Vusi Thembekwayo has made mistakes and learnt hard lessons, but he’s also built a R140 million plus business before his 30th birthday, and he’s managed to do it without killing the proverbial chicken.
These are his top lessons for entrepreneurial success:
You’ve Got to Practice your Skills
For Thembekwayo, most of what he knows today in business he learnt during that four year period.
“My own experience has taught me that former middle-managers of large corporates often have the skills to succeed as entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship is a practice thing. You’ve got to practice the skills of general management, and corporates teach you that.”
Cash is King: Learn to Manage Money
Thembekwayo’s a natural entrepreneur. He sees an opportunity and wants to go for it – but there’s an ecosystem of things that need to collude in order for you to succeed.
“I wouldn’t have been able to do what I’ve done today if I hadn’t spent that time at Metcash,” he says.
“First, I learnt how to manage money. The business had a very strong treasury function. Cash is king, especially if you’re trading high volumes at low margins. My worst nightmare was the MD of the treasury department. He was always asking me questions I hadn’t thought of. I admired his technique but despised our conversations.
He saw the risks that we hadn’t spotted, and was the first person to tell us when we were not on track to collect our aged debtors and the impact that had on our profit and loss statements. But thanks to his attention to detail, I learnt how to manage money, and more importantly, how to be frugal. Today, if I don’t have to spend on it, I don’t spend on it. It’s amazing how far a rand can go if you’re clever.”
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.
Your Vision is Transferable
“I learnt how to manage people. Vision is transferable. It’s your job to help your team see the future that you see. You need to get them to really invest in the process, because business is a process.
Differentiate. Differentiate. Differentiate
“I learnt how to differentiate. We were operating in a very commoditised market. At the end of the day I sold mealie meal and baked beans. It’s tough to differentiate in a market that’s all about price. Some of our competitors tried the BEE route. I didn’t see the point.
Sometimes You Must Take The Risk
Did our customers really care if we were black empowered? Instead, I needed to figure out what they did care about. What did they want? And what could I give them that wasn’t inextricably tied to price? The answer was lines of credit.
All procurement officials have the same problem. They need stock to give to their end clients, but they need money to pay for that stock. In this market, most businesses want cash upfront.
We turned that around and said we were happy to take the risk. I had a R17 billion balance sheet that I could leverage to offer credit. And so we went to market offering a R500 000 credit facility for stock, to be paid after 30 days.
If after three months the customer traded according to certain terms, we’d extend the line of credit to R1 million over 45 days. All of a sudden the sale went from, ‘Are you going to deliver Iwisa at R19,99?’ to ‘Hold on, what did you just say? You’ll give me credit? Can I give you the order tomorrow?’”
Richard Branson’s ABCs Of Business
Throughout the year, the Virgin co-founder shared what he thinks are the essential elements to success.
If there’s one thing Richard Branson knows, it’s how to run a successful business.
Throughout last year, the Virgin founder shared what he thinks are the keys ingredients to building a successful company with each letter of the alphabet, which he slowly revealed through the 365 days.
From A for attitude to N for naivety to Z for ZZZ, check out Branson’s ABCs of success.
How Reflexively Apologising For Everything All The Time Undermines Your Career
How can you inspire confidence if you are constantly saying you’re sorry for doing your job?
I’m one of those weird people who gets excited about performance reviews. I like getting feedback and understanding how I can improve. A few years ago, I sat down for my first annual review as the director of communications for the Florida secretary of state, under the governor of Florida.
I had a great relationship with my chief of staff, but I had taken on a major challenge when I accepted the job a year prior. I didn’t really know what to expect.
Youth takes charge
I was 25 at the time, and everyone on my team was in their thirties and forties. I came from Washington, D.C., and was an outsider to my southern colleagues. I was asking a lot from people who had been used to very different expectations from their supervisor.
I sat down with my chief of staff who gave me some feedback about the challenges I had tackled.
She then paused and said to me, very directly,”But you have to stop apologising. You must stop saying sorry for doing your job.”
I didn’t know what to say. My reflex was to reply sheepishly, “Umm, I’m sorry?” But instead I immediately decided to be more cognisant of how often I said I was sorry. Years later, her words have stuck with me. I have what some may consider the classic female disease of apologising. When the New York Times addressed it, five of my friends and past coworkers sent it to me.
In it, writer Sloane Crosley got to the heart of the issue:
“To me, they sound like tiny acts of revolt, expressions of frustration or anger at having to ask for what should be automatic. They are employed when a situation is so clearly not our fault that we think the apology will serve as a prompt for the person who should be apologising.”
Topic of debate
I’ve talked at length with other women trying to figure out this fine balance. The Washington Post, Time, and Cosmopolitan have all tackled this topic. Some say it’s OK to apologise; others criticise those who are criticising women who apologise. Clearly, I’m not alone in dealing with this issue. In fact, I’m constantly telling the people I manage that by apologising they give up a lot of their power.
Here’s the bottom line: Don’t apologise for doing your job.
If you’re following up with a coworker about something they said they’d get to you earlier, don’t say, “Sorry to bug you!” If you want to share your thoughts in a meeting, don’t start off by saying, “Sorry, I just want to add…” If you’re doing your job, you have absolutely nothing to apologise for.
That’s what I think. And I’m not even sorry about it.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
10 Quotes On Following Your Dreams, Having Passion And Showing Hard Work From Tech Guru Michael Dell
If you’re in need of a little motivation, check out these quotes from Dell’s CEO, founder and chairman.
There’s much to learn from one of the computer industry’s longest tenured CEOs and founders, Michael Dell. As an integral part of the computer revolution in the 1980s, Dell launched Dell Computer Corporation from his dorm room at the University of Texas. And it didn’t take Dell long before he’d launched one of the most successful computer companies. Indeed, by 1992 Dell was the youngest CEO of a fortune 500 company.
Dell’s success had been long foreshadowed. When he was 15, Dell showed great interest in technology, purchasing an early version of an Apple computer, only so he could take it apart and see how it was built. And once he got to college, Dell noticed a gap in the market for computers: There were no companies that were selling directly to consumers. So, he decided to cut out the middleman and began building and selling computers directly to his classmates. Before long, he dropped out of school officially to pursue Dell.
Fast forward to today. Dell is not only a tech genius and businessman, but a bestselling author, investor and philanthropist, with a networth of $24.7 billion. He continues his role as the CEO and chairman of Dell Technologies, making him one of the longest tenured CEOs in the computer industry.
So if you’re in need of some motivation or inspiration, take it from Dell.
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