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The Power Of Finding Your Why

Abed Tau CA(SA) is a director at Thamani Financial Solutions and co-founder of Tuta-Me, South Africa’s first edu-tech start-up. He shares insight on how he became a successful entrepreneur. 

SAICA

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Entrepreneurship is a mysterious creature; so much is written and said about it. A starting point for exploring the meaning of entrepreneurial triumph is to look at the idea of success itself. At the simplest level, success is the achievement of a specific goal, but success means different things to different people. It’s logical to assume that everybody wants to be successful in terms of their own individual goals. Ultimately, nobody plans to fail.

In trying to understand the paths to successful entrepreneurship, it’s tempting to reduce its attainment to a linear process. Much of the research into what makes some entrepreneurs successful is based upon studying the super successful ones. The idea is to then instruct people to replicate the behaviours of the successful.

However, this approach disregards two important issues. First, different entrepreneurs have very different goals. What might be success to one measure is failure on another. Second, it disregards the very real phenomenon of survivorship bias. By studying ‘survivors’, in this case successful entrepreneurs, we immediately exclude all data relating to failure. By doing so, we assume a ‘survivor’s’ success is a direct result of their specific attributes or actions. This does not prove that failures did not happen.

“I prefer to view entrepreneurial success by focusing on the ‘why’ rather than the ‘what’. An entrepreneur’s ‘why’ is their own personal definition of success. My curiosity was the stimulus for my ‘why’, which was to ascertain what it is that makes an entrepreneur,” says Abed Tau, director at Thamani Financial Solutions and co-founder of Tuta-Me.

Related: From Local To Global: Bruce Mackenzie CA(SA) Shares Top Tips On Being A Successful Entrepreneur

Through this process, he was able to fashion his own version of entrepreneurial truth. His ‘why’ ultimately led him to his ‘how’.

1. Forget about comfort

One of his early realisations was that comfort is the enemy of success. “Comfort suggests lack of difficulty. Lack of difficulty may seem appealing, but without challenge, there is no catalyst for positive adaptation. Without difficulty there is no immediate need for innovation and change,” he says.

2. Focus on hiring GREAT people

Abed embraced discomfort when he started his business, Thamani Financial Solutions. In running his business, he soon came to the conclusion that people are not the greatest asset of a business, but GREAT people are. “This is a subtle but important difference. It highlights the importance of giving hiring decisions the level of attention they deserve. I have learnt to treat great employees as business partners. In doing so, their motivation is fuelled, which leads to business innovation.”

3. Do the right thing at the right time

In his entrepreneurial journey, Abed also learnt the value of focus. “The ability to focus is one thing; knowing what to focus on is another,” he says. “A common entrepreneurial misstep is to put too much emphasis on less important things like fancy offices in prime areas or flashy business cards. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with these trappings, but in the start-up phase there are more pressing concerns, like perfecting your service or product, and getting new customers and keeping them.”

4. Don’t compete, strengthen your own position

Another counter-intuitive approach adopted by Abed is his attitude towards his competitors. He says: “The companies that lose are the companies that compete by focusing on the opposition. By concentrating on your own game, you will inevitably strengthen your own position. The stronger your own business, the harder it is for rivals to displace you.

“The reasons for pursuing an entrepreneurial venture are as varied as the ventures themselves,” he concludes. “There is no specific entrepreneurial formula for success. The process is often circuitous in nature. And it will be really hard work. But remember to always ask yourself why you’re doing it. The answer to this important question will be the compass that leads the way to your ‘what’ and ‘how’.”

Related: Young CAs(SA) Shaping The Future Of Business


top-35-under-35-saicaEnter SAICA’s Top 35 Under 35 competition for CAs(SA)

In 2016, Abed Tau was a finalist in SAICA’s Top 35 under 35 competition for CAs(SA). Entries for this year’s competition are now open.

  • Do you know a CA(SA) who stands out from the crowd?
  • Or: Are you a CA(SA) who wants to take your future to a whole new dimension?

By entering SAICA’s Top 35 Under 35 CA(SA) competition, you stand a chance of winning cash prizes, with the overall winner also taking home a brand new Renault Clio as well as an all expenses paid trip to One Young World 2019 (worth more than R100 000).

If you’re ready to redefine your future, go to www.accountancysa.org.za/top-35-under-35/

Entries close 31 May 2018.

The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) is widely recognised as one of the world’s leading accounting institutes. As South Africa’s pre-eminent accountancy body, the Institute provides a wide range of support services to more than 38 000 members who are chartered accountants and hold positions as CEOs, MDs, (board) directors, business owners, chief financial officers, auditors and other leaders in their chosen spheres of business operations and public life. Most of these members operate in commerce and industry, and play a significant role in the nation’s highly dynamic business sector and economic development, but some are also employed in the public sector.

Company Posts

Is Your Business Ready To Be Funded?

A venture capitalist and an entrepreneur who has secured funding weigh in on what you need to become funding-ready.

Matt Brown

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1. Ability to Scale

According to Clive Butkow, CEO of VC firm, Kalon Venture Partners, there are many important criteria VC firms evaluate when making an investment decision, but the ability to scale is the most important.

“At Kalon Venture Partners we only invest in businesses if we believe we can make a 10X return on our investment when we exit the company. If we do not believe the business can scale, both in South Africa and globally, we will not invest,” he says.

“Scalability can swing an investor valuation discussion towards a ‘blue sky’ scenario, presenting an endless opportunity for revenue multiples on an initial capital cost-base,” agrees Benji Coetzee, founder and CEO of EmptyTrips.

“However, unless the potential is paired with execution capability it remains irrelevant,” she warns. “As a founder you need the perseverance and commitment to prove that your product will be scalable. In other words, you need to demonstrate your capability to replicate the offering to unlock upside, clients and product growth.”

Related: What’s Stopping Your Business From Growing?

2. Founder’s Mindset

benji-coetzee

“The founders and CEOs of businesses are the visionaries. They are the fuel in the engine and the Lieutenant General on the front line fighting fires. A founder’s attitude, resilience and ability to rally their troops is therefore paramount,” says Benji.

“Before a company can scale it needs to go through painful growing pains. The product evolves, customer orientation flips, the team matures and competition increases. To navigate this changing multi-faceted journey, the CEO is critical in the fight. Founders create the strategy, rally the army and lead the effort, in both the tough times and the victorious ones.  Without a good fight-plan, and consistent implementation of it toward the objective, the company cannot scale.”

Clive agrees. “In my experience, what got you here will not necessarily get you there. Meaning the skills that helped you build a R10 million business are not the same required to build a R100 million business. Some founders either have the skills or are able to re-skill themselves and take the business to the next level, while others can’t. Sometimes the founder needs to be replaced with a professional CEO that can scale the business. This does not imply the founder leaves, but rather that they take on a new role that is more aligned with their strengths.”

3. Take Action

Clive doesn’t believe it’s right or wrong to scale a business – instead, it comes down to what the founder wants. “Many founders are happy to grow their businesses organically and maybe only build a lifestyle business,” he says.

“Other founders want to build a business that will change the world. We call these exponential entrepreneurs. The key to scaling a business, in my experience, is having the right skillset, as well as a mindset that embraces a ‘can do’ attitude and has a bias for action.”

“I call it AA or Attitude of Abundance,” says Benji. “Founders are the alphas. They need to lead, aspire to and believe in scale.”

Related: 3 Start-up Funding Tips To Help Launch Your Company


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See Benji Coetzee, Clive Butkow and Keet van Zyl live at the second Secrets of Scale event, which will be taking place at the MESH Club in Rosebank on Monday, 28 May. Buy your tickets online here: www.qkt.io/secretsofscale

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Company Posts

What’s Stopping Your Business From Growing?

Three masters of scale unpack the reasons why you might be failing at growth – or in danger of doing so.

Matt Brown

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So, what’s stopping you from scaling? If you ask Rich Mullholland, founder of Missing Link, the reality is that most entrepreneurs don’t need to understand what it takes to scale. “Scaling speaks to exponential growth,” he says, “which for the vast majority of business owners simply shouldn’t be a consideration. Growth by itself is okay, and even then, it should be growth as and when it’s required.”

Rich’s key point is that growth for the sake of growth should never be a business owner’s primary goal. Growth should be strategic, and good for the company. Growth without a solid foundation can actually harm – or even kill – your company.

If your goal is growth though, here are three key points to keep top of mind.

1. Too many business owners don’t understand what it takes to scale a business

“Entrepreneurs are so focused on getting through the month with their cash flow intact that they often fail to lift their heads and look to the horizon,” says Allon Riaz, CEO and founder of Raizcorp. “Scale requires strategic thinking, while most entrepreneurs are in operational thinking mode.”

Howard Mann, president at Brickyard Partners and a US-based business turnaround specialist, advises business owners to stop focusing on revenue growth alone. “Scaling a business is about balance and too many entrepreneurs just focus on the speed of revenue growth. When revenue grows without the infrastructure to support that growth, clients leave as quickly as they come in.

“Instead of focusing on top-line growth, focus on maximum profit margins. This will completely change where you focus your efforts. I would rather have a $10 million business with 50% margins over the false glamour of a $50 million revenue business with razor thin profits.”

Related: Raizcorp: Business ‘Think’ has to come before the Business ‘Plan’

2. Without the right systems, process and people, you’ll never be able to scale

Allon believes the biggest mistakes entrepreneurs make are:

  • Not arranging sufficient cash reserves for a growth period
  • Believing that the people who brought you to point A are the same people who will take you to point B
  • Having insufficient systems to scale the business

Rich agrees, adding that you need to focus on the business you want to be, and not the business you currently are. “Businesses often commit legacide,” he says. “They allow the legacy systems, put in place for a business of a smaller stature, to hold them back. Not to get too cheesy here, but to quote the Great One, NHL hockey legend Wayne Gretsky, you need to skate to where the puck is going. The systems you put in your business should be systems appropriate for the business you want, not the business you have. Sure, you’ll possibly be paying more in the short term, but it will be a fraction of what you lose trying to play catch-up later.”

Howard believes that losing track of managing the expenses required to manage growth is one of the biggest stumbling blocks entrepreneurs face. “To intentionally over simplify it, you want to figure out the most efficient and effective way to rapidly attract and close new clients while being able to serve and delight them at the lowest possible cost,” he says.

“Another mistake is taking on too much debt in the name of growth. We are all mesmerized by VC backed start-ups that put out press about their massive growth. You do not see how much cash they are burning through and that most of these companies have net losses that are growing as fast (or faster) than their revenue growth. Again, protect your profit margins. That is your growth fuel and protection against shocks in the economy.”

Related: [PODCAST]: Listen To Rich Mullholland Share Tips On Building Your Personal Brand

3. Growth for the sake of growth can actually kill your business

Before you embark on your growth journey, understand that growth, without sufficient structural foundations, can often lead to a business collapsing. “Some scale has the opposite of economies of scale, and actually becomes more expensive as the business becomes more complex,” says Allon. “It’s important to restructure the model as the business grows to ensure the highest possibility of economies of scale.”

Howard warns that a business structured to lose money as it grows is a poorly structured business. “Making the switch back to strong profitability after a growth phase is difficult to pull off,” he says. “Yes, we all know Amazon.com eventually did it. You are not Amazon.com. Growing with a net loss is a straight road to the business graveyard.”

Rich disagrees with the notion that growth in and of itself will lead to death. He believes that growth is, generally speaking, healthy. “I’ve seen businesses grow too quickly and not know how to deal with it, and I’ve seen businesses that out-grow the maturity of their management teams and get strangled by the firm hold the management team try to keep,” he says, but for Rich, this is the product of a business ill-prepared for growth, rather than a product of the growth itself.

“This is why slow is often better, as opposed to scale,” he says. “I remember when my son was young, and I was still his hero. I couldn’t imagine him shouting at me the way I did to my folks as a teenager – I’d be destroyed. So, I asked my dad about it, he smiled and said, don’t worry kiddo, they ease you into it, it all happens over time. By the time they start screaming, you’re ready. That’s true too for business growth. Most entrepreneurs are running their businesses as a real-time business school. You can’t always rush that education.”

Related: [PODCAST] Howard Mann, President Brickyard Partners – How To Survive The Struggle Of Running A Business


TOP TIPS

Allon: One top tip for business owners on scale is to remain strategic by knowing what you want to create and by ensuring a healthy balance of capital resources, sufficient people skills and the appropriate support systems.

Howard: Famed business owner Ricardo Semler said “Only two things grow for the sake of growth: Businesses and tumors.” Get crystal clear on why you want to grow. Once you do, find your balance between accelerating new business and the cost to manage that business.Scaling, like a scale, needs balance

Rich: Stop thinking about scale, and start thinking about solving an important problem that world has, even (especially) if they don’t know it yet. It the problem is real, and big enough, you will have a scale-able business.


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See Allon Raiz, Rich Mulholland and Howard Mann live at the first Secrets of Scale event, which will be taking place at the MESH Club in Rosebank on Thursday, 24 May. Buy your tickets online here: www.qkt.io/secretsofscale

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Company Posts

Why Customers Don’t Respond To Disruption

You’ve got chatbots running your customer service, interactive screens across your stores and you’ve just appointed a chief digital officer. Why aren’t you seeing sales going through the roof?

PwC

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PwC partner Quinton Pienaar says there could be many reasons for this. But the short answer is probably that in your understandable rush to stay relevant and keep up with the latest technology trends and developments, you lost sight of your number one priority. You’re just not that into your customers – and they know it.

It’s fairly easy to get dazzled by the array of technologies out there. But the trap that you’ve got to guard against is that you start seeing the world through a technology lens, rather than a customer one. Remember, technology is a tool, not an outcome. It’s the means to the end, not the end itself.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t be transforming your business digitally. You absolutely should. But there’s a big difference between investing in technology to keep up with the Joneses, and investing in technology that’s going to drive specific business outcomes and improve the customer experience.

Related: Reimagine The Use Of Technology

In fact, it would be downright dangerous to ignore the game-changing benefits that the current wave of emerging technologies brings to the table. To understand what they can do for your business, you have to know what they are. We at PwC talk about the ‘essential eight’:

  • The Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are the building blocks for the next generation of digital work.
  • Robotics, drones, and 3-D printing are all about machines that extend the reach of computing power into the material world.
  • Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) merge the physical and digital realms, and offer incredible advances in customer experience.
  • Blockchain rethinks our approach to commercial transactions by allowing participants to exchange value, and verify ownership of something, without a third party.

Some of these technologies are verging on science fiction. So how do we use them in a way that supports customer obsession? The starting point of any successful customer transformation is a customer-focused design that brings together three essential elements – business strategy, customer experience and technology – into a coherent, fully-fledged digital strategy.

In other words, today’s most successful companies have a strategy that is focused around a simple and regularly-updated list of priorities. They incorporate the new generation of technologies like IoT, blockchain and AI. But they keep their people, and their customers at the core of their business by designing strategies that directly address customers’ underlying needs and desired outcomes.

Related: Why Your Latest Tech Investment Might Not Be Wowing Your Customers

This sounds dead obvious. But what we find is that many companies we talk to are focused on growing their revenues, or making improvements to their products and services, rather than creating better customer experiences. Or they have the strategy, but are battling to execute it effectively.

Of course, to underpin this customer transformation journey, you’re going to need some data and the foundational technologies on which today’s innovations depend – data mining and analytics, mobile, and cloud. You may also need to rethink your processes to manage, enrich and maintain data, and operationalise it throughout your business.

So you have all of that in place? Good. Now stop. Breathe. Ask yourself whether your technology and data are truly supporting an unwavering focus on the customer. Because if you take one message from this article, let it be this: in today’s marketplace, putting your customer at the centre of your business is imperative to driving growth and profitability, winning market share and unlocking the value of your technology investments.

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