Get your priorities right

We all know that feeling - it’s the start of a New Year and already our email inboxes are full of invitations to attend events, give talks, write articles, etc - and that’s great. But, if we are to fulfill our goals this year, it’s essential that most things we get involved with fit into our bigger business and personal strategies for 2018. So the way to avoid getting distracted from our purpose, and to ensure we build momentum on our priorities from the beginning of the year, is to ask ourselves some key questions before saying yes or no to these requests. Firstly, will the commitment contribute to achieving key goals? Secondly, will there be clear outcomes that will add value? Thirdly, will there be tangible benefits in terms of brand or personal profile building? Fourthly, will it be rewarding from a personal development perspective? If the answer is yes to most of these questions, then it could be worth getting involved. Otherwise, focus on those things that get you closer to your goals for the year ahead.

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Turn your happy customers into ‘super fans’

There is nothing quite as satisfying as receiving great feedback from your customers, it makes all your hard work feel worthwhile. But feedback goes both ways. So the trick to keeping your happy customers positive is to keep them engaged and feeling valued. Here are four ways to turn your happy customers into ‘super fans’. Firstly, if you receive feedback, acknowledge it immediately and respond directly. Secondly, take the time to properly reply to any positive review. Thirdly, ensure there is a personalized sign off to any response. Finally, provide inside knowledge on any news, developments, giveaways, special offers, etc to engage the reviewer further and to make them feel part of the community. After all, happy customers who can be turned into ‘super fans’ become your best ambassadors.

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Learning to love the power of deadlines 

Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy author, Douglas Adams, once said, "I love deadlines. I love the whooshing sound they make as they go by.” That is one quote that will resonate with any entrepreneur who has a tendency towards procrastination and who is regularly time challenged when it comes to hitting key project or business deadlines. Yet deadlines can be our best friends in the business-world as long as they are strategic in nature. Strategic deadlines really do hold us accountable and help us at a practical level to move closer to our goals every day. They provide us with a timeline for action, and a framework for experiencing small wins along the way, instead of one big delivery target, if managed properly. So instead of bemoaning deadlines and seeing them as a huge pressure point, learn to love the power of the deadline to keep us focused on the end goal.

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What’s the value of your Social Currency?

The late French sociologist and expert on social capital theory, Pierre Bourdieu, coined the term Social Currency, which describes the resources and abilities created and accessible through presence in offline or online networks and communities. He believed that great value can be derived from social participation through such networks and that personal Social Currency can be used to measure an individual’s online influence and access to influencers, derived from their presence on social media sites. Today, it has become more popular because tracking tools, analytics and other technologies make it easier to track and compare Social Currency. From a personal and brand positioning perspective, where getting the competitive edge can be crucial to successfully tapping into new business opportunities, your Social Currency could provide that extra USP you are looking for.

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Curiosity leads us down new paths

Curiosity refers to the thirst for knowing and the desire to explore and learn. It is perhaps not the most obvious trait that comes to mind when you think about what it takes to be successful in business, but today it’s essential. For any entrepreneur looking to effectively compete and succeed in an ever changing and technologically advancing business environment, curiosity is a key attribute to have. People who adopt a curious attitude in life and in business have the ability to think out of the box, to try new things, to explore unconventional ideas and concepts, and then transform traditional ways of doing business. Companies that nurture curiosity will see creativity increase, and as creativity grows, so does a company's ability to innovate and stay ahead of the competition. As the legendary Walt Disney once said, “We keep moving forward, opening new doors and doing things because we’re curious, and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” 

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The art of taking calculated risks

Is this the year to take more risks in life and business? I asked myself this question when I was doing some research for an article I was writing and I came across a quote by Mark Zuckerberg  who once said, “The biggest risk is not to take any risk.” There has been a long regarded view that women entrepreneurs are largely more risk averse than their male counterparts. But an interesting study last year by BMO Wealth Management shattered that notion by finding that women entrepreneurs are ‘risk rational’, taking more calculated risks in their business decision-making processes. In fact, sixty-one percent of women entrepreneurs interviewed for the report felt a business risk should be calculated, assessed and then managed well, indicating a confident approach to risk taking. Perhaps it’s like Mark Zuckerberg suggests, until we are willing to put ourselves out there, step out of our comfort zones and take a calculated risk, we will never able to achieve our full potential.

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Harness the power of visualization

We all know the phrase, “if you can visualize it, you can make it happen”, but how often do we apply that to our business building approach? Many successful entrepreneurs use vision boards to help them to maintain their focus, keep them motivated, and ensure their eyes remain firmly fixed on their ultimate goals. By creating a vision board which clearly articulates what you are trying to achieve, in a highly pictorial and inspirational way, it brings your vision and your goals so much closer, and helps you to make them real. Ultimately, visualization is a powerful confidence building tool to keep you motivated and ensure you take the necessary steps and actions each day to turn the dream into reality. As Oprah Winfrey says: “Create the highest, grandest vision possible for your life, because you become what you believe.” 

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Set your compass for success

As an entrepreneur, chances are that before the holidays you did your annual end of year review. You evaluated what worked and what didn’t, what could have been done differently, whether you met your objectives set at the beginning of the year, etc. But what matters now, at the start of an exciting year ahead, is how you take those learnings and apply them to your new business strategy. The big question is do you know where you are headed, what you are trying to achieve, what goals you are setting for yourself and the business? Set that compass for a successful year ahead, have a clear idea of the direction you are headed in, and have your objectives clearly set out with targets in place to be reached. That compass will keep you on the right track, no matter what happens along the way.

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Focus on what produces the biggest results

Much has been written about the 80-20 Principle - the idea that with the right focus, 80 percent of the results come from 20 percent of the effort. In business, if you can successfully apply this approach to your sales generation activity, this means that 80 percent of the sales should come from 20 percent of the customers. The trick is to hone your efforts and concentrate your time on what will bring the biggest results, and this doesn’t necessarily mean working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Instead, it’s about focusing on what is working, identifying those tasks and activities that are producing the results, and scaling those activities. Remember some of the principles outlined in Tim Ferris’ book 4 Hour Work Week? The book talks about the secret to business success coming from expending quality time on highly focused activity, rather than quantity time on multiple tasks that dilute the outcome. Just identify what efforts are producing the biggest results and then formulate your sales plan to maximize the approach. 

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The changing face of manufacturing

A new report on the changing global manufacturing landscape has just been released, and it makes for interesting reading. “IDC Futurescape: Worldwide Manufacturing Predictions 2018” predicts that by 2020, 60% of manufacturers will rely on digital platforms, which will support as much as 30% of their overall revenue. Most of the group’s predictions refer to a continuum of change and digital transformation within the wider ecosystem of the manufacturing industry and global economy. Manufacturers are expected to adapt rapidly as new digital technologies, new competitors and new ecosystems, create new ways of doing business. The report also predicts that those manufacturers that can speed their adoption of digital capabilities in order to create business value will ultimately be the leaders of their industry sectors. It’s something for Africa’s women manufacturing entrepreneurs to think about!

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Harness the butterfly effect in business

There is a concept often used in meteorology known as the Butterfly Effect. It looks at how often small and insignificant changes made in one place could result in large differences somewhere else or at a later state. What seem like small, very insignificant decisions might or might not have a larger impact on your life than you originally might have thought. For example, getting up 30 minutes earlier in a morning could provide you with much needed, quiet strategic thinking time that is essential to help the business grow. Or making a conscious decision to procrastinate less, could lead to better, faster decision-making, essential for capitalizing on new business opportunities that can transform the business. Simple, seemingly small changes made or new small habits formed can have the butterfly effect that can enhance your business journey.

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Make your New Year’s Resolution count

If you are one of those people who each year make a New Year’s resolution, only to break it within the first few days, then you are not alone. So, how about this year doing things differently? What if your resolution this year was to think positively in all you do, to choose to see the world as a glass half full, rather than a glass half empty. In life and particularly in business, people are drawn to those who are positive in their outlook, positive in their approach to challenges, and positive in the way they relate to others. Sometimes, all it takes is a change of mindset. As Oprah Winfrey says: “The greatest discovery of all time is that a person can change their future by merely changing their attitude.” So will embracing the power of positivity be your New Year’s Resolution this year?

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Learn the art of negotiation

Being an entrepreneur means that negotiation is part of everyday life, but for many it’s hard to do, meaning that often opportunities get left behind on the negotiation table. Yet, like so many other things in life and business, negotiation is a skill that can be learned. Being a good negotiator starts with great preparation. Before walking into any negotiation situation, it’s essential to have done your research on the people or companies you are in discussions with, to have a good appreciation of your own value proposition, and to know how many potential options are on the table. You also need to practice your pitch, know your USPs, and have answers to all the potential questions that could be asked at the ready. During a negotiation, it can be tempting to simply say yes to the first proposed deal, just because it is offered. Yet, if you have done your homework and really know your value, then don’t be afraid to say no if you are not happy with what’s being offered. Propose an alternative that is within your value proposition. Finally, be confident - you are much more likely to get what you are aiming for if you know how to confidently ask for it.  

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Recognising Africa’s women sustainability innovators

The winners of this year’s African Entrepreneurship Award have just been announced at a ceremony in Casablanca, Morocco. 40 finalists from 19 African countries were brought together to reward the most impactful sustainable projects in the three categories of the programme: education, environment and unchartered fields. In all, 12 winners from nine African countries shared prize money of US$1 million, with three women entrepreneurs being recognised for their innovative and high impact businesses. A first prize of US$100,000 went to South Africa’s Louise Williamson, founder of Sustainability Professionals, which develops safe and efficient cook stoves for schools, directly improving the lives of thousands of women and children in rural schools and drastically reducing lung disease among women cooks. Innovation prizes of US$50,000 went to Morocco’s Meryam El Ouafi, founder of Green Engineering Mission, and the creator of moist tube irrigation technology which solves irrigation problems and eliminates water waste; and Rwanda’s Christelle Kwizera, founder of VOMA Groundwater Solar Kiosks, a business purifying water for rural communities using innovative water collection and alternative income models. Congratulations to each of these game-changing women entrepreneurs who are making a real difference to people’s lives in Africa. 

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Stay on top of industry trends

No matter whether you are a startup or an established company, staying on top of the latest trends in your business or industry sector is key if you want to get ahead and stay ahead. Knowing how market forces may be changing, or how customer needs or interests are evolving, helps to shape the future direction of your product and service development.. But how do you practically keep up with what is happening out there when you are busy running your business? Here are a few tips to help keep you on top of your game. Firstly, subscribe to one or two key industry e-publications - get them delivered straight to your mobile for fast updates. Secondly, check out the latest industry gatherings and meetups via LinkedIn, and if you can’t get there, make sure you read the post event feedback. Thirdly, make sure your major industry newsfeeds arrive in your inbox as soon as they are published. Fourthly, become a member of your industry associations and attend the regular networking events - you learn things and meet new people at the same time. 

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Harness the power of word-of-mouth

We all know the power of word-of-mouth, when customers recommend others to check out your business, its products and services. It is an important driver of new business and does so much of the sales work for you. But the challenge is how to get your satisfied customers to spread the word on your behalf. Here are six top tips to help you to harness the power of word-of-mouth marketing. Firstly, it starts with you providing a great product or service offering to your customers - if it’s good, people will talk positively about you. Secondly, ensure your customer service is world class - people always remember the way they are treated. Thirdly, cut out the jargon and give your customers the information they need, when they need it. Fourthly, appreciate your customers - say thank you for their business. Fifthly, stay connected to your customers - communicate with them regularly. Finally, maintain your visibility in the marketplace - use social media, publicize what you are doing, network at events. Remember, if your customers can see and hear from you regularly, and they like what you are doing and saying, they are more likely to tell others. 

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Women First, Prosperity for All

The theme of this year’s Global Entrepreneurship Summit, which took place two weeks ago, was Women First, Prosperity for All, with a focus on supporting women entrepreneurs to foster global economic growth. The chosen theme was a response to the recognition that globally, despite recent progress, limited access to technology, nutrition, and health services prevent women, their families, and their communities from reaching their full potential. To close this divide, this week USAID announced several efforts, including: WomenConnect Challenge, which will help to bridge the gender digital divide. In early 2018, USAID will issue an open call for proposals for innovative ideas to bridge the gender digital divide by addressing the barriers of affordability, security concerns, and restrictive social norms. It’s an opportunity for innovative women entrepreneurs in Africa to provide possible new digital solutions to many of these challenges. 

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See a challenge as an opportunity

Finding a gap in the marketplace in which to start a business can often be one of the most challenging aspects of being an entrepreneur, but often those market opportunities are right under our noses. Successful entrepreneurs identify challenges in business or life that require innovative solutions, and developing those solutions leads to the creation of exciting new businesses. A great example of this approach to entrepreneurship is leading Ghanaian techpreneur, Farida Bedwei, co-founder of Logiciel. She recognised that access to finance was a real challenge for many people in Ghana who are not part of the conventionally banked system. So together with her business partner, they created a revolutionary new finance platform, a cloud banking solution that allowed access to small scale loans within Ghana. This was a real game-changer in the country in terms of addressing the challenge of financial inclusion, and genuinely changed lives and the economic prosperity of those now able to access the finance they needed. This ability to see a challenge as an opportunity in business is what defines a successful entrepreneur. 

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Do it today before someone else does!

How many times in life and business do you find yourself putting off doing something, waiting for that perfect moment that never comes? I read an interesting quote today in an article I was reading on the plane which said: "If you don't do it, someone else will." How true is that? Ideas don't simply wait for us to get our act together and start, the chances are that others are thinking of the same idea at the same time, but they are acting on it and beating you to the punch. And let's face it, there is nothing worse than seeing what you thought was your original idea, coming to life in the hands of someone else, being done in a way that doesn't reflect your vision for it. So, the question is, what are you waiting for? Do it today before someone else does. If you need any further encouragement to take action, remember the famous words of Abraham Lincoln - "Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle!"

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Supporting a new generation of techpreneurs in Africa

The much anticipated Seedstars Africa Summit is gearing up today in Maputo, Mozambique, with the first of two planned private bootcamps for the 20 Seedstars World Local Winners. The Regional summit itself is on the 14th of December, and is the final event of the Seedstars tour in Africa. After visiting more than 20 different countries from May to November 2017, the best entrepreneurs from across the continent are gathering together for this regional conference, joined by key corporate, financial and government stakeholders. The aim is to share knowledge, connect regional and global stakeholders, and to inspire attendees to believe in the potential of innovation on the African continent. The event promises disruptive conferences, networking sessions, inspirational talks and workshops about how to impact people’s lives in emerging markets through entrepreneurship and technology. To find out more about this game-changing event for aspirant, innovative techpreneurs, visit the website here.

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