Decide to live a rewarding life

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Every one of us seeks to be in a position where we feel enriched in any relationship we invest our efforts in, such as those with colleagues, business partners, suppliers and customers.

We want to feel that we play a meaningful part in them and then to be able to offer ourselves with an open heart each time. This is where we are fully engaged in what we do. We can all feel this way; it is possible because we possess everything we need in order to feel this way.

The first thing is to show interest and get involved. That is one lesson that I learnt about getting ahead. In my career, in my pursuits for RareRabbit, in getting involved in many exciting projects within the BMF. I always show interest and I genuinely want to be involved in things that require me to stretch a little further than myself.

This energy that is restless within us is life seeking expression. We need to find noble ways to let that out and see just what more we can become.

The next thing that you need to consider doing is to put some skin in the game. Put simply, commit. Very few people are willing to go the distance and put their head on the proverbial chopping block for what they believe in. This is where we fall short and rob ourselves of what could possibly be the most enriching experiences in our lives.

Not putting skin in the game is the same as learning how to swim without every actually getting into the water. You’ll never know that rush of the ice cold water hitting your skin then swallowing it up, the thrill of being fully immersed under water, that feeling of momentarily feeling really alive!

In this New Year, resolve to live with your heart wide open, to put skin in the game to be truly enriched. It is in doing this that you enrich others. When we are all happy and inspired the vibrations of our combined energies soar and bring us to our highest selves.

Each person leaves a legacy — a single, small piece of herself, which makes richer each individual life and the collective life of humanity as a whole.” ― John Nichols, The Nirvana Blues.

How to build a business that will outlive you

built to last

The topic today speaks to my personal path of building a business that becomes great such as the likes of Apple and Microsoft.

My two cents on this matter is as follows.

Determine what your purpose is, that is the spirit which you will pour into your business. To do this well, one needs to rid themselves of internal conflict or cognitive dissonance over what it is they believe they are here (on earth) to do. One way to find out is to look for that golden thread in all your areas of involvement. Are you passionate about being an enabler for others or are good at starting projects from nothing and enjoy seeing them grow.

Next is to think about what exactly it is you want your business to stand for. This is the why, why are you in business? It is normally linked to your purpose. So spend time considering what you stand for and what would your employees be volunteering for if your company was a social movement? Can this be something which you view as a dedication to your life’s work?

What problem is your business providing a solution to? I have asked several consultants on business development what it was that they find start-ups tend to get wrong. In many ways they have told me that start-ups tend to underestimate the market for their products. This leads to understated budget forecasts which in turn frustrate operations. Knowing your market requires an understanding of what it is that drives your client’s purchase decision and what factors influence your own margins. This information will help you know what to manage during an economic boom as well as during a recession as the client’s (and your) context becomes different which impacts their purchase decision.

Where is your client? The client or customer has to be top of mind throughout every effort you make in your business. Companies (even the big ones) can get so deeply involved with themselves and forget adding value to their client. The client is the person who determines whether or not we have a business to run in the first place. So we need to place them squarely at the centre of each strategic plan, product development and restructuring process. A word of caution however is, do not try to be all things to all people. Ensure that in doing things right (for the client) you are doing the right things.

Consider the specific type of client your business is providing solutions for. Your mission statement and values statement will help profile the type of client you are targeting. Tim Williams, lead consultant at Ignition Consulting group, states that a business is defined by the clients and services it does not have. To further illustrate this point, Williams states that narrow companies can have large markets; companies such as Mittlestand and Basecamp are a case in point. It is through their focus that they have developed specialisation in their fields. One would travel (and spend a pretty penny) for a specialist doctor whilst no one would do the same for a GP.

Governance in small businesses

corporate governance

The word governance refers to the processes of ruling or controlling resources in particular. The pillars of corporate governance are ethics and risk and main elements of governance are fairness, accountability, responsibility and transparency.

The increased importance of governance in business today is from the collapse corporations such as Lehman Brothers, Enron and WorldCom as a result of breaks downs in one or in the case of Enron, all of the elements of corporate governance.

Corporate governance as a practice has grown immensely subsequent to the economic impacts of the collapse of these global giants and has been strictly required of large corporations. Organisations of this size are powerful and they tend be most at risk of such power being abused by individuals on the other hand this places investors and other stakeholder with legitimate claims to the corporation at the mercy of management and this relationship is a risk of being abused.

The question now however is whether small businesses should be expected to instil good governance procedures in their companies. It is said that compliance with the codes of good corporate governance such as Sarbanes Oxley in the US in particular costs companies millions per annum and yet they don’t necessarily prevent impropriety from occurring where good corporate governance is concerned. So what then is the point for small businesses many of whom barely make enough to get by?

The opposing view particularly among advocates of codes such as the King 3 report (SA) and the Combined Code (UK) will tell you that investors are more likely to pay a premium for equity in a well governed company than pay a discount for one that has no proof of adequate controls or governance measures in place.

What then of small businesses?

Well according to research by 4imprint, a research company which provides “how-to” articles based on this research, small businesses should start integrating corporate governance practices in order to support its investors.

Corporate Secretary, an online publication on governance, says reasons for corporate governance in a small business are;

Small companies are always growing so they need to implement policies and procedures ahead of time. This will eliminate future risk of growing bigger in the future such as insidious growth of the wrong culture of distrust or abuse of power.

Regulations, unfortunately part of being in business is to comply with regulation and a big part of this regulation is to ensure that the business has transparent procedures and policies that provide its employees with a framework on how to conduct business while still being compliant with the law.

So how can this be done exactly?

An advisory board is probably the simplest way in which this can be done as it would be composed of independent members who are able to help the organisation identify risks, address conflict of interest and identify how the business can operate optimally. This advisory board can be a type of business “mentor” to the small business and by extension would fulfil a function similar to a board of directors in a large corporation.

Further to this the small business should consider consistent financial reporting which will equip it with the resources it needs to closely monitor its revenues and expenses. These records will also serve to hold staff accountable and promote transparency.

Lastly, addressing compensation and benefits by means of a kind of policy or protocol for how staff (owners included) is remunerated. Once again this promotes transparency and fairness and goes a long way to ensuring that in the future the company has entrenched in its culture the moral code of doing the right thing.

 

 

 

Sources:

Corporate secretary.com

SA Business Index

4Imprint

Spike Lee’s Mo’Ne Davis Ad Settles the Whole ‘Throwing Like a Girl’ Thing

This brings new meaning to the derogatory phrase “Like a girl”. #likeagirl.
#brandswithconcience.

TIME

The World Series is upon us, but 13-year-old Little League superstar Mo’ne Davis is still the most talked-about player in baseball. Director Spike Lee teamed up with Chevrolet to create a commercial featuring the young pitcher, who made the cover of Sports Illustrated this year after becoming the first girl in history to throw a shutout during the Little League World Series.

In the ad, Davis reads an open letter to America: “I throw 70 miles per hour. That’s throwing like a girl,” she says.

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Ban the word bossy. Sheryl Sandberg lights up TEDWomen 2013

Not bossy, executive leadership skills!

TED Blog

Photo: Marla Aufmuth “That little girl’s not bossy. That little girl has executive leadership skills,” Sheryl Sandberg, left, tells TEDWomen co-host Pat Mitchell at TEDWomen 2013. Photo: Marla Aufmuth

“It’s nice to look out and see so many women. That’s not my norm,” Sheryl Sandberg comments drily as she takes her place onstage at TEDWomen 2013  at the SFJazz Center. She’s here to talk with co-host Pat Mitchell, in a Q&A follow-up to her incendiary 2010 TED Talk, given at a TEDWomen three years before.

First, Mitchell asks her to remember the process of putting together that talk. The subject matter wasn’t her first choice; in fact, Sandberg recalls that she’d had absolutely no intention of talking about anything so personal. “In the business world, you never talk about being a woman, because someone might notice you’re a woman,” she says. Friends told her that if she gave a “woman’s” talk, it…

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What life taught me

LifeLessons

What life has taught me.

In the process of thinking about my next topic I decided to rather tackle a life hack on what life has taught me. This title came to mind as I reflected on leadership and business lessons and how they appear to merge as ultimately they are human lessons and apply to us all whether we run businesses or are managing ourselves through them.

A few days ago I was on a Skype call with my mastermind group and it was our last call for the quarter. Each of us had grown considerably from where we were initially. The hurry we each once had had quietened down replaced by a deep focus and peace with the places we each found ourselves at.

The mastermind group had been started with the intention of helping us reach our individual dreams of success and it was by fortunate coincidence that we all desired to establish profitable business so from the onset our paths were aligned. Week in and week out we planned and fine-tuned our ideas celebrating the wins for each week. This process fuelled us even more awakening within each of us what felt like a sleeping giant. We became automated producing results in a very short space of time given that others in our positions took months even years to achieve a large part of those things.

Now looking back, we began sharing the lessons that we have learnt particularly those that we intend to apply going forward.

It appears that everyone has lessons that they have been taught by life (through the process of living), if we all took a moment to reflect on those lessons, we’d be better people, and perhaps the world might even be a slightly better place for it.

My top 5 of what life has taught me is inspired mostly by the books I’ve read or audio books I’ve listened to, the leaders I aspire to become like, those I model and most importantly my mastermind.

  1. Find yourself and understand who that is, you can’t be of value to anyone if you are not living your truth. It was in one of Oprah’s Master Class videos that Oprah said authentic power is when the personality comes fully to serve the energy of its soul. That is one lesson that has stayed with me. I understand now that everything will change yet in that turmoil let your soul guide you to who you are at that point and all will be well. Be true to who you are, always!

 

  1. Relationships are key:

The inner circle: One of the most important relationships you will build is one with members of your inner circle. These are people who you can trust to be honest with you at all times and not when it serves them. These people will also grow you emotionally and support your dreams. They are the people who will remain, choose them carefully as there needs to be commitment, reliability and perfect harmony in your relationship with them. To quote Napoleon Hill, “there are two characteristics of the Master Mind principle, one of which is economic in nature and the other psychic”. He goes on to say that “the economic advantages may be created by any person who surrounds himself with the advice, counsel, and personal cooperation of a group of people who are willing to lend him wholehearted aid, in a spirit of perfect harmony”.

The psychic phase of the Master Mind principle is much more abstract, Hill states that it is much more difficult to comprehend, because it has reference to the spiritual forces with which the human race, as a whole, is not well acquainted. “No two minds ever come together without, thereby, creating a third, invisible, intangible force which may be likened to a third mind.”

Communication: another key aspect of relationships is you cannot not have them and therefore you cannot not communicate. I learnt to always read the mood of the day with people because this will guide you how to approach them particularly if you need something from them. Added to this, providing feedback to others requires tact. And when you realise that you may have offended someone, always go back to close the loop which essentially takes away that awkward tension of leaving things on a bad note. This earns you respect and shows others that you are an adult.

People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”~ John Maxwell.

  1. Reflection is necessary

Most, if not all of us, are striving for something and we are prepared to keep going in pursuit of worthy goals without end. Sometimes till we deplete our last strength. This point is generally a good place to look back and take stock of where you come from, where you had expected to be and reconcile with yourself. It is here that you develop your sense of peace and find your flow. From personal experience I have found that reflection is a place where I rest my mind, it tends to create a sense of congruence within me and thus focus. When my mind is rested, my body is good to keep pursuing away. Wallace Wattles in the Science of being great said, “You are not developed by what you read but by what you think of what you read”. I interpret this as saying go through the various experiences then filter them and get a sense of your understanding of them then apply those lessons as you move forward.

  1. Energy doesn’t lie

John Maxwell in his book, The 21 Irrefutable laws of leadership speaks of the law of magnetism. To me this is the same as energy, and my understanding is that energy or vibes that people or situations send out to you, tend to be honest 90% of the time and we need to;

  • Manage the energy we give off because others pick up that vibe AND
  • Manage our energy because we attract whatever energy we give off
  • Trust our intuition (gut feeling) about this energy because it’s your sub-conscious mind warning you. It speaks in whispers and tends to only speak once and then honours whatever decision you make

If you listen to any person considered a leader or influential you’ll note they speak about that small voice inside, others will say it’s God or even their inner self. What you call it is not important, it’s what you do when that voice speaks to you that matters. In the book The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, the inner voice plays a big part in Santiago, the shepherd’s story. Don’t silence your inner voice and possibly miss your big moment.

  1. Success is a result of remaining with the problem a little longer than the next guy.

The simple lesson here is to keep going, it will be hard sometimes and most times you will appear to be going against the tide. You may slow down too but just don’t stop, don’t betray your vision. Remember Muhammad Ali’s “I will show you how great I am..I’m so mean I make medicine sick!

Watch video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pm78J0JvtQA

I challenge you to list your top 5 things that life has taught you, I’m certain your list will be longer than that and that you’d be amazed by what you learn!

Knowing when to step down

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We ALWAYS know when others should step down from positions of leadership, yet when the person in question is us, there are often many conflicting thoughts.

From a personal perspective, I’ve recently had to have the same conversation with myself. This was after a friend pointed out that although I may have been feeling emotionally disengaged; I have to consider the possible damage this would cause to my legacy.

I suddenly felt the need to spend a fair amount of time considering why I am doing the things I do, what values and beliefs they symbolized and whether those beliefs I hold are still true.

In relaying my woes to my coach, she said I should consider the WIIFM (What’s in it for me) factor. In short, I need to figure out whether where I am still served me and how I can add value to myself as well as be of service to others.

Rob Asghar, in his Forbes article on knowing when to go, states that “there is a universal tendency among leaders to hurt their own cause by clinging to power.” He goes on to say – “George Washington’s greatest contribution to a young American nation wasn’t his strategic ability or his wartime fortitude but it was his insistence that, in order for America to be a viable democracy, it needed leaders who were willing to step aside.”

This sounds so poetic, yet somehow balancing this against the fear of a tarnished legacy I can see how it happens that great leaders stay long enough to see themselves become the “bad guys”.

It’s in acting from a negative place that this happens. Negativity is insidious, it permeates all the good we have done and before we know every single thing that we once did right and well becomes tainted.

I want to be remembered for the good things I’ve done. I want them to remember me for the passion and commitment I showed in the direction of the things that mattered to me. I care about people, I am obsessed with being an agent of change and I want to have made an eternal impression in the lives of others. I want to inspire them to make more of themselves than they ever thought was possible.

It was Nelson Mandela who said that “what counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”

That is my big why, my purpose, my dharma.

Now equipped with this awareness, I am able to conduct a self-analysis on a deeper, more meaningful level the outcome of which will enable me to remain relevant, create a new environment and in going about these things I would be growing both my knowledge base and my networks.

Brands with purpose

A few weeks ago I was honoured to get an invite to The Creative Council’s (TCC) breakfast event which was a review of the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. From the review, my key take out was that the brands of the future are brands which are able to touch the hearts and minds of their consumers.

In short, they are brands with purpose. I recall one of the videos played at the breakfast with Jared Leto saying F$@k your advertising. To paraphrase, he says he wants to know that there is an organisation on the other side of the ad that cares about him and his reality. That was powerful for me.

In a world where consumers have access to information at their fingertips, they are no longer looking for you as organisation ABC to tell them which product or service is better purely from a jingle and a sexy girl or guy but they are looking at whether or not your company connects with them and where they come from.

TCC took us through a few advertisements which are doing just that, the Pantene ad campaign #Not Sorry and the Proctor and Gamble campaign called #Like A Girl. Organisations now have to become people experts and in a genuine way, they need to relate to the consumers of their products without treating them like idiots. This brings to mind the brightly coloured, patronising adverts used to relate to the black consumer group in South Africa.

The big advertising and marketing companies who presented at Cannes believe that through the use of neuroscience in advertising it enables an organisation, through advertising to change the perceptions of consumers because it’s when you change a perception that you can effectively control one’s reality.

This can be very scary for the consumer as essentially one would feel vulnerable and manipulated. In the same breath I’d say that people can only be fooled a limited number of times until they are onto you, thereafter they write you off…for good.

This brings me to the ordinary organisation, the one that’s too concerned with their brand key, and the demographics of the people who make the buying decision about their brand. This applies to that organisation too. They need to connect with their internal and external stakeholders in a similar way.

The focus is back on mission statements. In the book Built to Last the authors identify this as one of the separators of great long lasting businesses from the not so great. I always remember the TED Talk by Simon Sinek on how great leaders inspire action. This holds true in this instance as well. If I think of myself as a consumer  of a vast number of products actively and passively, I am no longer buying into organisations that I don’t connect with. I want an organisation that speaks to my mind and heart at the same time.

I believe that consumer expectations are what’s dictating the future structure and policies of organisations, so as an organisation you can no longer afford to ignore them.

For more about the videos I mentioned please see:

Proctor & Gamble Like a girl campaign:

Pantene Not sorry campaign:

Simon Sinek How great leaders inspire action: