Lessons I Wish I Knew When I Started My Business
When I liquidated my first business I decided to make it my business, yes, my actual everyday business, to support emerging Female Founders. Over the years, I have had the pleasure of serving on an Advisory Board as well as mentor early-stage Founders on the TV show, Making Moves. And there was the East African expansion that afforded me the opportunity to be part of Mara Mentor when it launched in Uganda. Yes, my journey has been far from a snooze fest so the insights I share come from my own experience and years of observing Female Founders. Here are just a few things I wish I had known when I started in my mother’s lounge 14 years ago.
Your Business Is Not Your Baby
You cannot make business decisions from an emotional place. This is business 101.
Well, easier said than done when you are a female founder and I’m sure most of you just gasped for air going “BUT IT IS MY BABY!” Here’s what I need you do right now: type this out in big bold letters, print it out and stick it up right in front of your face so you see it every day. Yes, it is that important.
When your decision-making flows from an emotive place you are heading for disaster, it is as vital as the air you inhale that you approach your decision-making strategically. We have seen drastic changes in the business when female founders on our accelerator programme adopt this approach. Oh and I know this will challenge you but I do not want you on the floor in the foetal position completely devastated by an emotional decision that led to liquidation. A strategic plan is not a business plan. The Google machine will tell you a strategic plan is used to set priorities, focus energy and resources, strengthen operations, ensure that employees and other stakeholders are working toward a common goal. It is your roadmap, make sure you get on top of this today so you that you go about your business methodically and dripping with the confidence that comes from being truly focused.
Master Your Craft, Your Own
Beyonce’s performance at Coachella had Twitter shook the past two weekends for so many reasons but what stood out for me is the attention to detail, every little detail. Most importantly, Beyonce epitomizes a mastered craft.
In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell repeatedly mentions the “10,000-Hour Rule”, claiming that the key to achieving world-class expertise in any skill is to a large extent, a matter of practicing the correct way, for a total of around 10,000 hours. Many critics have come out guns blazing citing their opinions but I will side with Gladwell on this one. In my opinion, it is not so much about the number of hours but the fact that you must put in the time and effort to master your craft, your own.
I have interacted with far too many founders who base their idea on what someone else is doing. When you do this, you constantly have to look over your shoulder or to the left to watch your competition which takes away from the time and energy needed to master your craft. Stay in your lane by identifying a problem you are passionate about, master the skill to solve that problem masterfully whilst ensuring the market is willing to pay without hesitation. The most successful entrepreneurs stay in their lane, they are way too occupied with mastering their craft to offramp into someone else’s lane and are paid handsomely for staying focused on theirs.
It Takes A Village To Grow A Business
When I was sitting all ready to go in my mother’s lounge I had no idea that it takes a village to start well, grow well and build well. This is one of the most important lessons I have internalized and it is now the ethos of the 88 Business Collective.
When I started out, I thought qualified employees and a fab mentor should surely suffice, this was my village for years and it worked but it was far from sufficient to grow exponentially. I would like to encourage you to add an Advisory Board or a Board of Directors to your mix, they will journey with you to fix the business. I have seen businesses change when they have an Advisory Board especially solo founders. They go from no accountability to having a sounding board for better decision-making and a group of people with a skill set they lack. Yes, please do no appoint a bunch of people who will whisper sweet nothings in your ear. Your village must have a Business Coach, I cannot stress this enough.
The entrepreneurial journey is certainly not for the faint-hearted but even the strongest founders can feel overwhelmed especially when you are in the early stages of your business. You might have fallen into the trap of being busy when you are actually chasing your own tail. The role of a Business Coach is to keep you focussed and to help you achieve your business goals. I am sure the most accomplished athletes will attest to the fact that a coach played a crucial role in their success.
Your idea could change the world but it does not happen magically or in isolation.
I am mastering the art of collaboration and it has changed my life and accelerated the growth of the 88 Business Collective. Why not challenge yourself this week to think strategically, to stay in your lane and to fix your village.
Antoinette’s vision is to positively influence how business is done in Africa which ultimately leads to creating world-class African brands. In 2016, she launched The 88 Business Collective and focuses on accelerating women-owned businesses from marginalized communities utilizing her Growth Through Collaboration methodology.