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Successful Entrepreneurs Challenge Themselves. Here’s 5 Ways to Do That.

To be a successful entrepreneur in today’s world, you need to be current, mentally fit and actively involved in running your business. Even more important, you need to stay competitive.

Stephen Key

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The best way to stay competitive is to actively attempt to challenge your preconceived notions. Easier said than done, right? When things are going well, we’re tempted to rest on our laurels. Whether we realise it or not, we become comfortable.

It’s when things aren’t going well that we rack our brains for new directions to take our business in. But to stay competitive, you need to be hungry. It’s more important than ever that you question everything you’re doing.

You need to find ways to challenge yourself.

Related: Success Will Never Come to Entrepreneurs Who Do These 10 Things

Questions on your mind should include: “How can I improve my business?” “Where is my industry headed?” “Am I prepared for setbacks?” “Am I prepared for the changes in technology that will inevitably come?” “Am I prepared for America’s changing demographics?”

For many of us, asking these kinds of questions is difficult. We might not like the answers. Becoming an entrepreneur requires a certain kind of confidence and ego. In other words, more often than not, we think we know it all already. But your business will benefit immensely from your willingness to open your eyes to the future.

That’s why you must surround yourself with people, situations and reading material that challenges you. I rely on the strategies below to help me out.

1. Hang out with people whose age differs from yours

My two daughters challenge me to think differently more than any other people I know. The conversations we have make me reflect upon the assumptions I hold, because our opinions differ widely so often. I have a mentee who helps challenge me in the same thing. Eric Ruiz, who is also in his 20s, opens my mind by introducing me to the technology he’s using, the business podcasts he’s listening to and what’s on his mind.

2. Read

In the past week alone, I have read multiple articles in publications including The New Yorker and The Wall Street Journal that have caused me to reevaluate my business plan for 2015. Seek out media outlets whose perspective differs from yours. We all have authors and magazines whose point of view we already agree with. Spending your time reinforcing your point of view is the opposite of challenging yourself.

3. Ask your customers what you can be doing better

Trust me, they’ll tell you. Stop assuming that you know what they want. What do they lack? What do they wish were different? What could be better?

4. Use the latest technology

The technology available to us today is so vast and so quickly changing, simply pondering how to use it can be overwhelming. Get over your fears and learn by doing. Play with it. Experiment with it. Whether you personally embrace new technology or not is irrelevant. Inevitably, some of your customers do, and even more will in the future. Don’t force yourself into the position of having to catch up.

5. Hire people who are smarter than you

Give them power and let them run with it. I guarantee that they will challenge you. Don’t hire people that are going to agree with you all of the time. In the same vein, when a smart hire does challenge you – let them!

Making a concerted effort to challenge yourself will inspire you and help prepare your business for the future. As a result, you will be able to lead your company with the confidence that you’re making good decisions – because you are.

Related:  How to Concentrate When the World Intrudes

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

Stephen Key is an inventor, author, speaker and co-founder of InventRight, LLC., a Glenbrook, Nev.-based company that educates entrepreneurs in how to bring ideas to market. In the last 25 years, he has liscenced more than 20 new products. He is author of the One Simple Idea series of books including One Simple Idea for Startups and Entrepreneurs, (McGraw-Hill, 2012).

Lessons Learnt

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.

Nadine Todd

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“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

Related: Watch List: 50 Top SA Small Businesses To Watch

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

Related: Watch List: 15 SA eCommerce Entrepreneurs Who Have Built Successful Online Businesses

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

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Lessons Learnt

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.

Entrepreneur

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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

Related: 5 Leadership Questions Every Boss Should Ask

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.

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Lessons Learnt

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.

John Rampton

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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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