the one you are invested in. But, your partner will be allowed to work in whatever field he or she pleases.

How do you choose the right business to invest in?

There is always an element of risk when investing in a foreign business, particularly when you’re thirteen thousand kilometres away from the country you’re investing in. It’s important to understand exactly what you’re investing in before you take the plunge.

That’s why our UK Tier 1 Entrepreneur Investment Programme is hugely beneficial. It matches your investment capital with a pre-approved investee business. We’ll make sure that your skills are matched with an appropriate venture so you can be an active director of that business.

We’ll also handle your visa applications, providing you with a comprehensive immigration and investment solution. Our partner’s list of investee businesses is over 200 strong, giving you an array of choices in various industries. This allows us to pair you with the business that best suits your investment goals and skills.

But what if you have a successful business in South Africa?

It’s no secret — emigrating from South Africa is difficult for many families who have deep roots and thriving operations. There’s no reason why you can’t keep your business in South Africa as well as relocate to the UK.

Nothing restricts a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa holder from owning and overseeing businesses in other countries while they are on this visa. Many clients choose to relocate to the UK while ensuring that their original business continues to operate. In this way, you will be supplementing the income from your UK investment with revenue generated by your South African business.

You can hold British and South African passports if you apply for your British citizenship in the correct manner. You must obtain permission from Home Affairs in South Africa to avoid having your citizenship revoked. Retaining your South African citizenship will make it much easier for you to continue running a business here.

Talk to us today

There are compelling reasons to move to the UK — a brighter future for your children and a more stable country in which to retire. Our comprehensive solution will ensure you get the most out of your relocation.

Visit www.sableinternational.com/entrepreneur or send us a mail on ukinvest@sableinternational.com 

If you’re thinking of immigrating to the UK or investing offshore — either or both — we can help.

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Performance & Growth

8 Negotiating Tactics Every Successful Entrepreneur Has Mastered

How you would negotiate if you were talking for the other side? Now you know how your offer looks to them.

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Deep down, we’re all a little greedy. We all want the best outcome for ourselves. We can’t help but consider what’s in our own self-interest any time we negotiate a deal.

But to become a truly successful negotiator, you have to learn to put aside pure self-centeredness. Because if all you care about is serving yourself, you’ll blow the deal before you even start.

Negotiations are a delicate balance of give and take. Learning to strike this balance is necessary for any entrepreneur hoping to build a prosperous business. It takes time and practice and whole lot of patience to hone a winning strategy. And yet each deal is unique and needs to be approached correctly, which is why a one-size-fits-all approach will never work for long.

Here are eight of the most important skills every entrepreneur should learn to become a master at negotiations.

1. Do your prep work

Successful negotiations are built on solid prep work. This means you know something about the parties involved, you’ve done a little background checking, you know about their business and maybe you’ve even talked to others they’ve worked with to get an idea of their strengths and weaknesses.

The same is true if you are on the other side of the table and are looking to invest in a product or service. You should have a solid understanding of the pros and cons of the commodity they are selling. The bottom line is, you need to have a good idea of who you are dealing with and what they can offer.

You should always go into negotiations with your best foot forward. You should be well rested. You should have eaten something (being “hangry” can swiftly detonate any negotiation). You should show up on time – maybe even early, so you aren’t walking in feeling rushed.

Related: Small Business Savvy: Why You Need Negotiation Skills

If you’ve done the above, you should be feeling positive and are going in clear-headed and confident. You will have the stamina and energy to get this deal done.

2. Consider all the details of the opening offer

The opening offer usually acts as an anchor for negotiations. It’s also where the details get hammered out, so it’s important that it’s done carefully and thoughtfully.

The basic elements of an offer include the offer price, the work being proposed, what goods or services are included, when it will all be delivered and if there are any performance incentives, warranties or terms and conditions. Obviously, price is a key component to any deal, but keep in mind the other details. They can matter nearly as much in the long run.

If you are the one initiating the opening offer, this is your chance to set the stage for the negotiations ahead and start with the upper hand. You won’t get what you don’t ask for, so be bold! If you’re on the other side of the table, the offer is key to seeing how close together you are.

Know your bottom line – what are you willing to accept? And remember to take a close look at the details. What else are you getting for your money and what else are you potentially signing up for?

3. Check your ego and emotions at the door

While you should have confidence and assurance because you’ve done your prep work, you also have to check your ego at the door.

Related: Why Thinking Abstractly Helps You Negotiate

Letting your emotions run the show will never serve you well. In fact, you should be going in feeling as neutral as you can about the situation. Leaving your ego behind will free you to think objectively during intense bargaining. You can then negotiate from a standpoint of flexibility. 

To be successful you have to be able to think clearly in stressful situations and be willing to work to find common ground. If you walk in with a middle-of-the-road attitude, you’re more likely to strike a balance between getting what you want and not giving away too much.

On the other hand, you don’t want to give something away without getting something in return. Losing your ego and putting your emotions aside will help you find right path forward.

4. Play the game rather than letting the game play you

If you’re entering into high-stakes negotiations, it may be helpful to run through possible scenarios with a friend or colleague.

This will help you feel less nervous, and it may also show you objections to the offer that you hadn’t thought of, or help you see a side of the deal that you hadn’t considered.

Playing through the scenarios, even if it’s just in your own mind, may help you feel less attached to the outcome. In order to treat the whole thing as a game, you should care…but not too much!

Related: How to Profit from Negotiation Skills

Having a little apathy will help you stay neutral and keep your feelings in check. And remember, negotiations are like anything else: the more you practice, the better you’ll be.

5. See your strengths and weaknesses clearly

Self-awareness is key when you begin negotiations. You are essentially looking for the other side’s strengths and weaknesses. Not in a cruel way, but to help you determine your next play.

At the same time, you must also be aware of your own strengths and weaknesses, so you don’t allow yourself to be exploited. Try to take an honest inventory of your strong points and vulnerabilities.

If your company is small, what is its growth potential? Are you able to be more responsive to the market than a larger company? In short, what can you offer that the other side can’t, and what can the other side offer that you can’t compete with? Knowing where you stand on the negotiation chessboard will help you determine how to land the best deal.

6. Know when to walk away

When you enter into a negotiation with the knowledge that you are willing to walk away if things don’t go as planned, you come from a position of strength. That’s why staying neutral is key to a successful negotiation.

You can’t be bullied into a deal if you just leave. But often we tell ourselves that this deal means everything to us. Our ego is involved, and that weakens our position.

It’s about mindset. You have to believe that if this deal falls through, you aren’t losing an opportunity. You are keeping that space open so when a better opportunity comes along you can snag it. If you force a bad deal to happen, you are stuck.

Related: Let’s Make A Deal

You are no longer able to grab hold of something better. And there is no shortage of business out there. So if you are pinning all your hopes on one deal, you may be killing future business.

7. Negotiate in good faith

Whether you’re negotiating a long-term business deal or setting up a quick sale, it’s natural to feel on the defensive when you begin negotiations. We are all protective of our interests and we want to cut the best deal in our favor.

But if you are hoping to walk away with your reputation intact, you need to practice negotiating with compassion and good faith. Engage in active listening and really hear what the other side is saying and asking for. What are the issues that are making them hesitant? Then make sure that you relay your own priorities.

This is the basis of a “win-win” solution, when both sides explore each other’s positions and walk away feeling heard and comfortable with the deal that was struck. Even if it appears that you are on opposite sides, there’s usually common ground to be had. Maybe the other side has a different goal or an opposing position. But if you look for it, you can usually find mutual gains both sides will accept.

8. Know how to close

Negotiations may feel like a game of chance, but they’re more like a game of chess. A successful negotiation requires a good sense of timing and the ability to sense the other side’s next move.

If you’ve done your prep work and are bargaining in good faith, you should have a solid idea of what they’re looking to get out of the deal. And of course, you should have a clear idea of your own bottom line. So you’re either working to bring the sides progressively closer, or the deal is going nowhere.

Ask yourself what the endgame is. Can the difference between both parties be split? If both sides are close but a few numbers are hanging up the process, what will it take to shake things loose?

Related: 3 Strategies For Closing Sales Without Picking Up The Phone

If you can strike a bargain that makes sense, it doesn’t need to be perfect. It just needs to work for both parties involved. If you can get to that point, you have set the stage for the final handshake. If not, you have to be willing to walk away knowing it just wasn’t the right time.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Performance & Growth

Peak Performance: How Do I Build A Culture Of Sustainable Growth?

A business cannot move forward and grow in a sustainable way unless the people move.

Dirk Coetsee

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As a Peak Performance coach I have been involved in numerous transformation journeys, from facilitating the transformation of a toxic culture to one of positive and exponential growth, from assisting a person to move from a state of depression to a joyous and fulfilling life, and to see people move from poor performance to unleashing their true potential.

Two key learnings for me as a coach has been:

‘The company or business cannot move forward in a sustainable way unless the people move’

And

‘Most businesses are over managed which drains the teams’ energy and passion and under-led resulting in a lack of purpose and vision’

Thus ‘moving’ the people in your business and ensuring that there is a healthy balance between leadership and management are critical factors to build and maintain a sustainable culture of growth.

A business cannot move forward and grow in a sustainable way unless the people move

An uninspired workforce whom in general just view their jobs purely as a source of income can easily become ‘a slow poison’ that eventually causes the death of your venture as a business leader. Move and inspire your teams by instilling a sense of purpose and Vision. When the people within an organisation have found their purpose ( the very good and inspiring reason to do what they do) and that purpose aligns with what the company is aiming to achieve, they can work effectively without supervision and act in the best interest of  the company at all times, even when no one is watching…

Related: Start-ups: Creating A High Tech/High Touch Environment

A shared value system that is not merely a philosophy but rather becomes visible action on a daily basis combined with strong commitment and tenacity in the face of challenges is a powerful tool that empowers your team to be a catalyst for sustainable growth and development of people and profits.

When the team co-creates a Vision that they are really inspired by and when this vision is underpinned by a shared and actionable value system that is not there for show but are guidelines within which every team member operates a nucleus of strong leaders will emerge that can help your business to grow exponentially.

It is a myth that you as a/the business owner can motivate others as internal motivation is a decision that falls upon each individual. It is however very possible to create an environment as a leader within which it is easier for others to motivate themselves. Partly this is done by constantly inspiring others by your example as a leader and by establishing a culture of constant learning within your business. If you are not learning you are stagnating and the undesirable next step after stagnation is inevitably to go backwards.

Peer management where all team members are held accountable can be an effective tool towards exponential and sustainable growth. Personally I am a big fan of ‘stand-ups’ which is an impactful and speedy version of traditional meetings. The length of a stand –up is determined beforehand, everyone is standing during the meeting to create a better chance at an energetic environment. Everyone is notified and given enough time to thoughtfully prepare for the next stand-up. During each stand-up all team members look each other straight in the eyes and hold each other accountable to living the Vision, purpose, and values of the company and very directly tell other team members what they expect and need from them in order to be more effective within their respective roles. Peer management is only effective within a culture of positive action and where excuses is viewed as an ill devised practise to engage in.

‘Most businesses are over managed which drains the teams’ energy and passion and under-led resulting in a lack of purpose and vision’

There is a vast difference between management and leadership that unfortunately is ignored by a large proportion of companies. Leadership is about inspiring people towards the co-creation of a desired future state.

Related: What Is Limiting Your Entrepreneurial Mindset

Management is a day to day orientation where activities are closely monitored and measured. Both Leadership and management is sorely needed to be a sustainable success. However if the balance shifts dramatically in the favour of management at the expense of inspirational and servant leadership often ‘the joy of and inspiration behind doing business is just sucked out of people’ and their levels of motivation decrease dramatically.

On the other hand when the balance shifts dramatically in the favour of Leadership at the expense of sound management principles and practises you end up having this wonderful dream of a global and sustainable business without any strong foundations under this dream.

By co-creating an in inspiring vision with your team and always ensuring that there is a strong element of future direction and inspiration within all meetings, systems and processes and that you take action based upon your companies shared value system you can be empowered to create a balance between Leadership and management which indeed is a potent combination.

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