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Business with aliens

Seeking to pioneer, facilitate and manage lines of proposed business.

Dear Diary,

I have been pondering these questions: What turns people into customers? How do we get to ask people what they want if we don’t know them in the first place? How do we match our skills, what’s needed in the market and what people want to buy to be considered ‘in business’. Businesses fail often out of a misunderstanding of what customers want and trying to enforce a product or a service that serves no value in your chosen market. So how do we combat this to avoid a business that is only useful to aliens in outer space? Who even knows what an alien wants. The notion is a separatist one, one isolated by differing world views and location. Let this not be me.

I think a good place to start is where you live, your proximity. Your relation to where you are right now to what is required around you. Go outside and take a walk around your community. Venture into the local small businesses like Coffee shops and Superettes, build relationships with the people who own these shops. Ask them about their business. Go to the local library, enquire about information regarding the community. Activities that are taking place that is pinned on the community board. Join the neighbourhood watch and volunteer to serve in local projects. To get business? No, to get plugged in. To use your senses. To look at what is going on around you and to listen to what people are saying. Read the local newspaper. Like that page on Facebook that offers information about your surroundings. Get to know people you wouldn’t normally “hang out” with.

Begin to ask questions. Engage with people on blogs and online forums about the subject of business you are interested in. Begin to gather information and compile a body of research to which you can refer to when needed. Be careful with this, actually use the information gathered to think of a service or product that can serve people and provide real benefit to them. Otherwise, it turns into a self-promoting exercise that only you get enriched by. This is seeking to build in isolation and propping up a footstool on the backs of unsuspecting hardworking people. Learn from them to serve them better and then instead of amassing wealth for yourself, invest back into your community by improving skills of the less fortunate, creating safer environments for families, creating further employment opportunities.

Getting to know your neighbours is the point of this exercise. People do business with people they know and trust, with people they like. Become someone people can get to know and trust. This means becoming a friend. A genuine caring friend. This means having no hidden agendas about profit-making, but a mutually beneficial partnership. Be transparent and honest about intentions. Express a desire to improve yourself and improving your community and enlist ‘helpers’. Yes, an entrepreneur goes into business with the idea of making a profit from a proposed venture. However, I think a different approach is warranted. What if an entrepreneur goes into business not only to make a profit for themselves but with the goal of enriching lives around them too. To build networks of new entrepreneurs who have been inspired and trained up by your work in their community. Providing instant support for businesses through trusted relationships. We build our network by adopting an inclusive mindset. Instead of an exclusive club for the elite, a club that aims to hoard riches and further marginalize those in need.

Who do we sell to? We sell to people we know. We sell to friends and family, people we care about. What’s great about this kind of thinking is that when we sell to people we care about, we care about what we choose to sell to them. Quality service or product. We take their investment in us seriously, we are grateful for it too. We want to keep them happy and have them come back to buy from us repeatedly. They, in turn, are satisfied by the product or service we provide as it makes a notable difference in their lives. They tell other people about us too and how happy we make them. Other people even strangers come to buy from us as a result and we take pride in this process. Now we are ‘in business’.

"The purpose of a business is to create a customer who creates customers" Shiv Singh

We buy from people we like. In your community is there a service provider like this? Someone you like? How do they make you feel as a customer? Why would you go back?

Ways in which we can build a network:

  • Get plugged into your surroundings/your community
  • Keep your eyes and your ears open/ observe what is around you and listen to what people say and the advice they offer
  • Be genuine about reasons for connecting with people
  • Don’t be self-serving, but seek to build up your community too
  • Get to know people outside of your usual circle
  • Make new friends
  • Pioneer, facilitate and manage lines of proposed business
" All of your customers are partners in your mission"  Shep Hyken

We cannot do business in isolation, every step requires 1 or many to be involved. So let aliens do what they do best, be elusive. As for the real people on earth, do business where other people with a real need for your business exist.

Until tomorrow, dear Diary.

p.s I don’t really believe in aliens 😉

Of pilots and birds

The twisted roads and railways game of snakes and ladders maps play.

Instinct

When chartering a new course involving a certain starting point right through to a final destination, planning is most definitely involved. Decisions involving routes ensue and once the path is mapped out commitment to the plan is essential to reach the desired venue. Discussions involving the best route, the safest route, the most traveled, the least traveled, the scenic route or for the truly adventurous: the route you pioneer that others will follow or not. But here one must decide and be quite specific about it too for fear of paths leading off cliffs, which only in dreams seem a positive thing symbolizing challenge and change, will indeed bring about your swift demise in reality. A birds-eye view of maps is often confusing to the untrained eye, one can get lost in the twisted roads and railways game of snakes and ladders it plays. Birds and pilots flying high in the sky, the two certainly meet on this point: they both know their territory well, in fact, it is a matter of survival that they do. To prevent a collision course in the skies strict protocol must be adhered to as far as airplanes and pilots go at least, for birds this is a matter of instinct. In business, this is also true.

In business, we seek to marry the two: Instinct and plans with specific outcomes. Instinct, however, is based on experience. It’s a conglomerate of thoughts and actions amassed over time, having been put through a test of sifting and sorting for the right fit to the right situation. Master of the skies birds fly across various spaces scanning and collecting ‘mapping data’, storing to memory places they would return to again and again. We must become masters at business, masters of trade to develop an instinct or in other words, a ‘knowing’. Instinct is really ‘a trained knowing’; a gut feeling we’ve come to trust because of our shared experiences. Why is instinct important? Because it’s not possible to know all the answers all the time. There will be times when you have done all that you can do; still, you and your team are struggling to come to an agreement of what to do next. Or when someone tells you: “No, I don’t think you should do it that way”. But you feel it is the right thing for you to do right now. This is when you must consider your gut.

How can we develop instinct in our business:

  • Observe others in the business
  • Become a master/expert of your chosen field
  • Apply yourself to studying and learning from influential books and people
  • Question the process and come up with possible scenarios for success or failure
  • Ask for advice
  • Take calculated risks
"If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?" Albert Einstein

Specific outcomes

Speaks of thorough planning. Dealing with a more technical approach to going about decision making. A sitting or standing action of good old fashioned writing down dreams, goals, plans; and a detailed account of how you will achieve them.

Strategically, intentionally forging ahead with well reasoned, well-researched information that will help you achieve the success you desire. There is a treasure trove of resources one can investigate and utilize to assist in this regard. One of the most debilitating of all afflictions in business is laziness. One cannot stress enough the importance of doing due diligence and to actively seek to dispel all that threatens to fly in the face of this within our business. Your business is a reflection of you, if you want to look good do good.

How can we plan better:

  • Be disciplined
  • Steer clear of distractions
  • Set a schedule by which you do things and stick to it
  • Reward yourself for tasks to stay motivated
  • Keep a journal
  • Be accountable to a colleague, friend or spouse, allow them to help you through your journey
  • Stick it up on the wall, let it be visual. Perhaps turn it into an artwork and frame it in your office space.
  • Don’t let your emotions overrule logic

Map out a business strategy. Make sense of the “snakes and ladders” and become a master of the territory. How can we do this, to be frank:

  1. Choose a business you want to start
  2. Write out a Business Plan
  3. Execute that plan
"If you don't know where you are going, you'll end up someplace else" Yogi Berra

Yes, it is that simple.

Here is an article about how to go about writing a business plan and why it is important to have one: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/247574

Life in retrospect

“Before you quit your job”

Dear Diary

It’s been a while. I’ve been struggling with this new form of disease, procrastination. Why do we feel like this? Why is there an overwhelming desire in me to self-sabotage? To cut ties with the possibility of things and to go back to what was once sure, the past. My comfort of employ and letting my boss make decisions for the future. To walk and constantly be looking back is not only a dangerous notion but, also rather impossible to continue. Failure in this distracted pursuit is a certainty.

So what am I to do Diary? I must CHANGE.

Change the way I think. Change the way I do things. Change. Since this has been such a struggle I must challenge myself toward change. My dream to start my own business is my responsibility alone and if it requires me to change for the better in order to be successful then I must oblige. No one else will do this for me. It’s been said that “the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour”. Does this mean one is helpless in continuing the vicious cycle of mistakes made in life? What if there is a desire to be different? To affect outcomes in a positive way than what has resulted before? Diary, I believe this cycle can not only be disrupted but averted if one is willing to change. If one were to “turn from” thinking that will with certainty end in a negative result because you’ve made that mistake in judgement before, the most logical conclusion is, therefore, to learn from mistakes and divert thinking toward something else…to change my thinking. We say change is difficult or that “people don’t change”. Why? Perhaps this is an error in judgement too, perhaps even typecasting. We’ve been built up to certain traits, habits and allowed ourselves to become predictable to the point of a character profile or type to others close to us. So the cycles of behaviour be it negative or positive has been used to define us. If one talks about ‘types’ and ‘profiles’ then is this not also a type of looking back constantly to find skeletons there and create ghosts of them who come after us and spook us into the same behavioural patterns we seem ‘destined’ to repeat. My point here Diary, is that if we focus on past behaviour long enough, failure long enough we will repeat it and we will set in motion a destiny for it.

But what of change? To ‘turn from’ something comfortable and venture into a type nothingness. A venture that has no guarantee. A seedling for which you are tasked with turning into an oak. So then I must learn about gardening and the basic principles of keeping a seedling alive. In entrepreneurship, if I am tasked with building successful businesses then I must be willing to learn something new to make that happen. To keep the dream alive.

Factors that keep us from moving forward:

  • Fear: of change, of failure, of judgement, of lack of support, of looking foolish
  • Expectation: what others presume for us to do
  • Liability: things that are owed to others e.g. Debts, home loans, school fees
  • Comfort: unwillingness to make necessary sacrifices for growth
  • Ignorance: about information, not testing sources, not seeking out ways to learn and understand for oneself

Factors that keep us moving forward:

  • Willingness: to learn, to try, to ask or question, to test and be tested, to change
  • Motivation: a desire to do more than what’s required
  • Caring for something other than yourself
  • Information and knowledge: to seek these constantly
  • Commitment: to leave only once it’s done or when you’re not required anymore
"Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself"  Leo Tolstoy

How true Diary. My barrier isn’t lack of start-up money, staff, business plans, motivation, partners but it is ME. I must change my focus in order for my business to be successful. I must be willing to do something different for a different result.

Until tomorrow, dear Diary.

Resources:

“Before you quit your job” by Robert Kiyosaki

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YENo61PkPek (audiobook)

What is in your hand?

A good place to start: What are the talents and skills I posses to help me
get started.

Dear Diary

What can I do? What am I good at. I have decided to make a list of things I enjoy doing, things I am naturally good at…

  • Sitting at a restaurant drinking coffee (this should be a real talent, it’s practiced so often)
  • Encouraging people to go after their dreams
  • Critical thinker
  • Creative thinker
  • Writing
  • Photography
  • Cooking and Baking

These are just a few things off the top of my head Diary. I think it’s a great place to start and really stop for a while and spend some time here. I have asked myself if I would do these things without the need for pep talking from myself or others. That I can be trusted to commit to the desire to perform these tasks. A subliminal outworking of something held dear. Surely if I already enjoy doing something and inadvertently do so without payment, then why not try to monetize this ability? Because I am already somewhat committed at inception and therefore less likely to give up on something I am very fond of. This makes sense to me Diary!

This means that what is in my hand is my current ability. A natural gift, education acquired or learned experience. When we break it down like this I feel less overwhelmed, less focused on the enormous picture ahead of me but see steps that are more manageable to try.

So how will I do this, how will I monetize my skills?

I love to cook and bake, this drives my thinking toward opening my own Restaurant or Coffee Shop. However, this is ridiculously expensive for me. I have no capital for this. Now it seems I have a problem Diary before my dream has taken off, it’s crashed and burned. Let’s think a bit deeper. Is it possible that a dream can evolve before it comes true before you make it true? What if we consider goals or steps to get to opening a Coffee Shop eventually. What do I have in my hand right now? Well, I love to write, cook and bake as mentioned. So how can I monetize this in the short term and get to my long term goal of opening my Coffee shop? I can start a Food Blog! Become a Food Writer. This is truly exciting Diary!! But, how will I monetize this?

What are some of the ways in which I can do this?

  • I can come up with creative ways to present food via a blog
  • I can blog about associated food products online and create an online store for people to purchase products
  • I can create my own products and sell them online
  • I can earn commissions off of brand referrals and ad links
  • I can come up with creative ways to build a following and get paid to promote other establishments or products, become an influencer in the food industry

This opens up a whole new world of possibilities for me Diary! And it seems it can be done with far less capital than what’s needed for a well-positioned start-up restaurant. But what about my dream of having a real live Coffee Shop? What will I need for that?

I would need to compare the two ideas and look at affordability and profitability.

Let’s look at what I can do for opening a Restaurant. First, I would have to look at market conditions:

  • How saturated is the market? How many Coffee Shops exist in your current chosen area for business?
  • How competitive is this environment, what services and products do they offer?
  • How will you be unique?
  • How many shops have opened and closed in the area and why?
  • What possible gaps are there in this market to gain entry or foothold?
  • Is there a revolutionary product or service I can contribute to capture Market Share?
  • What are the costs upfront: Number of skilled staff, Size of premises and Rent, Equipment, Product and stock, Positioning when entering the market and level of competitiveness (relative to an outlay of funds), Shop-fitment, Location, Certifications, and permits. (to name a few)
  • What are some of the hidden costs: Marketing fees, Insurance, Maintenance, Legal Fees, Embellishments to facade e.g. special fitments and fixtures, paintings or pictures, etc. (to name a few)
  • Rapidly changing trends, how to evolve in an ever-changing market?
  • The future of restaurants as fixed locations.

Wow, this sounds like a mouthful Diary, and frankly quite overwhelming to say the least. It seems like just having a dream is not that simple. Plus, how do I know that it will serve a real purpose in the community? Does it have relevance? Is it something that is needed or even wanted? Sometimes we have a dream to start a business and we present it to the world as if to say: “here, this is my dream, I hope you love it too”. But then we find that people don’t relate to it, can’t identify with it right now or ever and therefore reject it. This hurts but perhaps it is best to ask people what they want. To observe what they are drawn to. This is surely a huge return on investment like no other. I think a business should strive to meet its customers halfway and try to work out a relatable compromise.

So Diary, I see now that I have to put my dreams to the test. To see if they are:

  • Versatile
  • Relatable
  • Able to evolve
  • Resilient
  • Competent in reality
  • Serving needs of others

A personal testament:

A few years ago I discovered that I had reactions to eating foods containing gluten. I decided to adopt a gluten-free diet as a result. Upon doing this I also discovered that the type of gluten-free food available in the market was of very low quality and not very appetizing at all. This lead me to start my own gluten-free brand called “The Gluten-Free Gastronome”. I had developed my own gluten-free flour and sold it to bakeries and private individuals for home use. I quickly began to see there was a real need to educate people on how to bake with gluten-free flours, as there was such confusion around that which clearly led to poor results. This has been a fun learning exercise for me and one example of seeing a need in the community and then coming up with creative ways to meet the need. Here is the website: https://thegastronome.co.za/

Until tomorrow, dear Diary.

So many questions

Asking yourself valid questions about your new found venture and then seeking the answers.

Dear Diary

Since I’m feeling this way, I’m going to do something about it instead of complain about how I loathe going to work every day to do the same thing over and over. I think the responsible thing to do is to leave and let someone else who really wants the job to get the opportunity to be employed and make a real difference here. I want to make a difference by doing something else.

I have been feeling guilty about this Diary because I’m supposed to be “gainfully employed” right? How will I pay my bills? So may reports say that business start-ups fail within the first 5 years. I’m worried about this Diary. What if I fail?

I read up on some stats exploring the reasons why some people start businesses and why those businesses fail:

https://smallbiztrends.com/2019/03/startup-statistics-small-business.html

https://www.failory.com/blog/startup-failure-rate

https://www.forbes.com/sites/ericwagner/2013/09/12/five-reasons-8-out-of-10-businesses-fail/#3d2531046978

What if I succeed? I’m curious about this. I dream of being debt-free and traveling the world. I dream about starting other businesses and helping people. I dream of being financially free to do whatever I choose. These dreams drive me to risk the safety of my comfort. They say that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side Diary, but I figured..what if I water it there? What if I did some research about the environment, the soil, the weather patterns and what the most suitable type of grass would be for all these factors. What if I plant new grass there?

What drove other entrepreneurs before me? Why would they take the risk and not me? Do you need something special, or someone to tell you: “yes, you may go ahead now”. There are so many obstacles to this, why? So many conflicting thoughts and emotions. So much fear. Why Diary? Is it not just like any other occupation? Are there not skills one can learn to reduce the risk, a support system one can make use of? What if I don’t have enough money to start a business? What about my expenses? My family, my car, my home? How will I even get money for equipment for my business? Who will give me this money? These are the new questions I now have Diary. I’m not always sure about the answers, perhaps I have a lot of work to do. For as much as starting a business starts in the heart with a feeling to do more, travels to the brain to reason through the logistics of it all, it has to eventually progress into a plan of action for the body to do. This is not as easy as I had thought Diary. Perhaps I need a mentor, someone I can consult and help me with my questions.

So what are they saying to me Diary? That I should become familiar with failure? That I should even go as far as to study business failure? Is this a prerequisite to business success? So if I am supposed to become well versed in business failure, does this mean that I am actually learning about preventative measures, perhaps even resilience? So with this said Diary, my plan is to start with possible endings in mind. This also means I have to carefully pick my type of business. I see now how being swept up in my feelings of a new adventure can quickly end in failure if I am not careful. So then, how do I find the balance Diary? Between passion, which I need to drive me to do this great task and critical reasoning, which I also need to prevent possible failure through proper research and planning. It seems like I need a healthy balance of the two and knowing when the right skill is applicable. I clearly have a lot to learn Diary, but I am already intrigued by it all!

Until tomorrow, dear Diary.