- Player: Dr Anna Mokgokong
- Company: Community Investment Holdings
- Turnover: R1 billion
- Contact: ciholdings.co.za
International travel not only broadens the mind, but being well-travelled provides leaders with a competitive edge in the workplace.
Getting a view of the bigger global picture and learning adaptability are important milestones in the life of a leader. Dr Anna Mokgokong, or simply Dr Anna as she is warmly referred to, knows all about that.
Born in Soweto and raised in Swaziland, the head of multi-billion rand investment company Community Investment Holdings (CIH), with holdings across the healthcare, technology, finance, logistics, and mining sectors, started off selling sandwiches and bags to fellow students while studying to be a doctor.
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A focus on business knowledge
She used her medical training as a launch pad into business, and has since developed interests in many different industries. She sits on numerous company boards locally and internationally and chairs AfroCentric Group and AfroCentric Health Group.
“I often meet CEOs who are capable and accomplished, but not quite ‘leaders’,” she says.
“My own experiences have taught me that exposure to global strategies and infrastructure is the quickest way to learn and grow. To lead is not about how well you do in your job, but how you integrate the knowledge you have acquired for the benefit of the people you work with, and the environment around you.”
Acknowledge your roots
Fundamental for a leader is the ability to reflect how you got there, because it is impossible to get anywhere on your own. You need people to support your endeavours, initiatives and vision. Dr Anna says it’s important not to forget where you come from.
“The people I first looked up to were my parents. I learnt from them how to be aware and conscious of my environment, which has served me well in life. We had a busy home, often full of people, and it used to annoy me that we had to share everything, but that is how I learnt to care for other people.”
She recalls growing her private practice from scratch as a community doctor, to a patient base of more than 40 000 people, serving eight villages.
“In the first three days, I did not have a single patient. On day four, a group of elderly women from the village came to see me. There was nothing wrong with them, but because they wanted to make it worth my while to stay and work in the village, they came for a consultation. That showed me how important it is to make yourself an integral part of the communities your work in.”
Be tough enough to bounce back
Dr Anna recently attended the Women Vendors Exhibition and Forum in São Paulo, Brazil, where she heard powerful testimonials by global entrepreneurs. She is firm about one thing – resilience.
In 1999, when she was Businesswoman of the Year, and CE of Malesela Hospitals, she was named as a central figure in the collapse of Macmed healthcare group, which lost R1 billion.
“I was viewed with suspicion by the media, and my reputation was tarnished,” she says.
“What I took from that experience was the importance of doing research and understanding your environment. I was wrongly accused of mismanagement, but my biggest failing was ignorance — I failed to identify the problems within Macmed. I had to take the battering and move on.”
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Don’t let gossip undermine the business
A problem-solver by nature, it’s most likely due to her medical training that she likes to take a lateral view of challenges. She has little patience with people who talk to her about problems with others in the workplace. “I always ask, ‘are you here to gossip, or to raise something of substance?’”
She believes that gossip at work undermines leaders and affects productivity, but it also indicates that employees are unhappy and unempowered.
“It’s imperative to improve that situation before it impacts your business. The best way to stop it, is to reveal both the gossiper and the subject of the gossip — people are shocked when I do that, but if there is a problem, let’s get it out into the open, fix it, and turn our focus back to the business.”
Talk less, listen more
Dr Anna prides herself on being a good listener. “Great leaders are great listeners,” she says. “It shows a level of intuition and empathy, but it can also be an important strategic tool. The more you learn to listen the more you hear what is not being said.”
Like most great leaders, she believes it is important to be a good communicator – someone who does not talk ‘at’ people, but actively engages with them.
“Hearing is more important than being heard,” she maintains. “As a leader, you need to be sure that you understand, before you can insist on being understood.”
Be willing to learn
Ask her what her message is to young South African entrepreneurs, and her answer is ‘get an education’.
By that she means learning about the business world. One of the first mistakes she made as a young entrepreneur in pharmaceutical supplies, was to trade with a customer on handshakes.
She trusted him, and when he asked to triple his regular order, she took a leap of faith and was burned.
“He could not pay, and there was no contract in place to help me recoup what he owed. I cannot stress enough how important it is to know the law, as it applies to business, and to familiarise yourself with critical elements like the Companies Act, King III, and what it truly means to be a director.”
It’s advice that’s as relevant for established business owners who want to grow their organisations.
“To survive in business today, you need to be a sharp thinker. The environment changes all the time and to stay on top, you need to be smarter than the rest. Most importantly, take yourself seriously because if you don’t, no-one else will.”
Rapelang Rabana’s Innovation Formula – 3 Key Ingredients To Innovate
To be a success in today’s fast paced world, you need innovation at the heart of everything you do.
The innovation formula is simple: According to tech entrepreneur Rapelang Rabana, innovation is at its best and greatest when it’s sourced from your unique perspective and accumulated wisdom, combined with shared value and execution.
At this year’s BCX Disrupt Summit, Rapelang broke the process down into the three key ingredients that together shape innovation and success.
1. Prepare your mind
Your ability to innovate and be creative is based on the sum of all of your experiences. Great ideas do not take shape in our minds, they are the result of external stimulus hitting a prepared mind. We don’t think up ideas — we notice them. We connect the dots in new and creative ways. And our ability to do so is based on how prepared we are to notice what’s happening around us, and to tap into that information.
When asked what it takes to be great like Richard Branson, Steve Jobs and Elon Musk, Musk’s ex-wife, Justine Musk had this advice to offer:
“Shift your focus away from what you want (a billion dollars) and get deeply, intensely curious about what the world wants and needs. It helps to have an ego, but you must be in service to something bigger if you are to inspire the people you need to help you.”
So, ask yourself this: What do you have that is so deeply compelling and needed that no one can outsource you or replace you? Until you can answer this question, keep building your mind, your abilities and your knowledge. Work on your repository, and your ability to connect the dots.
2. Create shared value
Thato Kgatlhanye, founder of the Rethaka foundation, an organisation that creates school bags that are also solar panels, and can provide schoolgoers with energy in the evening so that they can do their homework, says that she is money-driven, business-driven, and empathetic towards her people. In other words, her business is created through shared value, and the desire to not only create money for her business, but within her communities as well.
Most successful organisations would never have been launched if their primary focus was for the business to win. People are hungry for things that are inclusive and show positive change.
Consider Airbnb — the founders had the audacity to put a blow-up mattress in their livingroom, and believe that other people would find value in their offering. And they were right, mainly because the business model is all inclusive. The business wins, the hosts win and the customers win.
According to Nielsen, 40% more social entrepreneurs are growing compared to other SMEs, and they’re showing greater profit. In addition, people say they are more likely to purchase from ethical and sustainable businesses. The cynics might say this is what people say, not how they buy. This may be true, but it’s also a leading indicator of how we will behave in the future. We’re trying to get there, and our behaviour will catch up to the sentiment.
Always be cognisant of how responsive the market is. Learn to leverage public sentiment and get attention through the ideal of shared value. Winning with others is the fastest way to create value today.
3. Get stuff done
When we start a project or idea, we try to project into the future. We want to draw a linear picture between now and then. The problem is that creation is far more chaotic.
Instead, minute variations over time create profound changes. It’s a journey. There are no defining moments of success or failure; just a series of events strung together over time. To make the necessary minute variations though, you need data points and you need to take action. Often this starts with just beginning. If you start, you can move forward, slowly but surely. Progress is far more evolutionary than simply trying to imagine the end.
The problem is that the mind blocks us. We essentially block ourselves from success. How? Building anything and trying to be innovative requires a series of many, many decisions made over years and years. Many of those decisions are made — or not made — from a place of fear. Our instincts tell us to do something, and then our minds stop us. The most incredible things can happen if we learn to follow our instincts though.
In her book, The Five Second Rule, Mel Robbins unpacks the skill of acting on your instincts. In essence, the space between your instinct and the moment of hesitation that stops you from acting is five seconds. This means you have five seconds to make things happen, and the way to utilise that time and to make things happen is to count down from five: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. At one, move. Get up, take action, call the client, speak to your boss — don’t let fear come in and crush the instinct.
Why a countdown? A countdown suspends — for a moment — the self-doubt that gives you space to move before the brain kills it. I started using the rule for small stuff at first. A countdown in the morning to get out of bed and go to gym. Then I started using it for the harder stuff, like not losing my temper. If you can be aware enough to make the countdown, you can change your behaviour.
The ability to execute and turn innovation into profit comes down to a series of five-second moments over years. Push yourself. Get past your mental blocks and act on your instinct.
Combine this with building on your knowledge, connecting the dots around you, and understanding that value is not given or taken, but is created through shared value, and you have the recipe for innovation and success.
IN YOUR TOOLKIT
Focus on learning new stuff
FACT: The super-successful focus heavily on learning new skills, reading practical books and listening or watching podcasts, interviews and informational courses.
Take best-selling author and leadership coach Simon Sinek, who said:
“My work is never complete, we wake up with a hunger to learn, and no one is ever truly an expert. Anyone who says, ‘I’m an expert at anything’ has closed their mind to the idea that they might not know everything. There’s always more to learn. I’ve never considered myself an expert. I’m always a student of leadership. All the work is imperfect and all the learning is continuous.”
Action Step: If you can read 20 full pages a day, or even listen to an hour-long audio/podcast, you will accumulate more than 36+ books a year of new knowledge.
Start here: If you’re not sure where to start, download the audible app (audible.com) and browse the business books available, or subscribe to podcasts. Three great places to begin are:
- Trailblazers with Walter Isaacson, a show focused on disruption and hosted by the biographer of Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein and Benjamin Franklin amongst others.
- The Tim Ferriss Show, hosted by Tim Ferriss and one of the biggest podcasts on the planet.
- Masters of Scale, hosted by LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, who chats to some of the worlds biggest and most successful entrepreneurs.
From Buffy To Business: Sarah Michelle Gellar Opens Up About How Hollywood Helped Prepare Her for Launching A Company
Sarah Michelle Gellar and her co-founders share lessons learned and how acting helped her deal with rejection and how being a celebrity in the startup world can have its drawbacks.
Everyone wants to be an entrepreneur. With a turbulent economy, companies cutting jobs and employees fearful they’ll be replaced by robots, people of all backgrounds are looking to take control of their financial future and pursue their passion, including celebrities.
Jessica Alba, Gwyneth Paltrow, George Clooney and Victoria Beckham are just some of the stars who decided to transition from La La land to entrepreneurial land.
And now Sarah Michelle Gellar, best known as the star of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, is also part of the startup world. The actress-turned-entrepreneur joined forces with friends who are also parents, Galit Laibow and Greg Fleishman, to launch Foodstirs in 2015. The DIY baking company, which sells kits and mixes, wants to provide parents fun, yet simple desserts for their children, with a focus on organic, ethically and sustainably-sourced ingredients.
“We’re determined to help bakers around the world take pride in their pantries, joy in their treats, and time together in the heart of the home,” is part of their mission.
After raising a reported $5 million, the company has expanded beyond just ecommerce; Foodstirs is now in approximately 7,500 stores, including Whole Foods.
We caught up with her before the event to chat about finding success, her journey and lessons she learned.
Before you got into the world of entrepreneurship, you were best known for your acting. Why did you decide to jump into this world?
I always knew I wanted to do more than just be an actor for hire. I thought producing might be enough, but I realised I still desired more. That’s when I realised I could utilise my great existing platform and actually be a part of creating something tangible. It’s been such an interesting process, learning how much of my existing skill set is applicable to being an entrepreneur.
Why did you decide to have a focus on food?
Food has always been an important part of my life, as it should be for everyone, but that magnified once I had children. Our kids were so interested in baking, yet there was no readily available brand that had the attributes we would want and expect – organic, ethically sourced, easy and affordable that also tasted amazing.
What has been the mantra that has helped you find success as an entrepreneur?
The one thing being an actor prepares you for is rejection. I spent the better part of my life facing and dealing with rejection, and I have never let it stop me from achieving something I was passionate about. When it comes to business, for me the word “no” is just the first step to yes. That rejection inspires me to work harder, and prove those no’s to be a mistake.
What is something that would surprise people about your entrepreneurial journey?
I think people assume that being a celebrity makes it easier to raise money and achieve mass distribution and that is not the case. Maybe it gets you in a door, as a novelty, but then you have so much more to prove.
What is one piece of advice you will share ?
This piece of advice came from Galit Laibow – one of my two amazing partners along with Greg Fleishman. Always surround yourself with people who are smarter and know more than you do. We have such an incredible group of advisors with vast experience in all areas of business that we can call on at all times. Their knowledge is invaluable.
What is on the horizon for you?
We just achieved wide retail distribution (in over 7,500 stores) so our main focus at the moment is supporting our stores through quarter four and at the same time dialing in our innovation pipeline for 2018.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Farah Fortune Of African Star Communications On Choosing The Right Clients
Publicist extraordinaire Farah Fortune of African Star Communications built her business not by courting big clients, but by backing young up-and-comers, and growing her brand right alongside theirs.
- Player: Farah Fortune
- Company: African Star Communications
- Established: 2008
- Contact: +27 (0)79 826 1955, email@example.com
The 36-year-old publicist launched her celebrity PR business in 2008, with R1 000 in her pocket — she spent R589 of that on registering a CC and the rest on business cards.
From working on her bedroom floor and sharing two-minute noodles with her daughter as she struggled to survive, today African Star Communications represents high-profile rappers such as K.O and Solo, and stand-up comedians Loyiso Gola and Jason Goliath.
She has an office in Nigeria and plans to open two new offices in Botswana and Ghana.
You pulled yourself up by your bootstraps. How did you overcome the hurdles?
I lost my first business to a crooked partner in 2006. I was determined to try again and I went in search of funding, but no-one would give me money.
When the last thing I had to feed my child was a mouldy piece of cheese, I went back to work for a PR company, earning R12 000 a month, managing accounts worth millions. I hated every minute of it. In June 2008, when my CC registration came through, I walked out the door.
My first pitch was for a small charity day that AIG hosted for Manchester United in Johannesburg. I was the only woman in the reception area, but my offer to do the job for R10 000 was irresistible and I signed my first client. That was just the beginning of a long struggle. I was broke for the next three years.
Friends bought my groceries, and I would feed my daughter and have her leftovers for dinner.
I couldn’t afford petrol so I walked from my house in Randburg to do pitches in Sandton in my takkies, and then changed my shoes at the client’s office. The only thing that kept me going was the belief that I could somehow make it work.
What was your big break?
In year three rapper AKA was about to release his first album. He pursued me for four months. Initially, I didn’t want to work with him, but his ambition won me over.
I’ve never regretted the decision. We signed a contract, and shortly after that more clients came my way, mostly for small events.
Working with AKA made me realise that my passion was for music and I decided to channel my energies into promoting South Africa hip-hop stars. That’s how I ended up specialising and finding my own niche in the crowded PR sector.
Our team convinced 8ta/Telkom to look at AKA for their ads and it worked. I branched into corporate PR after the celebrity side took off.
What made your business stand out from other PR companies?
First was affordability. Publicists do not come cheap. I signed up many young artists who had not yet hit the big time, and charged them as little as R4 000 a month to manage their publicity and help make them famous.
Taking on lots of small clients meant that I could spread the risk. We still structure our packages according to what clients can afford and I’ve kept the overheads low. To this day, I’ve never advertised.
Second was my focus on hip-hop. Before 2011, corporates were not interested in rappers and the scene was very much underground. I convinced Vodacom to sponsor a big hip-hop party with AKA as the star attraction.
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After that, many other corporates woke up and took advantage of the popularity of the local rap scene. I like to think I played a part in mainstreaming South African hip-hop.
How have you stayed relevant in a fickle industry?
Once the business was pumping, I built my own brand. I never planned to be in the spotlight, but the more I appeared in the media, the more I was able to build my clients’ profiles, and get bigger accounts.
I focused only on doing business-related interviews and people started to take me more seriously. I could not believe how many corporate contracts I did not win because I refused to sleep with the client.
It’s a disappointing reality of this business when you are young and female. Developing my own brand helped me to build a career based on respect and professionalism.
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