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10 Tips From The Dragons Of Dragons’ Den SA

SA’s Dragons offer top insights into the world of successful entrepreneurship.

Entrepreneur

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I’m in is on shelf – get your copy today

Gil Oved, Lebo Gunguluza, Polo Leteka, Vinny Lingham and Vusi Thembekwayo have all spent decades in the start-up trenches.

Here they share some of the insights they gained along their steady climb to the top.

These tips have been taken from their new book I’m In: Essential Advice for Entrepreneurs.

The art of negotiation – Gil Oved

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Gil Oved

“No is the beginning of a negotiation, not the end of one.”

First piece of advice is that negotiation is an art. There is science behind it, but mostly it’s an art. Like any technical skill, you can hone it. And you should, because everything in business is about negotiation.

Second piece of advice: Everything in business is negotiable, and so that’s how you should treat it. Never accept things at face value. No one is going to give you a badge for accepting blindly. Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate. What have you got to lose?

Want to know about The Creative Counsel? Click here.

Passion is not enough – Vusi Thembekwayo

Vusi-Thembekwayo

Vusi Thembekwayo

“Many people still think passion is enough to be successful. The truth is that passion is standard.”

Your competitors are all passionate. Passion is no longer a differentiator. Passion is boring. Passionate businesses don’t reply to customer queries after 5pm.

They don’t care if you’re tweeting your bad experiences and they are forever delegating their customer responsibility to call centres.

If you are looking to stand out from the rest, then passion is not enough. You must be obsessed!

Read more on Vusi’s art of pursuing crazy ideas and turning them into profit here.

A good idea is just the beginning – Lebo Gunguluza

Lebo-Gunguluza-south-african-dragon

Lebo Gunguluza

“A great idea gives you the foundation for an opportunity you want to seize, that’s it.”

If you really want to make an idea work, ask yourself these questions: Is there a definite market for my idea? Is my idea going to benefit the customer? Will people be prepared to pay money for my idea?

From Dirt Poor to Self-Made Millionaire: Lebo Gunguluza on his business growth.

Follow the numbers – Polo Leteka

Polo-Leteka-dragons-den-dragon

Polo Leteka

“Numbers tell the story – it’s as simple as that.”

They are a health check and will help you identify where the problem areas are in your business. When it comes to income projections or turnover projections, every entrepreneur thinks they’re going to start off like ‘this’ and it never happens like ‘that’.

In your projections, you always have to have a worst-case scenario, middle-case scenario and best-case scenario. You need to be satisfied that even with your worst-case scenario, you still have a business. Even with your worst-case scenario, you can still hold your head above water.

We recommend you read this: Advice: 2 Minutes with SA’s Top Entrepreneurs.

Don’t be afraid to fail – Vinny Lingham

Vinny-Lingham

Vinny Lingham

“I hate failing, but it spurs me to succeed.”

I could write a book on the mistakes I have made, but the important thing is to reflect on these mistakes and try not to make them again.

Root-cause analysis is very important, because sometimes the reason you think that you failed, is not actually the real reason. Don’t be fooled by randomness.

Regardless of the industry you are in, the mere fact that you have failed the first time and are willing to pick yourself up again, increases your chances of success. And if you fail again, your odds of success the third time are even better.

We recommend you read: This Entrepreneur Got Vinny Lingham To Invest In Him By Crashing His Party.

Protect your equity – Gil Oved

Gil-Oved

Gil Oved

“Equity is cheap when you start your business but years later, when your business is successful, it’s very expensive.”

Entrepreneurs are too quick to give away the equity upfront. Rather raise capital through debt as opposed to equity.

If you do give away equity, be tough about it, because every percentage counts – you don’t want to be the entrepreneur who is actually working for someone.

Find out more on Gil Oved and Ran Neu-Ner here.

Develop a network – Vusi Thembekwayo

Vusi-Thembekwayo-

Vusi Thembekwayo

“Develop a network not only for its ability to feed you, but for your ability to feed it.”

We often think of networks as people who can elevate us when we should be thinking of networks as people we can help elevate. Networks only exist when there is a mutual benefit in the relationship. When you figure out what you can ‘give’ you will get a very strong ‘get’ in return.

Want to know what Vusi thinks of Jugger-niches? Want to know what a Jugger-niche is? See here.

Be creative – Lebo Gunguluza

Lebo-Gunguluza

Lebo Gunguluza

“Be creative, be resourceful.”

You may at times have limited resources, but there is one thing that you must possess, and that is unlimited creativity. The power of creativity cuts across all business platforms, the minute you stop being creative is the minute that your business will start to suffer.

Read more on 10 SA Entrepreneurs Who Built Their Businesses From Nothing here.

It’s about the entrepreneur, not the idea – Polo Leteka

Polo-Leteka

Polo Leteka

“In this space, you back the jockey.”

You want a jockey who can ride any horse and make that horse win, or has the best potential to make that horse win. So you look for character. You look for somebody with a clear vision. Somebody who is determined. Somebody who properly respects the process of being an entrepreneur.

We recommend: 9 Tips for Winning Investors in the 5 Minutes You Have Their Attention.

Know your business – Vinny Lingham

Vinny-Lingham

Vinny Lingham

“I invest in a person who understands their subject matter and has a strong passion to succeed.”

I need to see big drive and stamina to know they are in it for the long haul and won’t give up when there are hurdles, disappointments and difficulties.

We recommend: Silicon Cape: Vinny Lingham & Justin Stanford

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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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Concerned Citizen

    Dec 16, 2015 at 10:10

    No Mr Thembekwayo do you research boet you will know the facts and benefit of being passionate ….

  2. Concerned Citizen

    Dec 16, 2015 at 10:14

    Mr Lebo you are on point there that worth a read though quiet short , you could have expanded there

  3. ntsatsana kenny phera

    Dec 16, 2015 at 10:19

    I’m still waiting for your answers of who to start a big successfully entrepreneur in my country in Butha bathe Lesotho a filling station with one stop shops

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Lessons Learnt

Can Being Deceptive Help You Build Your Business? It Worked For These 5 Entrepreneurs

We’ve all told little white lies. But what about the big ones? What if telling them would bring your business success?

Jayson Demers

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We all commit little acts of deception, like saying we got stuck in traffic when we were really late to the meeting because we wanted to watch the last five minutes of a favourite TV show. Little white lies? I’ve told them. You’ve told them.

But what about big lies, the kind truly lacking in integrity – like misrepresenting your sales to a prospective investor?

Obviously, there are often severe consequences to lying. Depending on the context, you could lose the trust of a peer, break a professional relationship or even face legal action. Yet, despite these consequences, lying is more common in the entrepreneurial world than you might think.

Just take as an example these five entrepreneurs, who might not be as well known or successful as they are if it weren’t for some clever acts of deception:

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Three Habits That Underpin Entrepreneurial Success

Here are three powerful habits that will help you stay focused, define your entrepreneurial attitude and take your business from zero to hero.

Nicholas Bell

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Successful people and businesses don’t all share the same traits and commitments. Yes they all have managed to break barriers and achieve impressive goals. They’re the leaders, the movers, the shakers and the industry creators. However, not all entrepreneurs are created equal and their recipes for success can differ wildly.

Some swear by a three-hour run every morning followed by a nice salad and the bustle of busy work life. Others need an incredibly early start so they can spend time with their emails and focus on their business. Every entrepreneur has their  own secret tricks that keep them on the straight and successful narrow, but most share a few simple habits that are guaranteed to make a difference.

Here are three habits that will help you become better at business and at leading others towards long-term success:

1. Always be ready to change your assumptions

Many people are unable to change the assumptions they have about their business and its future as it evolves. No business model should be locked in cement and rigidly upheld, it will need to adapt and adjust as it grows and customer needs change. As an entrepreneur you need to understand this concept and be prepared to evolve and change in new directions and markets.

Related: Business Plan Format Guide

This also ties into failure. Do you understand why you failed at something? Are you aware that perhaps your business model is changing? Can you learn from these experiences? Can you adjust your business model, get better research, refine your ideas? If you are ready to take positive value out of these moments and experiences, then you are an agile and inspired entrepreneur.

2. There’s no off switch

Passion and commitment are absolutely key to the success of your business and your own personal growth. You can’t switch off or walk away or just take a sick day because you feel like it, not if you want to stand as an example to your employees or if you want to build a brilliant business.

It may sound trite and tired, but a work ethic is the single most important habit to have as an entrepreneur. You need to always hold yourself to the highest standards, commit to ethical practice and work harder than anyone else.

3. Take it personally

This doesn’t mean gentle sobs in your office when Susan from accounts ridicules your maths skills. If you take your business personally, then you are wrapping the skills learned in points 1 and 2 above into one cohesive whole – you are embedding your passion into every crevice of your company. Care about what you do, be passionate about what it stands for, and be prepared to fight for its life. The route from zero to billion-dollar business isn’t easy. If it was, everyone would be doing it.

Remember, the idea is only 1%. Sweat, work, commitment and focus are the other 99% of the success equation.

Related: 22 Defining Entrepreneur Characteristics

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Head Of Audi South Africa Shares His Top Lessons On Weathering The Storm In Turbulent Times

When the economy isn’t playing ball, it’s time to roll up your sleeves, face your challenges head-on, and get to work, says Head of Audi SA, Trevor Hill.

Nadine Todd

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  • Player: Trevor Hill
  • Position: Head of Audi South Africa
  • Visit: www.audi.co.za 

“In everything we do, across the organisation, we ask this question: Is it the best? That’s our value proposition. Without it, we don’t have a clear direction for everyone to follow.”

Some of the biggest brands in the world are well-known for keeping things lean. Amazon is a prime example, where even Amazon-branded employee backpacks are reused. Many bloated organisations learnt the hard way in 2008 that if you aren’t efficient and focused on the bottom-line, you’ll struggle to survive in competitive and volatile environments. On the other hand, businesses that were already lean and flexible not only survived the recession — many of them actually thrived, mainly because they were far better equipped to handle new economic realities than their competitors.

According to research conducted by Bain & Co’s authors of The Founder’s Mentality, Chris Zook and James Lane Allen, 85% of the biggest growth challenges large-scale organisations face are internal. This doesn’t mean the economy and competitors don’t matter. But the way leaders and managers of those organisations react to economic and external stimuli does.

Trevor Hill, Head of Audi South Africa, is well-versed on the impact external stimuli can have on a brand — even an established premium brand like Audi South Africa. Economic and political conditions in South Africa have impacted consumer confidence, and the premium vehicle market has experienced year-on-year double digit declines over the past three years. “The premium market is almost half the size it was three years ago in South Africa,” he explains. “Consumer confidence, the high pricing of premium cars, and a general buying down trend have really impacted our market. Three years ago, we were selling close to 20 000 vehicles per year. Today we sell around 10 000 vehicles. You can’t ignore market conditions. You need to face them head on, and do what’s best for your employees, the brand and your consumers.”

Related: 10 Ways To Develop A Success-Oriented Mindset

Here are Trevor’s five lessons for weathering the storm so that your business and brand are well positioned when market recovery begins.

1. Have a clear value proposition that everyone understands and embraces

“We will never be the biggest in the South African market,” says Trevor. “Mercedes-Benz and BMW produce in South Africa and have an advantage over us in terms of export credits. If we can’t be the biggest though, we can focus on being the best. That is entirely within our control.

“Our ‘Best’ strategy says that we want to be the best organisation, have the best product, the best brand and the best customer service. Everything we do must be looked at through this lens – is it the best? If we host an event, have we chosen the best venue, event organisers and caterers? Does the look and feel match our standards? If we can’t be the best — we don’t do it.

“In everything we do, across the organisation, we ask this question: Is it the best? That’s our value proposition. Without it, we don’t have a clear direction for everyone to follow.”

2. Understand what’s in your control and then roll up your sleeves and get it done

The rate cut at the end of 2017 really helped the premium market towards the end of the year. The problem is that there are things you can control — such as running a lean organisation — and things you can’t control, such as whether or not there will be another rate cut. So how do you ensure a proactive culture rather than a defeatist mentality when times are tough?

“The spirit of Audi has always been to challenge boundaries, roll up our sleeves and forge our own future,” says Trevor. “It’s in our ‘Vorsprung’ DNA. This has never been more applicable than when we’re weathering a storm, but it has to be fostered when the waters are calm.”

The theory is straightforward. If an organisation isn’t used to challenging boundaries and being in control of its own destiny, it’s difficult to find those characteristics when they’re really needed. When something is woven into a brand’s DNA, it’s because it’s always there, and the organisation’s entire culture supports it.

Trevor can point to examples everywhere. For example, in the 1980s, Audi was the first car manufacturer to put a five-cylinder engine and four-wheel drive on a rally car, and cleaned up two years in a row as a result.

“The Audi spirit is that you can improve anything. You just need to be willing to put in the work.”

Faced with extremely tough local conditions, the South African team is now doing just that: Rolling up its sleeves and finding solutions.

“This is how we handle the business as a whole. We’ve been completely upfront with head office and our investors about current market conditions, but we aren’t complaining — we’re putting the facts on the table, showing them what we can control, and unpacking how we’re going to see the business rolling forward. Because of that attitude and transparency, we have everyone’s full support.”

3. Never throw money at a problem; smart solutions aren’t necessarily the most expensive

trevor-hill

“Spending a fortune on brand campaigns isn’t going to change the reality of the current market conditions,” says Trevor. “It’s easy to throw money at a problem, but then what? We’ve taken a different approach. We’ve selected a number of brand ambassadors whose values really align with our own. These include TBO Touch, Cameron van der Burgh, Wayde van Niekerk and Nomzamo Mbatha. Their followers know what they stand for, and associate Audi with those same values. It’s a much more targeted and niche way to gain awareness for our brand.”

For Trevor, not throwing money at a problem is a value that should be ingrained in an organisation. “We approached 2018 with this value top of mind. At the end of 2017 our management team went away for a strategy session. We collectively took a look at the entire business and asked what we needed to do to drive this business through the stormy waters of 2018.

“Each manager then got a target for their division that was aligned with the other divisions and organisation as a whole. They then conducted individual strategy sessions with their teams. The whole thing was a problem-solving mission: This is the budget we have, this is where our focus needs to be, now how do we go out and deliver the best? What’s our plan?

“These plans were then aligned with each other to ensure everyone was going in the same direction, and we measure everything. My KPIs filter down to the management team, and theirs filter down to their teams. It’s a very inclusive system; everyone can workshop the problem, and in that way we don’t only gather some out-the-box ideas, but we get everyone’s buy-in as well.”

Related: You Need This One Trait To Succeed In Reaching Your Goals

4. Encourage your team to try new things and communicate collaboratively

Very often, individual divisions communicate well together, but the message and camaraderie is lost across divisions, particularly between sales and marketing. “We’ve found two ways to encourage participation and camaraderie across the business,” says Trevor. “The first is that we always encourage new ideas. If something is tried and tested and doing well, especially in marketing, try to own that property. But if something isn’t giving you what you want, change it. We’re often too scared to change things that aren’t working or to try something new. We encourage participation and thinking differently. The bigger your pool of ideas, the more you have to work with.”

The company also has a number of monthly meetings that bring different divisions into the same room for workshop sessions. “We have a lot of field staff who aren’t often in the office. We need to keep communicating with them to pull them into the fold,” explains Trevor. “For example, once a month we have marketing and product meetings. The marketing, product and sales teams all attend. It gives everyone an opportunity to know what’s happening and hash out any questions or issues then and there. The communication between divisions — particularly marketing and sales — is much better as a result.”

5. Keep your core motivated

Like many industries, there’s a lot of employee movement in the consumer and premium brands segment. “People move. That’s the reality of job markets around the world,” says Trevor. But stability is important, and at Audi SA, that means identifying your core employees and keeping them happy.

“We have a very strong core. Within the organisation we’ve identified a core group of employees whom we absolutely need if we’re going to continue to run this business efficiently and successfully. Once you’ve identified your core, you need to keep them happy, and that’s about a lot more than their paycheque.

“Different people want different things — advancement, developing their careers, an opportunity to work abroad or perhaps spend more time with their families at home.”

The lesson? Figure out what’s important to each member of your core and try your best to give it to them. Success is a team sport — you need to keep that core team in your corner.


MAKING A SUCCESS OF NEW TERRITORIES

Trevor Hill began his career with Audi as an area manager in 1989. In 1997 he left South Africa to join Audi’s head office in Germany. Since then he has headed up divisions in Germany, Japan, China, Dubai and South Korea. One of the biggest lessons he’s learnt through his travels is that while there are certain business fundamentals that hold true everywhere, each culture has its own way of doing business, and you need to understand what that is on the ground if you’re going to make an impact and be successful.

“One of the biggest things I’ve had to communicate back to head office is that each territory operates slightly differently,” explains Trevor. “For example, in Germany, you have 100 days in any new job to prove yourself. If you don’t make something happen in those 100 days, you’re not seen to be successful. This is impossible in Asia, where business is all about relationships. You have to develop a relationship based on trust and honesty, and that doesn’t happen overnight. Until you have that trust though, your employees and customers won’t work with you. When you enter a new territory, take your time. The first year is all about understanding the lay of the land. In the second year you can implement your strategy, and in the third year you can start reaping rewards.”

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