Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Trying to Scale Excellence in Africa

My big mouth and me. I do one blog about the importance of scaling excellence and then a mate of mine and entrepreneur I admire asks me for some insights on how best to do it. Serves me right but in the interests of sharing and starting a good conversation.

So let me be upfront. I largely have absolutely no idea but this is what we are trying.

  • ·      Accept upfront that great ideas are by and large worthless. The value in Africa is the team and the ability of that team to execute. Capital in Africa follows traction not concept
  • ·      We as Africans need to stop assimilating risk – we need to celebrate not cut the tall poppies. Rather then seeing someone stumble go “see I told you they were running to fast” rather go and pick them up and say “that was brave now just go and try again with what you have learnt”
  • ·      Keep an open mind. Often we are so busy in the doing – we miss the wood from the trees. We need to re-structure our work calendars from 100% the chaos of today, to 30% today and 70% the future – you can not create the business of tomorrow or you are being obliterated by the business of today
  • ·      Be disruptive. Just because it is, does not mean it should be
  • ·      Be brave – sometime you just have to trust your gut as there are not enough data or reference points to be sure you are right
  • ·      Appreciate it is a global village – if you are standing still you are going backwards at a rate of knots
  • ·      Hard work, hard work, hard work – I like to watch the Yoda clip from Star Wars: Do or do not, there is no try
  • ·      Dream big, surround yourself with good people, have fun and get just get stuff done
  • ·      Always ask and challenge your model – are we delivering value that someone is willing to pay for
  • ·      If you cannot explain what you do in a simply way, you do not know what you are trying to do well enough. Forget the elevator pitch – find a kid and tell them what you do – if it is simple and they understand you are golden
  • ·      The customer is everything – repeat it until you can no longer see anything else in your vision. Plot every engagement you have with them and then establish what are the two or three things that are most important to them – not to you, but to them and then just focus your best efforts and people and those few things until on what matters to them you are exceptional at
  • ·      Start from the bottom and the beginning but at every step of the way meets the customer expectations. So maybe you want to create a car – rather start with a skateboard and re-iterate and improve the model till it grows up to be a car but make sure it was an awesome skateboard that improved. Do not dream of building a great car but give the customer a useless car as version one
  • ·      Slow down to speed up, start with your actual existing processes, get visibility, make incremental improvement – and then get ahead of the curve
  • ·      Surround yourself with A Players and invest in their growth and development but also set expectations and make sure they have absolute clarity on what is expected of them and the need for them to set up and be accountable and take ownership. If they are the right people you need to then get out of their way and let them be awesome. If they are not the right people then you are in big trouble. Whatever time you personally are spending on recruiting talent – increase it by 400%. Getting the right people into the company is critical. Donald Trump might be able to go “ you are fired” – we do not have that – so just understand the absolute technical debt of poor performers in your company and just absolute get the talent pool into your business as a hallmark of excellence. When someone starts at your company you need to know they will be an A Player in the environment and culture of your business. Remember an A Player in one company might not equal and A player in yours – hire for culture and fit – and focus on future potential in your company and not past performance in another
  • ·      You must create, live and breathe your company values and beliefs. These are not just for the wall and dusty storerooms, but need to be yours and the business compass and guide in every big decision you make or the company your make. Your staff and customers need to know these and see by your actions that you are accountable to them. As you scale and pressure mounts these need to be your cornerstone to keeping you grounded – and as your time gets further away from the coalface what the business stands for is felt
  • ·      Foster communication channels for good stuff to happen. It is not about everyone agreeing but having a voice. Seek out the quietest voice in the room. But once everyone has spoken decisions then needed to made and supported and driven – regardless of whether people agreed, if they have ben heard they must then jump onboard
  • ·      Focus on two or three big things. You cannot be great at everything. Chose two and three and then strive for excellence at those and only those. Find the “choke point” for your customer – the thing they value most and then make that your center of excellence
  • ·      Learn the power of the word no and create a system that makes is easy for you to go: that is not my core, that is not what will make us excellent – and because if I do it – it will slow down my journey to excellence – so no I cannot take that project
  • ·      Generate cash. Given the cost and scarcity of good growth capital, grasp that turnover is vanity, profit sanity and cash reality. Get enough cash and runway for your business – and making smarter decisions gets easier
  • ·      Be resilient as the continent we call home – if this was easy everyone could do it
  • ·      Share – this is something that is new to us – lets create a growing entrepreneurial community rather than isolated secrets of success
  • ·      Truly embrace – the one-day chicken, next day feathers. There is no way you have ever made it – the moment you stop focusing and improving or thinking you are a bwana you are dusted
  • ·      Even if you are a goldfish in a shark tank – just decide to be the shark. Someone is going to win why not us
  • ·      Get consistent in delivery – excellence is not a one off – it is being able to do something on repeat over and over again well
  • ·      Invest in yourself. If Usain Bolt and the best sports teams in the world have coaches – then surely so should you and your teams. Statistically the best investment you can make is education – so invest in educating and growing you and your team
  • ·      Grasp that to scale excellence we as the founders and leaders are often the bottleneck. We need to move from being doers to enablers. Be prepared to unlearn your own skills and re-learn the skills that a growing business needs
  • ·      Spend your time on the most important things as our time is the most important resource we have
hHope there might be some value in the read - Sahle kahle Brad

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