There are numerous reasons why entrepreneurs start businesses. In South Africa, the lack of employment opportunities means that most entrepreneurs start businesses to survive and feed their families rather than create an asset of value.
For growth entrepreneurs there will come a time when the resources you used to start a business are no longer sufficient for the business you are building and the competition you are facing.
So what do you do when your business needs to make a 10x leap in performance?
I just spent a weekend at the Maasai Mara in Kenya with 25 of Africa’s top entrepreneurs. Together these entrepreneurs run businesses with combined turnover of $30 billion.
The weekend was a masterclass getaway where we spoke about the challenges we face building our businesses and trading in the most harsh environments.
One entrepreneur told us how he had to trade without disruptions while rebels tried to force out the president of Burundi, whose office is 340 metres away from his business. He received death threats but still had a stellar sales month.
This is what you can do when you build your business with 10x people, systems, products and culture.
A sign that your business is coming into its own is when processes and systems govern how people behave, how customers transact and how value is created.
Critical is the ability to measure these data points and get numbers to tell the story, not people.
I asked this entrepreneur how he kept trading through the chaotic fighting. He said he runs a CRM system that allowed him to arrange with customers to visit his store at planned intervals to minimise disruption.
The software told him how many calls his sales team made, how many appointments they booked, how many transactions the workshop fulfilled and how much money accounts collected.
While his competitors were closed he continued trading with skeletal staff. Not even an attempted coup can stop a business with robust systems.
The single most difficult thing to do as a growth entrepreneur is hire people for the business you are building, not the business you are running. This requires the skills to compete not only where you are today, but also where you will be tomorrow.
As the business grows the type of competition you face will multiply ten fold. You will need people who can deliver increased results under pressure to keep you competitive.
For me, my largest speaking markets are in the US, Europe and the rest of Africa. I earned 69% of my income through foreign currencies in 2014. So I had to build a team that enables me to be competitive, not only in Johannesburg but also Amsterdam, Monaco and New York, where speakers are technologically advanced.
We’ve had to build a team that can make a 10x leap in performance to give me a competitive advantage globally.
In running a business that trades in 21 countries with sales partners in each market, my deepest challenge is visibility. The entrepreneurs I met move from Lubumbashi to Kinshasa and keep uniform standards of performance in the business.
It’s easy to ensure consistent work levels when you have a single office. How do you achieve it when you have several? Visibility is critical; not physical presence. So I schedule weekly team meetings on Skype wherever I am. I am as ruthless online as I am in person.
Each meeting has a predetermined set of outcomes and topics. Everyone is aware of what they will be expected to report on and when. The system is simple. The outcomes are transparent. Visibility drives performance.
Retail is detail. If you sell anything to a customer you need detail-orientation. Know the key metrics, know why they matter, know how to translate them into business intelligence and when they are skewed.
Woolworths spends hundreds of millions on advertising, to build a reputation of quality and yet a single ‘alleged frog’ in the salad can tarnish that reputation.
KFC spends as much on advertising yet one store in downtown Joburg almost destroyed the reputation for quality chicken prepared well. In building a 10x business, mind the detail.
Vusi Thembekwayo Speaker. Investor. Disruptor