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Entrepreneurial “Skills” For Competitive Advantage

Combine digital disruption with the work culture of the millennial generation and it’s easy to see why.

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Sustaining a competitive advantage in today’s global economic climate is as difficult as ever. Combine digital disruption with the work culture of the millennial generation and it’s easy to see why.

The typical corporate culture is to employ people for a specialised task, and only have them do that job and nothing else, which is the antithesis of entrepreneurship. Having a company full of task tickers is the perfect way to make your company redundant soon.

So what skills should be sought after to hire or develop in your people? We observed the types of people that make up the 70+ companies that we work with at the LaunchLab, and we made a few findings.

Problem-solving

Entrepreneurs look for solutions rather than dwelling on problems or barriers. These are day-to-day problems that we all face in work. Typically, non-entrepreneurial thinking people see these as insurmountable.

Related: 5 Ways Entrepreneurs Can Gain a Competitive Advantage

Entrepreneurs see these barriers as a normal fact of life and refuse to accept the first “no” as final (nor do they typically accept the first few dozen “no’s” as final). The political hierarchy in most corporates ensures that there are sufficient “no’s” to test resident entrepreneurs to see how committed they are to their vision.

In an HBR article, entrepreneurial employees are highly correlated to corporate innovation. Innovation may not be correlated to short-term profitability, but it is correlated to long-term survival. Developing problem-solving skills doesn’t happen overnight.

Persevering

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Entrepreneurs are used to failure, and with that it tends to embolden them rather than demotivate them. Paul Kim, CEO of PICSA, attempted 2 other ventures before PICSA with some success. The first, Edge Campus, was the precursor to Qurio. Qurio is a smart survey tool with built-in statistical analysis features.

Paul speaks of both of these ventures with affection and sobriety, and always refers to the learnings from each that have helped him become the successful CEO of PICSA.  Entrepreneurs see life as full of opportunities to learn and improve.

Diversity

Entrepreneurs tend to not be tied to specific titles or skills. Though they typically do have some kind of specialised skill or experience, they tend to be more generalist in desire and interest and look for needs and opportunities to pursue.

Tim Brown, CEO of design firm IDEO, refers to this as T-shaped skills. The vertical of the T referring to the depth of a skill showing that they can contribute to the creative process. The horizontal referring to empathy and enthusiasm for the contribution that others make. This enables them to be much more collaborative.

Related: How to Use Your Suppliers as a Key Competitive Advantage

Vocation over Job

In another HBR article, Andrew Hoffman says “There’s pure joy when you take a risk to pursue your dream and find work that you deeply connect with.”  A vocation is a calling, a reason for existing.

A job is just something you do to earn a living. Entrepreneurs do work that they are passionate about. Even if they are not founders or shareholders, employees in start-ups tend to own the vision of the problem that they are solving and their contribution to society.

So how do you grow these “skills” in your company? There is no accepted formula for this, and if there was, that would be a billion dollar idea.  However, there are steps that you can take to encourage more of this entrepreneurial culture in your business to create the space for the culture to thrive.

There has been a move by global corporates to engage with startup communities to drive innovation for their future business.  One oversight that is common here is to not expose their employees to these inspiring entrepreneurs that bring the problem-solving and perseverance to the fore. Typically, only top management gain the exposure to these start-ups, and the value-add ends there. There is a lot to be said for the “water you swim in.” If your employees can gain more exposure to entrepreneurs, that charisma and inspiration will rub off on your people.

A way to grow this diversity is to help your people attend events and broaden their network that you can leverage.  Even if it is seemingly unrelated to their job, T-shaped people are incredibly valuable to your organisation.  It seems counterintuitive to purposefully introduce distractions to your people, but with a proper 21st century view of the opportunity you could really be adding value to your people.

The CFO: “What if we invest in our people and they leave?”

The CEO: “What if we don’t, and they stay?

– Author Unknown

Millennials value collaboration and team decision-making.  Involving them in the formulation of the vision and strategy, and more importantly the narrative of what value your company is adding to the world, is fundamental to instilling ownership.

Brandon Paschal is the LaunchLab Officer Opportunity. Currently Officer Opportunity at LaunchLab in Stellenbosch. The title doesn't describe much, but I get stuff done. Overseeing 10+ companies, refining our incubation processes, running innovation programmes for different corporates, keeping a bunch of high demand start-ups happy...all in a day's work.

Entrepreneur Today

What NPOs Wish Corporates Knew Before Mandela Day

Joanne van der Walt, Global Director: Sage Foundation Promotions provides a roundup of the best advice to corporates from NPOs.

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“It was 2pm on Mandela Day at the after-care centre. The children were getting ready to go home when suddenly, 80 volunteers from a large local bank arrived, unannounced. We didn’t know who they were, but they wanted to use their 67 minutes with to volunteer with us. We appreciated the effort, but we had to turn them away, partly because the children were overwhelmed by the many unfamiliar faces, but mostly because we had no time to prepare the volunteers or the children.”

I’ve heard variations of this story from most of the NPOs we work with at Sage Foundation. The common thread is that, while highly appreciated, NPOs feel that Mandela Day activities could have a much bigger impact if they were better planned.

Planning to fail

In a recent poll of over 200 NPOs, we asked them what their biggest challenge was when it came to working with corporates on Mandela Day: 73% cited a lack of planning and failure to include them in the decision-making for the day.

Related: 5 Inspiring Quotes From Madiba

Their second-biggest challenge, cited by 24% of NPOs, was that too many volunteers show up. So, not only do NPOs not know what to expect, but it can feel like an onslaught, despite the good intentions.

When asked what they enjoyed most about Mandela Day, 50% of NPOs said exposure and 34% said engagement with the volunteers.

Yet, because of the planning oversight, Mandela Day tends to be a rushed affair, leaving little time to build relationships or raise awareness about the NPOs’ work, which is what CSR is all about.

mandela-day-2018

Advice from NPOs

So, we asked NPOs how we can do Mandela Day better and what they wished corporates knew about their needs – 36% of NPOs felt that a little education could go a long way.

Here’s a roundup of their best advice:

‘Include us in the planning’. Meet with your chosen NPO well in advance (weeks, even months before) to discuss their needs and plan the day. Mandela Day can be disruptive, and NPOs, especially those caring for children and the sick and elderly, need time to plan and allocate their own resources.

‘Help us get exposure’. Exposure is massive for NPOs and is often the biggest benefit of Mandela Day because it can attract new donors and support. Yet, often, it’s the corporates that get all the publicity. When charity initiatives are rushed or planned at the last minute, there’s no time to create awareness on social media, which often gets more corporates interested in what they do.

‘Treat us how you would a client or business partner’. Don’t cancel Mandela Day activities at the last minute, show up unannounced or not pitch at all. You’re their guest and they feel a lot of pressure to make Mandela Day a good experience for you, too. This is especially hard for smaller NPOs, so please respect their time and space. And please clean up before you leave.

‘Engage with us’. 58% of NPOs say the company of the volunteers is their favourite part about Mandela Day. Take photos but remember to put the phones away and interact with them. This way, you’ll get a better understanding of what they do and what they need.

This ‘Helper’s High’ goes both ways. One Harvard study found that people who volunteer are 42% happier than those who don’t. Another study found that volunteers were less likely to develop high blood pressure than non-volunteer, reporting greater increases in psychological wellbeing and physical activity.

‘Slow down’. Corporates squeeze a lot into Mandela Day and, while NPOs love every minute, it often feels rushed and overwhelming. NPOs love demonstrating what they do and the difference they make but there’s often no time on the day to demonstrate this. Also, 67 minutes or even one day once a year is not enough to learn about their needs and make a significant impact but it’s a good starting point, as long as you remember to do it.

‘Come back soon’. 45% of NPOs said they never hear from the corporates again after Mandela Day. To get the most out of their CSR initiatives and to make measurable, long-term impact, corporates should form partnerships with their chosen NPOs and provide support throughout the year.

South African organisations spent over R9 billion on corporate social investment in the 2016/17 financial year – a massive increase from the R1.5 billion spent 20 years ago.

For those that haven’t had a chance to properly plan their activities for Mandela Day this year, NPOs reminded us that financial support is often better than a frenzied one-day event that leaves a big mess and has no real impact. One NPO had to hire a contractor after Mandela Day to repaint a wall that well-meaning volunteers had left in a worse state than before.

Before doing anything, consider Mandela Day from the NPO’s perspective: ask for permission, give them what they need, and respect their time and space.

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Entrepreneur Today

10 African Innovators Selected For Global Accelerator Startupbootcamp Afritech

Startupbootcamp AfriTech empowers the top innovative African tech startups, linking them to the fastest-moving corporates on the continent.

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Startupbootcamp (SBC) AfriTech today announced the Top 10 African Innovators selected to participate in the globally renowned, multi-corporate backed accelerator programme for 2018.

Post an intensive 3-month global scouting tour, across 15 countries, and inclusive of 19 FastTrack events and 220 face-to-face startup engagements, the SBC AfriTech team received 1,004 applications from 73 countries in total, attracting double the applications from its inaugural launch in 2017.

The applications were shortlisted to the top 22 startup teams that were flown down to pitch their businesses over 2-days to some of the most progressive leaders in the innovation space in Africa, including corporate sponsors, mentors and investors.

The SBC AfriTech programme (previously SBC Africa) ended on a record high in 2017 with 32 corporate agreements in pilots and proof-of-concepts signed by close of the accelerator.

“Our inaugural year was big, it was bold,” comments Zachariah George, co-founder and Chief Investment Officer of SBC AfriTech, “Our phenomenal success of last year has made us the only truly global accelerator for tech ventures in partnership with dynamic corporates on the African continent – we are accelerating the next wave of innovation in Africa.”

Related: A Comprehensive List Of Angel Investors That Fund South African Start-Ups

The top 10 African Innovators selected are:

  1. Akiba Digital, South Africa: A financial savings platform and personal savings coach that leverages A.I., machine learning and gamification to democratize wealth in Africa.
  2. Bankly Technologies, Nigeria: A goal-based savings product that digitizes cash and enables in-country, peer-to-peer transfer services through the use of vouchers available nationwide.
  3. Brandbook Analytics, South Africa: A mobile application providing users free gift-card coupons for completed purchases with the ability to harvest vast amounts of consumer data and improved forecasting and analytics.
  4. CredPal, Nigeria: An innovative solution using deep data that provides individuals with instant access to credit at the point of checkout for various online and offline merchants.
  5. Digitech Group, Ivory Coast: Provides incumbent insurance companies an omni-channel and cloud-based digital platform to sell insurance products through mobile and web.
  6. Inclusive Financial Technologies, Ghana: Inclusive FT’s API helps digital financial services reach the most remote customers across Africa by enabling them to onboard, verify and monitor them via digital channels.
  7. Kudimoney Bank, Nigeria: A no-charge, full-service, online-only bank making banking services more affordable and more accessible by offering an interest-earning spending account with zero charges, a savings account with above-average interest rates and access to low interest instant loans.
  8. Lüla, South Africa: A mobility-as-a-service platform that connects stakeholders to improve mobility by providing transport that is convenient, accessible and safe and enabling operators, cities and passengers to have easy access and understanding of transport.
  9. MPost, Kenya: A patented solution providing legally recognised physical addresses for the 95% of the African population that do not have a postal address.
  10. Prospa, South Africa: A micro-savings solution for low-income earning South Africans, allowing users to purchase savings vouchers at traders that entitle the user to a set amount of savings which are deposited into a mobi-savings account.

The 10 selected tech startups have a month to ready themselves for the 3-month accelerator that will kick off on August 13th in Cape Town and culminate with the Demo Day on November 8th when they will pitch to the world.

Related: 27 Of The Richest People In South Africa

To the Top 10, Philip Kiracofe says: “You are here because your solution is market-ready and the sponsors want to work with you starting from today. The next 3 months are going to be absolutely exhilarating. We are going to be here side-by-side, shoulder-to-shoulder, pushing you, cajoling you, encouraging you, nurturing you, mentoring you and helping you achieve 12 – 18 months’ worth of growth in a 3-month span. On Demo Day you’re not going to believe that just 3 months ago you were standing where you are today. Congratulations and good luck.”

SBC AfriTech is anchored and endorsed by heavyweight corporate sponsors RCS, BNP Paribas Personal Finance, Old Mutual, Nedbank and PwC. The programme also has local service partners Brevity Law, Cloudworx, Inner City Ideas Cartel, and The Loudhailer and is globally supported by Google Cloud, Cisco and Amazon Web Services.

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Annual Show Fundex To Reveal Entrepreneurs Funding Secrets

Riversands Incubation Hub is set to host its third annual FundEX event at Riversands on Thursday 16 August 2018.

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Last year’s FundEX brought together more than 600 entrepreneurs seeking funding for business expansion. This year’s one-day conference and expo is set to create numerous golden opportunities for entrepreneurs needing access to funding.

FundEX carries the theme ‘Secrets of Scale’, and will unpack what it takes to build a ‘fundable’ business, featuring entrepreneurs who have attracted funding and built successful businesses.

“We measure the success of FundEX against the number of entrepreneurs who secure funding after the event. Contrary to popular belief, there is funding available. This event aims to provide practical guidance on what funding is available and what it takes to access this capital,” says Jenny Retief, CEO of Riversands Incubation Hub.

While Riversands does not provide funding, the organisation plays a role in bridging the gap between entrepreneurs and the many players in the funding space.

Related: Government Funding And Grants For Small Businesses

This year’s FundEX will extend beyond the one-day event and includes 10 places for entrepreneurs to work with a finance coach with insights from funding experts to prepare for funding. “We will walk this funding journey with these selected entrepreneurs,” adds Retief. Entrepreneurs attending FundEX can apply to be selected for this ‘fast-track’ process.

Entrepreneurs will also have the opportunity to interact with a variety of funders including banks, government funders and alternative funding platforms in the funders’ lounge during the show. Appointments with funders can be booked on the day, with the lounge opening at 10:00 and running to 15:00.

The one-day event runs from 09:00 to 16:00 and is open to the public, with tickets available online at http://www.fundex.co.za priced at R350 per head.

Riversands Incubation Hub is located off William Nicol Drive near Dainfern.

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