The topless host, potjiekos and the resistance

So a friend, Philén Naidu (aka. The topless host) and his wife Kim Naidu, hosted a group of friends (and me) for potjiekos. Among the many thrilling stories shared, were the undertones of resistance.

For our non-South African readers: Potjiekos –  is a stew prepared outdoors in a traditional round, cast iron, three-legged pot (the potjie). From Wikipedia.

One soccer ball, some dirt and 14 boys Philén Naidu started a soccer club in Zandspruit, where he trains teenagers life lessons through soccer. This passion of his began just over2 years ago with a soccer ball, 14 kids at the time and a vision to help broken communities.

It was a grand social entrepreneurial vision. Well, for any number of guys with just one soccer ball that is.Fast forward from 2009 to 2011, the topless potjiekos cooking Philén Naidu (not to be mistaken with the naked chef) is still at it. Now 101 boys and more soccer balls.
Last week he received an email, which led to a meeting with large corporate – then potential sponsors and partners.

The potjiekosLike most interesting stories, this one happened over a meal. The potjiekos, our esteemed topless host (chef), had prepared.

“You see those small bubbles, you have to cook it with small bubbles” he explained to 4 year old Josh. Unlike such gatherings, there weren’t copious (bordering on illegal) amounts of wine. In fact, there wasn’t any wine at all.

The resistance

As it turns out, over the past 2 years, Philén Naidu expected meetings with his sponsors to be fruitless. Afterall, he had been to such meetings before. In the past, he had to bring proposals and paperwork. Sound familiar?

When you’ve built a project, even a business, over time you expect meetings to be similar. This was different, it lasted 10 minutes without paperwork. (A 5-minute introduction, and 5 minutes about his project.)

The time you spend creating a model, in this case a community project, reduces resistance. It may be surprising when it happens, but it does.

The small bubbles, like slow but gradual movement, cook perfectly and it could take 5 minutes for drastic change to happen. Keep at it.

Short Book Review: Poke The Box by Seth Godin

Seth Godin made an announcement last year that he wouldn’t publish another book through traditional means. Never again! There was much debate online, questions were asked and many speculated that he still will.

All speculation was cast aside when he launched The Domino Project, with Poke The Box being his first release. So, I went over to Amazon, ordered a copy, waited 3 weeks. . . . . . And voila! The 84-page little book, with a running man arrived.

Seth Godin cuts through all assumptions and challenges you right from the start. Much like he did in Linchpin, he tempts you out of comfort, he calls you out, he asks you to take a stand. No contents pages, no forewords, no introductions, he just gets right into it.

In all of four sittings, each less than an hour – with coffee breaks – I was done.

“The job isn’t to catch up to the status quo; 
 the job is to invent the status quo.” 

When you read those opening lines, you know it’s you. Or not. If it isn’t, don’t bother reading further. This post is not for you. Check back next time.

Poke The Box – is a book about:

  • Doing!
  • Doing what you love
  • Questioning the status quo
  • Starting things
  • Starting everyday
  • Failing!
  • Failing often
  • Making a connection
  • Finishing what you started
  • Shipping
  • Shipping often
  • Repeat!

In 84 pages, Poke The Box takes you through a journey of changing things. A journey of getting to ‘Yes!’. Of facing fear. Of living without the fear of starting. You realize when you’ve done enough and you need to take your ideas out to market.

Now go!

Go start!

Start new things. Start every day. Ship your ideas. Repeat!

That Elusive Dream Client

So, you wake up one morning with an idea to start your business and having high profile clients call you up all the time. Days become weeks, they turn to months and you haven’t had access to that dream client.

What now? You’ve tried everything you know how and exhausted your network calling everyone who knows someone. And still. Nothing!

Being the enterprising mind that makes things happen, of course, you are nowhere near giving in. That first morning with that ‘great idea’ starts to fade.

One of many things can happen, and 2 of them are:

a. Offer some pro bono work to the dream client

What I relearned again this morning was – Free work means you put your branding next to it. This is instant access to the client for more work at a later stage. It also associates you with them, in which case your credibility is built and they add to your references.

b. Compete for the client as everyone else with references

Well……this is actually a no brainer, especially if your business is highly conceptual and aims to compete against established market equivalents. Without a “credible” background, seeing that you are still a startup, it is difficult convince clients that you are worth working with. Make that damn near impossible.

Most companies that we target have a template according which they measure service providers. And if there is one thing that frustrates me more than people working from templates, it’s people who discredit your work without thorough understanding. Then rejecting you, because you don’t their template requirements.

Proving you are confident about your concept and breaking through the red tape of template workers, may mean doing free work. At least where I am now.

What are your ideas around breaking into the market and getting that dream client? Better yet, how did you get through to that client?

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Image by: annais on Flickr

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What customer? News Cafe Is A Giant

The first thought was to begin this post with – ‘It seems News Café have suddenly become too big their customers’. Then I took a quick glance on Hello Peter, only to realize they’ve become giants and the customers does not matter.

We went to the News Café at the Emperor’s Palace recently after a comedy event, on a month end Saturday evening. Not being a restaurant owner, I would guess the last Saturday of the month would be one of the busiest times. It takes a whole franchise, 15 years of experience in the cocktail bar industry and experienced managers to conclude they need fewer waiters for that time of the month.

We got in, sat ourselves at a table that needed to be cleaned and thought it was temporary. A waitress finally attended to us 20 minutes later – still leaving the table dirty with empty glasses, till we called her back.

Our order

o   A glass of Coke

o   A double tot of Chivas

o   Double Jameson

o   And another soft drink

We then requested her to bring ice on the side.

What she heard

Take 30 minutes with our drinks. And oh, let the ice melt in them almost completely.

The long and short

We sat there for about 3 hours with every round of drinks taking no less than 25 minutes to arrive. The explanation was “the bar is busy this evening”, which the manager echoed after we spoke to him about the problem.

When I read on Hello Peter, it became clear that 54 complaints – in the past year – ranging from robberies to assaults by staff, revealed a different story.

Waiters and managers normally get grief from “fussy customers”.

While sitting there watching tempers flare from all the other tables, something else came to mind.

A flawed system is screwing your staff

Someone, other than me, also reported a similar issue on Hello Peter and it occurred around the same time. Guess what? It was for the same branch. Surprised?

Your system is inefficient when customers have the same problem. People would report the waiter and the manager without considering how the franchise puts this in place.

If you happen to be from News Café, or know someone who knows someone. . . . Please tell them to stop turning away customers in their shorts and go read Hello Peter here. They might get some insights from their customers.

Photo by: Dan Orbit on Flickr

Are you listening?

When I met Lindsay – our first guest blogger – she was more than keen to share her experience as a communication specialist. This is her guest post on listening to your customers and converting potential ones.

By: Lindsay Grubb

I grew up in a home where none of us stopped talking long enough to take a breath. We were certainly not really listening to what the other person was trying to say. I doubt we’re unique in any way. There are a lot of people out there who suffer from the same quirk.

The first question I always ask my clients is, “What are you trying to say?” It is an important question whose answer is critical to the formulation of their entire communication plan. It is an answer I need to listen to very carefully, so that I know what I need to do to help them find their voice.

How well are you listening to your customers?

Do you really hear what their needs and wants are or are you making assumptions, and putting words in their mouths?

Imagine you have a shop where you sell hats, bags and jewellery, and a customer is eyeing a particular bag, but she seems unsure about taking that next step. This is the critical phase where she will potentially convert from a mere browser, to being a paying customer, and swiping her card.

You watch her as she turns the bag over in her hands; her tactile senses seem to be enjoying the experience. She opens the bag and looks inside at the compartments and plays with the zips. She closes the bag and takes one last look, before shaking her head and putting it back on the display stand and leaving the store.

You just lost a customer. How could this have been avoided? What should you – as a supplier – be listening to and looking for in communications from your clients?

Making the connection

Imagine the scenario differently now. You see the customer looking at the bag, and you approach her, smiling:

Shop owner:         “Good morning Ma’am.”

Customer:              “Hi”

Shop owner:         “I see that you’re interested in our Cleo handbag and I wondered if I could assist you. The Cleo is an excellent quality product and one of our best sellers. Did you have any questions about the bag that I could answer for you?”

Customer:             “Actually, I do like the style of the bag, I was just wondering if it came in any other colours. I like the red, but I was really looking for something just like this in green.”

Shop owner:         “Unfortunately we only received this style in red, but can I show you a bag that is very similar to the Cleo, which we have in two shades of green. Perhaps it would suit your purposes? What is it that you are looking for in a bag – is it all about colour or did you need it to fulfil more of a specific purpose for you?”

Customer:             “I have this particular outfit and I have been looking everywhere for a bag to match. I have a bag at home, it’s the right colour but it’s huge and everything tends to fall down in the middle of the bag and I cannot find things easily or quickly. I keep losing my car keys in there.”

Take action

The shop owner takes the customer to the Chloe, a bag in a very similar style to the Cleo and hands it to her. The customer picks the bag up like before, and runs her hands over the mock crocodile leather outer. She opens the bag and checks inside and smiles.

Owner:                  “The main difference between the two bags is that the Chloe has two extra zip pockets inside for all those little items like your keys, that often get lost in these carry all style bags. I hate it when I arrive home at night and spend ages looking for my house keys. I feel so vulnerable scratching around in the dark and I forget to do it before leaving for the trip home. With these compartments things are easy and quick to find. It just makes things so much neater.”

Customer:             “This is exactly what I’ve been looking for! I think the darker green will go better with my outfit. I have this thing about matching the colour of my bag and my outfit. All those pockets will be perfect as I can separate everything I need and will be able to find them quickly! Thank you so much, I will take it!”

It is so easy to make a difference through your interactions, to engage your customers and to really hear what they are really saying when they give you feedback.

Some quick and easy ways to learn more about your customers needs and wants:

1. Ask them what they want – Rather than making an assumption, try asking your customer what they want. If you have it, tell them. If you don’t tell them you will see if it is possible to get it and then do your best and communicate your progress with them regularly.

2. When your customer complains listen to the complaint and take action – take time to honestly assess what your customer has complained about. Don’t take it as a personal attack – use it as a learning tool going forward.

3. When your customer compliments you listen to the compliment and take action – thank them and use it as a learning experience

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About the Author

Lindsay Grubb is a passionate communicator with 15 years experience working in fields including advertising, public relations, conventional and experiential marketing.

In addition to running L Communications, Lindsay is a freelance writer who has been published in the likes of Mamas&Papas Magazine and on numerous local and international websites.

She also runs Hiccups and Giggles SA : a parenting website – for parents – by parents.

Follow her on:  Twitter for the latest updates, her parenting website and make contact here to improve your communication.

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By Lindsay Grubb

Entrepreneur of the Year Award

It is not often that you get appreciated for the hard work you do. The sleepless nights. The pitches you don’t get called back for. But lucky for you, someone out there is watching.

This morning in the mail, I got something that might excite you. At least I thought it would.

Sanlam and Business Partners are giving away up to R100 000 in their Entrepreneur Of The Year Award. It’s also quite easy to apply from what I saw.

The requirements in their three categories are also simple enough. Before you think it’s too good to be true. You have to prove that – by their standards – the three most important financial risks of your business are quantifiable. The application form has more details on that. 

Categories and minimum requirements 

  • Emerging Entrepreneur (business younger than three years old)
  • Business Entrepreneur (turnover up to R20 million)
  • Medium Business Entrepreneur (turnover greater than R20 million

Of course, you are not motivated by the cash prizes. But they are offering those too.

Cash Prizes

  • Category winners will receive R20 000.00
  • R100 000 in cash for the overall winner along with the opportunity to attend an international conference or trade show, as well as extensive public exposure. That should help in acquiring the much needed sales.

Download the entry forms and more information to enter.

Spread the word as far and wide as possible as well. . . . Good luck!

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Image by : xtrarant on Flickr

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Learn from the best at Tech4Africa

In the third episode of NetWebTV, I was fortunate to interview Gareth Knight. His views on building a business, I have followed since (with a bit of tweaking for context). Now, any opportunity available to hear him speak I cease every time.

The episode is more about how he built a company that got acquired and a project he was developing at the time called Tech4Africa. As he put it then, it was meant to be a conference that brings global viewpoints to the African context. The chicken in me at the time thought it was overwhelming and impossible. Fast forward to over a year later, the idea has spread online and tickets have become more coveted than a black BMW M6 convertible in Soweto.

More accessible than the shiny M6

This conference, being the first of its kind in South Africa and possibly Africa, might have been inaccessible for people in South Africa. Mostly the entrepreneurs who need to attend it. That’s one of the questions I asked Gareth off camera.

Seemingly he gave that a lot of thought to that and worked it into the package. Not to mention having tickets that are discounted to make it even more worth your while. The caliber of speakers and topics they have challenge current thinking. I find that a significant influential force in contemporary business ethic.

Is it for everyone?

No. And like all things that are really worth your time and investment, it shouldn’t.

The conference is very focused. It is about technology and how it affects you as an entrepreneur. The knowledge of speakers like Clay Shirky, is definitely for people who want to make real and rapid progress. Fortunately, not everyone is that person which means there is only a few of you out there. Otherwise there would not be such a great demand for you.

I was meant to tell you more about the learning prospects at the conference.

Tech4Africa Scholarships

One of the major things lacking in Africa is the skill needed to develop globally competitive businesses, but the conference also addresses that. The discounted tickets already make it easier to attend, but in partnership with Old Mutual, the conference also has tickets for people who need to need learn.

Below are some workshops and what they are about:

1. A masterclass in Usability and Accessibility

Gain expert knowledge from a global leader in usability and accessibility

Usability tests are an excellent way of discovering problems with a product or service.

2. Google University

A deep dive into Google Analytics and Adwords

Google Analytics is a powerful web analytics tool, AND it’s free, and Google Adwords is a great way to drive traffic to your site. However, you get the most out of them when you understand how they work, and how to customise for your needs.

3. A Masterclass in Architecting applications and Advanced Javascript

Learn best practice for developing applications that enable you to work fast and agile, whilst being robust and secure; and learn advanced features of the JavaScript language to create complex applications

4. Successful digital projects

A strategic look at the digital project implementation lifecycle, for decision makers and programme managers.

Whether you want to or not, you are now project managing a group of (hopefully) willing people to create a product that you are attempting to get done in an (un)reasonable amount of time, within an (in)sane budget.

For the entrepreneur there is Seedcamp.

Seedcamp is a programme created to jumpstart the entrepreneurial community in Europe, and now Africa, by connecting next generation developers and entrepreneurs with over 400 mentors from a top-tier network of company builders; including seed investors, serial entrepreneurs, product experts, HR and PR specialists, marketers, lawyers, recruiters, journalists and venture capitalists.

The scholarship applications close tomorrow.  Go on, signup and read more here.

Aside: No BMWs were dreamt of during the writing of this post.

Solve Your Own Problem

“What problem are you trying to solve?” counts as one of the most important questions I was ever asked by a business mentor. We tend to have great ideals for starting companies, as we should, but end up losing the plot. I would imagine every business has one thing in mind when they open doors, that being solving someone’s problem with their product.

People who created their own solutions

Chris Guillebeau wanted to change world, challenge the status quo, travel the world and meet people with similar interests. He started The Art Of Non-Conformity, his website, where he documents his travels and invites readers to become part of his experience. This solves a few things for both him and his readers:

– It gives other travelers the opportunity to connect with like-minded people around the world.

–         He meets people online before setting off to travel.

–         He also gets authentic voices to talk about their countries, which is always better than reading photoshopped brochures.

Allon Raiz discovered that businesses didn’t need funding to thrive, but required direction and resources that money cannot buy. So he started Raizcorp, the first privately held and unfunded business incubator.

For every online startup that is looking for funding there is the Crowdfund. Some web entrepreneurs realized the need for “Angel Funding” in South Africa and together they started it. With small contributions from the public, who in turn become investors, they are able to develop web startups.

First find a problem then become the solution is what most successful entrepreneurs have done. It’s even better when you know problem, thus making the product even easier to create.

What problem are you solving?

Photo by: Zoopreme on Flickr

A matchstick that made it to a movie

In July of 2009, I announced the Netweb Event for that month with a video give away sponsored by Missing Link. Little did we know that the prize would go to an amazing project I had been following for a while.

One Matchstick, a concept where the founder is trading a single matchstick till she gets to offices through a series of trades, is a lesson in innovation.

It was simple for us – start a competition that benefits small business and give it to the most deserving company after our delegates have voted. From that simple definition came being an MC at the premiere in Johannesburg, being in Cape Town for another and making interesting contacts along the way.

The lessons

– You are as big or small as you think you are.

It ‘s because one matchstick that I went over 1000 kilometers away and made contacts I wouldn’t thought of on my own.

– Small has to do with efficiency than size.

The size of this project meant all we needed was a notebook, a DVD Player and a room of 30 people for it to be successful.

– Naming is very significant

We called the prize a corporate video when we gave it away, but Telana referred to it as the “One Matchstick Movie”.

You are invited to the “One Matchstick Movie Premiere” sounds better than being invited to the “Launch Of The One Matchstick Corporate Video” any Sunday afternoon. Yes, the Johannesburg premiere was packed on a Sunday afternoon.

If a single matchstick can make it happen, that changes the whole game.

Please view the One Matchstick Movie below.

Unleashing the Ideavirus by Seth Godin can transform your business model

When developing a business model, we often overlook implementing marketing tools to spread our concepts virally. Unleashing the Ideavirus, a book that I think requires a sequel, transformed the view I have of my current business model.

While there many concepts covered in the book, for the purpose of this post, only 3 significant highlights will suffice.

Loosely referencing The Tipping Point by Malcom Gladwell on how some ideas turn into social epidemics and others don’t. Seth takes us through the process of how companies such as Hotmail and Vindigo spread as viruses and the Toyota Prius, while an award winning vehicle, didn’t.

The second mind altering concept, though disputing all known marketing ethic, is focusing on a smaller target audience (called ‘a hive’) instead of setting out for large numbers. This makes sense if you view your client base as a community that can reach friends and recommend your product or service better than adverts and large marketing budgets ever can.

The steps below, a very short summary, are how you develop an Ideavirus.

Step By Step, Ideavirus tactics (summarized from the book)

  • Make it virusworthy – If it’s not worth talking about, no one will talk it.
  • Identify the hive.

You won’t get the full benefit of the ideavirus until you dominate your hive.

  • Expose your idea

Expose it to the right people, get them into the experience as quickly as possible and pay them if necessary. But never charge if possible.

  • Once attention has been volunteered request permission.
  • Amaze your audience.
  • Some viruses don’t forever, embrace the lifecycle of yours.

Any business model that has a viral marketing method built into it has a better chance at longevity, besides why not make it easy for your clients and customers to spread the idea? If there’s one thing I would recommend, it would be read it with an open mind and download the ebook or get the shiny collector’s version here.