In my teen years I would go down to Wooley’s Pool, a tidal pool which was a short distance from where my parents had our home against Kalk Bay mountain, to study for tests and exams. One of the teenagers always seemed to need as much tutoring as he could get. Other teenagers would come sit with us but I can’t remember them ever studying on the big brown rocks next to the coastline where the waves crashed against the shore. I’m not sure how much this extra studying outdoors helped us although the fresh summer’s South Easter kept us awake which wouldn’t have happened if we had been studying in some stuffy spare room. Continue reading “What is the best way to absorb new material?”
A few weeks ago I met a small business person who I haven’t seen for some time. He was successful at one time in the financial services sector but through personal circumstances he eventually overextended himself and lost almost everything.
It’s hard to pull yourself back from financial disaster. Second acts are not easy. After you have got a real good hiding out there in the marketplace, a bloody face and a dried out bank balance, it takes special character to pick yourself up and start anew. Some people may simply give up. Others may even take drastic measures such as turning on themselves – one small publisher I knew got into deep financial trouble and turned a gun on himself. An even smaller group of people will decide to try again and give it their best. Continue reading “Can you make it second time around?”
A while back a report stated that more than 40 tertiary colleges were degree or diploma mills or not properly registered to do what they are offered. These so-called colleges inflict financial loss on unsuspecting students who spend their money on certificates that carry no weight or future. It is also a disappointment and setback for young people who think that these qualifications can be an entry pass to the future. Continue reading “Promises flying like lies from politicians’ lips”
We were travelling through the Karoo in 34° heat. It was lunch time and during the festive season we didn’t want to stop at one of those service stations owned by the giant conglomerates that want their customers to bring two rand coins to use their toilets.
So we went down the back road and found a supermarket where we could order burgers at a third of the price of the giant service stations, get cold drinks at half the price, coffee at two thirds of the price and warm, friendly service. While we were waiting for the burgers to be prepared we wondered around the supermarket and came across an amazing display – that you won’t find in many supermarkets. Continue reading “At least this supermarket gives a leg up to start-ups”
I was speaking to a visual merchandiser a while back who was leaving for a week to go help open a new retail store in his region. His biggest complaint was how difficult it is for branch staff to do their jobs. There are not enough branch staff because of the austerity measures the company has put in place and the staff are woefully lacking in training.
The problem with this retail chain is that the people in head office with big titles are given training on a silver platter. But the staff at the branch where the interface is with customers, where the sales take place, where the money is made, receive little or no training at all. Isn’t it ironic, he said, that those who float around in the head office with fancy titles receive all the training but the people who ring up the cash registers receive very little or nothing at all? Continue reading “Why do staff dealing with customers get the least amount or no training?”
About a year ago a fast food flame-grilled chicken outlet with a restaurant opened up in the local neighbourhood. The previous premises were completely refurbished at great expense, a new kitchen built, the table arrangement changed and the outside decor was modernised with the latest signage. The doors opened, the store traded for about 6 to 8 months and then shut down.
Just imagine how much money the owner put into this restaurant. No expense was spared at bringing it up to a level that matched or even in some cases surpassed the giant fast-food chain stores. Sometimes it’s like this. A would-be owner of a small business needs to start up with everything ready so that they can serve customers with the quality and price perception that they are trying to create. To go smaller or with less bells and whistles might mean a turn off for customers. Yet the risk of going full-scale is much higher because simply the market hasn’t been tested for demand. Continue reading “Should you start out with a smaller project before you take the leap and run a full-scale business?”
I went fishing in the Vaal River near Parys. We got up early and started out in small rubber rafts at 7 AM. We rowed upstream for about a kilometre and then we anchored the raft below a rapid up river.
It was a beautiful early summer morning with a river otter sighted as well as a leguan lizard, (get spilling from Internet),cormorant birds, yellow finches and the occasional swirl of yellow fish rising to the surface. This time of the year the banks are green with the tall Eucalyptus and Populus trees. Even the reeds alongside the banks are green. Continue reading “Be careful about the advice you give, it may come back to bite you”
An artist who organised a large exhibition in the old part of Johannesburg was asked how she and her business partner managed to pull together a large exhibition and celebratory evening.
She said, “You’ve got to make it happen otherwise nothing happens.”
That statement says a lot.
It reminds one of the energy that is required to get anything off the ground, to start something from scratch. Continue reading ““You’ve just got to make it happen otherwise nothing happens””
I came across a business owner the other day, someone who now owns a franchise in a large national chain, but on his LinkedIn profile, he said he was still open to corporate opportunities. It makes one think about small business ownership and whether it can satisfy people who have been in the corporate world and enjoyed it. Sometimes it’s not by choice or design that people buy a franchise that because circumstances in their career in a large company have changed. Continue reading “Are you really a business owner or still trying to be someone else?”
When I started out researching, interviewing and experimenting for my book “Breakthrough Ideas” I wanted practical, hands-on tools and resources that would give people the best possible chance and actionable results.
I pride myself on action orientation and leadership of change and used these qualities to go beyond deep research into the subject of turning new business ideas into viable products and services. I collaborated with several start-ups and experienced small business people to test-drive my concepts to ensure that they work in the real world.
One key ingredient was to ensure that the tools and techniques would be fun to use. This is important. Why would you put all the hard work, time and money into developing a promising new idea unless it was going to be fun to do?
One of the celebrity entrepreneurs who I admire says that you should ask yourself when pursuing an idea whether you would do it for fun. This comes from an entrepreneur who started at the very bottom and worked his way up. He’s not someone who has become rich and famous and dishes out advice to extend his brand personality. No, this entrepreneur walks his talk. He has a genuine interest in helping others do well for themselves – a rare quality.
Pursuing an idea that you want to turn into a small business needs to be fun. It especially needs to be fun if you think you are eventually going to make a living from it and it will be your main lifestyle. You need to put in the extra hours, burn the midnight oil, suffer the pain of the challenges that are presented to you and work weekends until you don’t even know what a break feels like. Of course, you need to take breaks but you know what I mean.
The important ingredient of fun comes with the underlying belief that doing something for yourself, starting something from scratch and making it work gives you a freedom that others year for.
Yet once you have earned your freedom through the vehicle of a successful enterprise you need to be extra careful to not give that freedom away. What do I mean by this? It’s simple. You can so easily give your freedom away to bankers when you take out loans. You can give your freedom away to shareholders who take a cut of your business. You can give your freedom away to a landlord who sinks you and your business into a deep spiral of debt by jacking up your rental with exorbitant annual increases.
You have to be on your guard. All of these and many other traps lie in wait for the unwary. They may be furthest from your mind when you start out but when you plan your formal legal structure, access to finance and location it’s important to consider how much of your freedom you are giving away to others.
Yes, that celebrity entrepreneur knows what he is talking about when he says ask yourself whether you are doing this for fun. It sounds like an innocuous question but behind it is really how much meaning does it give to you and how much freedom?