Are you In?
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
“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
“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
“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?
Follow the numbers – 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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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.
Know your business – 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
7 Cannabis Industry Millionaires Making It Big In The Marijuana Business
These entrepreneurs have capitalised on a new market set to continue to grow rapidly as more countries legalise marijuana across the world.
1. Brendan Kennedy
- Company: Tilray
- Website: https://www.tilray.com/
Brendan Kennedy worked on job sites as a carpenter to pay his way through university, with his eyes set firmly on becoming an architect, until the allure of Silicon Valley changed the course of his direction. While working at technology start-ups Kennedy began thinking about the possibilities that medical marijuana provided.
“I was really sceptical of medical cannabis,” he says. “It took a year of having conversations with patients and physicians and hearing the same story, repackaged but essentially the same, over and over and over again, where my scepticism eroded and I became a believer.”
In 2013, Kennedy and his partners applied for a licence from Health Canada and launched Lafitte Ventures, which was later renamed Tilray. Today, the company is a global leader in medical cannabis research, cultivation, processing and distribution.
Scaleup Learnings From Our Top Clients – What The Most Successful Entrepreneurs Do Right
So, how do our successful clients move through these constraints to scaling up? We see four key drivers of success, and they are: people, strategy, flawless execution and finance.
You’re out of your start-up boots, staff is increasing, your client base is growing, revenue is up and you’ve proven your case to the market. Now it’s time to scale up. The challenges of this vital growth phase are different and it’s a time that demands different mindsets and different actions. In a world littered with small business failures, it helps to be well-prepared for scaling up using a proven methodology. At Outsourced CFO, we get an inside look at the success factors of our clients who are mastering the transition.
On the one hand, scaling up is a really exciting phase; this is what moves you into real job creation and making an impactful contribution to economic growth. On the other hand, it is really hard to scale up successfully. We see three major constraints that limit companies’ transition from start-up to scale-up:
The business has to have the leadership that can take it to the next level. When you start scaling up, especially rapidly, the founders can no longer do everything themselves. The team must grow and include new leadership talent that can take charge and execute so that the founders are working on the business instead of in the business.
The processes, procedures, networks, systems and workflows of the business all need to be scalable. This is imperative when it comes to your infrastructure for the financial management of your business. You’re only ready for growth when your infrastructure can seamlessly keep pace.
Scaling up demands more innovative marketing and storytelling so that you can more easily connect and engage with the new employees, clients, network partners, investors and mentors that need to come along with you on your scale-up journey.
Businesses that build a market conversation and a compelling brand narrative during their start-up phase are better positioned to have this kind of market access when they need to scale up.
It is critical to have the right people on your team. Our successful entrepreneurs have what it takes to attract, inspire and retain top talent. A strong team of smart, ambitious and purpose-driven people who love the company and want to see it succeed contribute greatly to a world class company culture. They are adept at communicating a compelling vision and establishing core values that people can take on. These entrepreneurs are tuned into the aspirations of their people and focus on developing leaders in their teams who can in turn develop more leaders.
It is planning that ensures that the right things are happening at the right times. At successful scale-ups strategies and action plans are devised to ensure that the most important thing always remains the most important thing.
Strategy includes input from all team members and setting of good priorities for the short, medium and long term. Goals are clear and everyone always knows what they are working towards. The needle is continuously moved because 90-day action plans are implemented each quarter to achieve targets and goals that are over and above people doing their daily jobs.
Top entrepreneurs are not just focused on what operations need to achieve, but how the business operates. They have the right procedures, processes and tools in place so that everyone can deliver along the line on the company’s brand promise. Frequent, quick successive meetings ensure the rapid flow of effective communication. Problems are solved without drama. There is no chaos in the office environment. Everyone is empowered to execute flawlessly to an array of consistently happy clients.
Everyone knows that growth burns cash. A rapidly scaling business faces the challenge of needing a scalable financial infrastructure to keep the company healthy. Our successful entrepreneurs pay close attention to finance as the heartbeat of the business, ensuring that everything else functions. They look at the tech they are using for financial management and for the ways that their financial systems can be automated so that they can be brought rapidly to scale. The capital to grow is another vital finance issue.
The best way to finance a business is through paying clients on the shortest possible cash flow cycle. However, when you are scaling up and making heavier investments in the resources you need for growth, it is likely that you will need a workable plan for raising capital. Our scale-up clients know the value of accessing innovative financial management that provides high level services to drive their business growth.
Navigating the scale-up journey of a growing private company is one of the hardest but most rewarding of careers to pursue. Having people in your corner who have been through this journey before helps take a lot of pain out of the process. No growth journey looks the same, but there are tried and tested methods that will – if applied diligently – lead to definite success. Happy scaling!
That Time Jeff Bezos Was The Stupidest Person In The Room
Everyone can benefit from simple advice, no matter who they are.
When you think of Jeff Bezos, a lot of things probably come to your mind.
You likely think of Amazon.com, a company he founded more than twenty years ago, that’s completely disrupted retail and online commerce as we know it. You probably also think of his entrepreneurial genius. Or the immense wealth that he’s built for himself and others. You may also think of drones, Alexa and same-day delivery. Bezos is a visionary, an entrepreneur, a cutthroat competitor and a game changer. He’s unquestionably a very, very smart man. But sometimes, he can be…well…stupid, too.
Like that time back in 1995.
That was when Amazon was just a startup operating from a 2,000 square foot basement in Seattle. During that period, Bezos and most of the handful of employees working for him had other day jobs. They gathered in the office after hours to print and pack up the orders that their fast-growing bookselling site was receiving each day from around the world. It was tough, grueling work.
The company at the time, according to a speech Bezos gave, had no real organisation or distribution. Worse yet, the process of filling orders was physically demanding.
“We were packing on our hands and knees on a hard concrete floor,” Bezos recalled. “I said to the person next to me ‘this packing is killing me! My back hurts, it’s killing my knees’ and the person said ‘yeah, I know what you mean.'”
Bezos, our hero, the entrepreneurial genius, the CEO of a now 600,000-employee company that’s worth around a trillion dollars and one of the richest men in the world today then came up with what he thought was a brilliant idea. “You know what we need,” he said to the employee as they packed boxes together. “What we need is…kneepads!”
The employee (Nicholas Lovejoy, who worked at Amazon for three years before founding his own philanthropic organisation financed by the millions he made from the company’s stock) looked at Bezos like he was — in Bezos’ words — the “stupidest guy in the room.”
“What we need, Jeff,” Lovejoy said, “are a few packing tables.” Duh.
So the next day Bezos – after acknowledging Lovejoy’s brilliance – bought a few inexpensive packing tables. The result? An almost immediate doubling in productivity. In his speech, Bezos said that the story is just one of many examples how Amazon built its customer-centered service culture from the company’s very early days. Perhaps that’s true. Then again, it could mean something else.
It could mean that sometimes, just sometimes, those successful, smart, wealthy and powerful people may not be as brilliant as you may think. Nor do they always have the right answers. Sometimes, just sometimes, they may actually be the stupidest guy in the room. So keep that in mind the next time you’re doing business with an intimidating customer, supplier or partner who appears to know it all. You might be the one with the brilliant idea.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
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