Thursday, September 29, 2011
Monday, September 26, 2011
A business with a parasitic mentality will drain the energy, creativity, and funds from others, without the readiness to reward and to give back in a fair measure.
The cruel irony is that when parasites withdraw too much energy, they can actually kill their hosts. Businesses that continually pay their suppliers late is just one example. So also are those that overwork their staff without paying overtime. Maybe you could think of some more examples.
It's a common perception among some business owners, isn't it? Luckily you don't have to take my word for it, Douglas McGregor's in his famous Theory X/Theory Y studied the effects of such a management perspective in detail. Not going into too much detail, we have to recognize that the beliefs and expectations we have about people typically have ways of coming true through something called self-fulfilling prophesies.
In recruitment we called this the search for the "superhero employee". An employee that's expected to, like superman, to "swoop in" to put out all the fires and emergencies produced by poor systems and management.
We have to recognize that we may also become one of those bad employers in our businesses.
The sad reality seems to be that it is often the best, most motivated employees, who eventually burns out. I have often heard business owners recount how they were harmed by employees, but I am hoping to show that it goes both ways.
Inherent to a new businesses, you'll often find lacking business systems and inexperienced management. Clearly not a well ordered business environment - an environment which is not always good to the people working their.
I am doing this to remind you that it is a privilege to live in a country that makes small business and entrepreneurship possible. It's a privilege to be a business owner. With such a privilege comes very real responsibilities.
It also because I want to remind you that we are ultimately responsible for our businesses. And we are responsible to act in the best interest of our stakeholders; our investors, our employees, our families, and ourselves (last but not least).
Micheal Gerber tells us, in his highly insightful book, the Emyth Revisted, that as business owners, we have to develop a 'game' our staff (and investors) wants to play with us.
We have to develop a game that inspires employees to new heights, a game of learning, a game they would be proud to participate in. A game that properly rewards and empowers performance. A game that energizes and motivates. A game that does not cause harm to those coming in contact with it.
Fortunately, Imminent Entrepreneur, you can set the stage, you can write the rules of the game in your business, you control the game. So why not develop the best, most inspiring game for your people to follow? Why not think of creative ways to empower your staff to succeed? Why not build a business that adds real value to the lives of people, instead of one seeks ways to rob their lives of life?
Don't be ignorant of Karma, the sowing and reaping thing. To get, we have to give. To succeed ourselves, we have to empower others to succeed. To be empowered, we have to empower others. Please don't leave the development of the 'game' up to chance.
Your Friend in Business.
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
In my previous letter we looked at one crucial belief all entrepreneurs/business owners should have. That is a rock solid belief that whatever they are working on, be it a project, idea or potential business, may just work. Entrepreneurs are inherently positive.
Remember the cynic in my previous letter? A cynic can tell you all the reasons why an idea won't work. To the cynic, it is easier to sit on the sideline and criticize others, not taking any risks of their own.
I've been cynical at times in my life, and believe me, being a cynic does not pay very well.
We must realize that we'll need wisdom to distinguish between people with valid criticism and the cynics in our lives. Ignore the cynics; they rarely have the entire picture.
Today, I would like to share a bit about what you may expect during your first year of running your own business. I've identified 10 things experience has taught me.
1. Your income is not secure
Obviously, you're the boss now. You're responsible to ensure sales, revenues, and the payment of your employees (if you're employing). The steady paycheck, you may have depended on for so long, is not coming anymore; and worse, you are standing last in line for payment.
Your own payment depends on how much you make. In your first year, and thereafter, you'll have to master the art of managing your cash flow. Without regular funds, your business will die.
2. You have to manage your own time
At your previous job someone may have guided you on how you had to spend your time. You had projects, time lines, and goals to guide you.
You probably also had an overseer; someone like a boss or a manager, checking up on you. Well, now the overseer is missing, the boss is 'dead', sound good doesn't it?
But wait, now you have to provide your own guidance, direction, goals and time lines. In reality many new entrepreneurs become their own worst bosses, much worse and much more demanding, than the one they had previously in their jobs.
You must learn to manage your time well; in such a way that you'll be able stay healthy, prosperous, and without a broken family, while building your business. That's a real challenge.
3. You have to set your own goals
Started simply; if you don't set the strategy and goals for your business, nothing's worth while is going to happen. Remember that success, almost always, follows careful planning.
4. You have to juggle many unfamiliar tasks
At your previous job, you've probably worked at a specific function in you boss' business, maybe accounting, IT, or some other function.
Now, you have to do that function, usually the technical work required by your business, in addition to an entire range of other functions. Functions you may not necessarily be familiar with.
You'll have to devote time to all these functions. You should expect a steep learning curve, you should expect to be inundated at times, and also expect to drop some of the balls at times.
5. You may have to live with temporary isolation
If you have moved out of an office environment, maybe to a home based setting, you should expect to feel lonely and isolated at times. Especially, if you're planning to run a one man enterprise. It's important to actively build a strong social network to support you in your endeavor.
6. You have to constantly evaluate your self-beliefs
It is a rare person who's able to remain positive and motivated at all times. At some times, especially during the hard times, you'll be wondering if you are doing the right thing.
Sometimes your confidence will waiver. During such times it is important to have a well developed strategy and a plan to follow. The hard times, are the times to work the plan, no matter how down and demotivated you are feeling.
7. You'll have to believe in a vision others may not yet see
Obviously, you'll be excited about your idea. If you're not passionate and hopeful about your business, be very careful before proceeding with it. But not everyone will be as excited about your idea as you are, and that's OK. It is your vision, and you'll have to carry and share it until the world picks up on your excitement.
8. You'll become personally involved
It's highly likely that you'll become much more involved with your own business than you've been with your previous jobs. That's a good thing, it should give you much energy to drive the process with.
But, personal involvement may also amplify your failures. It easy, when something had not worked, to take the failure very personally. That may be highly demotivating and you'll have to develop the ability to evaluate failures objectively.
9. You'll reach your personal limitations very quickly
Remember what I said about the steep learning curve. Running a business is challenging and you'll, very soon, reach a point where your own skills and talent are not enough. Where your time is just too limited, and you just cannot do everything your business requires, on your own.
To overcome this, you'll have to build a strong team of people to neutralize your weaknesses and constraints. You have to become a master at identifying, inspiring, and managing talent toward your vision.
10. You'll have to deal with reality of your business while remaining positive
Sometimes your business will have very real problems. I think that a good entrepreneur is someone who is able to see those problems objectively, but without losing hope and giving up.
To quote George Clasen: "Life is a series of problems to be solved", and your business will be the source of many of those problems.
I am hoping that you'll look at these 10 points, thinking about how you are going to overcome these problems in your own business. Hopefully, one day you'll be able to impart what you've learnt to other potential entrepreneurs, teaching them how to also run a successful business.
Thanks for reading, wishing you all the best with your future business.
Your Friend in Business
If you have something to add, or some advice for potential entrepreneurs, please comment in the fields below.
Monday, September 19, 2011
The idea of these letters is to prepare imminent entrepreneurs, and business owners, for the journey of entrepreneurship. It considers what is needed to succeed as an an entrepreneur.
Then, one day, you've decided you're actually going to do it. You're going to start your own business.
I am hoping that I could give you some pointers to guide you on your path, some things to think about. Things I picked up along the way. Maybe I could spare you some trouble, or help you to start off better than I had done.
It requires us to learn many new skills, skills you wouldn't necessarily have bothered with before.
It challenges our beliefs; our beliefs about the world, our beliefs about work, our beliefs about money, but, mostly our beliefs about ourselves. It requires us to remain positive in the hardest of situations. It requires us to keep our heads up even when everything else is seems to be going to hell.
Entrepreneurship requires persistence, persistence to keep working on our ideas, maybe even for years without much payoff. To keep working while many of your friends and acquaintances are excelling in the job market and their careers.
Allow me to share one thing that really meant a lot to me. Something about people an their opinions. Something I learnt while watching a one of Jamie Oliver's programs. Something I also had to grow in; which is, the ability to handle negative feedback and criticism.
Finally, during a pivotal moment in the final episode, he asked her:
This is still hard for me. A naturally positive mindset was never imparted to me while I was young and I have to work hard at overcoming many of the negative ideas I gathered while growing up. It's probable that you'll have to do the same.
As an entrepreneur, you have to continuously focus on what could go right. I am not saying to run blindly into each situation, ignoring all the problems. What I am saying is that we must stay focused on the positives, while considering the negatives. That takes lots of discipline.
Remember that if they, your cynics and critics, are wrong; your idea may just prove to be a beautiful thing.
Hope that inspires you on your journey.
Do you also have some advice for imminent entrepreneurs, feel free to add by commenting below.
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Welcome back – as before, I am happy at the opportunity to put some thoughts down regarding our current discussion on changing global contexts.
Last time we introduced the first in six critical tasks, which were formulated in the work of Sunny Hansen. To get this current series of discussions underway, we looked at the external context, within which career planning and development takes place. The idea of acting as change agents was introduced, and the posting was concluded with the introduction of a list of 15 global challenges for humanity.
To extend our understanding of the global arena – also referred to as the external context – we need to take a brief look at how the world population is constituted. In an original work by Donella Meadows, published in 1990, she was asking what the so-called global village would look like as a community of 1000 people. To keep up with changes in world demographics, some authors have adapted the picture to represent the world of today; I have put together a table where some of the more salient pointers of the global village from the nineties is compared to the global village of today*:
| || |
· 584 Asians
· 123 Africans
· 95 Europeans
· 84 from Latin America
· 52 from North America
· 61 from Asia
· 12 from Africa
· 12 from Europe
· 9 from Latin America
· 5 from North America
· 165 speak Mandarin
· 86 speak English
· 83 speak Hindu / Urdu
· 64 Spanish
· 58 Russian
· 37 Arabic
The above only accounts for half the village population; the other half of the population speak the following languages (descending order):
· 200 other languages
· 17 speak Chinese
· 8 speak Hindu
· 7 speak Spanish
· 4 speak Arabic
· 4 speak Russian
· 3 speak Bengali
· 2 speak Malay-Indonesian
· 2 speak French
· 45 speak other languages
· 300 Christians
· 175 Muslims
· 128 Hindus
· 55 Buddhists
· 47 Animists
· 210 other religions
· 31 Christians
· 21 Muslims
· 14 Hindus
· 6 Buddhists
· 12 other religions
· 16 would not be religious or identify with a specific religion
· 1/3 would be children
· 60 would be above age 65
· 28 babies born per year
· 10 people would die per year
· 20 would be between 0 – 14
· 66 would be between 15 and 64
· 14 would be older than 65
· 200 people would receive 75% of the income
· 200 would only receive 2%
· 53 would live on less than 2 USD per day
· 50 would live in poverty
· No data available
· 34 would be cell phone users
· 17 would actively use the internet
· 1% would own a personal computer
*Current authors have decided to reduce the size of the current village to 100
This is a really thought-provoking picture; I think as agents of change, we are all required to take due note of the changing demographic of the world. At first, we may think that the pictures are quite similar; the challenge would, however, be to start realising that even the so-called smaller shifts that are taking place on a global scale, are impacting on the rest of the picture.
If we consider the current picture from the perspective of career planning and management, and remind ourselves that the process of career planning simply has to take full cognisance of the big picture, the magnitude of the task is quite apparent! In building on our understanding of this critical task of Integrative Life Planning – finding work that needs doing in changing global contexts – we soon start realising that there is no option but to accept that whatever plans are made, need to demonstrate our understanding of the ever-changing picture. No longer is it okay to think we rule the roost, to think we can plan without due consideration of the bigger picture, and to disregard the interconnectedness of humanity.
In parting I want to pose a question: is the changing global picture duly considered in terms of you career and life planning? Are you simply thinking that as an individual I will not be impacting the world with my choices and decisions? The time has come to change your approach and realise that we are all making a contribution to the changing picture.
Next time we will spend some more time talking about Critical task 1 of the Integrative Life Planning model. According to Hansen’s conceptualisation of the ILP model, it is imperative to look at a couple of macro issues and needs, which are of specific relevance to how we approach career planning and human development.
Friday, September 9, 2011
Why start a business? Why start something that, more often than not, is a very crappy, high risk, low paying job for the first number of years. I am sure the answer will vary. Some may answer money. Yes, indeed, money is part of the motivation - many entrepreneurs are very wealthy, maybe also freedom - the ability to be set your own schedule. But during the startup stages, most owners will tell you, there often is very little money or freedom.
I agree with Robert Kiyosaki, who tells us in one of his books that money is never enough of a motivation for success in business. So why start a business?
I can only comment on something that inspires me. That is the link between innovation and entrepreneurship. A critical part of the mindset of many entrepreneurs is the desire to innovate, to start something new and valuable. Steven Vanderleest, in an article, beautifully defines entrepreneurship as the 'art and science of innovation' - the innovation of new products, new businesses, and new approaches.
And we desperately need such innovation in South Africa. We need new ideas, new approaches, new businesses, and new systems. Entrepreneurs are at the beachhead of those. Maybe we don't need more funding, less taxes, and more support. Though those would be nice Mr Government!
What we need are new ideas. Ideas truly have the power to change the world. Ideas took the world from agriculture to industry, and from industry to the information age. Are there any limits on the value of ideas? I think not. A good idea could affect millions, even billions, of people.
The world needs new ideas. Like ideas on how to extract clean energy from see water. Or ideas on how to effectively harness the energy of the sun. We need ideas on how to solve the HIV/Aids epidemic. There are a myriad of problems that need new ideas. South Africa desperately needs new ideas.
Fortunately, ideas are the basic hardware entrepreneurs work with. It is from ideas new industries grow , I believe, It is ideas that will create the jobs needed to counter unemployment in South Africa.
Within this innovation mindset, problems always represent entrepreneurial opportunity. Pollution brought the opportunity for clean energy technologies. Communication problems stimulated the development of the internet and cellular phones. Transport problems stimulated the development of cars, trains and air travel. A problem often is the seedling of opportunity, I wish we'll start seeing it that way in SA
I am hoping that all of us looking to do entrepreneurial work will shift our attitude from a negative to a positive outlook. I hope that we will stop seeing what is wrong, and start seeing the opportunities in our nation's problems. I am hoping that we will have faith that things can change and that we'll keep our eyes open for the opportunities.
Thanks for reading and happy innovating!
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
The time has come – today I will start getting into what I like to think of as the ILP proper. During the last two or three months I have taken some time to introduce you to the principles and objectives of the Integrative Life Planning model; we also focused on some of the most salient reasons as to why there is a need for a new career paradigm.
If you have been following our blog, you may recall that we also introduced what Hansen refers to as the six critical tasks, which form the core of career decision making and career management. As she referred to these tasks, they have been given limited airtime; if, however, one starts taking a careful look at the challenges of the new world of work, addressing these issues is paramount to remaining part of the game in the new millennium.
As we started presenting the model, I posted a brief article where the topic of the next couple of blog posts was introduced: Finding work that needs doing in changing global contexts. According to Hansen, it is essential to first consider what she refers to as theexternal context within which career planning and management takes place. If we want to be effective change agents, we need to know how the external environment is characterised – this aspect is often overlooked when we engage in career management activities. If career management professionals want to remain relevant within the changing global arena, they should be able to offer assistance to all individuals – regardless of cultural or local boundaries – with the intention to instil sensitivity to the changing global context.
To start us on the road to delimiting the external context, Hansen reminds us of the well-known slogan introduced by the World Future Society in 1980: “Think Globally, Act Locally”. If one were to rewrite this slogan from the ILP perspective, it should read “Think and Act Globally and Locally”, since the world we are living in requires an integrative approach, rather than one where we still see local and global contexts as separate entities.
To support the above notion of integration, we simply need to look around us to see how the world of the 21st Century is different from the 20th: the introduction (and acceptance) of computers; the use of satellites for global communication; the formation of new international economic and political alliances, such as BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and very recently South Africa); the advent of social media and many other examples. Hansen aptly indicates that “what used to be national problems are now international problems”.
To better understand global challenges that form the external context within career planning and career management needs to be done, we have no choice but to assess our position in relation to the biggest challenges humanity is faced with in current times. According to theMillennium Project, there are 15 global challenges for humanity:
This is quite a list and I want to challenge everyone reading my current posting to take some time to think how these issues are impacting – directly or indirectly – the world within which you live and work; take time and consider how these issues impact the manner in which you plan your career and life. I will take a closer look at these issues in future postings, but want to leave you with a question / comment: can anyone go on believing that our lives are not interconnected on a global scale? Can anyone state that these global challenges do not impact on our future plans, our families, and our futures? I think not.
Please feel free to comment on the above – I am curious to hear your thoughts on my question.
Time to go – I need to now venture off into the changing world to see where and how I can act as an agent of change!