As President of Sage International (Africa, Australia, Middle East and Asia) and Chairman of Sage Foundation, Ivan Epstein has a lot of experience in launching a humble start-up and developing it into a successful international business. Here are a few lessons he’s learnt along the way.
Data will never tell you everything
Sure, data is important and it can tell you an awful lot, but you can’t rely purely on data when it comes to decision-making. Most successful entrepreneurs trust their gut and instinct as much as they trust formal market research.
Creating a new business is about defying the odds, disruption and finding opportunities. It’s about heart and courage as much as it is about intellect and analysis.
Share the wealth
It’s important to give back and make sure that those who helped and supported you also share in the success. Making people feel that they’re recognised and valued is vital to employee engagement and retention of wonderful talent.
It also aids in creating a healthy company culture and attracting great potential employees. Great people want to work for great companies that recognise their talents.
Be careful with your early hires
When you’re growing quickly, it can be tempting to hire whoever you can get your hands on to lighten the load. But remember that early employees will have a profound impact on the culture of your company. They lay the foundation for everything that will come afterwards.
When your business is a start-up, you’ll find it hard to attract the right people. Your budget will be limited, which means your choices of potential employees will be too.
Great talent usually wants to work for well-known and successful brands. Don’t make a bad appointment out of desperation — take your time to find the right fit.
As your company grows, your control may diminish
It will become impossible to micromanage every aspect of the business, and you may need to raise funding by potentially offering up equity in the company. You need to figure out early on what level of control you’re willing to surrender.
Many entrepreneurs dream of securing venture capital funding, being bought out by a bigger brand, or even listing their businesses on a stock exchange. It’s important to be willing to let your role evolve if you embrace such changes — leading to increased transparency and flexibility as well as delegate aspects of the business to others.
Sometimes you will need to cut your losses
Perseverance is a good thing, but there’s no point in pursuing something that’s just not working. Accept the fact and cut your losses. If a product line or a division in your business is failing, act quickly. If it’s considered beyond redemption, dispose of it as cleanly and rapidly as you can. Don’t let a failing part of your business disrupt your strategic direction.
You will occasionally disagree with your partners
Building a business is a stressful and difficult yet a fun and rewarding thing to do, and it’s unrealistic to think that you won’t sometimes disagree with your partners. If you have partnered with other people to build a business, be ready for some potential challenges once the idealistic glow has worn off.
Be sure that your partners complement your strengths and weaknesses and that you are able to turn the challenges in the relationship into a net positive. Conflict, if well managed, can create great opportunities.
Always agreeing with your partner doesn’t stimulate great ideas and innovation. Treat conflict as an opportunity for growth. Never make it personal.
Change the world
Don’t be afraid to dream big and really make a difference in the world. Use your talent and organisation to make an impact. Give something back.
It instils in your people a wonderful feeling of being part of something amazing. It also attracts investors, customers, and other stakeholders who want to be associated with a company that has a heart.
7 Pieces Of Wise Advice For Start-Up Entrepreneurs From Successful Business Owners
Launching a business is tough, but with perseverance, a willingness to learn from mistakes and a focus on the future, you can turn your dream into a reality. Seven top South Africa entrepreneurs share their hard-won start-up lessons.
“What seems like an expensive lesson is actually the best thing that could have happened to you.”
So you want to start a business? Seven successful entrepreneurs share their words of wisdom for start-up entrepreneurs
1. Offer advice and share your expertise freely
The more your clients are educated, the more empowered they will feel, and the more they will view you as a trusted advisor. I gave my clients material to help them develop the best labour policies and procedures. It didn’t make my service redundant — it built trust between us. — Arnoux Mare, Innovative Solutions Group, turnover R780 million
2. Stop planning and start doing
We all tend to complicate business with planning and processes. These shouldn’t be ignored, but you need to also just start — start your business, start that project, start walking the path you want to be on. — Gareth Leck, co-founder, Joe Public, turnover R700 million
3. Play your heart out and the money will follow
I learnt this valuable lesson when I was a student and busked at Greenmarket Square. You don’t stand with your hat, waiting for cash and then play — you play your heart out and the bills pile up in your hat. It’s the same in business. You can’t look at the bottom line first; it’s the other way around. — Pepe Marais, co-founder, Joe Public, turnover R700 million
4. Love learning lessons
What seems like an expensive lesson is actually the best thing that could have happened to you. I wasn’t paying attention to my partner or my books in our early days, and I didn’t realise the debt he was putting us into. We ended up owing R1 million. In hindsight, it was a cheap lesson to learn. Imagine if that happened today? The fallout would be much greater. We have 19 stores and nearly 100 staff members. It would hurt everyone, not just me. — Rodney Norman, founder, Chrome Supplements, turnover R100 million
5. Landing an investor starts with your story
A great story and data are the two golden rules of attracting an investor. You need both if you really want to access growth funding that will take your business to the next level. — Grant Rushmere, founder, Bos Ice Tea
6. Offer solutions
If you’re not solving a problem and creating value, don’t ship it — throw it away. That’s cheaper than selling a bad product. — Nadir Khamissa, co-founder, Hello Group
7. Small, clever decisions lead to big profits
One of the most important lessons any business owner can learn is that success on profit is nothing more than the accumulative sum of rand decisions. Lots of small, clever money decisions lead to big profits, and without the disciplines of frugality, money gets lost. It’s that simple. Question every single line item on a quote. Do we need it? Can we get it cheaper? This is what it’s about. — Vusi Thembekwayo, founder, Watermark
Here’s How Bosses From Hell Helped 6 Entrepreneurs Grow
From control freaks to being unco-operative, founders share what they learned from their worst boss.
In business, sometimes the most valuable lessons come from the worst teachers. We asked six entrepreneurs: What’s the greatest thing you learned from a bad boss?
1. Bring everyone in
“A former boss was very hierarchical and discouraged collaboration. Everyone reported directly to her, and interdepartmental meetings were practically prohibited. It meant that only our boss had the full picture – we missed a lot of opportunity for alignment and cooperation. Today at our company, it’s a priority to hold regular team meetings and foster a strong culture of collaboration. It’s crucial that our team members weave collective sharing into the fabric of their day-to-day interactions.” – Melissa Biggs Bradley, founder and CEO, Indagare
2. Be vulnerable
“Don’t be afraid to show your emotions! I worked for a partner at McKinsey who was an incredible person but an awful manager because he kept his feelings bottled up. After a client presentation went awry, our team didn’t know where we stood with our manager. It was tense, awkward and demotivating. Showing vulnerability and letting others know when you’re genuinely upset can help everyone externalise their emotions, build trust and reassure employees that they aren’t alone. It sends a clearer message than stone-faced silence.” – Leo Wang, founder and CEO, Buffy
Related: 5 Factors That Make A Great Boss
3. Lend a hand
“I worked for someone who would never help out the junior staff with their work, even if he was finished with his own – he’d simply pack up and leave early. I now make an extra effort to ask my staff if they can use a hand when my own workload is light. It’s created a culture that feels more like a tight-knit team and less like a hierarchy.” – Adam Tichauer, founder and CEO, Camp No Counselors
4. Move as a group
“When I was a nurse manager, I had a boss with no experience in healthcare. She wanted to change our process for keeping patients from getting blood clots. I knew it was a mistake, but she insisted. Ultimately, the change failed. It taught me the importance of empowering staff to speak up. At Extend Fertility, we collect feedback from customers via surveys. Results are shared with our staff, and together we develop action plans to address negative experiences. It’s the employees who interact with patients on a daily basis who have the best solutions.” – Ilaina Edison, CEO, Extend Fertility
5. Trust your team
“I once worked for a woman who joined our team after I had been working there for a while. Every time I stood up, she’d ask me where I was going, whether it was to the bathroom or to the printer. She had a fear of not having control over my time and work. As a young adult, this behaviour really demoralised me, especially since I had excelled at the job for years prior. My leadership style is less neurotic. Once my team members have my trust, I’m pretty hands-off.” – Denise Lee, founder and CEO, Alala
6. Respect others’ time
“Early in my career, I had a project manager who’d wait until the very last minute to review work, then convey lots of new information and requests. This happened at the end of the day or, worse, after hours, when I was home. It was demoralising, inefficient and disrespectful. In my career, I’m conscious about reviewing work in a timely and complete way so my team can successfully incorporate my feedback without generating a last-minute crisis – or lingering resentment.” – Kirsten R. Murray, principal architect and owner, Olson Kundig
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
11 Things Very Successful People Do That 99% Of People Don’t
Consistency is a big part of succeeding. The top 1% of performers in the world know this is the secret to their success.
Becoming wealthy and leaving an impact on the world is not an easy feat. If it were, everyone would go around doing it. At that point, it would not be much of an accomplishment at all.
Rather, being extremely successful requires an extreme amount of work. Especially when there is nobody looking. The best people have developed habits that help them reach their goals. These routines are not necessarily challenging to form, but they take consistent effort over extended periods of time. Creating these tendencies in your own life will propel your success.
Here are 11 things, that 99% of people (myself included) do not do, but really should.
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