The business benefits of entering awards

South Africa has numerous awards designed to recognise the achievements of our homegrown industries and entrepreneurs. And while it’s great to celebrate excellence, business awards have multiple business advantages.

Whether your business is starting out or well-established, you can benefit from entering the right awards. Here are my reasons for putting yourself forward.

Maximise brand visibility
By being shortlisted or winning an award, your brand is thrown into the spotlight. Credible awards can generate significant publicity, and with the process spanning weeks or even months, you have a steady stream of content you can use on your website and social media platforms. So use it! Share your involvement on social media, use the hashtags associated with the awards and connect with other businesses involved. You can also use comments from the judges commending your business, in press releases, in your newsletter and place the award logo on your marketing material.

Evaluate your business model
The application process forces you to look at your business from a different perspective. In entering, you need to make sure you stand out from the rest. Look at what makes you different: innovation, diversity, growth, customer service, investment in people or strategic thinking.

Review what works and adds to your success, and what hinders business growth. And if you don’t win, this processes might even be more valuable than winning the award itself! 

Network opportunity
Awards tend to be judged by successful entrepreneurs, and by being shortlisted you have a chance to discuss your business with industry leaders. During the awards process, use all opportunities to meet fellow entrants, forge new relationships and learn from your peers. They’re there because they’re also an achiever, and there are always things to learn.

 Increase credibility
An award win, short-listing or nomination is a form of a third-party endorsement. And as such, it increases your credibility and positions you as an expert in your industry.

As a winner, it differentiates you from your competitors and can provide a competitive advantage when attracting and retaining customers. If you’re looking for investment, an award win demonstrates that you are recognised as the best or holding great potential.

Celebrate your team
Awards recognise the hard work your team has placed into your business. So use a shortlist or win to boost staff morale and motivate them. You wouldn’t be where you are without them, which is why it’s important to acknowledge their contribution.

Awards allow you to benchmark yourself against others and will enable you to stand out from the rest. To gain maximum value, do your research and choose an award aligned to your business and values.

By carefully selecting the right category for you, you can find a niche which makes you stand out from the rest. If you can show how you make a difference, and how you are different, you can create a differentiator that means customers pick you over your competitors.

Setting goals

A well-constructed and well-considered goal can be extremely motivating and rewarding. For example, if you are looking to develop new business, set the sales team a goal to make a certain number of cold calls. Need to increase customer satisfaction? Set a target for the time it takes for supervisors to resolve complaints, and keep track of positive customer feedback.

Knowledge sharing, and mentoring has seen many entrepreneurs set a single, specific, number goals to focus efforts. At first, it makes sense. Single number goals are clear with no room for misunderstanding or interpretation. But there are other factors that influence whether people will pursue a goal.

Two of the more important factors are challengeand attainability. People want to feel challenged so they feel a sense of accomplishment when they reach the target. If the challenge is too easy, the goal will likely demotivate rather than inspire. But, don’t make the goal unattainable – asking too much can be daunting, even disheartening. it is vital that any goal has the right balance. And this can be difficult with single-number goals.

Emerging evidence suggests that entrepreneurs who make high-low goals (goals that have a high-low range that averages the same, e.g. open 18 – 22 new accounts this month) will see their team achieve goals. The reason being, high-low goals are challenging and attainable.

One of the many challenges that managers face is sustained efforts towards achieving wider organisational goals. So use the high-low goal to achieve greater success.

But with anything, there is a limitation to use. High-low goals are likely to be most effective for employees who are revisiting a goal rather than being set a new one. Restricting the opportunities to use high-low goals teams or individuals revisiting goals e.g. missing last quarter’s new client meeting target, still gives you plenty of opportunities to test its impact on your team.

Test it in your organisation, and see how it effects your team for the rest of 2018,


Our inner voice, our biggest stumbling block

While the “inner voice” helps us make decisions, another voice lives in our heads, one that’s evaluating our performance. It determines our value. It judges the level of optimism that is reasonable to hold regarding our future. But I believe it holds many people back.

According to Psychology Today, The critical inner voice is a point of view we internalise early in life based on childhood experiences. It can represent the way we were seen by an influential parental figure, particularly in times of stress when that person was at their worst and was mis-attuned to us in some way. As we grow up, we take on these negative views as our own and the inner voice starts to function like a disciplinary parent holding us back and keeping us in our place. By the time we reach adulthood, we perceive the negative views of us and the critical inner voice as part of our self-perception.

Often the inner voice and past insecurities hold us back in life, not a lack of intellect, knowledge or skills. And it takes a certain amount of drive, determination and perseverance to reach beyond your circumstances and rid yourself of a critical inner voice.

My advice is:

Identify the voice in your head
Start listening for the voice. The next time you succeed or when you fail, ask yourself, “what does the voice inside me like right now?” When you’re nervous or hesitant to try something new, there’s an inner narrative happening. What is it saying? If we’re going to be able to forgive ourselves and understand why we do what we do, this is key.

Establish whether the voice is helping you or holding you back
I believe the voice inside most of us is holding us back.

Avoid shame
I believe it is one of the biggest barriers to forgiving ourselves. But was is shame? According to Dr Brene Brown, “shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.” When we believe we are unworthy of anything, we make dangerous choices. If we believe we are flawed and, therefore, unworthy, we will struggle to accept forgiveness for our own mistakes, and as entrepreneurs, we make and always will make mistakes.

Life should be a journey of continual improvement, discovery, and growth towards a more complete individual. Lack of growth in life and career is so often self-induced sabotage – that inner voice or thought pattern.

The only person who can change it is you.

What business can you learn from family firms

The phrase “family business” connotes a small or mid-sized company with a local focus and squabbles over succession. While plenty of family firms fit that description, it doesn’t reflect the powerful role that family-controlled enterprises play in the world economy.

Conventional wisdom holds that the unique ownership structure of family businesses gives them a long-term orientation that traditional public firms often lack. But how true is this?

Though family-run companies slightly lag when the economy booms, they weather recessions far better. Why? Family businesses tend to focus on resilience rather than performance. They forgo the excess returns available during good times in order to increase their odds of survival during the bad. A CEO of a family-controlled firm may have financial incentives similar to those of non-family firms, but the familial obligation leads to very different strategic choices. Executives of family businesses often invest with a 10 or 20-year goal, concentrating on what they can do now to benefit the next generation. 

So how do family-run firms manage for resiliency?

1: They’re frugal in good times and bad
After years of working with family businesses, I have seen that they all seem infused with the sense that the company’s money is the family’s money, and as a result they simply do a better job of keeping their expenses under control. You’ll see that family-run enterprises enter recessions with leaner cost structures, and consequently are less likely to have to make redundancies.

2: They keep the bar high for capital expenditures
Family-controlled firms are especially cautious when it comes to CapEx. I have a simple rule for my family business: do not spend more than we earn. This sounds like simple good sense, but the reality is, you never hear those words uttered by corporate executives who are not owners.

At most family firms, CapEx investments have a double hurdle to clear: a project must provide a good return; then it’s judged against other potential projects, to keep spending under the company’s self-imposed limit. Because family businesses are more stringent, they tend to invest only in very strong projects. The downfall is some opportunities are missed during periods of expansion, but in times of crisis it pays off because they’ve avoided projects that may have been money pits.

3: They carry little debt
Family-controlled firms, associate debt with fragility and risk. Debt means having less room to manoeuvre if a setback occurs, and it means being beholden to a non-family investor. People assume many families with their own business are rich and courageous, but in fact, they are risk-adverse leaving most of the cash in the company to avoid giving away too much power to banks.

4: They acquire fewer (and smaller) companies
Family businesses favoured smaller acquisitions close to the core of their existing business, or deals that involved simple geographic expansion. They’re generally not ‘deal makers’.

Family businesses prefer organic growth and will often pursue partnerships or joint ventures instead of acquisitions. Acquisitions represent integration and culture risk, the fabric of any family-owned business.

5: Surprising levels of diversification
Many family businesses expanded into new lines of business organically or through small acquisitions to enter new fields. As recessions have become deeper and more frequent, diversification has become a key way to protect family wealth. If one sector suffers a downturn, businesses in other sectors can generate funds that allow a company to invest for the future.

6: They retain talent better than their competitors do.
Retention at family-run businesses is generally better. The reason? They tend to focus on creating a culture of commitment and purpose, avoiding layoffs during downturns, promoting from within, and investing in people.

Creating your tribe

Successful entrepreneurs and leaders create the outcomes they desire, by surrounding themselves with like-minded people and those working towards the same goal. It’s their ‘tribe’ but how do you create one?

Firstly, a tribe isn’t just a group of ‘fans’ that follow, tweet, like, or share your stuff on social media. A tribe is your second family. They congratulate you on your success. They encourage you, they see your vision when you can’t, and it’s your support network.

When considering who you want to surround yourself, ask yourself the following:

What is your vision for yourself and others in your tribe?
This is an essential ingredient to building your community.

Does your tribe have a shared purpose?
Find out what you are working towards as a unit.

What does your tribe identify as?
Create a name for your tribe.

How will your tribe engage with each other?
Closed Facebook groups, monthly meetings, etc. are great for having a controlled space to monitor and interact with your tribe.

What will you and your tribe do to make your mark?

You can start a blog, host community events, or even create a product.

I am a believer that ‘like attracts like’, and you should surround yourself with people that carry a positive light. Entrepreneurs all need to surround themselves that want to make a difference and bring out the good, warm, and fuzzy stuff that will influence others and gets them asking, “How do I join?”

My motto is “Whatever you put inside, you get out.” Consider this while you’re building and connecting with others. Think of your network are your net worth, if the people you are connecting with don’t share the same purpose or vision that you desire to acquire, what is your net worth?

Create and build your tribe on positive vibes and I promise that you will always have an understanding and supportive group behind you. I could tell you that there’s more to building a tribe than what I have provided you so far, but there really isn’t. Over thinking its creation will probably lead to you delaying putting your tribe together.

It is as simple as starting a book or supper club. Everything else to grow your tribe and solidify its role, will come as you grow your community. Things like jargon you may use within your tribe and the roles people play will come too as your grow.

As I said, don’t over think it, and have fun as your become closer and closer as a group.

The role of a mentor

Ask any successful business person, and they will all admit to having benefited from the advice of a mentor at some point. Many people have achieved great things because someone else believed in them and help them along the way.

Any entrepreneur can benefit from having mentor. The knowledge, advice, and resources a mentor shares depend on the format and goals of the mentoring relationship.

A mentor may share with a mentee information about their own career path, as well as provide guidance, motivation, emotional support, and role modelling. A mentor may help with exploring careers, setting goals, developing contacts, and identifying resources. And as time goes on, the mentor’s role may change with the needs of the mentee.

Some mentoring relationships are part of structured programs with specific expectations and guidelines: others are more informal. But formal or informal, the concept of mentoring is simple, but successful implementation can be challenging. The key characteristics of an effective mentoring relationship in my mind, include the ability and willingness to:

  • value the mentee as a person
  • develop mutual trust and respect
  • maintain confidentiality
  • listen both to what is being said and how it is being said
  • help the mentee solve his or her own problem, rather than give direction
  • focus on the mentee’s development and resist the urge to produce a clone

The first step in finding a good mentor is coming to terms with the knowledge that you can benefit from having one. Understandably there’s a lot of ego, nervous energy and pride involved, but speaking from experience going it alone is admirable but foolhardy and highly flawed approach to taking on the world.

Steve Jobs’ had former Intel manager Mike Markkula. At Google, Larry Page and Sergey Brin brought in Eric Schmidt (formerly of Sun Microsystems and Novell) who was appointed CEO when they realised the company’s explosive growth was exceeding their ability to manage it.

So, no matter how incredibly brilliant you think you are, every start-up needs at least one good mentor. Someone, somewhere, has already been through what you’re about to embark on.

Mistakes to avoid as an entrepreneur

Being an entrepreneur is a place of risk and reward, and the benefits are well documented. But, there are a number of pitfalls to avoid so you can keep the level of freedom that having your own business affords you:

Chasing the wrong success
If you are not careful, you can start to believe that certain material items make you “successful” and happy. You cannot buy your way to success or happiness.

Avoid this trap by thinking about and writing down what success means to you. Be conscious about what you are aiming for, and take consistent steps to reach it.

Poor communication
It’s easy to feel confident and assume that you are communicating properly with employees, contractors and mentors. But very few of us do communicate correctly.

Think about what you intend to say, and the impact you intend to have when communicating.  Use facts and leaving out any emotion linked to them. Get to your team and know how they like to be communicated to. They may need more detail than you usually provide or less. But knowing holds a lot of power for effective communication.

The customer is always right
A common misconception that can leave you worn out and exhausted. If you were to run your business as if every customer is ‘right’ can confuse your marketing messages and almost train your customers how to treat you and your staff. Instead, take on the mindset that the customer is always honoured. Customers should be treated with honour and respect.

Chasing money not freedom 
It’s easy to think that money and freedom are synonymous, but chasing money can lead to an unlived life. Money should be a byproduct, not the focus.

If you focus on short-term monetary gains, and you will never have true freedom. Rather, focus on the strength and growth of your business, and you will have money. You will also experience freedom and finances through growth and the right training.

Your background: the reasons to share your hardships

Your background, what you’ve gone through, your hardships, your triumphs and your family make you, you. So if you have gone through tough times, don’t be afraid to share them. Life isn’t made up of a stream of achievements, big wins and success.

We bury our struggles as deep as possible, and place our failures under the rug. But that’s not being real. So share your stories of struggle, there are so many reasons to.

Shine a light for others
Your hindsight can be another’s foresight. Sharing your moments of struggle can help other entrepreneurs and make them realise that they not alone. You can be that light at the end of the tunnel.

Be courageous
It’s uncomfortable admitting failure and moments of weakness. Yet allowing yourself to be vulnerable is surprisingly gratifying. Pull on your courage, and open up about your life and your business. And be honest, talk about the good and the bad. You’ll be amazed at the positive reaction you get.

People will back you
We all love a good comeback story. So share the ways in which you’ve faced adversity and bounced back. Not only will you inspire and help others, but you will be surprised by how many people will back you and your success. Think of fairytales, and how Jack fought the giant: if no one knows your struggles they’ll never know what you’ve overcome to achieve the success that you enjoy.

Reminds you of the lessons you’ve learnt
Another great reason for sharing your story is that it helps you to analyse your past. What went wrong, what went right, did you handle a situation the best way possible? What have you learnt?

Understanding what happened and how you handled situations can provide clarity about how to do things better. And share these ‘aha’ moments with others who can learn from you too.

It keeps you humble
When you realise where you’ve come from you can gain greater perspective on how hard you’ve worked to achieve what you have today.

Feeling grateful for the moment you’re in is a rare gift and a great way to keep everything in perspective. You’re always going to want more, but be in the moment and be grateful for the experiences that have led you to this point. Just the right amount of humility is important for your future success.

Characteristics of an entrepreneur

Being your own boss is an exciting prospect. However, owning a business isn’t for sissies. To be a successful entrepreneur, you must have or need to develop certain personality traits. Here are some characteristics an entrepreneur should ideally possess to start and run their own business.

Entrepreneurs are enthusiastic, optimistic and goal-oriented. They believe they’ll be successful and are willing to take risks, and have huge levels or energy. And often impatient (just warning you!). Are you self-motivated and can remain so? And do you have ‘bounce-back-ability’?

As an entrepreneur, you are in the driver’s seat, so you must be proactive in your approaches to everything. Are you a doer — someone willing to take the reins — or would you rather someone else do things for you?

Creativity and persuasiveness
Successful entrepreneurs have the ability to recognise and pursue opportunities, and this entails being a little creative. Entrepreneurs possess strong sales skills and are persuasive and persistent. You need the energy to promote your business tirelessly and look for new ways to get the word out.

Employees of an organisation usually rely on team members to provide support. As an entrepreneur, you’ll typically start out alone.

You may not have the luxury of hiring straight away, so you’ll wear several hats. Ask: am I mentally prepared to take on all of these tasks from the onset?

Business acumen
Successful entrepreneurs rely on their business skills, know-how and contacts. Evaluate your current talents, skills, network, and experience – are they readily transferable to the business you want to pursue?

One of your responsibilities as founder and leader of your company is deciding where your business will go. For that you need vision, without a vision, you will lose direction and become lost.

Flexibility and open-mindedness
While entrepreneurs need a strong vision and direction, there are many unknowns. Go with the flow, tweak plans and strategies as needed. Always, be open-minded and flexible even as an established entrepreneur.

As an entrepreneur, you won’t have time to procrastinate and hold up progress. Be decisive and seize the moment.