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Start-up Advice

Going for Gold

Olympic success strategies for entrepreneurs.

Axel Rittershaus

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Without a doubt, it’s a competitive world, whether it’s in sports or in business, and there are more similarities between entrepreneurs and top athletes than you might imagine. In this current financial climate when so many businesses are failing, it’s fair to say that companies that survive the economic crisis will come out of it leaner, stronger and fitter for business.

Just like any great Olympian, business owners that have been through hard times have had to rise to the challenge and succeed. By following the rules of how to W.I.N. G.O.L.D, you and your business can become a world-class champion.

W – Willpower to succeed

Having a competitive will to win is paramount for any athlete; otherwise there really is no point in competing. Great athletes will picture themselves crossing the finish line in first place and will play this over and over in their minds. They cannot envisage losing and, in fact, it doesn’t even come into the equation. Likewise, a successful entrepreneur will never give in; they will not ease off, even if they are close to their end goal. They will imagine being successful and will not let the demons of failure cloud their judgement.

I – Instil values

A successful Olympian has the power to instil values and traits in those who look up to them, and this is the very same with a great business person: a skilled entrepreneur is one that has the ability to instil values into the hearts and minds of their employees. They are able to establish a set of core values that makes their company unique compared to any other competitor, and this is what makes them stand out from the crowd. These values are such that employees and clients alike are proud to work for, and indeed associate themselves with such a company.

N –Never look back

There’s an old saying that goes ‘you’re only as good as your last race’, and this is true of both Olympian and entrepreneur. A great athlete will not rest on their laurels, even though they may have triumphed in their last race. They realise that the next race is a blank canvas whereby everybody starts from the same point. They, therefore, have to be better, fitter and stronger than anybody else. Constantly looking forward inspires athletes to be the best they can be. By the same token, a successful entrepreneur doesn’t take their foot off the pedal either: they too are constantly looking for the next big deal, the next idea, the next challenge that they thrive on, and this is what makes them successful.

G – Get the job done

When it comes to athletics, races are often won by a whisker. If an athlete ceases to give it their all, if they ease off just 1cm before the line, then chances are they’re going to lose to someone who gives 110% all the way to the finish. In essence, a great athlete gets the job done no matter what, they see it through right to the end. Similarly in business, a successful entrepreneur never loses focus; they never slack off just because a project is almost done; they don’t cut back when a client tells them he likes their offer. Instead, a skilled entrepreneur believes that the deal is only done when the client tells them it is, and not before. In other words, they maintain focus all the way to the end, until the client is totally satisfied.

O – Organised

A great athlete never comes to a race under prepared. Instead, they will have trained hard for an event and have focussed on eating the right stamina-boosting foods. They have their head in the right place and their mind-set focused on the race. In essence, they will be as prepared and organised as they can be. Similarly, a successful entrepreneur never goes into a meeting or a deal without being fully prepared. Speak to any successful business leader and they will tell you that ‘failing to plan is like planning to fail’, and if the deal falls through because they have neglected to plan ahead or be fully organised, then they only have themselves to blame.

L – Leverage

An Olympic coach understands exactly how to get the best out of their athletes by leveraging their unique capabilities and positioning them in events that allow the athlete to shine: you will never find a great sprinter entered into an 800 or 1500 meter race. Similarly, a great entrepreneur will have the ability to leverage the skill sets of the individuals around them and position them in fields that bring out the best in them: a skilled entrepreneur wouldn’t keep their best sales person in the office. Importantly, when things are going to pot, a successful entrepreneur will always be able to step back from the situation, re-focus, and leverage the skills necessary to lead the team through in the same way that a great athlete will always dig deep, harness the power of their skill set and make good, even when the odds may be stacked against them.

D – Don’t give up

Like a great athlete never gives up and keeps on giving it their all, a successful entrepreneur will never stop ‘til they’ve gotten that contract, sold that product, or completed that job. In many cases, successful business people are faced with adversity, and what makes them stand out from the crowd is their willpower to pick themselves up, dust themselves down, and get right back in there when many others would have folded. This attitude gives them the edge over weaker competitors who only do as much as necessary and cut back when times get tough.

So as we fast approach the London Olympics, will you be doing the same old things and getting the same old results, or will you be thinking like an Olympian and celebrating your own gold medal moment?

Axel Rittershaus is an internationally renowned C-Level / Executive Coach & Author who started as an entrepreneur in the IT industry in 1993. He knows that success is the result of hard work and determination even more than innate talent. A master of maintaining focus and follow-through, Axel supports C-Level leaders globally in achieving goals. Axel is dedicated and passionate to see clients succeed beyond their expectations. Axel is also the president of the International Coach Federation South Africa and a multiple Two Oceans and Comrades finisher. You can follow him on twitter.

Start-up Advice

Put On Your Wellies: It’s Time To Wade Into Risk

Entrepreneurs aren’t all leaping into the unknown like lemmings off a cliff, but they do need to consider it…

Chris Ogden

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You’ve had a great idea. You’ve looked into its development. You’ve recognised that it has potential beyond just what Auntie Mabel and Mike From The Grocer think. And you’ve clearly nailed a pain point that can make money. Now it is time to take the risk of running with it.

Every big idea comes with risk. You can’t step out into the world of entrepreneurial thinking and business development without it. Your idea may fail. It will also be time consuming, demanding, hungry for money, and hard work. It is unrealistic to expect that your project will leap out into the world and be an unmitigated success.

It is also unrealistic to assume that it isn’t worth taking this risk.

There are steps that you can follow to ensure that your risk is managed so you aren’t blindly leaping off that cliff…

Step 01: Do your research

No, canvassing your neighbours, friends and family is not doing research. You need to know that your idea will appeal to a broad market and that it will have significant legs. This may sound like daft advice, but you would be surprised how many people think an idea will take off just because Susan in Accounting said so.

Step 02: Understand the costs

Projects are hungry for money and investment. Realistically work out your budgets and how much it will cost to take your project off the ground and then stick to it.

A calculated risk is a far better bet than one that shoots from the hip and hopes for the best. You can also use this as an opportunity to draw a clear line under where you will stop investing and end the project. If it keeps eating money and isn’t getting anywhere with results you need to be able to walk away.

Step 03: Know when to walk away

As mentioned before, this can be defined by a line you’ve drawn in the proverbial sand (and budget) but no matter where you draw this line, you have to stick to it. Often, when time, money and energy have been poured into a project it can be incredibly hard to walk away.

You think ‘but I have put so much into this, just one more’ and then it gets to a point where the ‘just one more’ has taken you so far down the line that walking away feels impossible. Leave. Learn the lessons. Apply them to your next project.

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Start-up Advice

Mind The Gap

The entrepreneur’s guide to finding the gaps and building the right solutions.

Chris Ogden

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Innovation may very well be the key to business success but finding the gap into which your innovative thinking can fit is often a lot harder than people realise. Some may be struck by inspiration in the shower, others by that moment of blinding insight in a meeting, however, for most people finding that big idea isn’t that simple. They want to be an entrepreneur and start their own high-growth business, but they need some ideas on how to find that big idea.

Here are five…

1. Network

It sounds trite but networking is actually an excellent way of picking up on patterns and trends in conversation and business problems. The trick is to note them down and pay attention. Soon, you will find patterns emerging and ideas forming.

2. Look for pain

Just as networking can reveal trends in the market, so can spending time reading. The latter will also help you find common business pain points. These are the touchpoints that frustrate people, annoy business owners, affect productivity, or impact employee engagement.

Be the Panado that fixes these pains.

3. Luck

luck

This is probably the most annoying of the ideas, but it is unfortunately (or fortunately) very true. Luck does play a role in helping you capture that big idea. However, luck isn’t just standing around and random people offering you opportunities. Luck is found at networking events, it is found in research and it is found in conversations with other entrepreneurs.

4. Luck needs courage

You may have found the big idea through your network, a pain point or pure blind luck, but if you don’t have the courage to take it and run with it, you will lose it to someone else.

Being bold in business is highly underrated because most people assume that everyone is bold and prepared to take big leaps into the unknown. However, not all brilliant entrepreneurs were ready to throw their family funds to the wind and leap into an idea – they were courageous enough to figure out a way of harnessing their ideas realistically.

5. Pay attention

This is probably one of the most vital ways of finding a gap in the market. Often, people are so busy that they don’t really pay attention to that niggling issue that always bothers them on a commute, or in a mall, or at a meeting. This niggling issue could very well be the next big business opportunity. Pay attention to it and find out if that issue can be solved with your innovative thinking.

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Start-up Advice

5 Things To Know About Your “Toddler” Business

As you navigate this new toddler phase of your business, here are five things to bear in mind.

Catherine Black

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Ah, toddlers. Those irresistible bundles of joy bring a huge amount of energy, curiosity and fun to any family – but there’s also frustration and worry that comes with their unpredictability, as they grow and start to become more independent. If you own a business and it’s successfully past its “infancy” of the first year or so, it’s likely it will also go through a toddler stage of its lifecycle.

Pete Hammond, founder of luxury safari company SafariScapes, agrees with this. “Our business is now three and a half years old, and we’ve found that we’re not yet big enough to justify employing a large team of people to handle the day-to-day admin tasks, yet we still need to grow the business as well,” he says. “As a result, our main challenge is finding the time to step back and see the bigger picture. Kind of like when you are raising a busy toddler and you spend most of your time running after them!”

As you navigate this new toddler phase of your business, here are five things to bear in mind:

1. This too shall pass

Everything in life is temporary – and that goes for both the good and the bad. It’s as helpful to remember this when you’re facing the might of a toddler temper tantrum, as it is when you’re facing throws of uncertainty in your business. If your new(ish) venture is going through a rough patch in its first few years, it can be easy to think about giving up – but don’t. As long as you have an overall big idea that you believe can add value to your customers, keep pushing through the rough parts until you come out the other side.

2. Appreciate what this phase brings

The toddler years mean that the initial newborn joy is officially behind you. But these small humans also bring their own kinds of joy, as you watch them learn new skills, say funny things, and give affection back to you. While your two-year-old business may not hold the same exhilaration for you as it did during those first few months, there are now different things to appreciate about it: Maybe you’re expanding your product range, or employing new people who can take the workload off you.

3. Establish boundaries

Toddlers thrive on boundary and routine – and your toddler business will too. As it grows into a new phase, try and establish limits in terms of the type of clients you want to work with and the type of work you’ll do. It’s also a good idea to make a decision about the hours you’ll work and when you’ll switch off, which will help you establish a good work-life balance.

4. Take a break

Every parent with a toddler needs a break every now and then, even if that means a walk around the block (on your own!), a dinner out with friends, or even a few days away. The same is true for a demanding small business: every so often, remember to take time out to rest properly, where you switch off your laptop and completely unplug. You’ll return much more inspired and resilient to deal with the everyday uncertainty that it brings.

5. Give it space to make mistakes

While the unpredictability of a young business can be stressful and tiring, it’s also a time for trying new things without the risk of huge consequences if they don’t quite work. After all, it’s much simpler to change your USP if you’re a small business employing a few people, rather than a big company where 50 people are relying on you for their salary, or where you’ve received a huge amount of investment capital. While you may fail in some of the things you try with your business (in fact, this is almost guaranteed), see it as a toddler that’s resilient enough to pick itself up, dust its knees and keep moving forward.

During this phase of business growth it’s also essential to have the right type of medical aid cover. There are medical schemes such as Fedhealth which has a number of medical aid options and value-added benefits to ensure that your health and wellness is taken care of too. After all, the healthier you and your staff are, the more productive your business will be – during the toddler (business) stage and beyond.

While this phase can be frustrating, it’s a sign that your business is growing and adapting, rather than remaining in its infancy, and that can only be a good thing! So embrace the difficulties, learn from them, and watch as your business strides forward confidently into the next exciting phase.

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