Let me share 25 entrepreneurial lessons with you:
1. Integrity matters: Build goodwill as you will need it to attract funding for business expansion or for a crucial job recommendation. Your goodwill can also save you in times of crisis.
2. Focus: Become very skilled at or known for something. It will generate referrals and significantly reduce your cost of marketing.
3. Read: Study and become culturally exposed. Your business can’t rise above the level of your thinking and beliefs.
4. Raise your standard: Use international benchmarks and insist on global quality levels. If you can, engage international partners, so you can learn from them.
5. Gain generational perspective: Hire young people. Deliberately nurture the next generation in your organisation.
6. Filter negativity: Sometimes, you need to ignore industry chatter, especially when you’re cooking a breakthrough model or idea.
7. Control your HR costs: Hire staff who can play both professional and admin roles. This multitasking helps them to appreciate how the business works and can foster a sense of ownership.
8. Hire potential but train for excellence: If you find someone with good character and work ethic, hire them even if they don’t have all the skills yet. But, put in place a deliberate training programme to bring them up to speed.
9. Pay for performance: Adopt a transparent meritocracy. Ensure you have a trial period that allows you to verify whether staff can do what they said they could do during their interviews.
10. Develop protégées: Identify your future managers early. Pour yourself into them. Someday you won’t have the energy to work at your current pace and then, they will take the company to greater heights.
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11. Adopt financial discipline: Constantly review actual figures not estimates. Never underbid unless there’s clear strategic advantage. Always cover your expenses.
12. Delicately manage your income: Use cash flow for operations, bulk capital for major purchases and structured project finance for expansion.
13. Proactively manage your culture: Institute family meetings, life sessions & time outs in your organisation. Create a company legend or story and keep telling it to everyone you meet.
14. Learn from the past: Review lessons from past failures. Set goals and then review how you performed.
15. Hold financial meetings: Reviewing your numbers provides an early warning signal and alerts you when your company is in trouble.
16. Hold management meetings: At those meetings, set clear goals for each week. Then review those from the previous week to see whether you’re performing or just coasting along.
17. Tell your staff how they’re doing: Validate & recognise good performance and point out lapses and corrective measures where necessary.
18. Document everything: Documentation will save you by providing hard evidence when you need it. It also projects professionalism and structure.
19. Be a servant-leader: Be accountable, empower others and don’t centralise control.
20. Structure is key: Put in place requisite regulatory, legal, accounting & HR structures as you grow.
21. Build an independent brand: Develop staff who can represent the company when the CEO is not around. Build a brand that can survive without its founder.
22. Communicate vision: Develop clear plans for the future, communicate them clearly to your team and be intentional about implementing them.
23. Family matters: Staff can’t effectively work when there’s trouble at home or when their spouses oppose them. Develop programmes to help family members understand the company. They may include bring-your-child to-work-day, annual family picnic, food & welfare packs for junior staff etc.
24. Listen to the job owners: Review suggestions from your staff on how to make work better. But filter what they say in line with the overall company strategy.
25. Pursue iconic status: Work towards your company owning a niche in its industry and setting the standard.
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