Monthly Archives: December 2018

What Drives You?

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Sometime ago I was chatting to a very dear friend and he told me about how frustrated he was with his job. He was working for a well paying corporate company in the country but wasn’t fulfilled. He yearned to do more with his life but was unsure about what to do. So much so that when another job opportunity came along he didn’t take it. It was a government job, that paid slightly more but with less work.

He was afraid of getting bored and he passed on the job.

During our chat, I happened to share something that provoked his thought process and he eventually realized that what he really wanted to do was go out and start his own venture. Not only one venture but multiple ventures in various industries. The reason he had been so frustrated was that he thought he was too haphazard and crazy to have so many different ideas. Someone had taught him that you need to identify that one business idea and stick with it until it works – something I am totally against especially if you are still in your start up years. Anyway, another topic for another day.

As we were discussing he then realized that he needed more free time. The job he was in demanded too much of his time he could hardly do anything else YET he was not ready to quit and concentrate on his ventures because they were still just dreams. All of a sudden it dawned on him that he should have taken that government job he passed on. Getting a high paying job with less work load was exactly what he needed to get his ventures off the ground.

The opportunity had passed and he had to start looking for another job.

My point is this, when my friend first passed on the job, he was driven by an activity mindset – where he just declined the offer because it didn’t seem right. When he started thinking strategically about his life and career and allowed his goals to drive his actions, he realized the opportunity he passed.

When you are activity driven, many opportunities and tasks will seem useless, confused and unreasonable. However, once you take a step back to define your goals and objectives with your life, career or business, you will be in a better position to identify opportunities and tasks that will help serve your vision better. You will even find sense in taking a government job for a corporate one or scaling down your lifestyle to free up cash for something that will propel you towards your goals. It will make it easier for you to cope with driving a second hand import when you can clearly afford a brand new Merc.

Being goal driven instead of activity driven will guide you on who to befriend, what to buy, who to hire, what to start, what to quit etc. and you will stop being taken by every shining thing that gets dangled in your fact.

What drives you?

10 Ways to Start A Business Without Capital in Eswatini

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A number of Swazis have big dreams about starting their own businesses and in most cases have put up the lack of capital as the number one business limitation.

It is very true that you need capital to start a business but I have met too many people who’ve taken loans for business start-up only to find themselves broke in a matter of weeks and in huge financial debt. Below are quick tips on how you can start a business without a major financial investment. Please do share your comments below after reading.

  1. Partnership: find a trustworthy partner who can put in the money while you put in your expertise. When selecting a business partner look for someone who complements your effort and not in competition with your skill set. Based on my experience, a few years down the line lines get blurred and you find yourselves stepping into each other territories and this can be a source for major conflict. As well, don’t choose a partner because he/she is your friend or relative – doing this is a recipe for disaster.

    The founder of Alibaba.com and now the Alibaba Group, Jack Ma started with about 20 partners. As you can see partnership is all about getting talent into the business without any obligation to pay them a salary – because they are Directors/Partners in the business. Do you think Google was cooked up by the two gurus? Of course not, someone thought about the idea and roped in the other and then they started working together churning even more ideas that would make Google the superpower it is today.

  2. Get Clients first: Facebook offers an opportunity to make get clients before you launch your business. Simply set up a page and promote it to get as many LIKEs as possible. Those who become your fans may become your customers when you launch. I have taught on social media marketing in workshops and mastermind groups but people still fail to notice the inherent power of Facebook in helping you start, grow and run your business.

    I have a perfect case study for this; I started a facebook page called “Khangisa” and in a year I took that audience and turned them into customers for the print version of the classifieds site. We found the customer first and then created the product second. With effective technology available to every business person there has never been an easier time to get clients first. A few years later I flipped that business and turned it into an online shopping mall and as of updating this article we’ve delivered 1,000+ orders to customers country wide.

  3. Pay your staff on commission: there are a number of people who need jobs in Eswatini and will gladly sell your products at a commission. This way you don’t have to pay them any monthly salary.
  4. Enter business competitions: Join a competition like the one offered by Technoserve and work hard to be amongst the top winners. A number of people have seen success with this one. You can also use the internet to find other SME competitions you can join.
  5. Keep your day job while you are building a market for your business. Set aside a percentage of your monthly earnings to help fund basic business, costs such as business cards, website hosting or business registration.
  6. Leverage Relationships: Don’t serve companies, serve individuals. If there is one thing I am not very good at it maintaining relationships or networking. I even skip that chapter in all business books I read. However, just because I have a challenge with this does not mean it does not work; in fact, it works like a charm. Put yourself out there – create and maintain good relationships. As well be careful once you get the client to recognize that your true client is not the company but the individual who influences things inside the business in your favor. The day I discovered this insight was the day I kept one of my clients for more than 5 years after 3 years of turmoil and nearly losing the account.
  7. Become a thought leader: People i.e. customers, staff and investors need to know that you are really passionate about your business and your industry. If you take time to showcase that passion by sharing thoughts, insight and putting yourself out there as the go to person in your product category or industry then you will gain a thought leadership status. This will draw attention to your business and possibly start attracting the right talent, investors and even appeal to your end customers better than your competitors.
  8. Create experiments not products/services: I used to think I was the one who coined the ideology “fail and fail fast” until I read a lot of business books and found the concept in most of them. In my career I have come up with hundreds of product and services ideas, launched a dozen of them but 99% of them have crashed and burnt.

    One weakness most of us entrepreneurs have is falling deeply in love with the products and brands we created yet if we could only be able to see them as means to an end then it would be easier to quickly move on to the next if the one does not work. So find product ideas, launch them with as little fanfare as possible in order to avoid spending too much resources on them and then observe uptake or potential. Be quick to pull off the plug if it’s not working and move on.

  9. Hire university interns: The hardest working group I have ever hired are interns. They come in with so much fire – a point to prove really. They don’t expect much compensation because they get paid in experience. 90% of my full time staff came in as interns and I have since applied the same principle across all the businesses I have started. It works like a charm. You just need to be ready to spend a bit of time hand holding them as they try to adapt from school to work environment.
  10. Do everything yourself; at least until you start seeing some trickles of revenue coming in and order book starting to bulge. Most start-up owners make the mistake of being the “boss’ from day one. Sitting in their office dishing orders and if they are delayed, hire more “help” to sustain your living like a King status. People often say, if you want something to be done correctly or according to your specification, you must do it yourself. This adage holds true in business as well.

Have anything to say or add? Please post a comment below

An Open Letter To The Disgruntled Employee

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Dear Disgruntled Employee

You work for a boss who is always on your case and your workmate(s) aren’t the greatest crowd to hang around with. You drag yourself to work 99% of the time yet you feel like they don’t value your opinion and never take your input seriously. Your better half has an up to date record of all those who are mistreating you at work – What’ve they’ve done and how.

You want to start your own business and you’ve promised yourself you will but the motivation only comes when they’ve upset you at work or when you run out of money less than 48 hours after your salary reflects in your bank account. Then you feel like maybe you should just quit & set yourself free. Then your boss or workmate “repents” and you forget about your business idea; you tell yourself “let me wait a few months then I will quit”.

You go through the same emotions a few days later when someone decides to pick on you – Again. This time you swear you are resigning within the next 3 months. You get excited when you read about prospects of business success – In fact you already have a great business idea in mind.

It’s been many many months now but still you are stuck in the corporate grind. You business idea is only but your “happy place”. You’ve never taken any real action to bring it to fruition.

You are giving away the best years of your life to someone else. Auctioning the best gift God gave to mankind – to the lowest bidder; you are being fruitful and multiplying, only for someone else. You will most probably retire at 60 still digging gold that belongs to another man – in exchange for peanuts, literally.

They will be rich & your retirement payout will be gone in less than 8 months. They will live a legacy for their offspring & you will guilt trip yours in to supporting you financially in your old age – when they could be advancing themselves to escape the miserable life you are dragging them into without their consent

No offense intended – by the way. The truth of the matter is, you have already given up on setting yourself free even before you even try! Or maybe it’s not that, the truth is – you’ve been lying to everyone including yourself; you don’t really want to get out of there.  You love your job, your boss and your colleagues are the best – period!

Fighting the Good Fight Isn’t Always Easy

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There are times in business when you realize a forthcoming issue that threatens to wipe your business away sending it to extinction along with the dinosaurs.

There are times when you have to pay out large sums of cash and you know you can’t and there is nothing much you can do about it. You seat and pretend it’s not there. I usually just keep going about my business like the ship is not moving and will never get to the dead end.

Do you blame me?

Given two choices between thinking about focusing on positive things and sinking in depression, which would you choose? Don’t tell me about facing my troubles today. I am in no mood for it. Don’t tell me about how it’s going to get better and if you keep working hard at it everything will work out. Sometimes I do get tired of being the captain. I want to be the passenger. Sometimes I get tired of waiting upon clients – I want to be the client to be waited on.

Is it too much to ask, am I being too unreasonable? I know this is the life I chose and will never trade it for anything. But just because something makes you happy, aren’t you allowed to get mad at it when it’s not working the way you planned.

I love my wife – more than anyone but she makes me mad sometimes

I love my mother but she has a way of bringing the worst out of me sometimes

I love my children but she gets on my nerves sometimes

It’s only natural that I be upset every once in a while

Even at the things I love the most

I am human. I make mistakes, I tire and I fail – most of the times.

Am I out of character today?

are you surprised I am not my usual encouraging self?

I am not out of character.

I am in character –

Be encouraged!

Understand Your Customer Product Adoption Process

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A very convenient filling station that was set up recently 5 minutes from my house in Mbabane was a ghost town for months. The only people you found there were the petrol attendants standing in large groups chatting away as if that’s what they were hired to do and the shop attendants eager to greet you with a wide smile even when buying gum (that’s what I call service with a smile). There was often no car in sight and none bothered to use their shop. Fast forward about 6 months later, the filling station is fast becoming the busiest in town. Drivers within its neighborhood have gradually realized its convenience – to be so near to their residents and have started adopting the filling station as their first choice to fill-up and buy the everyday goods (newspapers and bread) from.

So Customers typically go through 3 stages when deciding to choose a product or service as one to use permanently. (1) they first try it out to find out what it is really all about or how different it is (2) then buy it again just to be sure it’s consistent and then (3) they decided to be permanent customers.

Most business owners are fooled to think they have won a customer over when a customer is just at the trial stage – just checking out the product. They fail to realize that the customer requires that gently push to make the second purchase for irrefutable evidence that the product is really a suitable one. The last purchase is usually without much of the business owner’s push but an earlier “marketing investment’ made such that when the customer requires the product he/she easily remembers yours – this is known as top of mind (TOM) awareness.

As you can probably see, this is linked to the business life cycle above. This means you can influence the rate of your business growth by tweaking the customer product adoption process. Discover what makes a customer buy, as discussed earlier, and FastTrack the process and your business will realize faster growth than most.

Why Some Calls Are Not Worth Receiving

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I was rummaging through some of my old archives and found an application letter I wrote on 29 December 2008. It was to an NGO in Swaziland that was advertising a Marketing related position.

A portion of the application letter.

A portion of the application letter.

It took me back to the events that led to my application. I remember well, that it was at the exact time I had handed my resignation letter from my 1st company, which I co-owned with two other Directors – and had to sadly walk away from because of irreconcilable differences.

I was frustrated, confused and didn’t really know what the future had in store for me. So when I saw the job advertised in the newspaper, I saw it as a quick start to my new life. I reasoned that, it would give me the cash I needed while growing my new venture.

Guess what, they never called.

I started 2009 without any guarantees and ventured into my new venture, which I had been doing on the side for a while. I won’t lie and say I wasn’t terrified because I was. I had never done this on my own and to make matters worse, I was venturing into internet marketing, something that didn’t exist in Swaziland at that time.

To cut a very long story short, 9 years later I am grateful that call never came. I can’t stop imagining how my life would have turned out had I received that call and got the job. One thing is for sure, i wouldn’t have had the time of my life like I had building my own dream and using my hands to create my own wealth – instead of wasting away building fortunes for others.

To say it has not been easy is an understatement, I have seen it all – I have sat at the top of success and watched the world struggle to get by while my life felt like a cruise and I have dropped so hard to the most bottom part of the earth it felt like slipping right into hell.

Business has been rough – there were times when I went for weeks without a single dime and my friends would throw in a few Rands just to tide me over. In fact I have scars all over my life to prove it but it has been worth it. It is a journey I would take all over again even if someone DIDN’T pay me for it.

There is nothing like waking up in the morning knowing you own your own time, you are in control of your own destiny. Money is the one thing that holds us back from venturing into the unknown, but believe me when i say eventually it doesn’t become about the money – it becomes about the possibilities and they will keep you going every day, even if the money is not forthcoming.

In conclusion, don’t stress about that call that is not coming through, that business deal that is seemingly stalling, that friend who promised to connect you with the right people – that call, that you are waiting for – you might just be better of without it.

The Business Grind Stone vs The Corporate Grind

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Man sitting in office desk

In November 2011 I decided to do something I hadn’t done in 6 years; I took a job to work for someone else. Crazy right? even my friends looked me in the eye and told me flat out “this isn’t you”.

I spent a full month with my wife discussing the pros and cons of taking the job and leaving the business at the hands of my then inexperienced staff. I thought about how I would get some much needed relief from being the person everyone depended on for their livelihood, how I wouldn’t have to think about where the next source of income would come from. I thought I would feel relieved adding a new stream of income to my family – one where I didn’t have to work so hard to keep. Running a company had its pecks but I could do with the break – if nothing else, to get some perspective.

We agreed that it was good for my growth. On the 1st of November 2011 I walked in to an open plan office and was directed towards my cubicle where I would literally become a “gatekeeper” for the department and had to lift my head to acknowledge everyone who walked in to the department and greeted us because I was so close to the entrance.

I dearly missed my own space, my big office where I ruled and reigned like the King that I was. I tried to negotiate a better space with the department administrator but she recited a memo telling me why she was not in a position to assist me. So I was stuck as a gatekeeper.

It was a real out of body experience for me. I almost quit the first few days but forced myself to stick it out for a while to learn all the valuable lessons I needed to learn in order to become a better boss, business leader & team player.

Up until I took the job I thought I was a natural early bird; early to wake up to start work and quick to spring out of bed. I thought I was a morning person and a working machine who could go for 12 hours straight without a break, Berrocca or coffee. I hated public holidays because they meant a wasted day to do more work.  I thought money didn’t drive me and I could do more for less as long as I enjoyed what I did. I thought I was a very patient guy who could work with even the laziest of them all.

Then I realized when I took the job that I was just like them all. I dreaded going to work, pulled myself out of bed and literally chased deadlines by their tails. I was tired by 12:30pm and couldn’t stop looking at the watch to go out for lunch. I took short naps during lunch breaks and got home exhausted still. I was a monster in the morning before Berocca or taking a cup of coffee. I highlighted holidays on the calendar and lived for the weekend. I couldn’t wait for payday and memos telling us about half days.

I was reeling in the corporate grind.

I took a long hard glance at myself and realized how far I had stepped out of myself. I had not only lost my way but myself in the process.  I started reminiscing about the good old days where I owned my own time and controlled my own destiny. I wanted to get back there as fast as I could.

So one silly day I packed the lessons & corporate experience in my small box – tucked them in nicely alongside my lost hope & quit the job after 8 months; packed my stuff and returned back to what I knew best. The one thing I knew how to maneuver and brought me the greatest return way beyond money. The one thing that once lost can never be recovered…Time.

I remember the first day to my office, after quitting the job felt very unusual. I was driving in town around 10am and the streets were empty. I felt a bit guilty and for a second wondered if I had told my boss, ‘I would be late.’ I laughed at my stupidity as I took a right turn by the traffic lights and headed straight to my Kingdom.

Given a choice again, I choose the business grindstone any day.