1How I Built This
How I Built This is produced by NPR (National Public Radio) in the US. As its name suggests, the podcast looks at famous brands/companies and the founders behind them. Each episode features a guest entrepreneur who discusses the highs and lows of building a massive brand.
The show is hosted by Guy Raz and is intimate and conversational in nature. Founders are often remarkably frank, speaking openly about the challenges they faced. Episodes are fairly long (around 30 minutes), but worth the investment.
Great episode: Zappos: Tony Hsieh
The head of the most famous online shoe company in the world discusses how he leads as an extreme introvert, and reveals that he doesn’t care about shoes at all. In fact, he only owns two pairs: Black Asics and a pair of flip-flops.
Time invested: 30 minutes
“I’m actually not passionate about shoes at all. I’m passionate about customer service and company culture, so I can talk about those two things, but I can’t say anything about shoes.” — Tony Hsieh
2The $100 MBA Show
Hosted by Omar Zenhom, The $100 MBA Show is short and to the point, delivering useful info and actionable lessons. Episodes are brief (around 10 minutes) and don’t have any fluff. Some focus on personal development, while others look at the nitty gritty of building and managing a large organisation.
The name of each episode makes it very clear what that particular podcast is about, so you can listen to the ones that you think will have value for you, and ignore those that won’t.
Great episode: #895 — Selling to Big Corporates
‘Guest lecturer’ Steve Glaveski discusses the mindset and approach needed to sell to big corporate companies.
Time invested: 10 minutes
“Understand the KPIs of who you’re targeting so you can speak their language. Understand what their challenges are and how they make purchasing decisions. Price might be one factor, but other things companies consider when making purchasing decisions could include things like switching costs, the quality of your brand, reputation, brand awareness, trust, security, privacy concerns, social proof and compatibility.” — Steve Glaveski
3Trailblazers with Walter Isaacson
Trailblazers with Walter Isaacson is hosted by, well, Walter Isaacson. He’s one of the greatest living biographers — having penned best-selling biographies on people like Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein and Benjamin Franklin — so he knows how to take a true story and turn it into a riveting narrative. With Trailblazers, he looks specifically at disruption.
He looks at how and why it happens, and why large companies are often too slow in reacting to it. The show is expertly produced, with Isaacson interviewing various thought leaders and showing how industries like film, music, electronics and gaming have been disrupted. Interestingly, the podcast series was commissioned by Dell Technologies, but it doesn’t feel like a piece of marketing content.
Great episode: Lights… Camera… Disruption
Streaming services like Netflix and Amazon are threatening to disrupt the film and television industry, but it’s not the first time this has happened. The entertainment industry has been forced to deal with disruption before. Will the traditional system survive in the age of Netflix?
Time invested: 30 minutes
“[Netflix] have brought a very Silicon Valley type of culture into Hollywood. And they have played a pretty hardball game. Unlike the TV competitors they have, they know exactly how much you watched. They know if you watched 13 minutes and stopped. They know if you’ve watched to the end. They know if you binged. That’s the kind of granular information TV networks don’t have.” — Kim Masters, editor-at-large, Hollywood Reporter
4Masters of Scale
As both the founder of LinkedIn and a partner at investment firm Greylock, Reid Hoffman is a Silicon Valley insider with access to some of the most famous entrepreneurs on the planet. His podcast, Masters of Scale, hasn’t been around for very long, but it already boasts a guest list that includes Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg from Facebook, Brian Chesky from Airbnb and Eric Schmidt from Google. As the name suggests, the podcast is all about the tricky process of scaling a business.
Great episode: Imperfect is Perfect
Mark Zuckerberg talks about the early days of Facebook, explaining the company’s growth strategy and how it managed to spread from one college campus to the entire world. As you can imagine, what works for one campus doesn’t work for the whole world. Facebook’s motto of ‘Move fast and break things’ quickly became problematic.
Time invested: Between 30 and 90 minutes
“So ‘move fast’, I think, is interesting, because you actually have to be willing to give something up to get it. And the question is, ‘What are you willing to give up?’ And early on, the trade was, ‘Move fast and break things.’ The idea was, we will tolerate some amount of bugs and flaws in the service of moving faster and learning what our community wants faster. But we got to a point where it was taking us more time to go back and fix the bugs and issues that we were creating than the speed that we were gaining by going faster.” — Mark Zuckerberg
5The Tim Ferriss Show
The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the biggest podcasts on the planet. Most of the time, it is the most popular business podcast on iTunes, and it was the first business/interview podcast to achieve more than 100 million downloads.
Ferriss (author of The 4-Hour Workweek) interviews high-achievers on his podcast and deconstructs their habits and behaviours to examine why exactly they are so successful. He doesn’t focus only on entrepreneurs and business people, though, often also interviewing celebrities, athletes and scientists, but the podcast is almost always worth listening to. Generally speaking, these interviews don’t offer very specific business advice, but they do provide great insights into the mindset and self-talk of the super-successful.
Great episode: Testing The Impossible: 17 Questions That Changed My Life
A sample chapter from Ferriss’s book Tools of Titans, where he examines insightful questions that have helped him reframe situations and overcome obstacles.
Time invested: 90 minutes
“These days, more than any other question, I’m asking: ‘What would this look like if it were easy?’ If I feel stressed, stretched thin, or overwhelmed, it’s usually because I’m overcomplicating something or failing to take the simple/easy path because I feel I should be trying ‘harder’.” — Tim Ferriss
6The Matt Brown Show
Matt Brown is a local entrepreneur, speaker and the founder of the global media platform the Matt Brown Show. He is also the CEO of Digital Kungfu, a strategic business consultancy that specialises in helping companies accelerate innovation and disrupt traditional markets by enabling them with new ways to do business that serve their customers more effectively and responsively. Unlike the other podcasts on this list, which are all from the US, this podcast is South African, and it focuses on some of the most interesting and dynamic local entrepreneurs.
Great episode: Gil Oved & Romeo Kumalo
Matt Brown speaks to South African Shark Tank entrepreneurs Gil Oved and Romeo Kumalo.
Between 25 and 60 minutes
“Very simply, if I have two entrepreneurs with exactly the same features in front of me: Same business, same opportunity — two entrepreneurs asking for the same amount of money, with only one difference separating the two: One guy had succeeded in his last three business ventures and the other failed in his last three business ventures, ten out of ten times, I will pick the guy who failed.” — Gil Oved
Forever Learning, Discovering And Empowering
From work-life balance to finding the right support, Constance Kawelenga CA(SA), director and owner of Zuva Financial Services, shares her top tips on how to manage a successful business as a sole proprietor.
“Every business has its own slice of the market; one just needs to define their service offerings and target market.”
“When I established Zuva Financial Services, it was under the ‘illusion’ of a work-life balance. I say ‘illusion’, because when you work for yourself, you put in just as many hours, if not more, than when you work for someone else.
“I also wanted the flexibility to be able to shape my working space around my own lifestyle and family, and not to have to account to anyone else. The rigorous training to become a chartered accountant taught me to be highly disciplined. That means when I work for my own business, I am just as tough on myself, if not tougher, than any boss would have been in a different setting. The plus for me is that I am able to be there for my family when I need to be, and compensate for this in a way that best suits my lifestyle.”
Being your own boss has its pros and cons. However, for Constance, it is all worthwhile. Setting targets for her business every year and achieving those targets is deeply satisfying. Again, this is something she attributes to her training — she values client success and feedback.
“Whenever I get affirmation from clients regarding the value that we are adding to their business, and they refer other clients to us, I celebrate those achievements. The growth of Zuva Financial Services’ has resulted mostly from referrals or word of mouth and that, to me, is a testimony to the value that our clients place on our services.”
Related: The Power Of Finding Your Why
Overcoming a lack of internal support
The hardest thing about being the owner of Zuva Financial Services for Constance is the lack of an internal support structure. However, Constance has developed a network of technical specialists that she can call upon to consult. She agrees that technical support remains the toughest challenge of being a sole practitioner.
“We offer a mixed bag of services such as accounting, taxation, secretarial, payroll and even Black Economic Empowerment consulting. Additionally, I have audit clients — some in industries with specific reporting requirements such as estate agents and attorneys working with trusts. On a smaller scale, the breadth of services is almost the same as those offered by bigger firms. The difference is that I don’t have the internal resources such as a technical department.
Prior to establishing Zuva Financial Services, Constance spent six years in audit, mostly in Zimbabwe, but also in Botswana and South Africa. Since then, she has also been exposed to other financial roles, where she fulfilled financial management roles for different organisations such BMW Financial Services.
Constance advises those aspiring to follow in her footsteps and open their own companies not to overthink it, or doubt themselves.
Don’t overthink it
”It took me such a long time to take my first step because I could not believe that I would be able to build up a client base. Today, there are times when I am overwhelmed by the workload on my plate. It reminds me of my mother-in-law’s advice when I started my business. She told me that every business has its own slice of the market; one just needs to define their service offerings and target market.”
Constance describes herself as “forever learning, discovering and empowering.” She adds: “We each have a unique walk in life — ours is to boldly step out and embrace it”.
TuksNovation – Accelerated Innovation With The University of Pretoria
The University of Pretoria’s high-tech business incubator will be launched on the 6th of August by Minister Zulu, Department of Small Business Development at UP – Hatfield Campus, to alleviate the serious challenges related to unemployment South Africa is faced with.
According to Trading Economics (2017), the youth unemployment rate in SA is extremely high at 55,9%. The University of Pretoria is aware of this challenge and has embarked on launching a high-tech business incubator and accelerator.
This business technology incubator, known as TuksNovation, will promote job creation by providing support for the commercialisation of technology, networking, mentoring and sustainable spin-off technology companies.
Fuelling the economy
In a knowledge-driven economy, universities play a major role in regional socio-economic development. Innovations arising from a university’s intellectual capital can stimulate economies through new product development. Universities are therefore highly valued in terms of economic potential.
Although the creation of spin-offs is one of the key mechanisms that universities can leverage to promote socio-economic development, few universities in South Africa have done so, and the impact has been very modest. This low success rate can be attributed to the absence of an entrepreneurial culture, limited access to funding, as well as technology transfer offices at universities that lack critical skills and capacity.
The elements of success
TuksNovation is based on the triple helix model of Etzkowitz and Leydesdorff (1995). According to the University of Stanford Human Sciences and Technologies Advanced Research Institute (H-STAR) (2011), the triple helix concept comprises three basic elements:
- It allows universities to play a more prominent role in innovation, on par with industry and government in a knowledge based society.
- There is a movement towards collaborative relationships among the three major institutional spheres, in which innovation policy is increasingly an outcome of interaction, rather than a prescription of government.
- In addition to fulfilling their traditional functions, each institutional sphere also performs 34 new roles. Institutions that are currently taking on non-traditional roles are viewed as a major potential source of innovation.
Over the long-term, the business incubator aims to enable the development of industrial clusters with a positive economic impact in Tshwane. It is set up in partnership with the Department of Small Business Development’s Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA).
How it works
TuksNovation aims to build strong networks among academia, government and industry to create new spin-offs that can benefit society. According to Prof Elma van der Lingen, Chairperson of the Graduate School of Technology Management (GSTM) at the University of Pretoria, the TuksNovation model is based on allocating seed funding to students who are keen to become entrepreneurs and are conducting research on projects that have the potential to develop commercially viable technology.
“Annual TuksNovation competitions will be held on campus and interested students will be able to participate in order to qualify for TuksNovation seed funding to develop their ideas into commercial products,” she says.
The competitions will have strict guidelines and will be evaluated by a committee comprising mainly representatives from industry and technopreneurs. The technology development phase of the projects will be conducted in a virtual incubator in the University’s laboratories and at facilities at local industries.
The students will receive expert technical guidance from academics at the University, as well as technological entrepreneurship training. Various in-kind contributions will also flow from building strong industry networks.
Some benefits from this relationship could include:
- The use of industry facilities
- Research on industry-related problems
- Employment for students and mentorship.
Funding for the business phase of the projects is secured from external funders, such as venture capitalists, investors, and corporations.
Students with commercially viable technology will make pitches and submit business plans to potential investors in order to secure funding. SEDA covers the incubator’s initial operational costs. TuksNovation will initially support the development of spin-offs in the Faculty of Engineering, Built Environment and Information Technology, but will expand to other faculties involved in science and technology at UP, depending on the availability of funding.
Knowing The Basics Is Not Good Enough Anymore
Being able to confidently speak and write in English has never been so important. Using the right words in the right way can make a massive difference to any company.
Do you know the difference between “organize” and “organise”? Do you believe “device” and “devise” are the same thing? Do you think a comma and a semicolon could be used interchangeably? Why is “talk about” considered informal language? How does one create cohesion in your writing?
Few people in the business sector ask these questions; it could be because they do not focus on the language they use in business correspondence or, as second language speakers of English they do not know the answers. With many pupils in South Africa receiving basic education in their mother tongue, many enter the business sector not knowing the basic rules of how to articulate an idea coherently or cohesively. It is often when they are asked to compile a formal business report or prepare a presentation that few realise the importance of upskilling their English proficiency.
At the Wits Language School’s English Communication for Professional Development unit, that is the main focus: Enhancing participants’ English language skills for the business environment in an interactive manner. Whether you need to go back to the basics; learn how to write and edit emails, proposals, memos, minutes or reports; enhancing your speaking and pronunciation skills in order to deliver confident presentations; or practise your critical thinking skills when using English in your everyday life, there is the right course to fit your needs and help you climb that corporate ladder by focusing on what many regard as a “soft skill”.
Related: Tips To Becoming Fluent
Business English students can generally be classified into two sections: those who recognise the need to address their language skills, and those who believe they do not need any language training. The first group often walks into a class not knowing what to expect and leave with more confidence in their English spoken and written forms. The second group leaves the class understanding language structures better and rely more on grammar and writing rules than on what “sounds right”. Regardless of the group you might fall in, participants who successfully complete the courses gain knowledge, understanding, confidence, a higher aptitude in English and critical analysis of the language they are expected to converse in.
Take for example the following sentences – “I write reports”, “I am writing a report”, “I wrote a report”, “I have written a report”, “I have been writing a report” and “I had written a report”. Although all of these sentences are grammatically correct, they are very different in meaning and intention. “We could invest”, “We must invest”, “We might invest” and “We should invest” indicate different intensities and degrees, and “Please see attached” is better than writing “Kindly see attached”. One should avoid using a colon after a verb or preposition when you list things, and “U.S.A.” and “USA” refer to two different writing styles (one of which is preferable in South Africa).
Today, many companies are recognising the importance of English in the workplace as a way to create better internal and external communication, as well as creating uniformity in general forms of correspondence and business documents. While some companies offer their staff financial assistance in upskilling themselves, other companies opt to complete training as a group. With classes being presented in a communicative and fun way, English training has never before been made more accessible and exciting. Public classes run every Saturday over a 10-week period, while more customised corporate training takes place during the week at a time and place convenient for the client. Participants often comment that they start to analyse, question and edit their writing more critically and that their superiors at work see a marked change once they start a short course from Wits Language School.
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