Get off your ass and go exploring!

There’s comfort in the familiar. Just doing things by default, the way they have always been done. If we are unwilling to be uncomfortable,
our lives will be unremarkable. From challenge comes growth. We learn how far we can stretch. We escape from the routine of a mundane life lived by default. We start living with purpose instead of by accident. But it all starts with movement. Get off your ass and take the first step of many to a new adventure!

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Goal setting is useless without understanding your core values

It’s too easy to get sucked into ticking off items on a to do list. Just because you are getting things done doesn’t mean that those things are adding real value to your life, or bringing you closer to your goals. If you haven’t taken the time to establish what is really important to you, all you are doing is treading water. Take time out and think about what really matters to you and take an objective look at your long, medium and short term goals. Do they reflect the things you value. Or are you busy fighting fires on a daily basis. If you are… Then stop, drop and roll. Take time to think and plan your goals and activities around your values, proactively.

Startups and Staff: Make sure you know what you’re in for

Staff are not going to share our passion for the business by default. As entrepreneurs we make big sacrifices and take risks. Sometimes those are calculated risks, and sometimes they are crazy, stupid risks. We live with the daily reality that if we don’t make things happen, if we don’t chase that sale or land the next deal – come month end there will be… Well… Sweet bugger all to pay the bills with.

Employees have the implied security of a salary every month. Whether they perform well in the short term or not. They’re not obliged to carry our stresses or share our excitement – because their basics are covered regardless. There’s more pressure on us as business owners to make sure that we make enough to cover the payroll and keep staff happy. Wait a minute – who is working for who here?

As a startup business, hiring your first few employees can be pretty daunting. My advice? Go into the process with your eyes wide open. From recruiting, through managing, developing and if necessary – dismissing.

Chemistry, Character, Competence.

I’d love to take credit for this gem, but it’s something my good friend Wes Boshoff shared when we were looking at employing. Competence can be developed and, to an extent, so can character. However, if there’s no chemistry, no spark, no culture fit… Move along. You cannot force “a square peg into a round hole”. There are more productive ways to expend energy in your business. Don’t waste it on trying to make someone fit in who clearly doesn’t.

Praise in public, correct in private

A simple “thank you” or “well done” goes a long way. While there are those self-starters who perform well consistently with minimum intervention, recognition or praise – they are the exception rather than the rule. I’ve always loved how Kenneth Blanchard puts it across in The One Minute Manager

“Catch them doing something right”

Unfortunately too many employees live in constant fear of what they’re going to get crapped on for next. If you’re trying to stifle creativity, innovation and initiative – then by all means, be the boss that’s a bear with a sore paw. Just don’t expect loyalty…or staff retention…or a workforce that doesn’t count the seconds till 5pm.

It’s inevitable that people who work for you are going to make mistakes. When they do, use those mistakes as development opportunities. If you don’t want to keep repeating the hiring and firing cycle, then see these screw ups for what they are… School fees. You’re investing in that staff member’s education. Stick with it until you realise a return on that investment. If you need to correct them – do so in private. Nobody likes having their flaws exposed in front of the whole office.

Hire slow, fire fast.

This may seem like a contradiction in light of my earlier statement, but bare with me here. Finding a chemistry and character fit takes time. Don’t rush the process to fill a space because you’re desperate. Once you’ve hired the wrong person it can be very difficult to get rid of them. I’m no legal expert, but I’ve heard that the CCMA and Labour Courts can be a serious pain in the ass and the wallet.

So how do you get around this labour law minefield? Date before you get married, in other words – offer a fixed term contract. However long you need to evaluate the culture/ character and competence fit. One month, three months, six months. Lastly and most importantly – make sure you have the correct paperwork in place.

I’d love to hear what your staff experiences have been like so sound off in the comments below.

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The power to change lies in your daily routine

Most of us “go with the flow”. We are creatures of habit. It’s much easier to repeat a pattern we are familiar with because it doesn’t require any thinking or effort. Unfortunately this seldom brings about great results, because most of our habits are established by default instead of by conscious intention. If you’re unhappy with the results you are getting in your life, the key to change lies in your daily routine. If you change one thing, and follow that change through until it’s established as a habit – you can achieve great things. Go!

Job Creation: Is A Meaningless Job Better Than No Job At All?

I heard a story last week that made me furious. A middle aged man was recounting a tale of getting onto a bus in Pretoria after a rugby match. Shortly after he sat down, a young man got on the bus, stuffing the remains of a Big Mac into his face. After finishing his food (if that’s what you can call it) the young man dropped the packaging on the floor of the bus.

I think it must have been the dad in him that prompted the older man to tell the litterbug to pick up his rubbish.

Here comes the rage inducing part…

The young man turned to face him and said with a smirk “Job creation.”

First off. That guy is an arrogant jerk. But confronting a person so ignorant is a waste of energy. To borrow from Scott D. Weitzenhoffer it’s “like trying to play chess with a pigeon; it knocks the pieces over, craps on the board, and flies back to its flock to claim victory.”

As a white South African I know that my social context, opportunities and challenges have been different from the majority of black South Africans. I grew up in the 80s, oblivious to the hardships of my countrymen. I got a decent education and developed a disdain for authority. The older I got, the more I questioned. I still question. Like when I’m leaving a parking lot and I’m about to put my ticket in the machine so the boom will lift. There’s a person standing next to the machine who takes my ticket from my hand (which is about 5 centimeters from the slot) and slides it into the machine.

I can think of few things more mind numbing them shuffling lazy people’s tickets into a machine all day long.

Maybe I ‘m a different kind of jerk to the young man on the bus. I think a job that doesn’t challenge or develop the person doing it is not a job worth having. It may pay enough to put food on the table, but the prospects for rising from there are slim. Perpetual poverty.

So when politicians bandy about the vote winning phrase “job creation” will any job do? Is a crap job better than no job at all? How should we as entrepreneurs be thinking about recruitment and staff development to encourage more meaningful employment for the people of South Africa?

What do you think?

What to do when you feel like giving up as an entrepreneur

Running your own business is an emotional roller coaster. When you’re at the top there’s a feeling of freedom… and then…unexpectedly, there’s a short and sudden drop that makes you scream and pee your pants.

When you get on a roller coaster, unless you’ve stepped out of a time machine from the Stone Age, you should know what to expect. Similarly, when starting a business, you should know that you’ll face ups and downs…and you may occasionally scream…but hopefully not pee your pants.

5 out of 7 new small business in South Africa fail in the first year. While economic climate does play a part, a lack of knowledge and support structure are equally (if not more) to blame.

Here are some of the support structures that have played a critical role in the sustainability of our business over the last 3 years:

Community

Surround yourself with people who share your passion for entrepreneurship. We’ve done this by building a network of entrepreneurs both online and offline. The more you engage with each other, the more you realize that you’re not the only one praying your way through month end. Often a word of encouragement is all that’s needed. We all have so much knowledge to share with each other.

Mentors

Finding an experienced and trustworthy mentor that shares our values and understands our vision has made a big difference. When you’re stuck in the day to day of your business it helps to talk the issues through with someone who is objective enough to set you straight when you’re veering off course.

Family

We have 3 very active, amazing little girls. When the stress of work turns me into “Mr Hyde” I try and force myself to regain perspective by focusing on what is really important. My family. Kids grow up so fast. Loved ones grow old and die. Accidents happen every day that could take away someone you love faster then you can update your Facebook status. Remember that. Love them while you have today.

Focus

Cash-flow is a challenge for most startups, but try to resist the temptation to become all things to all men to win a few dollars/ rands/ whatever currency.
Don’t sell a product or offer a service that is out of line with the core focus of your company – or your personal core competence as an entrepreneur. When generating revenue becomes the only goal, and you stop being concerned about the means, you’ll get stuck in an unfulfilling “subsistence entrepreneurship” lifestyle.

Faith

I mentioned praying your way through month end earlier. You may find it a shocker that someone with an occasionally foul mouth and the word “bullshit” in her blog tag line prays. I like to keep it real. What you see is what you get. God knows what goes through my head, so I’m not going to fool him by acting all pious and religious in public and in my writing. So yes. I pray. And God has come through on numerous occasions, with opportunities and comfort in times of trouble. Being an entrepreneur has definitely strengthened by faith.

Got any stories to tell on how you’ve survived the early stages of your startup? I’d love to hear for you in the comments. Let’s chat!

D

African Youth Initiative Network

We have the privledge of connecting with some amazing people , like Victor Ochen, a Tutu Fellow and head of an organisation called “The African Youth Initiative Network”. There’s so much turmoil in Africa. So many challenges. We are encouraged by people like Victor who have the heart and the guts to make a difference where they are, with what they have. We’re excited about working with AYINET to spread the word on some of the good thats happening in Africa.

Enjoy!

Lucid

Uganda-CIA_WFB_Map

We count it a privilege and a pleasure to be working on a corporate video for the African Youth Initiative Network (AYINET).

This preliminary video is from an interview with African Youth Initiative Network founder Victor Ochen, who is a busy man – he could literally only squeeze in an interview on the way to the airport. AYINET is committed to making peace and justice a reality for victims and survivors of war. Scroll down for more about what AYINET does.

Creative Commons cutaway footage from “Uganda: The Challenge of Forgiveness” by the Fetzer Institute

http://vimeo.com/40450751

The next War Victims Conference will take place in Kampala, Uganda, in May 2014.

http://www.africanyouthinitiative.org/success-stories.html

Sophie A.  – Reconstructive Surgery Gives Mutilated War Victim a New Start

One morning in August 2003, Sophie A, along with her husband and 10 other people, left her refugee camp in Lira in search of food.  LRA rebels discovered the…

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3 Great Apps for Taming the Overstressed Entrepreneur Brain

If you’re anything like me, there are at least 3 or 4 different trains of thought competing for your attention at any given moment. Giving direction to creative thoughts and turning them into something actionable and productive is like trying to ride a bull. If you don’t know what you’re doing you’ll land on your ass (at best) or get gored (at worst).

Ideas are awesome, but unless they are implemented, the only use they have is filling your internal conversation with ego stroking and musings of how clever you are. We need to take a break from patting ourselves on the back and make our dreams a reality.

Effective self management

We all have the same 24 hours a day. There’s only so much you can squeeze into those 24 hours. Time management has value. Self management has more value. Time management helps you maximise the number of activities you complete in a day. Self management ensures that the activities you’re completing are aligned with your short, medium and long term goals. Bottom line – know what you value, what your long term objectives are, and set your goals accordingly.

Take time out

A stressed, sleep deprived, dehydrated brain is of no use to anybody. Even if its only for a few minutes a day, disconnect from the crazy. Go for a walk, read a (not business related) book, listen to some music. I’ve discovered some cool apps recently that I’ve found useful to help me quiet my frantic brain. Check them out. You’ll thank me later.

My 3 Favourite Brain Taming Apps

1. Calm 
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/calm-meditate-sleep-relax/id571800810?mt=8
http://www.calm.com/

2. Simply Rain
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/simplyrain/id635166382?ls=1&mt=8
http://simplynoise.com/

3. White Noise
https://itunes.apple.com/za/app/white-noise/id289894882?mt=8

Everybody fails. Do it anyway.

Good ideas have a way of becoming, or leading to great ideas when you put them into practice. An idea alone is kind of like the honeymoon phase of a relationship. You seldom see the flaws, until you’ve been together for a while. The more you engage, the more you see things that need to be improved on – or could be done differently. Maybe improvements can be made. Maybe you need to drop it like it’s hot. You’ll never know until you stop thinking about it and start doing it.

Have you found any other cool/ useful apps that help you focus the crazy? Sound off in the comments below.

We lie the loudest to ourselves

“There is no passion to be found in playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”
– Nelson Mandela

If you let it, your computer, your smartphone, your television will suck the life right out of you. It’s just too easy to sit passively in front of an electronic device and absorb inane content. It’s easier to press a like button then it is to think about what you actually like in the real world. What do you want to achieve? What are you good at? Do you even enjoy what you do day in and day out?

I’m preaching to myself here. As a wife, a mom of 3 girls and the co-founder of a startup production company – my life is a whirlwind of frantic activity. Late nights, early mornings, coffee by the gallon and looming deadlines are commonplace. Running Lucid with my husband Richard is an adventure that has enabled us to push creative boundaries, meet people, forge new friendships and travel around South Africa (and hopefully the rest of Africa in the not too distant future).

Though startup life is an adventure it can be all consuming. So many opportunities to explore, so little time. Little time to do anything but work. No time to relax or pursue (non-work related) hobbies. Or that’s the lie we tell ourselves. If you have time to procrastinate on Facebook, you have time to develop a talent that has been shelved because of your busy lifestyle.

So – that’s my longwinded way of saying… I love blogging, and I’d like to do more of it. I’m going to do more of it. If something is important to you – you find the time to do it.

Welcome to the adventure.

 

Before you explode, check your default settings.

People are going to do things that piss you off. It’s inevitable.


Friends, family, suppliers and clients have their own agenda and despite your best efforts to control the world around you things are going to happen that make your blood pressure rise. While you have virtually zero control of what happens to you, you do have the power to choose your response.

The power to choose

I’m a sensible, analytical person and in theory I’ve known for a long time that I have the power to choose my reaction to a situation. The problem is that this knowledge was purely academic. It really clicked into place in my overstressed brain when I took some time over December 2013 to step back from my frantic rat race lifestyle to recharge.

Sitting in a hammock, sipping coffee I read Austrian Psychologist and Neuroscientist Viktor Frankl’s book “Man’s Search for Meaning”. Frankl’s main message in the book is that between stimulus (what happens to us) and response (how we choose to react) we have the power to choose. What gives his message weight? He is a survivor of the Holocaust who spent a large chunk of his life in Nazi death camps. If this man could do it, despite his circumstances – what is our excuse?

Big changes start with small steps

Doing things the way we’ve always done them is easy. Effortless. Just slip into that groove that you’ve carved out by repeating the same behaviour over and over. Breaking old habits and doing the things you know you should be doing to move forward is not easy. Sometimes we don’t even understand our true drivers or motivators. Why do we do what we do? Romans 7:15 sums this dilemma up well:

“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”

Slipping into old patterns is easy. Getting out of them…hmmm…not so much. The first step on the road to change is being realistic about where you are right now, and how you got there – be it your personal or professional life. Don’t get stuck in excessive introspection though. The “looking in” part is only effective its coupled with “looking out”. What circumstances do you find yourself in, and how can you make an impact for the benefit of others in those circumstances?

It’s all about relationships

Essentially life is all about relationships. About making a difference where you are. About being the best you that you can be. Be brutally honest with yourself about what needs to change in your mindset today and start consciously exercising your power to choose.

Go and make a difference this week!