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The dark side of Entrepreneurship

The dark side of Entrepreneurship

Most people train in the field of entrepreneurship out of necessity. Some get formal training and some learn by the seat of their pants. I am one of those that learnt as I went on, making mistakes and paying the price. I have always found it interesting that the courses and incubators train entrepreneurs to look forward, which is what they should do. Most training involves developing exciting student skills and talents to building businesses and making the most out of opportunities. Count yourself lucky if you can get an experienced entrepreneur with failures behind him as your mentor. After all the excitement of working for yourself, building something, seeing the results and feeling the possible freedom that entrepreneurship brings, there is a dark side. Experienced entrepreneurs don’t talk about it. Even I am hesitant to do so. It might be because of ego. But I think it’s got more to do with the feeling of failure that all entrepreneurs try and avoid like the plague.

The dark side of life is there to balance the positive, so it’s not all bad.

Entrepreneur training teaches you how to build and persevere, but also provides statistics to show why you must persevere.

Statistics; let’s say, of 1 in 10 opportunities will work. The dark side is what happens with the other 9 failures. I called this the scorched earth principle.

Example: Entrepreneur Training teaches the student about initial funding, sometimes called Angel funding such as friends and family. The dark side raises the question: What happens to their money after your failures? Especially considering most of them trusted in you and your plan and aren’t business people. Most of them are salary drawers and slaves to the world without the capability to recover the amount you used in their lifetime. What maturity of thought did you use originally to use their funding and were you willing to say No to their money, despite desperately needing it for your business venture?

Closing down a business that doesn’t make money is surely the hardest thing to do, ever… and you will have to do it voluntarily, many times and manage the consequences

Be ready to leave a scorched world of debt and relationships in your entrepreneurial life. Be very ready to liquidate, sequestrate, and start literally from zero without money, bank, debt, credibility, friends or family… only your experience.

To stand up again after each total loss is as hard as starting to walk as a baby. You WILL need someone’s help much like a crutch to get up, a little bit at a time.

What will I have to show for this ‘dark side event’?

Something I always think about is how different my life would have been had I had a business mentor. Someone who played open cards with what really happens. Yes, I know young people generally starting out won’t listen.  I would have liked to know in the beginning, what would be the typical personality traits of an entrepreneur. It’s not your product, method or idea alone that will make money and success; it’s who you are, your personality and talent. I have compiled this short list of what I think the natural skills of an entrepreneur would have to be as a minimum to succeed.

Your skills should include:

    • never-ending perseverance to make things work, sometimes fail, but always stand up again
    • a thick skin to handle the negative feedback from all corners
    • unlimited creativity and problem solving skills
    • stable personal relationships
    • open-minded to receive support from the weirdest sources.

What is the experience like then?

As much as every entrepreneur dreams of the freedom that success and wealth can bring by doing his own thing, there are challenges. As this post is not about the good stuff and the good life of freedom for the entrepreneur, i will expand on the impact of this Dark side of the spectrum. Oh the doom and gloom!

  • You will constantly fight the psychological challenge of doubt and your own daemons such as self-confidence, ego, and many. I believe an entrepreneurs life is a tough life and survivable by only for certain personality types.
  • You WILL always have to smile, suck it up and turn the other cheek.
  • You WILL learn to always put business first, meaning you can’t say what you feel or want, you’ll learn to say what’s needed to get the sale.
  • You WILL learn to be  tactful in the face of tactlessness

As reward, I think the biggest benefits are that you will have a story to tell. You will have survival experience. You will have a life worth handing over to your kids.

A final word of caution. Be careful taking advice from entrepreneurs who haven’t felt this dark side and survived it. I found the worst mentors to take advice from are those that have only had successes. Or even worse are those who’s first projects and business were successful. They still have much to learn about being a successful entrepreneur over a long period, revealing a more yin yang view of this lifestyle.

Always ask a mentor about this dark side and pay heed to his advice. We hate talking about it, but we know these experiences are defining in being an entrepreneur.

Is building your business like climbing stairs?

Is building your business like climbing stairs?

Building a business, especially during the start-up phase can be like climbing giant stairs…literally

From the word go, you hit steep vertical challenges, seemingly higher than yourself. One of these verticals is to figure out how to get to the top. Do you use a ladder, stand on something or ask someone for a hand? Once you conquer this, you reach a plateau that is usually of concern, as flat doesn’t appear to be growth, until the next vertical challenge. And so you climb the business ladder, alternating between vertical and horizontal, all the while getting higher and higher.

Further to fall, if you should, but also more steps below you to break your fall, so you don’t fall too far back.

On the vertical, don’t worry, climb straight up, there is a top. On the horizontals, make sure you move forward to the next vertical and not sideways. Sideways will get you to fall off the sides and like snakes and ladders, you will end up on the ground or much lower on the stairs.

Other people that are trying to get to where you are are also climbing. You are very rarely alone in your vision or industry. Some will stop climbing, others will push past, and others will stray off the sides.

Make sure you use the railings to take a break now and again.

“The nature of an entrepreneur is to climb his stairs not because he knows what’s on top of each step, but because he doesn’t, and desperately wants to know.”

The biggest obstacles to digitising your business

The biggest obstacles to digitising your business

Let’s explore the concept of digitization.  When we refer to the digitization of a business, we are talking about more than having a website, a Facebook presence and an e-commerce site.  Digitization refers to taking every process within a business and redefining them with the use of technology where storage takes place in a cloud environment.  We like to use the example, if there was a fire tomorrow, would your business be able to continue functioning the next day?  The same is true for staff leaving an organisation.  Do they take the knowledge of the company away with them, or are there processes in place for this intelligence to be retained in the business?  This problem exists both within small and big business, and with current rapid technological change, the danger exists that they could be left behind.

What are the biggest obstacles?

A general understanding of technology within a business begins with the drivers of the business, whether the CEO, CFO or Chairman.  Leadership must drive with the appropriate mindset if they are to cope with the changes and steer the organisation into the clear.  This understanding involves amongst other things, the understanding that digitization takes away risk within the organisation.  Digital transformation essentially starts with leadership transformation.  When digitization becomes core and is woven into the DNA of the concern, this will result in a much bigger success for the business.The forming of a digital department with the objective of unifying the entire companies digital initiative can move the company beyond a situation where information exists in silos to the formation of a congruent goal.

The third piece of the puzzle for consideration is the people and skills within the organisation and how they fulfill their tasks.  South African businesses need to up-skill or find replacement skills to stay ahead.  Employees are in a position where they need to self-educate to get comfortable with technology and gauge how this can affect their jobs.   Tuit has structured itself to offer training, even the Facebook Live sessions we stream every Thursday is aimed at educating our clients with regards technological changes.  Tuit Training assists with best of breed software and how to digitize with the use of a CRM system.  The use of Outlook is a risk as the client relationship information exists in individual pockets, using a CRM creates a central hub where all client knowledge and communication exists for use by many individuals.

Taking a business into the 21st century will be a little painful but the obstacles are not insurmountable and the rewards are worth the effort.  Keeping an open mind is critical to successful adaptation.  Microsoft is a great example of an 80’s company that has been very successful in adapting themselves to new trends.

Recent research has shown that the most important skills for the next working generation will be to be digitally literate.  We have launched an initiative known as Coding for Kids, where young children can learn how to code. The launch will take place in September and the first intake will be in January 2017.  A similar initiative will be launched for adults, not to change careers but to aid in literacy and so doing, break barriers.

This article was put together from excepts on our Facebook Live video, where we conducted a Dual Stream Video, we believe to be a first in South Africa. 

Please click HERE to view the video.

CRM Is About More Than Just Newsletters

CRM Is About More Than Just Newsletters

The forgotten son of digital marketing

The digital marketing landscape is evolving at a rapid pace, and businesses can be forgiven for investing a lot of time and energy into social media campaigns and other digital marketing efforts.  Be careful not to lose sight of the fact that consumers are exposed to so much information on their social media newsfeeds, that if your content is not top-notch, you will get lost in the noise.  Digital marketing is more than just social media.  It is an intricate ecosystem of applications, processes, networks and methodologies that generates a huge amount of data. The value you gain from this data can be maximized with the right Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution.

Combined data = more insight into your customer

Effective marketing professionals understand that the value of social goes beyond ROI and conversions. Less tangible benefits, like brand awareness and market intelligence are also generated from social media.  Incorporating an efficient CRM system in your digital marketing strategy will help you gain the most from both. You will have all the benefits of social insights combined with CRM capabilities to strategise marketing efforts, create campaigns, and measure your results.

 

It won’t cost you an arm and a leg

If you have a customer database, whatever the size or format, you can start harnessing the power of a CRM system without breaking the bank. If you already have a CRM system, but have only been using it to send newsletters from time to time, here are some of the other powerful benefits of a CRM system that could breathe new life into your business.

  1. One single view of the customer 

Channels have increased, and there’s no way around it. Customers interact with your product or service, both online and offline. But it might be in a browser on their laptop, or on a phone. They can browse, buy, email, tweet, search, like, share, review… the list goes on! There are so many ways to interact with your customers. All the interaction is impossible for any one team to keep track of. What a CRM system will allow you to do, is store all the data that you have at the customer level, in one place.  If we were to collect all your data, put it in one place, and show you the full 360 of each of your customers, would you take it? You’d be crazy not to!

  1. Segmentation

As you and your customer embark on this journey together, you will get to know your customer and his behaviour better with every interaction.  Make use of every opportunity to add information to you customer’s profile by adding tags.  In the long run you should end up with well-defined segments, containing customers who have interacted with your business in a certain way in each segment. This enables you to tailor specific massages to specific segments, e.g. Your message to someone who is tagged as a prospect will be a call to action or special offer to convert him from a prospect to a buying customer.  Your message to existing customers will be one that is aimed at invoking loyalty and repeat purchases i.e. nurturing.  You can decide how deep you want to drill into the data and how many segments you want to differentiate, and it need not be very complicated.

As you continue to use CRM to monitor and review your interactions with your prospects, you’ll discover that CRM is a goldmine of information that helps you to communicate relevant information to the right customer at the right time.

  1. Creating a tailored, yet automated customer experience

Now that you have used segmentation to convert that prospect into a customer, a CRM system allows you to take the customer on a journey with you.  But there’s a fine line between gently guiding your customer to buy again and barraging them with e-mails and calls, yet nurturing is vital.

The Annuitas Group found that nurtured leads make 47 percent larger purchases than non-nurtured leads. With sales cycles becoming increasingly complex, customer relationship management (CRM) systems have never been more vital.  You can set-up certain triggers to get in touch with your customer.  It could be as simple as an e-mail on the customer’s birthday, offering a special discount.  Another example is to use CRM to guide a customer through an ordering process, keeping them up to date on the status of their order. The possibilities are endless.  With some creativity, and putting yourself in the customer’s shoes, you can craft each and every interaction with your customer to suit his needs.

  1. Knowledge is power

CRM can help you pinpoint which content marketing pieces were the most successful and which failed to deliver. Using the digital trail, you’ll know whether the increase in customer response is based on the social media campaign, the newsletter or a specific promotion. Using this information strategically can help you study each part of your marketing strategy so that you can plan, enhance previous campaigns, and eliminate those that have no effect.