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4 Vital Lessons On Partnership Learnt The Hard Way By Seelan Sundoo

Seelan Sundoo learnt the hard way how a bad partnership can kill a business. Today he’s taking a different approach.

Nadine Todd

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Vital stats

  • Player: Seelan Sundoo
  • Restaurants: Seelan Restaurant and Bar (V&A Waterfront), Sundoo Indian Tappas and Bar (Sea Point), and Three Wise Monkeys, a Raman noodle bar (Sea Point)
  • Additional ventures: And now for something completely different, Seelan is busy opening an underground gallery in Salt River, Luni, for un-commercialised artists; the space will be a space for artists to enjoy Jazz and each others’ art and company
  • Visit: www.seelan.co.za

Take note: Choose a partner carefully

Business partnerships are only as strong as the mutual respect you feel for each other, so choose a growth partner carefully.

In 2012 Seelan Sundoo opened his first restaurant, Shimmys after having a fallout with his previous business partner of five years. He followed that up with his dream restaurant, Seelan Restaurant & Bar in late 2013.

It’s a concerning scenario for many entrepreneurs: How do you find a business partner who shares your vision, values and whom you can trust? After experiencing a bad partnership first hand, Seelan is more wary about how he now conducts business. He’s opened three restaurants in three years, with two more in the works.

He’s well on track to meet his initial five year goal of five restaurants, and he’s doing it carefully and strategically, with people he trusts, and knows he can work with. These are the lessons he’s learnt from working with the wrong partner, and finding the right partners for his new ventures.

Related: The Pros & Cons Of Owning A Restaurant Franchise

1Critically evaluate every offer

seelan-restaurant-and-bar

Although Seelan studied chemistry, it was his waitering and bartending jobs, which he needed to pay for his studies, that eventually shaped his career.

“I joined La Perla as a bar-back,” he says. “Within six months I was head waiter, and a year and a half later, head manager. I trained in the kitchen, learning our menu so that I could travel, research and expand it. We were a high-end niche restaurant, and I learnt the ropes from the bottom up.”

Seelan spent 14 fruitful years at La Perla, discovering his love for the business, as well as his natural talents for running a restaurant. It was these talents that attracted the attention of an investor who was looking to launch The Grand Café in Camps Bay. The Grand in Plettenburg Bay was doing extremely well, and she wanted to expand.

Hard lessons learnt about partners

“She wasn’t a restauranteur, so she needed a partner. It seemed like the ideal opportunity for me. There was nowhere further I could grow at La Perla, and this was a chance for me to have part ownership of my own place. I jumped at the opportunity.”

Unfortunately, as Seelan would learn, he hadn’t taken the time to consider who he was partnering with. Were their goals and values aligned? Who would make the final decisions, and what would the balance of the partnership look like?

“I learnt a hard lesson. I would never change it, because it was the first time I got to build something from the ground up. But, it was an unequal, unbalanced partnership, which meant that even though I had the industry experience, my decisions were constantly over-ridden by my partner; even worse, I could see how those decisions were negatively impacting the business, without any recourse to change them.

“It didn’t feel like a partnership, and after five years I decided to leave. I didn’t believe the business would continue to sustain itself. I hadn’t considered who I would be partnering with carefully enough; I’d just allowed myself to be enamoured with the opportunity.” 

2Choose partners with shared needs

With two decades of industry experience, Seelan went out on his own. Opening the type of restaurant he had in mind, situated at the V&A Waterfront, was capital intensive, and Seelan couldn’t do it alone. He needed a partner, and so he sat down and thought carefully about what he was and wasn’t looking for.

“You need to define what a partner is to you, what level of involvement you’d like, and how much of the business you’ll share. I knew after my last experience that I was looking for an investor who would be a silent partner.”

With this in mind, Seelan began looking for an investor who was interested in making interest on his capital investment, but not in being involved in the day-to-day operations of the restaurant.

“Once you understand your parameters, you can find a partner that suits your needs.

“Just make sure what you’re offering suits their expectations as well. If they’re unhappy with the arrangement it will have a negative outcome. You need to put all your cards on the table, and ensure that you’re on the same page.”

In the case of Seelan Restaurant and Bar, this has worked perfectly for both parties. Seelan has ensured prompt payments with interest, and his investor is only interested in dividends, seeing the management accounts and receiving reports on the overall health and operations of the business.

“As long as the numbers look good, he stays out of the business.” This means that Seelan has to stay on top of everything to keep things running smoothly, but as he sees it, that’s just another incentive to keep him focused.

Related: The Only How-To You’ll Need To Start A Restaurant

3Good partners need respect and similar backgrounds

Partners don’t have to be alike. The best partnerships are based on individuals with different, yet complementary strengths and skill sets. However, as Seelan learnt in his Grand Café days, mutual respect is imperative in a successful partnership.

Since then, Seelan has embarked on a completely different partnership. “In 2014 Ashley Mair walked into my restaurant selling organic chillies. He’s an urban farmer, and not only did I love his product, but we’re cut from the same cloth. We have similar backgrounds, learning experiences and we understand and respect each other. Together, we run Bonder, an organic chilli and chilli sauce business.”

Seelan’s second restaurant, Sundoo Indian Tappas and Bar, was opened with profits from Seelan’s, but his third, Three Wise Monkeys, is with Ashley and a silent partner who has invested in the business.

“I work with incredible people, and have developed successful partnerships based on mutual respect.”

4Understand yourself — do partnerships suit you?

There’s a general business principal that partnerships will always be more successful than solo entrepreneurs. Many investors will only back partnerships. However, Seelan has a different view.

“When you’re alone, you’re forced to deal with reality. You can’t rely on partners; you need to make it work yourself, and find ways to stand on your own feet. By throwing money at a problem, you bail the business out, instead of looking for the cause of the problem: Evaluating the business, making changes where necessary and fixing the problem.

“I’ve learnt that I work well under pressure. It drives me to succeed. Having said that, in most of my businesses I do have a partner and I’ve ensured that we are in agreement on what the partnership looks like.”

Focusing on growth

Seelan’s focus has been on growth. He’s made personal sacrifices to pump everything he makes back into his businesses. “I’m creative, and I love to explore,” he explains.

“It’s why I haven’t opened three of the same restaurant. They all have a thread that binds them, but they have their own individual personalities, like siblings from the same family. This allows me to keep creating and exploring new ideas and concepts, while building on what works.”

With the right partners on board, a positive attitude and strong cash flow, Seelan is well on his way to reaching his five-year goal.

Lessons Learnt

9 Ways Successful Entrepreneurs Spend Their Weekends

All work and no play makes for a very dull entrepreneur.

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Successful entrepreneurs have a passion for what they do, so working hard is part of their DNA. But anyone who is successful also recognises that life and work are a marathon, not a sprint. Even they need downtime on the weekend to ensure they’re up to the task of being creative problem solvers and innovators Monday through Friday.

Sure, they may spend some time catching up on administrative work. They may spend time on a big project that needs special attention. And they should definitely spend time thinking about the future and considering the big picture.

But what successful entrepreneurs don’t do is spend the entire weekend buried under work. We all need a break, and entrepreneurs are no less immune to burnout than anyone else. Their weekends are spent restoring their bodies and minds, and getting prepared to function optimally come Monday.

Here are nine things successful entrepreneurs do over the weekend to unwind and re-energise for the week ahead.

wake-up-routine

1. Wake up at about the same time

Successful entrepreneurs understand that staying on track for the week ahead means keeping the same sleeping patterns, even on weekends. That means going to bed and getting up at about the same time all week. This is because your circadian rhythm will stay consistent, so your body will naturally know when it’s time to sleep and wake up.

As tempting as it might be to sleep in, doing so can throw off your sleep/wake cycle, disrupting sleep patterns and giving you a poor night’s rest. Make sure you aim to get seven to eight hours of sleep every night to avoid a sleep deficit. Also, getting up early means you’ll be ready for whatever the day brings and you’ll have time to accomplish all the things you hope to do.

Related: 20 South African Side-Hustles You Can Start This Weekend

2. Spend quality time with loved ones

It’s no surprise that weekdays can be hectic and filled with obligations. There’s a good chance you spent more time in front of your computer (and with co-workers and colleagues) than with the most important people in your life. Make sure you’re tending to the quality relationships in your life by making them a priority on the weekends.

Have a date night with a partner. Go for a long walk or enjoy a leisurely lunch with a friend. Make sure you’re building and maintaining those relationships by really listening to them. And then share what’s on your mind and how you’re feeling. The support and connection you feel with others will give you resiliency and can support you in stressful times.

3. Pursue a passion

Is there some hobby or activity you’ve been wanting to try but have never made time for? Dedicate some weekend time to pursuing a passion that’s outside of work and beyond your normal day-to-day obligations. Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn to paint, take up photography or write a novel.

Whether it’s a long-lost hobby or a labor of love you’ve dreamed of embarking on, stop telling yourself that you’ll get around to it “someday.” Set aside a quiet weekend morning or afternoon to work on it. Pursuing your interests beyond work improves your mental health and reduce stress levels. Plus, focusing on activities outside of work will improve your creativity and give you a chance to look at life from a new perspective.

Related: How To Work Less And Still Get More Done

camping trip

4. Find time for a mini-adventure

Weekends give you a chance to unplug from life, put aside your daily responsibilities and go have some fun! Let loose and break out of your rut by taking yourself on a mini-adventure. Get out of the house and find a change of scenery.

A mini-adventure means sticking close to home, so hiking the Grand Canyon may be a bit much, but an overnight camping trip or a day hike is totally doable. Spend an afternoon at the beach or take your bike out for a long ride. The point is to get out and make a memory that will give you a smile for the rest of the week.

5. Fuel their creative mind

Successful entrepreneurs make sure they take time to feed their creative minds by finding ways to connect with the arts. You don’t need a degree in art appreciation or music theory to enjoy the benefits of engaging with the arts. Simply visiting a local museum or spending time listening to music will suffice.

Viewing art can be like a mini-vacation for your brain. It activates areas of the brain that are involved in processing emotion and engaging your pleasure and reward systems. Listening to music can have an even more dramatic effect. In fact, music has been found to stimulate more parts of the brain than any other human function.

6. Relax, reflect and renew

Savvy entrepreneurs have learned that they must give themselves the space and time to decompress and mull over the events, issues or dilemmas they face. Giving yourself time for self-reflection allows you to link and construct meaning from your experiences. Reflection is one of the main ways we gain insight and foster complex learning and personal growth.

In our busy world, we are often dealing with packed schedules and juggling multiple issues. Make sure you find time on the weekend to disengage from your hectic schedule and just chill. Try journaling, going for a walk, taking in the beauty of a sunset or even just focusing on the present moment and being aware of all the sensations you’re experiencing.

Related: Get Your Weekend Started

hiking

7. Get outside and exercise

Whether it’s getting out for a walk through the neighbourhood, shooting some hoops or taking a run through the park, high-achieving entrepreneurs get outside on the weekend to stretch their legs and soak up some vitamin D. There are some great benefits to an outdoor rather than indoor workout (although the most important thing is getting exercise, however it works best for you).

Getting some natural sunlight may be a welcome reprieve from artificial lighting if you spend most of the week in an office. Studies have found that adults tend to exercise for longer when they’re outside. You also tend to burn more calories and work slightly different muscles because of the wind resistance and changes in terrain. Perhaps most important, you’ll have a chance to admire nature and the outside world, which is good for your mental health and well-being.

8. Socialise and network

Successful entrepreneurs realise that any event or gathering is a chance to get to know other people and learn something new from someone you haven’t met. Set aside time to socialise with friends and family or get to know colleagues and workmates. If everyone else is busy this weekend, look for other opportunities to socialise and do something fun and interesting.

Check out a local community event. It could be a great chance to learn more about where you live and network and make connections with others. You could also look for a volunteer opportunity with a charity or nonprofit you’d like to support, such as a local animal shelter, senior centre or food bank. If you enjoy active sports, join a local team or club. If you’re into less strenuous activities, consider a joining a bowling or bocce ball team.

9. Catch up on rest

It’s been a busy week, and you’re feeling sleep deprived and run down. While sleeping in isn’t a good idea, successful entrepreneurs know when they need to catch up on some much-needed rest. A 10- to 20-minute power nap may be just the thing to help you feel refreshed and alert – a short snooze is actually much more effective than a cup of coffee in providing an energy boost.

It’s best to keep naps short: 30 Minutes or less. Longer naps are more likely to leave you feeling groggy and can interfere with your nighttime sleep quality. So when that wave of post-lunch sleepiness hits, go ahead: Indulge in an mid-afternoon nap and enjoy the rest of your weekend!

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Lessons Learnt

How Lorenzo Escobal Bootstrapped His Way To Competing With Titans And Attracting Top-Tier Clients

Inception Automotive Detailing was founded in 2011 by Lorenzo Escobal. He was only 18 at the time, and the business started small, but Lorenzo has grown it significantly over the last few years and aligned it with top brands. His secret to success? Being proactive and not being afraid to ask for what he wants.

GG van Rooyen

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Vital Stats

  • Player: Lorenzo Escobal
  • Company: Inception Automotive Detailing
  • Location: Toronto, Canada
  • Established: 2011
  • Visit: inceptionautodetailing.com

As is often the case in the world of entrepreneurship, Lorenzo Escobal launched his own business purely out of necessity. Attending university in 2010, he realised that finding a job shortly after North America had experienced a financial meltdown wouldn’t be easy. If he wanted to be sure of an income, he would need to create it for himself. So, having detailed cars for friends and family since he was 15, he decided to launch his own operation called Inception Automotive Detailing.

He bootstrapped the business — launching with just $1 200 — and grew it slowly. Today, the company boasts clients like Google and Tesla. Here are Lorenzo’s tips for bootstrapping a small business capable of competing against much bigger players and attracting top-tier clients.

1. Build a great website and market online

The fact of the matter is, your company is judged largely by the quality of its website and online presence these days, especially if you’re taking your product/service to the client. Even if you don’t have fancy premises, you can create a professional appearance by investing in a great website.

Most people are going to find you through your website, so make sure it instantly impresses. Also, invest time and money in creating effective online marketing campaigns on Google and Facebook. Funnily enough, Google approached us about detailing work by finding us on Google.

A good website and good online reviews got us a foot in the door. From there, we could prove ourselves through our work.

Related: Lessons From The Rich And Famous: Manage Your Money Like Oprah To Avoid Going Into Debt Like Nicholas Cage

2. Learn to network

Attracting clients online is important, but real-world networking shouldn’t be neglected either. There is immense value in joining professional organisations and attending conferences. It’s a great (and affordable) way to market, and you never know how the connections you make may pay off down the line. Networking and being in the public eye also builds credibility for your business. I’ve put a lot of time into getting my name and brand out there, but it’s been worth it.

3. Remember that no one is truly ‘self-made’

Every entrepreneur benefits from the wisdom and hard work of others. I’ve had great mentors who have helped me immeasurably in growing my business. I’ve also had the privilege of working with a great team who has helped me make the business what it is today. I do my best never to forget this, and I view myself not as a boss, but as a part of a team. Sure, I attend a lot of conferences and events, but I also jump in and help when there’s a lot of work to do.

As an entrepreneur, you need to be willing to get your hands dirty and do whatever’s needed — even if that means grabbing a mop and cleaning a dirty floor.

4. Make things happen

As an entrepreneur, you need to create opportunities, not wait for them to fall into your lap. I managed to get work from Tesla, for example, simply by asking for it. I filled out the contact form on the Tesla website and got a reply three days later.

Many entrepreneurs think that it’s pointless to approach large organisations because they’ll never want to do business with a small operation. Never simply assume that. Just ask, and see what happens. Sure, you’ll have to deal with a lot of rejection along the way, but that comes with the territory. Great entrepreneurs are never afraid to put themselves out there.

Related: How Matthew Piper And Karidas Tshintsholo Launched Their First Business From Their UCT Dorm Rooms

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Lessons Learnt

3 Lessons I’ve Learned In Krav Maga That Have Changed My Approach To Business

This fighting style packs a big punch on and off the mat.

Kristina Libby

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I started taking Krav Maga lessons this year at the recommendation of both my personal trainer and my therapist. I was physically assaulted years before in a nice neighbourhood in Washington, D.C. at 7 p.m. on a Tuesday.

Not a time or place one would expect to be attacked, and it has had long-lasting impacts on my mental and physical health. My trainer and my therapist, for different reasons, thought that learning a fighting skill would help me address the assault and move forward. It turned out to do much more than that.

Krav Maga is a military fighting system developed for the Israel Defense Forces. It is derived from a number of other fighting systems like boxing, wrestling, judo, etc. Those fighting forms were combined together to create a system for effective self-defense that is not based on bulk, height or gender. It is based on winning.

My first day at Krav Maga was scary. I did not feel like I was winning. I pushed back tears as my instructor Mike took me through different fighting stances and beginner moves. As I was learning to balance on my feet, he looked over at me. I was scared.

The terror and fear of the attack I had experienced years ago came flooding back. I kept flinching away and cowering as he came closer toward me. He looked me in the face and very slowly spoke to me: “The moment you get attacked, you are not the victim. You become the attacker.”

The moment you get attacked, you are not the victim. You become the attacker

This is a fundamental phrase in Krav Maga. It’s the idea that you don’t allow yourself to become the victim. If you are attacked, you attack back – stronger and more aggressively – because your job is to protect yourself.

In business, you are always at some point or another going to be the victim of an attack. This could be small, such as someone who leaves a negative product review, or big, such as a company slandering you or trying to take over your accounts.

The question is: How do you respond? Prior to Krav Maga, I would have been a little bit more “nice.” I would have shrugged my shoulders, known I would rebound in the end, or receded into a position of victimhood.

Not anymore.

My job is to protect myself and my company. It’s to protect my employees and my customers. And, Krav Maga has taught me to do that not from a position of victimhood but from a position of preparation. The only way to ensure you can attack an attacker is to have the skills to fight. In business this means:

  • Aligning your A-team: Ensuring you have a lawyer, an accountant and a good PR firm at the ready.
  • Preparing yourself: Ensuring you understand where threats can arise, what those threats may be and developing a plan to respond to them.
  • Preparing your team: Ensuring your team knows that you don’t play the role of the victim and that when attacked you address the situation head-on from a position of educated authority. This is about mindset for both leaders and employees.

Related: The 5-Hour Rule Used By Bill Gates, Jack Ma And Elon Musk

You will get punched in the face. Understand what that feels like

krav-maga-fighting

In my Krav Maga training, Mike will punch me in the stomach for a few minutes at varying levels of force. The intent is that I will get used to getting punched in the stomach.

He has me stand with my arms to my side, stomach muscles tightened and solar plexus alert. I can’t punch back. I can only wait and anticipate the blows, tighten my muscles and understand that practice punches in the stomach are the only way to prepare me for punches to my stomach (or anywhere) in a fight.

The first time he did this, I was terrified.

Now, I understand that the momentary pain makes me stronger, less afraid of the intentional punch or kick someone years down the road might throw at me. In business, this lesson is incredibly useful and has changed the way I think about planning and development.

Sometimes you need someone to punch you in the stomach.

The role of an advisor or a consultant for your business is the same role as Mike is playing when he punches me in the stomach. He knows what it’s like to get hit and he wants to ensure that if I do get hit, the shock of being hit won’t be debilitating.

Hopefully, those advising you are also seeing the future ways your business can get punched in the stomach. Their role is to help you avoid those punches by preparing you for the little bumps and bruises you’ll see along the way.

As a business owner, then, it is your role to:

  • Find advisors who have been punched in the stomach (metaphorically) and allow them to watch you along the way. They will know when you are careening too far in the direction of something dangerous and hopefully prepare you for the inevitable danger.
  • Allow the little punches to your stomach to be seen as training bumps. These small upsets should be dealt with as upsets, not massive failures. They are preparing you for bigger and more aggressive assaults down the road.

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

Even blindfolded, we can win

There is an exercise that Mike has me do, where I close my eyes and he attacks me. The intent is that I use the skills we have learned to ward off the attack. When I was attacked years ago, it was nighttime, and the attacker snuck up and surprised me. As such, Mike’s simulation is the hardest emotional thing I have to do all week. That is, until I actually do it.

Normally, I don’t do the counterattack move perfectly. I use an open-palm heel strike instead of a punch. Or, I use a knee rather than a kick because I know my knees to the groin are stronger. It doesn’t matter. I’m still able to disarm him (when he uses a knife), knock him away and clear enough space to get away. I still win.

I win not because I have perfect form, or a super-human strength but because I don’t give up. I don’t stop fighting until I win because I don’t have the luxury of losing. Losing means victimisation. I don’t want to be the victim.

When I was assaulted years ago, I didn’t give up either. I fought on the ground and then standing until the assailant ran away. I screamed and kicked and refused to let him win. I didn’t have any training then; I won only because I had grit and a desire to live through the attack.

Now, I have more training but at the end of the day, I won’t be an expert. Few of us ever will be. The thing that all of us can do though is refuse to give up. We can refuse to let the attack keep us down. We can refuse to let the attacker win.

This is the Krav Maga lesson that I think is the most impactful for women business leaders. We are going to get attacked – every day. Often, we will not see the attack coming. We will be blindfolded in some way by lack of time, lack of awareness or lack of funding, and the attack will come.

The only thing we can do, the thing we must do, is know that even blindfolded we can continue to fight. We can refuse to be the victim. We can continue to raise and punch back. Because if there is something I know about female entrepreneurs, is that we all have a lot of grit and a lot of heart.

In the end of the day, heart and grit win fights.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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