By Amanda Khoza, Divisional Director, Transformation & Social Inclusion, Liberty Group
Every year in July I travel, but this time I won’t be, so allow me to do so vicariously through nostalgia of a past sojourn’s images etched colourfully in my mind. Though I traversed the breadth of Italy, it is Rome’s smells and spirited tales that beckon to be revealed and re-explored and I find myself willingly teleported to strange yet familiar sounds from my history books and daily business Latin phrases.
Walking the cobbled via of Rome is a surreal experience - it’s as though you are being transported back in time to when Caesars reigned and conquests were commonplace. The heights and intricacies in the architectural ruins are an archeological treasure and designer’s inspiration; for residents it’s their piece of the world that tells of a bygone era that pleasantly haunts them. The recently refurbished Trevi Fountain is a popular tourist destination for many who throw their coins wishfully, hopefully into the waters for a return to Rome; waters that have drawn from the aqueducts where soldiers quenched their thirst. Historically you are drawn to the annals of revolution and the evolution of power. Steeped with grippingly intense pursuits, you can almost sense the reverence and protestations past the Vatican City; feel the courage and fear; see the steely armour and determination; and smell the death and triumph line the streets across from the Colosseum. This emotional rollercoaster is one of the most pleasant rides you’ll ever choose to go on when you visit the piazzas and buoyantly utter “carpe diem” in your heart as you draw inspiration on how this can speak to your life too. This experience is real, it happened and you are walking the via in your comfy All Stars where soldiers and slaves laid the foundations; you too can soldier on in your business building your own empire.
‘Rome was not built in a day’ is often cited about the time taken for big tasks; for me it makes sense to think of the activity in building a business.”
In my present day reality of what Rome became, there’s something magical about that humdrum of empire making: building Rome one brick at a time, day after day. In its heyday Rome was glorious in splendor with the emperors roaming through their empires replete in garments dripping of their political and financial prowess. The vision must have been expansive in all its form knowing that each brick laid was contributing to empire building. This patience, perseverance, persistence and firmness of purpose in each act is evident in the structures that have now stood for centuries. The habitual, foundational and systematic things you do in building your business are good for business. They may not generate attention, nor make headlines, yet these are the things that build greatness. Painstakingly planning, digging trenches, cementing your ideas and then using your resources to create a structure that tells of who you are and what you are about and how you will do business is a regular daily task with magic in it. Simple acts to sustain big results.
‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do’ implies that you must conform which may cut against the grain of your entrepreneurial, nonconformist veneer.
While being innovative and different is what makes you and your business stand out, conforming to accepted practices may be the one thing that ensures your business stays in business. You need to be flexible enough to learn how things are done with the customers that you work with and want to work with else your rigid position may not endear you to them. You will have to continuously do that for their sake as you deliver on services that you have innovated on. Sourcing from you must be a painless experience for them - simple, enhancing and quid pro quo beneficial. Ideally, at the end of your engagement, you will have been able to seamlessly work with their processes, practices and systems and have also shown them new ways that they can consider. Adam Toffler wisely cautions, “the illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn”.
‘All roads lead to Rome’. In a world that is very much about self, your customer is your Rome: the centre and core of your activities, the reason why you exist.
The roads that led to Rome consisted of a vast network of routes that spanned across many territories. Understanding the paths that get to your customers and retaining them must occupy you enough to headline your strategy. As you acquire customers, map out their lifecycles and structure your customer engagement to be relevant for them. As your list grows, atlas your customer maps and pinpoint touch-points for them. Segment your list, showing how, who, where and why you will be prospecting and converting your customers. The interconnectedness of your activities for the good of acquiring or retaining the customer is critical to your success. Refine and keep them simple. Put in the work. Start today. Ex nihilo nihil fit, nothing comes from nothing.
Amanda Khoza is the Divisional Director: Transformation & Inclusion at Liberty Group, based in Johannesburg, South Africa. She is a passionate advocate for economic empowerment, financial literacy, and believes in the power of entrepreneurship to make real and lasting societal change happen on the African continent. Amanda is championing a host of initiatives for women entrepreneurs in South Africa, including partnering with Lionesses of Africa on the Lioness Lean In Liberty Sessions programme for intrapreneurs at Liberty, supporting The Mix newsletter each month as an impact partner, and joining with Standard Bank as the impact partners for the Lionesses of Africa Accelerator programme series in Johannesburg.
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