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For Vusi Thembekwayo Obsession Is Crucial To Success

Entrepreneur and business speaker Vusi Thembekwayo is probably best known as a dragon on the local version of Dragons’ Den, but his sphere of influence extends well beyond that. He has become a sought-after global speaker who inspires thousands of people every year with his keen insights.

GG van Rooyen

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Too many young entrepreneurs are over-eager

They stumble on an idea and try to get going as quickly as possible. They start with A and jump directly to Z, which harms their chances of success. A great idea does not guarantee success. You need to develop that idea carefully and systematically.

Passion is not enough if you want to be successful

Just about everyone has passion — passion is standard. You can bet that all your competitors are just as passionate as you are. What does this mean? It means that passion has become boring.

It’s no longer a meaningful differentiator. If you want to be successful, you need to be utterly obsessed. You need to reply to customer queries after 5pm on a Friday.

You need to cringe when someone tweets about a bad customer experience. You must always be switched on — you need to be present and relevant at all times.

Related: How Vusi Thembekwayo Keeps His Business Growing

Being a business person is not the same thing as being an entrepreneur

Firstly, an entrepreneur has a higher tolerance for risk. A business person typically wants decent returns at moderate risk. An entrepreneur plays for high stakes — big risk and big reward.

Secondly, a business person obviously wants to grow a business, but they also want to remain comfortable and secure. An entrepreneur wants to scale — he or she wants stratospheric growth, which again comes down to high risk and high reward.

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Emotional intelligence is incredibly important if you want to be a successful entrepreneur

You need to be able to take a very honest and critical look at yourself and acknowledge what your shortcomings are. This is the only way you can grow and self-correct. At the same time, though, you can’t be negative or pessimistic.

You need a certain optimism and a strong drive to succeed. People will tell you that what you’re trying to do is impossible. You need the grit to keep going in the face of that.

My dad was a huge inspiration to me

He was a guy who saw an opportunity and took it. He was an electronics salesman who regularly travelled to Limpopo.

When he realised that the vegetables there were much larger and looked healthier than the ones on offer in Johannesburg, he started bringing back as much as he could and selling it locally.

Everything was usually gone within 20 minutes of him getting back. It was a great lesson in being able to spot an opportunity.

Related: Vusi Thembekwayo on The Art of Pursuing Crazy Ideas And Turning Them Into Profit Machines

Having a business plan doesn’t make you an entrepreneur

Being able to create an impressive business plan is obviously a useful skill, but you’re not an entrepreneur until you actually take the plunge. You need to start.

You need to have clients who are paying you money in exchange for a service or product you’re providing. It’s not (just) about the website, company name and logo. You need to be doing business.

To me, being an entrepreneur means disrupting

You’re not a true entrepreneur unless you’re disrupting an industry and changing things in a fundamental way. Some people see a great opportunity, and they take it.

There’s nothing wrong with that — they’re adding value — but that makes you more of an opportunist or survivalist.

Entrepreneurs think big and change the status quo. 

A great business plan needs to answer three things

It needs to explain who your customers are, why they need what you’re selling, and why they need to buy that from you. This sounds simple, but it’s not. It requires a lot of research and planning.

It also requires that you speak to funders, suppliers, prospective customers and even competitors. It’s an invaluable process, since it will provide you with a realistic view of your prospects.

Related: Vusi Thembekwayo On How To Be A Jugger-niche

Great entrepreneurs often come in pairs

There are very few people out there who possess all the traits and skills necessary to be a successful entrepreneur. For this reason, it helps to be in partnership with someone who can balance you out and provide the skills that you lack.

GG van Rooyen is the deputy editor for Entrepreneur Magazine South Africa. Follow him on Twitter.

Lessons Learnt

(Podcast) ‘Bizarre Foods’ Andrew Zimmern: ‘I’m Addicted To The Hustle’

How this week’s ‘How Success Happens’ guest overcame personal struggles and built an empire.

Dan Bova

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I didn’t know what to expect when we scheduled an interview over breakfast with today’s guest Andrew Zimmern. As you may know, the chef, writer, restaurateur and TV personality made a name for himself traveling the world and eating some, well, bizarre foods on his hit travel/food show, Bizarre Foods.

Turns out our breakfast was pretty normal – we didn’t dig into a fresh plate of scrambled brains or anything – but the conversation was anything but typical.

Over the past couple of years, Zimmern has built a true empire around his name with books, TV shows, restaurants (including his new Twin Cities joint Lucky Cricket), and a production company, but as he very candidly told me, the road to success has not been easy. He has gone through a lot of personal pain on his journey, and he says it is a daily endeavour to keep himself moving on the right track.

As Zimmern explained, over the course of his life, he’s had problems with substance abuse, depression – even homelessness – and he was very open about sharing the lessons he’s learned along the way about coping and finding redemption. We also spoke about his dear friend, Anthony Bourdain, and about the struggles of feeling overwhelmed that most of us face.

Related: Gareth Cliff Shares His Tips For Starting Your Very Own Podcast

But don’t get me wrong, he’s really funny, too! There’s nothing “normal” about Andrew Zimmern. Hope you’ll enjoy our conversation, thanks for listening.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Lessons Learnt

How BrightRock Is Disrupting The Insurance Industry With These 2 Pivotal Strategies

Developments in technology, and clear communication are positioning BrightRock to disrupt their industry and transform the consumer experience.

Monique Verduyn

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Vital Stats

  • Players: Sean Hanlon, Leopold Malan, Schalk Malan, Suzanne Stevens
  • Company: BrightRock
  • Est: 2011
  • Visit: www.brightrock.co.za

BrightRock was started around a dining room table in 2011 by four people with years of industry experience and — importantly — a diverse set of complementary skills.  They wanted to make changes to an industry with an age-old methodology by allowing customers to co-create a solution that precisely meets their individual needs, and adjusts as those needs change. Today, BrightRock is the fastest-growing insurer in the intermediated individual life risk market. It also provides underwriting management services to funeral parlour businesses and, more recently, has entered the group risk insurance market, offering its needs-matched approach to employees.

The founders of BrightRock, established in 2011, knew the life insurance industry all too well, and they found its methodology wanting. “Traditional life insurance lumps all the individual’s needs into one policy,” says CEO Schalk Malan.

“It’s a methodology that has been around for centuries. We started afresh and looked at how we could design life insurance based on individual requirements. Our cover is designed to exactly match each specific financial need. Because there is no waste, it’s more cost efficient and sustainable. And if circumstances change and our customer needs more cover, it’s easy to get it because needs-matched design enables the policy to change in line with changing needs.”

1. Embracing digital technology to provide needs-matched insurance

Suzanne Stevens, marketing executive director at BrightRock, points out that this type of innovation achieves efficiency (cost savings) and effectiveness (higher returns). “By harnessing digital technology, we have made our operations more efficient, and aggressively lowered costs by up to 30% for our customers. Every rand they spend with us works harder for them. That’s the benefit of a solution designed around the customer.”

BrightRock’s founders took a similar approach. ‘We ditched legacy thinking in favour of creating a product that is intuitive and easy to navigate. An enormous amount of time and effort went into writing and designing that system, and creating the optimal customer journey.”

Related: How BrightRock Is Rocking The (Industry) Boat In Only 5 Years Since Launch

Unlike clunky legacy systems, BrightRock’s platform is modularised, and was built according to the agile principle of rapid delivery cycles. The result is a technology stack with longevity, that is also flexible enough to be tweaked when needed.

“The advantage of the technology available today is that you can plug things in and pull them out as required,” says Suzanne. “That’s one of the enablers of a truly disruptive mindset. To step away from accepted norms and find new solutions requires curiosity and creativity, as well as a lot of courage to go up against large incumbents in the market. There is always resistance to new technology, although we are fortunate in this country to have one of the most innovative insurance sectors in the world.”

2. Effective communication is critical

These disruptors have set themselves above the rest through one surprisingly simple tactic —  effective communication. They agree that it simply doesn’t matter how world-changing your product or service is if you don’t communicate it to the right audience at the right time. New companies that fail to communicate their remarkable new development will quickly be pushed aside by other disruptors. Without a clear communication strategy that reaches the audience in the industry you’re trying to disrupt, you’ll set yourself up for failure. A key question to ask when you are developing your communication strategy is simply whether people understand what you do.

“Because the premise for our product was fundamentally different from anything on the market, communication and clear messaging were critical to convincing our clients to put their trust in us,” says Schalk.

“It was especially important to educate insurance advisors so they would understand what we were doing, why we were doing it, and how it was better than the other options available. That was key to disrupting the individual life market.”

Currently, BrightRock employs 380 staff, has experienced 40% year-on-year growth, and has an annualised premium income of more than R1,3 billion. The company has recently entered the group risk environment with a similar offering that addresses many of the same shortcomings of traditional group risk products. “The inefficiencies of the structuring of group products has meant that, to remain competitive, insurers have cut the benefits offered to employees, undermining their sense of financial security. Change is needed, and we believe our needs-matched philosophy positions us to change the group risk market too.”

‘We ditched legacy thinking in favour of creating a product that is intuitive and easy to navigate. An enormous amount of time and effort went into writing and designing that system, and creating the optimal customer journey.”

Unlike clunky legacy systems, the BrightRock’s platform is modularised, and was built according to the agile principle of rapid delivery cycles. The result is a technology stack with longevity, that is also flexible enough to be tweaked when needed.

Related: BrightRock’s 5 Entrepreneurial Tips For Start-ups

This iterative, modular approach typically begins with defining the strategy and programme plan upfront, delivering a core capability fast so it can provide benefits immediately, and then continuously improving with regular, incremental capability improvements to achieve the objectives of the strategy. It’s an approach that fosters closer collaboration between stakeholders, improved transparency, earlier delivery, greater allowance for change and more focus on the business outcomes.

“The advantage of the technology available today is that you can plug things in and pull them out as required,” says Suzanne. “That’s one of the enablers of a truly disruptive mindset. To step away from accepted norms and find new solutions requires curiosity and creativity, as well as a lot of courage to go up against large incumbents in the market. There is always resistance to new technology, although we are fortunate in this country to have one of the most innovative insurance sectors in the world.”

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Lessons Learnt

The 9 Obsessions You Need To Have To Become A Self-Made Millionaire

Here’s how to stay focused on your millionaire goals.

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The ones who succeed weren’t handed a golden ticket; it wasn’t chance that helped them cultivate their fortune. To reach millionaire status, you must be driven to reach your dreams. You must be obsessed in order to be successful.

These are the nine obsessions that give every self-made millionaire an edge in creating success and wealth.

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