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When running a business is like running

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Starting your own business can be scary at times. Sometimes we find ourselves questioning whether or not we can do it, but DARLENE MENZIES, CEO of SMEasy, says you can and shares some motivation tips.

Starting and growing a business is a long road, with many uphill climbs along the way. While you may enjoy many aspects of being your own boss and building your own business it can also be lonely, tiring and at times even a terrifying experience. The question is: what is going to keep you putting one foot in front of the other when things get tough?

Building a business is like running the Comrades Marathon: it’s a long distance race, not a short sprint and there are steep hills and lonely stretches along the way. To make it, you need to ensure you have a positive attitude and a deep-seated belief in yourself from the get-go. You also need to learn to maintain this enthusiastic, optimistic mindset for the long haul, regardless of the challenges you encounter.

One of the secrets to ensuring that you keep moving forward, irrespective of setbacks, is to acknowledge up front that setbacks are going to occur: it’s not all going to be roses. In business, as in life, it is as important to be realistic as it is to be optimistic. Mental preparation is powerful. Have a strategy for how to deal with the disappointments, fear and the loneliness that comes with building a business.

When you start on the entrepreneurship road, you need to know what you’re in for, as well as ensure that you have the motivation to keep going day after day. Veteran entrepreneur Menzies shares her top marathon motivation tips:

> It’s not a sprint: If you come flying out of the starting blocks, the chances are that you are going to lose steam and fall out of the race. You need to learn to pace yourself and to mentally prepare yourself for the long road ahead. Hard work and long hours are inevitable and also necessary to succeed, but so is sleep. An all-nighter here and there is fine, but doing months of them on end will be detrimental to your business. Remember that slow and steady wins the race.

> You’re got to do the dreaded training: No runner wants to get up 4am to do a training run, but there are some things that have to be done to ensure your dreams come true and you reach that finish line. Likewise, you have to face the things that you don’t enjoy doing in your business and just do them. Admin is a good example – you may not feel like doing it, but it’s vital to your business’s survival. Poor admin and record keeping is one of the primary causes of business failure.

> Get kitted out: While some people are complete enigmas and can win a marathon literally wearing no shoes, the rest of us need all of the gear, including compression socks and high quality shoes. The same applies when you’re building a business; you need to invest in the right equipment, appropriate office space and technology and, most importantly, a quality team to ensure a successful result.

> Put the hours in: Comrades runners have to clock up hundreds of the hours on the road if they hope to finish the race. Building a business also requires long hours and hard work, especially in the initial years. The reality is that the only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary. You’ve got to put the hours in.

> The importance of refueling: Runners need energy drinks and nutritious food during a marathon to refuel if they are going to make it to the finish line. Likewise, entrepreneurs need to refuel after periods of hard work and stress. For some people, refueling may be a night on the town with good friends, for others a spa treatment or maybe just taking a day out to watch a new series in your PJs. Whatever it is for you, make sure you do it. Refueling is a necessity, not an indulgence.

> Let go of the bad days: Every single marathon runner has moments when they feel defeated. For an entrepreneur, it’s inevitable. You need to remind yourself during times of disappointment or discouragement that it’s not permanent; a bad day is not a bad business. Tomorrow is a new day that holds new solutions and new opportunities.

> You need a support system: Marathon runners need someone to second them during the race, and having a group of supporters cheering them on makes the world of difference. The same goes for business: it is vital that you have support. Find trusted, experienced, credible people you can go to for advice and encouragement when it’s needed, whether this is a mentor or fellow entrepreneur or a small business networking group. Support is vital for success – for more on this see http://bit.ly/28UopSw .

> Have clear goals: Just like a runner may aim for a sub-four hour marathon, you need to have some clear goals when it comes to your business. If you aim at nothing, that’s exactly what you’ll achieve. Write down your objectives for your business and define what achieving them will accomplish for you – whether that be money, freedom, status, creativity or independence. Once you have done this, you’ll know exactly where you are going and will be motivated to get there.

While building your business can be a tough and lonely marathon, it is also incredibly fulfilling and rewarding. Nothing will beat that feeling of crossing the finish line. The same goes for achieving your goals in your business. Give it all you’ve got, enjoy the good times, hang in during the tough times. It’s worth it.

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Gadget goes to Hollywood

Gadget visited the Netflix studios last week. In the first of a series, ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK talks to CEO Reed Hastings.

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Netflix CEO Reed Hastings is no stranger to Africa. He has travelled throughout South Africa, taught maths in Swaziland for two years with the Peace Corps, and visits close family in Maputo. As a result, he is keenly aware of the South African entertainment and connectivity landscape.

In an exclusive interview at the Netflix studios in Hollywood, Los Angeles, last week, he revealed that Netflix had no intentions of challenging MultiChoice’s dominance of live sports broadcasting on the continent.

“Other firms will do sport and news; we are trying to focus on movies and TV shows,” he said. “There are a lot of areas that are video that we are not doing: sports, news, video gaming, user-generated content. We don’t have live sport.

Reed Hastings at the Netflix studios in Hollywood last week. Pic: ADAM ROSE

“We’re not replacing MultiChoice at all. Their subscriber growth is steady in South Africa. They serve a need that’s independent of the Internet, via low-price satellite. There is no intention of capturing that audience. If they’re growing, it’s because they serve a need.”

While Reed ruled out any collaboration with MultiChoice on its satellite delivery platform, despite its collaboration with another pay-TV service, Sky TV in the United Kingdom, he did not close the door. He stressed that Netflix saw itself as an Internet-based service, and would pursue the opportunities offered by evolving broadband in Africa.

“If you look in other markets like the USA, how Comcast carries us on set-top boxes with their other services, it could happen with MultiChoice, the same as with all the pay-TV providers.

“We’re really focused on being a service over the Internet and not over satellite. Our service doesn’t work on satellite. Where we work with Sky is on Internet-connected devices. We’re happy to work on Internet-connected devices. We tend to work on smart TVs, but need broadband Internet for that.

“Broadband is getting faster in Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa – we can see the positive trendlines – so it’s more likely we will work with broadband Internet companies.”

Hastings is a firm believer in the idea that one content provider’s success does not depend on pushing another down.

“HBO has grown at the same time as we have, so can see our success doesn’t determine their success. What matters is amazing content with which the world falls in love.”

Click here to read on about Hastings’ views on international expansion, and how the streaming service selects content for its platform.

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Take these 5 steps to digital

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By MARK WALKER, Associate Vice President for Sub-Saharan Africa at IDC Middle East, Africa and Turkey.

Digital transformation isn’t a buzz word because it sounds nice and looks good on the business CV. It is fundamental to long-term business success. IDC anticipates that 75% of enterprises will be on the path to digital transformation by 2027. 

However, digital transformation is not a process that ticks a box and moves to the next item on the agenda – it is defined by the organisation’s shift towards a digitally empowered infrastructure and employee. It is an evolution across system, infrastructure, process, individual and leadership and should follow clear pathways to ensure sustainable success.

The nature of the enterprise has changed completely with the influence of digital, cloud and the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), and success is reliant on strategic change.

There is a lot more ownership and transparency throughout the organisation and there is a responsibility that comes with that – employees want access to information, there has to be speed in knowledge, transactions and engagement. To ensure that the organisation evolves alongside digital and demand, it has to follow five very clear pathways to long-term, achievable success.

The first of these is to evaluate where the enterprise sits right now in terms of its digital journey. This will differ by organisation size and industry, as well as its reliance on technology. A smaller organisation that only needs a basic accounting function or the internet for email will have far different considerations to a small organisation that requires high-end technology to manage hedge funds or drive cloud solutions. The same comparisons apply to the enterprise-level organisation. The mining sector will have a completely different sub-set of technology requirements and infrastructure limitations to the retail or finance sectors.

Ultimately, every organisation, regardless of size or industry, is reliant on technology to grow or deliver customer service, but their digital transformation requirements are different. To ensure that investment into artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, knowledge engines, automation and connectivity are accurately placed within the business and know exactly where the business is going.

The second step is to examine what the business wants to achieve. Again, the goals of the organisation over the long and short term will be entirely sector dependent, but it is essential that it examine what the competitive environment looks like and what influences customer expectations. This understanding will allow for the business to hone its digital requirements accordingly.

The third step is to match expectations to reality. You need to see how you can move your digital transformation strategy forward and what areas require prioritisation, what funding models will support your digital aspirations, and how this tie into what the market wants. Ultimately, every step of the process has to be prioritised to ensure it maps back to where you are and the strategic steps that will take you to where you want to go.

The fourth step is to look at the operational side of the process. This is as critical as any other aspect of the transformation strategy as it maps budget to skills to infrastructure in such a way as to ensure that any project delivers return on investment. Budget and funding are always top of mind when it comes to digital transformation – these are understandably key issues for the business. How will it benefit from the investment? How will it influence the customer experience? What impact will this have on the ongoing bottom line? These questions tie neatly into the fifth step in the process – the feedback loop.

This is often the forgotten step, but it is the most important. The feedback loop is critical to ensuring that the digital transformation process is achieving the right results, that the right metrics are in place, and that the needle is moving in the right direction. It is within this feedback loop that the organisation can consistently refine the process to ensure that it moves to each successive step with the right metrics in place.

There is also one final element that every organisation should have in place throughout its digital evolution. An element that many overlook – engagement. There must be a real desire to change, from the top of the organisation right down to the bottom, and an understanding of what it means to undertake this change and why it is essential. This is why this will be a key discussion at the 2019 IDC South Africa CIO Summit taking place in April this year. With this in place, the five steps to digital transformation will make sense and deliver the right results.

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