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Shark Tank’s Dawn Nathan-Jones: How Leaders Who Focus On Growth Will Build Successful Companies

Shark Tank’s Dawn Nathan-Jones unpacks how leaders who focus on growth and development will build strong, sustainable organisations.

Nadine Todd

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  • Player: Dawn Nathan-Jones
  • Previous: CEO of Imperial Car Rental Division
  • Currently: Shark on M-Net’s Shark Tank

Anyone can become a great leader

I firmly believe this to be true. This doesn’t mean we all start out as great leaders though. You have to put up your hand and find great mentors. It’s not nearly as hard as you think to find a mentor.

People are honoured when you go to them. It doesn’t need to be someone from your industry either. If you don’t want a mentor, start working with a coach. I’m extremely pro coaching.

You can clearly distinguish between leaders who were coached and those who weren’t.

Related: Don’t Let People Dissuade You from Following your Dream – Polo Leteka Radebe

Exceptional leaders are on a personal and professional growth journey

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Strong, effective leadership takes emotional intelligence. Many leaders are not in touch with their own emotions, which directly impacts the fact that they don’t recognise if they aren’t the best leaders.

If your EQ is low, you’ll believe you’re doing a great job, even if you’re alienating your employees and management team. This isn’t sustainable.

Everything in business must be sustainable, including its leadership — and that takes both personal and professional growth. By opening yourself up to development you can grow your EQ.

What got us here won’t necessarily be our success tomorrow

As a leader, it’s incredibly important to challenge yourself. You need to keep yourself relevant, and stay in touch with everything that’s happening around you, both locally and abroad. It’s never been easier to do this than today.

Three decades ago we had to fly overseas at great expense to see what was happening in other markets. Today you can access better information at the tap of a screen. Everything is accessible to you and there are no excuses to not be the best you can be.

Embrace change — it usually brings something amazing.

Related: Dragon’s Den Polo Leteka Gives Her Top Tips To Attract Growth Capital

Challenge yourself

Entrepreneurs are nimble and can often be all over the place, so you need to take the time to sit down and focus as well. Learn as much as possible. There are so many forums and platforms available to business leaders today.

If you think you know it all, you’ll never grow. It’s also never too late to learn more. I went to business school much later in life.

I already had a successful career and leadership role, but I knew I had room for growth, and I wanted to learn more. Always be learning, developing and growing.

You need to change, even when you’re successful

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Change direction to grow. This can be within your organisation, or, as in my case, outside of it. I left the corporate world in 2015 because it was time to refocus and determine what I wanted to do next. You can get caught up in leadership, board meetings, sustainability, empowerment… There is always so much happening in business that it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture.

Take a breath, step back and refocus. This doesn’t mean change everything, but learn to pause and evaluate where you are, and what needs to be changed or adjusted.

Related: The Shark Tank Investors On What Makes A Start-Up Investable

Learn to pull yourself back

What business are we in, and what’s important? How can we take this to our people? If you aren’t asking yourself these three questions regularly, you’re going to miss changes and disruptions heading your way, and lose touch with your employees and customers.

Execution is so important

This is where failure comes from, but that’s all part of the journey. If you’re too scared to execute for fear of failure then you’re failing anyway. Instead, take the chance, maybe fail, but then learn from your failures. Keep trying different things.

You will make mistakes; I’ve made a fool of myself, especially going back and seeing what I did naively. But if you’re passionate and authentic, people will forgive you.

You need to find the time to focus on what you’re good at, and then step back and evaluate your decisions and learn from them. That’s how you grow, and how your organisation grows alongside you.

Related: The Tenacious Matsi Modise Has Her Game Face On When It Comes To Funding

Business is about the head, the heart and the hands

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This has been my mantra throughout my corporate career and is particularly important as I begin my entrepreneurial journey. I also saw it again and again in Shark Tank. So many entrepreneurs believe that passion is enough.

It’s important, but you need skill too — the skill to pitch your business, whether it’s to investors, customers or employees, and the skill to run your business. Intelligence, EQ, action and execution work together.

Head, heart and hands. Vinny Lingham, one of my co-Sharks, says that vision without action is hallucination. I love that saying, because I think it sums it up perfectly.

Do this

Take the time to step back and look at the big picture. Where are you, where is the business, and where are you heading? You can’t grow unless you’re on a growth path.

Nadine Todd is the Managing Editor of Entrepreneur Magazine, the How-To guide for growing businesses. Find her on Google+.

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Company Posts

Designing Her Destiny

Oh Yay! owner, Emmerentia van den Hoven does business her way.

QuickBooks SA

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In 2011, Emmerentia van den Hoven took a leap of faith when she decided to leave her graphic design job at an agency and pursue her real passion – and it has paid off tenfold. Here’s her story.

“When I started planning my own wedding eight years ago, I fell in love with wedding design and wanted to do that for the rest of my life. Designing for brands had become a set of rules rather than being creative, and I’d always wanted to work for myself. So, in September 2011, I turned my seven-month-old side gig into a fully-fledged business and launched Oh Yay!

I have to hustle every month to get new clients because every client will use my services maximum twice – first for the wedding invitations and then for the stationery on the day – so I don’t normally have returning clients.

Because my main business is seasonal and usually once-off per customer, I have branched out into branding for small businesses in the beauty and lifestyle industry. I also earn a passive income through the Oh Yay! online shop where I sell wedding décor items.  Oh Yay Kids – my other online store – is my passion project. I launched it just before my second child was born, adding items to the store that I made for my two boys when I saw a need for it. I then expanded into prints for nurseries and kids’ party stationery.

I work for myself and have no employees, so the fact that QuickBooks lets me load all my services, products and prices in one place makes running my business so much easier. Being an entrepreneur is difficult because you don’t know if you’ll be successful or not. But if you believe in and love what you’re doing, it reflects in your work and the service you give.”

Less admin, more of what you love

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When Oh Yay! was launched, along with her dream of being an entrepreneur, came the nightmare of other administrative tasks. But that changed in 2018 when Emmerentia started using QuickBooks.

“When I was using spreadsheets to balance my books, I was spending 80% of my time on admin, which left very little time to tend to customers’ orders. I now spend no more than 25% of my time on admin, which is important, especially when it comes to the speed at which I send quotes. You don’t get any work if you don’t send out quotes and it’s tough to juggle the admin with your actual job of running the business.

Numbers were never really my strong point, so having a professional quote done in record time not only projects professionalism, but the format also changes the way new clients see me. In my industry, the quicker you can send a quote out, the likelier you’ll get the clients’ business. It gives legitimacy to my business. The QuickBooks system operates so seamlessly that clients communicate with me differently, like I have my own accounting department, when in fact, I’m a one-woman-show.

I used to dread doing admin, but now it’s so easy and quick. I’m not just saying this – QuickBooks changed my life.”

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Women Entrepreneur Successes

Watch List: 50 Black African Women Entrepreneurs To Watch

These female entrepreneurs are breaking barriers, transforming industries and inspiring change on the continent.

Diana Albertyn

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Women Entrepreneur Successes

Owner Of Nouwens Carpets Shares Success Lessons From Running A 50 Year Old Family Business

Embrace technology every chance you get.

Nadine Todd

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A company that’s been active for more than five decades in an industry that’s hundreds of years old doesn’t sound like a recipe for innovation — and yet that’s exactly what Luci Nouwens, owner of Nouwens Carpets, is focused on.

The modern carpet has a history that goes back thousands of years. And despite the hipster trend of reclaimed and hard wood flooring, the carpet still remains a popular choice for consumers.

In South Africa, a name that’s synonymous with quality carpeting is Nouwens. When Cornelis Nouwens arrived in the country in the 1950s, bringing the skills of a trade which he had mastered alongside his father in Tilburg, the hub of the Netherlands’ wool textile industry, he passed on the skills and the love of the craft to his family and to workers in the Harrismith region in KwaZulu Natal.

More than 50 years after her father started it in 1962, the company remains family owned, and is headed by Luci Nouwens, who has been with the business for 48 years.

“We have maintained our reputation for premium quality all this time by paying meticulous attention to crafting standards and selecting only the finest raw materials,” says Luci. “Equally important is that we have innovated at every opportunity, embracing technology without ever compromising the traditional craftsman’s spirit.”

Innovation drives growth

Businesses that innovate are able to grow and hire more employees. As a result, they grab a bigger share of the market. That’s true regardless of the size of your business: If you innovate, you can scale up.

In 1968 Nouwens launched a pure karakul wool carpet that was extremely hard wearing and took the company into the commercial carpet market. Luci recalls the manufacturing of the carpet as “a major feat of unique textile engineering.” Another innovation in 2005 was the introduction of a totally new style of flat weave wool carpet, a very clean, minimalist and natural look requiring much less wool without compromising on wearability.

“These innovations are just two of many that have allowed the business to boost its market share over the years,” says Luci. “But beyond that, innovation has enabled Nouwens Carpets to form the backbone of economic activity and upliftment in the local community around Harrismith. This has allowed us to make substantial investment in providing education and skills development for the local population, to ensure that the craft is preserved for generations to come.”

Related: 10 Successful SA Women Entrepreneurs’ Top Advice On Balancing Work And Family

Innovation enables sustainability

Innovation in technologies and how they are applied is key to enabling a manufacturer like Nouwens to create new business value, while also protecting the planet.

“We have used technology to enable sustainable manufacturing, for the benefit of the business, the community, and our customers.”

Nouwens selects equipment, materials and manufacturing methods based on their degree of sustainability and protection of the environment. The company is also a member of the Green Building Council of South Africa and submits its products for VOC testing to ensure that harmful emissions are significantly reduced.

“Ultimately, we are driven by a passion for textiles and the ability to constantly find better ways to produce beautiful products. After the downturn in the economy, we started to produce more cost-effective commercial nylon yarns, and in 2017, we became the new kid on the block for synthetic grass. The bottom line is that a true entrepreneur does what has to be done when the time comes.” — Monique Verduyn

The role of disruption in creating value

A disruptive business is a business that challenges and potentially changes the status quo. From a mindset point of view, a culture that questions ‘why’ can help foster organisational and market disruption. But disruption for the sake of disruption is self-defeating, it needs to be on the back of making things better and based on commercial principles, i.e. people or market players actually wanting to be disrupted.

The starting point is this: Does someone, or a market, value what you’re producing? If the answer is yes, you have a commercially viable disruption. Disruption that is valued by its target market has the best chance of resulting in success.

Get that right and you’ll have a customer base, you’ll gain traction and you’ll attract investors, provided you’re also making a meaningful and sustainable difference to your target market or community. — Ian Lessem, CEO, HAVAIC Investment and Advisory Firm

Collaboration

Team up with customers and competitors.

There’s more power in collaboration than competition. We’re stronger together than when we’re apart. When it comes to working with competitors, consider this: They may have something that you don’t, or vice versa, and 50% of something is always more than 100% of nothing. You’re then positioned to add value before you add an invoice, so your clients benefit from your relationships, and the market wins. From there, you become your client’s go-to-person, because you’re putting them first.

Customers are also a great source of knowledge: They might just have the answers you’re looking for, but are you asking them the right questions? They often know more about an entrepreneur’s business than they know themselves, because they’re on the receiving end of your offering. One way to collaborate with customers is to ask them more questions about yourselves, themselves and their clients. Harness their perspective and develop yourself to give them what they want, not what you think they want. — Wes Boshoff, founder, Imagine Thinking

Related: Watch List: 50 Top SA Business Women To Watch

PR

Know what your audiences are interested in

As a brand, there are many ways to ensure your audience is paying attention to you, but you can’t expect them to find you unless you’re sharing content that captures their interest. If you send out press releases, don’t be too rigid or plain. Audiences want to be engaged, and not to have to deal with long, cumbersome information. An infographic, along with a video or pictures will make your release easier to ingest and more memorable. People don’t want boring figures, they want relatable stories.

One way to be relatable is by tapping into influencer marketing. This doesn’t mean you need celebrities with the highest followings to endorse you. Micro-influencers are proving to have just as much clout as those with larger followings. Evidence shows that micro-influencers have a more established and deeper connection with their audience, which translates to loyalty and a readiness to follow their advice. The trick is to find the micro-influencers who are speaking to the audience you want to reach.

Big data plays a key role in painting a picture of who is ‘out there’. With the right information, you can tailor your content to a specific audience. Big data can show you what topics and problems are trending in your industry, so that you can get the jump on them. Use big data to deliver your own insights on current topics, shaping and leading the conversation, converting your audience’s attention into action. — Madelain Roscher, founder and managing director, PR Worx and Status Reputation Management

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