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10 Things Successful SA Entrepreneurs Do Differently

Tips and tricks used by high-powered entrepreneurs to optimise their performance.

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Strategy is 10%. Execution is 90%

Ivan-Epstein-Sage

Ivan Epstein

“The key to success is being able to take an idea and execute it.”

Vital Stats:

  • Ivan Epstein is the founder of Softline, which was acquired by Sage Group in 2003.
  • He is currently CEO Sage AAMEA (Africa, Australia, Middle East, Asia).

“Even though I can admit that I work six days a week, it’s still about the quality of your time, not how long you work. Never procrastinate, it’s a complete waste of time.

“The key to success is being able to take an idea and execute it. Strategy is only 10% of it. The other 90% of success lies in your ability to execute your great ideas. I’ve made a point of always surrounding myself with highly intelligent people who get the job done.”

“We don’t waste time. The art is in the execution. As a company we have always moved quickly. My MDs report directly to me, but they also have ownership of their autonomous business units, which gives them a sense of urgency.”

Read more: 10 SA Entrepreneurs Who Built Their Businesses From Nothing

Start every day with a fist pump

Marcel-Klaassen-FNB

Marcel Klaassen

“I’ve always believed that the first person you need to build a reputation with is yourself.”

Vital stats:

You can’t project outward confidence if you’re trying to fix what’s inside. Your foundation is self-belief. I give myself constant affirmations that I’m doing well. I start the day with a double fist pump. It might sound silly, but try it one day. It’s an instant boost to your mood and confidence. I also make a big deal of my personal victories. I’ll even high five myself. It’s important to celebrate being true to yourself.”

“I’m also a big believer of the ‘crush it’ philosophy. Instead of trying to do everything well, give one thing your absolute all. Be the best at it and always be taking what you do to the next level. Focus on what you’re really good at and crush it.”

Read more: Marcel Klaassen’s full story here

Rigorously debate big business decisions

Adrian-Gore

Adrian Gore

“Some of the most amazing people I work with give me a sense that ‘it is possible.’”

Vital stats:

  • Adrian Gore is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Discovery Group.

Adrian Gore always draws on the collective input of a strong team.

“Discovery’s Exco meets on average for seven hours a week every Monday. We go through everything. Sometimes it’s a bun fight. We don’t stick to the agenda. Some things we’ll spend three hours on, other things we won’t get to. There’s rigorous debate and arguments, but it means that every week 20 really smart people are all thinking and providing input.”

“No one is making buy/sell decisions. Everything is debated until consensus is reached. Reaching consensus is the path I prefer, even though I’m actually an impatient and frustrated person. I’ve got a thin skin. I don’t take criticism well. But because of that, I don’t like to command because I don’t like the push-back that I get. So I far prefer consensus.”

Read more: Adrian Gore – The Disrupter’s full story here

Embrace organisation – even if it’s not your natural inclination

Asher-Bohbot

Asher Bohbot

I’m naturally an extremely disorganised person. But I’ve had to learn how to be organised. You can’t run a business if you procrastinate or you’re disorganised – ever.”

Vital stats:

  • Asher Bohbot is the founder of EOH, which has an annual turnover of R5 billion.

“I’m naturally an extremely disorganised person. I’m the kind of person who would put off doing things until tomorrow, or do them at the last minute. But I’ve had to learn how to be organised. Being disorganised in business causes you stress and embarrassment. It’s something I had to work hard at because it isn’t my natural inclination, but having structure to my day reduces my stress levels and enables me to be maximally effective. You can’t run a business if you procrastinate or you’re disorganised – ever.”

“This carries through to everything I do. I even try to respond immediately to as many e-mails as I can. I don’t like leaving things hanging. In my experience, queueing things in my head only causes stress. So if I can reply with a definitive answer, I do. Then that item is out of the way and off my plate.”

Read more: Business Lessons from Asher Bohbot, Founder of EOH

Tech and multiple screens maximise productivity

Spartan-Kumaran-Padayachee

Kumaran Padayachee

“I have four screens on my desk, both at the office and at home, and I find it’s a huge time-saver.”

Vital stats:

“One screen is my calendar: It lists my appointments, reminders and lists, and gives me a constant perspective on my day, week and month. The second screen is Outlook, and the third is Explorer, with multiple tabs open, including our Intranet, Google and LinkedIn. The fourth screen is my current tasks screen — anything I’m working on.”

“No one device can do everything. Once you realise that, the decision to have multiple devices is an easy one. For me, productivity is key, and so I want to always be working with the right tech for the job. Desktop PCs, tablets and smartphones all have their place. Microsoft Exchange links them all together, and so anything I do on one is automatically updated across the rest.”

Read more: Kumaran Padayachee’s full story here

Work during your most productive times

Divan-Botha

Divan Botha

“I’ve learnt my most productive hours are from 05:30 to 08:30 in the morning.”

Vital stats:

  • Divan Botha is a corporate veteran, the owner of popular coffee shop The Whippet, and presenter on KykNET’s Winslyn.

“Everyone is different and experiences peak productivity at different times. Some people are night owls, others get loads done at the crack of dawn. Be aware of when you’re getting different kinds of work done. Do you think best earlier in the day? Are you able to concentrate the longest late in the afternoon? Do your neurons only wake up when the sun goes down”

“Develop a work routine that works around your peak productivity, rather than trying to force your productivity into the traditional eight-to-five workday.”

Read more: Divan Botha Believes the Key to a Healthy Business Starts with a Healthy Entrepreneur

When it comes to e-mail management, it boils down to three choices

Adrian-Gore-Discovery

Adrian Gore

“Keeping on top of your emails with a one-touch policy.”

Vital stats:

  • Adrian Gore is the founder and CEO of Discovery.
  • In 2013 the company listed operating profits of R762 million, and his worth was estimated at R2,2 billion.

Adrian Gore has a one-touch policy when it comes to e-mail management.

“Rather than browsing through your mails and becoming overwhelmed by the pile by the end of the day, week, month or year, do one of three things with every new mail: You either respond to the e-mail so that it’s dealt with, you delegate it to a person who will be able to complete the task, or you delete it.”

Read more: SA Dragon’s Den Judges here

How to keep time on your side

Yossi-Hasson

Yossi Hasson

“I have a daily seven-minute huddle with my team, and each day someone different presents the brief.”

Vital stats:

  • Yossi Hasson is the co-founder of Synaq, a company listed as one of Forbes’ Top 20 Tech Start-ups for 2012.
  • In 2011, Dimension Data bought a 50,1% stake in the business.

According to Yossi Hasson, a fortune can be done in a small space of time, but tasks will extend to the full time allocated to them.

“Seven minutes can cover a lifetime of information if the structure is there. The time limit isn’t about being obsessive about time-keeping, but forcing people to be more concise and structured in their thinking,” he says.”

Read more: Yossi Hasson on Mastering the Art of Productivity

Everyone is different. Don’t fight it, leverage it

Miranda-Isaakidis

Miranda Isaakidis

“Getting the most from your staff is about working with what you have, and leveraging it.”

Vital stats:

“I once had an assistant who possessed none of the skills required to perform her job. I complained to my manager, but rather than receive sympathy, I was told I was responsible for her non-performance, and that I should look at my management skills. That was a huge shock.”

“I went back to the drawing board and re-assessed her skills. She never learnt to spell-check properly – I had to keep doing that myself – but I discovered she had this extraordinary ability for getting me any appointment I wanted, which was far more valuable and useful for my position at the time. Had I stuck to insisting she brush up her word-processing skills, I would never have been able to take my work to the next level by booking the right meetings.”

Read more: The Win-Win Mindset Of Miranda Isaakidis

Get outside!

Mandi-Fine

Mandi Fine

“If someone hasn’t left their desk in days, I tell them to get up and get out. Go see what’s happening in the world and do something different.”

Vital stats:

  • Mandi Fine is the CEO of multiple award-winning Fine Healthcare Group, a strategic healthcare marketing and advertising agency.

At Fine Healthcare Group (FHC), they believe that award-winning marketing ideas form everywhere except at your desk.

“We have a philosophy of ‘white space’, which is essential for good ideas.”

“We give our staff the time and space they need to be rejuvenated and creatively energised, so that they bring their best ideas and energy to the office. It doesn’t matter where your work gets done, so long as you’re meeting your KPIs.”

Read more: Mandi Fine On Why You Have To Make Some White Space

Entrepreneur Magazine is South Africa's top read business publication with the highest readership per month according to AMPS. The title has won seven major publishing excellence awards since it's launch in 2006. Entrepreneur Magazine is the "how-to" handbook for growing companies. Find us on Google+ here.

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Lessons Learnt

Here’s What Jeff Bezos Prefers To Work-Life Balance And Why You Should Live By It

Work-life balance naively suggests working and non-working hours should be evenly apportioned.

John Boitnott

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Amazon is known for building a culture that values hard work. So much so that the organisation has received criticism from current and former employees for having to work on Thanksgiving, or even when ill.

When asked about Amazon’s work-life balance, Jeff Bezos remarked that he ascribed to the phrase “work-life harmony” instead.

Here’s how hard-charging businesspeople can maintain energy at home and at work without burning out by finding work-life harmony in place of work-life balance.

Measure work and home focus as a matter of energy instead of time

It isn’t about how many hours you spend at home or at work; it’s about the energy you bring to both parts of your life. If you enjoy working long hours, and that helps you to feel present while at home, then by all means continue.

This is a fundamental principle in Bezos’s theory of dividing one’s time between work and life. Because Bezos loves what he does, he finds energy from accomplishing his work in a manner that works well with his notoriously high standards.

As many can attest, our emotions bleed into all areas of our life. When you can gain energy from doing good work, it can help to propel you to be more successful in your life outside of work. Conversely, when things aren’t right at home, it can be difficult to find the energy to do your best work in the office. A central precept of work-life harmony is living such that both the professional and personal aspects of our life energise us to be our best at home and in the office.

This does not necessarily mean that we should spend our time in a balanced way, as the phrase “work-life balance” implies. Rather, we should spend our time in such a way that we are our best selves. In so doing, we will be better people on the whole.

Related: Jeff Bezos: 9 Remarkable Choices That Shaped The Richest Man In The World

Build a flexible work-life schedule

Just as different people will amass different levels of energy from work and life outside of work, different people will find they are most productive at different times of the day. The 9-5 work culture that has existed for decades is really shifting now. Most modern offices allow some form of flexible work, which means you have the ability to set your own hours to some degree.

Experiment with working at different times of the day to find the schedule the helps you to be most productive. In so doing, you’ll have more time to do your best work, and more energy to spend with loved ones as a result of increased productivity.

Know when to say “no”

We tend to think that taking on as many projects as possible is a sign of a good professional. But being busy is not the same as making an impact. To do your best work, you’ll need to prioritise projects that you know you can add value to.

Spinning your wheels is demoralising. Look for projects in which you can easily enter a “flow state” where hours melt away. This is the environment in which you are doing your best work, and are happy to be doing the work itself. It is in moments of flow that we often feel most productive, and even fulfilled. Therefore, it is after moments of flow that we tend to feel guilt-free about enjoying quality time with loved ones while unplugging from work.

Related: Jeff Bezos Reveals 3 Strategies for Amazon’s Success

Communicate commitments

If you’re approaching a time-consuming work project, communicate that to the important people in your life. Otherwise, they may think you are avoiding them due to a more insidious reason.

Providing those you love with a glimpse into your professional commitments can also help them to help you. If a good friend knows it will be difficult for you to communicate for a few weeks, they will know to pause conversations so as not to burden you with having to reply to texts or emails.

Similarly, a partner who knows that you are responsible for delivering an important project may be able to rearrange their schedule in order to better support you in the short term.

Conversely, if family commitments will prevent you from working at full capacity for a certain period of time, set the right expectations with colleagues. A good workplace is one that is flexible to the realities of employees’ personal lives. Managers who care about the well-being of their people are usually willing to help employees take care of personal commitments.

Adapting to a changing work life

Work no longer happens between the hours of 9 AM and 5 PM, Monday to Friday. Work happens Saturday mornings, and late Friday nights. It happens on vacation, and during graduations. The idea of work-life balance suggests that there should be an even split between working and non-working hours.

Related: Why It Pays To Be A Jerk Like Jeff Bezos

In reality, those who have undertaken ambitious careers should aim for work-life harmony, a lifestyle in which both aspects of life give you the energy to be your best self as frequently as possible.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Lessons Learnt

Give Your Business The Best Chance Of Success

For that to happen an entrepreneur must distil the business’s reason for being and then doggedly pursue that vision.

Gil Sperling

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In my capacity as a business owner and venture capitalist, one of the questions I get asked most often by entrepreneurs is, “how do I ensure my business succeeds?” While there’s no straightforward answer, there are important elements that I believe every entrepreneur must consider to ensure the greatest probability of success.

Firstly, no business will succeed if it doesn’t solve a unique pain point or problem for modern consumers or businesses. However, even if a business is able to carve out that niche, there’s no guarantee that growth will follow. For that to happen an entrepreneur must distil the business’s reason for being and then doggedly pursue that vision.

North Star metric

This principle of having a clear business vision guides all my decisions. Whenever I need to validate a choice or a change in strategic direction, or if I’m trying to determine what to focus on, I always refer back to my vision. If the two are incongruent, then I know I need to change tack.

Elon Musk is a great example of a successful entrepreneur who is guided by his grand vision. Everything he does, from Tesla to SpaceX, pertains to sustainability, both for the planet and the human race. It might be hard to make the connection when you consider his various businesses out of context, but everything he creates fits into a broader ecosystem that in some way moves the needle towards his ultimate objective. Developing Tesla cars that run on renewable energy is but a small, short-term plan that feeds into his grand vision, yet it’s also been the catalyst for the evolution of the motoring industry.

Related: The Popimedia (Mega) Success Story

Be clear, concise

In the same way, every decision an entrepreneur makes should in some way take them a step closer to realising their vision. In this regard, it is also vital that your vision is crystal clear – a murky or undefined vision will divert you off your path to success.

That’s because you’ll tend to focus on the wrong things, especially when scaling rapidly, or when running bigger organisations, because there are many tasks to complete every day. A lack of clarity also leads to poor decision-making, or, worse, decision paralysis, and that’s business suicide – I’d rather make a bad decision than no decision at all, because it prompts action. However, with a clear vision, more often than not, those decisions will be correct.

Defining your vision

So, how do you know if your vision is clear and, more importantly, relevant and consequential? The way I stress test my vision is to evaluate it every day against the decisions I take, and the direction of the business. This daily process helps to sharpen my decisions over time.

The other step is to remain open-minded enough to accept and acknowledge criticism, and take on board advice from trusted confidants and impartial experts. This is important, because you need to craft your vision based on as much information as possible, including valid criticism.

Ultimately, though, your vision for the business should align with your purpose. Forget about money and turnover as points of departure when defining your vision. These are merely metrics that can determine the strength and effectiveness of your business strategy.

For each of my several business interests, be it VC funding or ad-tech innovation, I have different visions. Each are meaningful to me, but in every instance, I don’t wake up every day with the sole ambition of making money.

While I need to make money to grow these businesses, or build something new, having purpose and vision are the ways I pull through those inevitable challenging situations. Having your vision front of mind in everything you do helps you make better decisions, and makes the hardships easier to endure. It helps you see through the turmoil, because you know where the process will lead, and you always know where the ultimate objective lies.

Read next: A Comprehensive List Of Angel Investors That Fund South African Start-Ups

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Lessons Learnt

Jimmy Choo’s Co-Founder Explains Why There Are No Small Jobs

Tamara Mellon shares the strategy that has helped her find new opportunities throughout her career.

Nina Zipkin

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The co-founder of Jimmy Choo, Tamara Mellon, believes that you can find inspiration and opportunity anywhere. All it takes is determination to keep going and a keen eye for observation.

Mellon began her career in the early 1990s working as an accessories editor for British Vogue. Always on the hunt for up-and-coming designers, she came across Jimmy Choo, a cobbler working in London’s East End.

She would commission him to create shoes for fashion shoots. They were so well received by readers that the pair realised they could expand beyond one-of-kind pieces for the pages of the magazine.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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