by Karen Wessels, co-founder of VA Connect and co-founder of SnappSales
Since starting this crazy mad entrepreneurial journey which is filled with passion, great rewards and eternal lessons, I’m exceptionally grateful for all the lessons that have been placed on my path, to help me grow and mature as a business owner and person. And trust me, there are many! Like learning that distractions can start costing your business money.
Distractions are the slow evil poisonous thoughts and actions that detract from your vision, your North Star. I’m not referring to things like social media, or spending the whole day on your phone. True, these are distractions, however, what I’m referring to are those things that eventually cost you millions in business or lost opportunities because you took your eye off the prize.
Allow me to share some examples from my story and see these as lessons well-earned and something for you to take to heart to avoid costing your business money.
Well-earned Lesson #1
It was December 2015 and my business (and life!) partner and I decided to bite the bullet to invest in a 3-day course in Johannesburg. We were living in Cape Town at the time and decided to take the long road by car. We love road-tripping, so this was a great opportunity to see our wonderful country and at the same time spend time together while being educated.
At the workshop we met other entrepreneurs intent on bettering their business. The workshop facilitator was a well-known businessman who was a self-made millionaire. We got into talks and decided align our businesses as our service offering filled a gap with his audience. After the intense workshop we made plans to meet up to continue this conversation.
During this time we moved up country, deciding it was a sound business decision for the betterment of our business. We met often with our new “partner” offering our sought after services to his new clientele. Our new partner painted a very pretty picture of how he could help us grow and scale our business within a 6-month period. Sounded great!
So, like the typical entrepreneurs we are, we slogged away, travelling often to meet up with said new partner, putting our all into the new venture without a cent from his side as an investment. A lot transpired in 6-months only to eventually wake up to the fact that we were taking 100% of the risk on the new venture, and when we refused to succumb to his ridiculous demands (one of which was to shut down our business to be employed by him), well the results quickly rolled in. We spent 95% of our time, energy and attention to his projects, meetings and clientele, which in turn meant not focussing on our growth strategy, staff, branding, client base and so forth. We lost our clientele and soon our business was crippled financially. We made it out of that slump. However, there is a lesson to be learned.
Your lesson : Do not be fooled by pretty words, painted pictures and empty promises. When venturing on a path with a new partner, sign paperwork on the outset detailing expectations, milestones and capital investment into your business. Be very clear on the ground rules and what the desired outcomes are as well as the risk each party carries. Don’t be distracted by words alone. You need to see action and commitment from the other party too.
Follow these simple rules (as always hindsight is very clear ☺) and ensure that you don’t end up losing millions in turnover.
Well-earned Lesson #2
As a team my business partner and I absolutely believe in empowering others, our fellow entrepreneurs and staff alike. We will gladly spend time imparting our knowledge to help others grow. That’s the way we do business and that’s the way we grow our team.
We had what we thought at the time was a stellar staff member. Thanks to her attitude and work ethic she quickly worked her way through the ranks to manage her own team.
We were super impressed with what she had achieved over a short space of time. Her team loved her and the clients were happy with her team’s results.
As a reward we decided to make her a shareholder in our business. We got our attorney to draft the paperwork so that we could have it signed with our next business trip.
And then the wheels starting falling off the bus. Little glimmers of what was not such a shiny and exemplary team member started coming through the cracks. The cracks got bigger and bigger. This was a person that we wanted to entrust our entire business to and this person had started showing their true colours. Sabotage was at hand! We had taken our eyes off the prize once again, allowing someone else to run our ship, when we should have been in full steer all this time. We were distracted by the shiny and nice. What started out as a stellar relationship ended up in legal and a few more millions lost.
Your lesson : There’s a phrase that I’ve come to love and was taught to me by a multi-millionaire : “Trust, but verify”. Trust your partner, staff and suppliers with whatever assignment, request or decision you have given them, however, sometimes you will need to verify stats, information and timing. Trust your team to do what is required of them, however, don’t become so distracted that you’re not paying attention to the details. Because sometimes it’s the details that will cost you. Like the saying goes, “The devil is in the details.”
Bringing it together
No one said this journey was going to be an easy one. It is one filled with rewards, great people and many business lessons.
When faced with possible great opportunities, do your due diligence and ensure that the opportunity is of benefit to you and your business, and that it’s not a possible distraction.
You are the captain of this ship, so remember not to be distracted with what they call “shiny object syndrome”. Remain focused on the prize and the bigger vision of what you are building. This is all you, keep on track and keep focused! You’ve got this!
Karen Wessels is the co-founder and COO of VA Connect, a South African virtual assistant platform that provides outsourced administrative support; and is also the co-founder of SnappSales, a company that generates quality sales leads for its clients. Prior to establishing both her companies, Karen spent over 10 years in different sales, marketing & admin support roles. This experience has equipped her with the invaluable skills required to run her two successful business ventures. Follow Karen on her Personal Website | Twitter | Facebook | Google+
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