Author - Zain

Don’t overlook the wisdom all around us

The global market economy is facing a tough time, with billions of dollars lost this week alone – and the local market is following suit. The outlook is negative and some economies are preparing for another crisis. This does not provide an inspiring environment for someone looking to start or grow a business. Something could be wrong with how we have been running big business. Perhaps entrepreneurs will need to look for inspiration elsewhere. The enthusiastic optimist in me is eager to find different, unconventional sources of inspiration. Myles Munroe, a prominent author and life coach, once said: “The wealthiest places in the world are not the diamond mines in South Africa or the banks of the world … In the cemetery is buried the greatest treasure of untapped potential.” In contrast, I wonder if we can seek inspiration from the wisdom that is around us but often overlooked. Dr Miles Munroe and wife...

Just Go With It

I used to sell a lot of things in the township when I was young. I sold everything from 10c sweets and lunchtime snacks to a few second-hand appliances. My customers were teachers, classmates and the nurses at the hospital where my mother worked. The extra income helped our single-parent household. I loved business; I still do. I saw opportunities and went for them, turning a handsome profit. But I never saw myself as a traditional “entrepreneur”. Entrepreneurship is often portrayed as a scary and elusive thing. You must have completed an in-depth market analysis. You need an amazing idea to get there. You should be a born risk-taker. A bold, super-special being. These “requirements” clearly meant that I did not fit the entrepreneurial mould. So, like many, I initially opted for the safety of a corporate job, even though I was running a profitable small business in-between lectures at the University...

Work not just to earn, but to learn widely

I recently revisited a set of childhood parables on financial independence written by Robert Kiyosaki and Sharon Lechter in the bestselling book Rich Dad Poor Dad. I remain intrigued that, almost 20 years after its initial publication and worldwide success, the majority of the book’s simple and relevant insights remain widely underutilised. Even though many of us aspire to achieve wealth and financial independence, few of us choose the path that could get us there, such as owning a business or making strategic investments. As a result, our economy continues to suffer from low levels of entrepreneurship and high levels of unemployment. Our society continues to define getting a job as a sign of success, when jobs should be seen as a means to an end, not the final destination. In fact, we should be choosing to be in a job because we want to learn certain skills that will help...

The man in the arena: Be a bold supporter, not a critic

‘It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena …” These are the unforgettable word s uttered by US president Theodore Roosevelt in 1910, a little more than a decade after America had emerged as a new world power. He wanted to emphasise that the success of a country rests on the quality of its leaders and the discipline of its citizens, as opposed to the distracting commentary of others. There is a reason that his words are still referred to in presidential speeches and literature. Nelson Mandela, whose passing we commemorated this week, gave a copy of Roosevelt’s words to the captain of the South African rugby team, Francois Pienaar, just before the team proceeded to beat the All...

Out of Africa, always lessons for SA

The many challenges and opportunities that come from doing business in Africa have been studied and documented by international and local stakeholders interested in benefiting from the region’s significant growth opportunities. I am often puzzled by how some South Africans react when this topic of doing business in Africa comes up. Typically, two groups emerge. One becomes completely engaged as its members are expanding into the rest of Africa or plan to. The second group becomes completely disengaged as its members have no plans to “go into Africa” and are often surprised that I give talks to South African business audiences on doing business in Africa, as this apparently would alienate executives and entrepreneurs not interested in expanding into the region. Both groups are fundamentally flawed in their mindset. All insights on doing business in Africa are based on having reviewed the African region as a whole, South Africa included. So the insights...

Angel investors must let start-ups learn from mistakes

The smallest cash infusion can make a big difference It is puzzling that early-stage investing in new businesses in South Africa is not growing as fast as it should, irrespective of economic factors. It stays low year on year even with initiatives to foster an uptick, from the section 12J venture-capital class introduced by the state, to various “angel investor” networks driven by private investors. We cannot wholly place the burden on investors – entrepreneurs need to play their part in being investor-ready and having the guts to put themselves out there and find the right financial supporters. This step is difficult for many, especially since being at an early stage might mean you have no clue how to present yourself and your product in an investable way. Let us also put it down to the low levels of understanding nationwide of what it means to be an investable entrepreneur. Unless you...

Learn from youth’s street smarts

Informal learning helps mould new leaders. With Youth Day having been celebrated this week, at a time when the economy is in the state it is, I cannot help but be reminded of the increasing role that today’s young people will play in driving economic growth. They are the leaders of tomorrow who must be groomed today. They will be responsible for ensuring that our businesses and institutions are led in ways that will help us revive growth and achieve the long-term goals of the country. They will also need to learn how to become the kind of leaders who understand how to build an economy that creates opportunities for the youth, especially when all the numbers show that Africa will have the world’s biggest and youngest population of working age within a few decades. This is something we need to turn into an advantage, rather than a disadvantage. We have not yet...

Don’t overlook the wisdom all around us

The global market economy is facing a tough time, with billions of dollars lost this week alone – and the local market is following suit. The outlook is negative and some economies are preparing for another crisis. This does not provide an inspiring environment for someone looking to start or grow a business. Something could be wrong with how we have been running big business. Perhaps entrepreneurs will need to look for inspiration elsewhere. The enthusiastic optimist in me is eager to find different, unconventional sources of inspiration. Myles Munroe, a prominent author and life coach, once said: “The wealthiest places in the world are not the diamond mines in South Africa or the banks of the world … In the cemetery is buried the greatest treasure of untapped potential.” In contrast, I wonder if we can seek inspiration from the wisdom that is around us but often overlooked. Dr Miles Munroe and wife...

The man in the arena: Be a bold supporter, not a critic

‘It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena …” These are the unforgettable word s uttered by US president Theodore Roosevelt in 1910, a little more than a decade after America had emerged as a new world power. He wanted to emphasise that the success of a country rests on the quality of its leaders and the discipline of its citizens, as opposed to the distracting commentary of others. There is a reason that his words are still referred to in presidential speeches and literature. Nelson Mandela, whose passing we commemorated this week, gave a copy of Roosevelt’s words to the captain of the South African rugby team, Francois Pienaar, just before the team proceeded to beat the All...

Authenticity is heartbeat of leadership

Often when people think about what it will take to grow into the next level of leadership, they consider what they would need to change about themselves so they can appear to be ready for their next role. Instead of focusing on growing our skills, often we end up suppressing parts of our personalities so that we can give the impression we are better aligned to an image of what we believe a leader is supposed to be. But this is an image that is normally inconsistent with our authentic selves. This can be difficult to maintain, especially in an era where the gap between your personal and professional life is becoming steadily narrower – so much so that it has become common practice for recruiters to check candidates’ online profiles before deciding whether to hire or promote a person. Some people even change their names on social media to avoid having...