Newsletter#13: Working on the business vs working in the business


You can tell the difference between people who are passionate about their business, whether those are big or small businesses. Small business has one advantage over big business – the owner is closer to all activities than the CEO of a big company. If the owner is passionate, this rubs off on everyone.

This week I stayed in a large hotel in Cape Town. Usually I choose small b&b’s and guesthouses because I like to feel the local flavour of the area and I’ve always experienced that more in small owner-run places. But this week I was lecturing and stayed on in the hotel where the conference was hosted. I was pleasantly surprised because the place ran like well oiled machine.  Staff were so friendly I wanted to take them home with me. People couldn’t do enough. Everybody went the extra mile without being asked. The only real chaos was when 400 people descended on the breakfast buffet between 7:00am and 7:45am before the start of the many simultaneous conferences during the week. How did the GM get everything so right?

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Newsletter #12: How Coffee Solves Problems (and an empty fridge)


Immersion: Becoming drenched in the situation to experience it completely.

It’s a beautiful clear day, 28 degrees, and there’s a slight breeze in the air to take the edge off the heat. Perfect beach weather. So, sitting on your patio, sipping your morning coffee, you decide to spend the day at the beach.  You can almost feel the sand between your toes, and you can hear the sound of the waves lapping up on the beach. Then you get a phone call, and suddenly the day runs away from you and you don’t actually get a chance to spend the day on the beach. So you console yourself with the thought that you had your moment when you imagined your day in the sun, but is it really the same?

We adopt a similar superficial approach to solving problems in our work and businesses lives too. We identify the problem, think up a solution, and we’re happy that we’ve considered everything and so we begin to solve what we think is the problem.

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Newsletter #11: The Question is the Answer

Asking the right questions is more important than finding perfect answers to the wrong ones.

Over the last two weeks, I’ve spent some time coaching entrepreneurs. These business owners face very different challenges, but at the heart the search for the right answers lies a profound reality:  When you continually throw solutions at a problem that never goes away, you’re trying to solve the wrong problem.

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Newsletter #10: Passion in Business

I don’t know about you, but I’ve already had a great start to 2016.

During December I decided to enter Lost Soul into a screenplay competition, so I spent my December holidays learning about writing screenplays. The first thing I did on 1st January was to convert the last 10 pages of the novel to the screenplay. Now I have a 190-page screenplay to reduce to 120 pages. I’m learning from the best – JJ Abrahams (Alias, and Star Wars VII), as well as the writers of the Walking Dead.   They say “do something that scares you.” I feel well out of my comfort zone.

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Newsletter #9: Keeping Staff Motivated

How do I keep my staff motivated?

Happy silly season

I’ve just kissed 2 teenagers goodbye and watched with mixed feelings of pride and apprehension as they boarded separate planes at separate airports bound for the modern-day rite of passage called Rage. When did this become a thing? Or am I just getting old? So as parents we did the only responsible thing. We spent the next day at friends posting pictures of ourselves emptying bottles of champagne and whiskey.

One very sad and telling conversation was the one I had with my son, newly graduated from high school, last Thursday. We spoke about the legacy his generation has inherited from the ones that have gone before. He has the world of technology and communication developing at an exponential rate to enjoy, with all the daily innovation it brings. But at the same time, he stands at the brink of adulthood looking out on the world standing at the doorstep of a dying planet. Are we doing enough for our kids? Please share with me what you’re doing to recycle our world. Help encourage others to do the same.

This wasn’t supposed to be a doom and gloom message, because I’m also winding down for the year, and I want to leave you with some positive thoughts as you go into the holiday season.

One question I’ve been asked by several people recently is “how can I keep my staff motivated?”

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Newsletter #8: The hardest person to lead

I met some very interesting people this past week, and I had some memorable experiences too, one of which was spending over 5 hours in the airport lounge in Durban on Monday (16th Nov) while every flight on the board had red “delayed” indicators due to the hail in Jo’burg.  There were some very frustrated people, and some very chilled people in that airport. Which would you have been?

So during the long delay, instead of getting irritated, I decided rather to meet some fascinating people and I provided some light relief by offering the game of 30 Seconds I had in my lecturing gadget bag and passing the time having fun with a group of stranded strangers. So instead of being frustrated and bored, I made some new contacts, met an entrepreneur and a group of travel agents, had loads of fun, sold 2 copies of Porter’s Rule and had a taste of each of the wines they had on offer, some of which I actually remember.

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Newsletter #7: Getting Un-Busy

Getting Un-Busy

I seem to hit a popular note when I mentioned my thoughts about the 20 Rule in last week’s newsletter.

During this past week I’ve been lecturing young and up-coming leaders at one of the SA top 20 companies, and many of the issues they raised dovetail with this notion, that 20% of your customers consume 80% of your time, and that 80% of your customers make up only 20% of your revenue. However, my theory is that there is significant value to unlock in taking the work you do for the seemingly non-cost-effective 20% seriously. Continue reading “Newsletter #7: Getting Un-Busy”

Newsletter #6: Dealing with Failure, and Knowing When to Stop

Last week I was invited to be a guest speaker at the GIBS Entrepreneurship Club.

I spoke about what it’s like to be an entrepreneur. In a nutshell, it is at the same time exhilarating, and frightening. Rewarding at times, and a long and lonely road the rest of the time. Pockets of celebration and success and long periods of hope and disappointment, lots of trial and error. But being an entrepreneur is not much different from being a manager. 90% of your activity is operational, running a business is like managing a department. The biggest difference is that when you’re employed, it’s a lot like playing soccer for Bafana. It doesn’t matter that you don’t win a game, you’re still going to get paid. For the Entrepreneur, it’s more like walking a high wire across two skyscrapers without a safety net. Blindfolded.

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Newsletter #4: I never knew I always wanted to…

Before you skip past this newsletter and get on with more important things, complete this sentence:

“I’ve always wanted to…”

Last week’s newsletter received an even more overwhelming response than the previous week, so before I elaborate on the question I asked you to ponder, let me start with another heartfelt thank you to everyone who rated and responded. Your comments are much appreciated.

So, on with this week’s thoughts…

I never knew I always wanted to…
About 10 years ago, while I was sitting in the classrooms of my final lectures of the MBA, I Continue reading “Newsletter #4: I never knew I always wanted to…”