These 5 Skills Are More Important for Entrepreneurs Than Any Fancy Degree

By Bill Green

One of the great fallacies about building a professional career is believing where you went to school dictates how successful you become.

This is one of the most heavily debated topics in the business world: the effective return on investment for attending college and/or pursue an MBA. Now, I’m not saying formal education is a poor investment, by any means. For many people, school is an opportunity to “know what you don’t know,” and that in itself makes it a worthwhile pursuit.

Where people make the mistake, however, is in thinking the degree itself is all that’s needed.

They believe that because they attended the classes and passed the tests, then where they went to school will carry them to professional success–and that’s simply not true. As someone who didn’t end up graduating from college, I can tell you firsthand that over decades of building businesses, it’s the working skills I value in my partners and employees over a fancy resume. I would much rather hire the kid who has tried and failed, than the one who passed his or her classes with flying colors, but never attempted to put their theoretical knowledge to the test in the real world.

This is a topic I speak about at length in my book, All In. Again, I’m not saying a formal education or an MBA is a waste of time or money. Just make sure that, in addition to building your resume, you make it a point to acquire the following 5 skills.

These are the things that ultimately make you a professional success story–whether you climb the ladder of a larger organization, or you build your own from the ground up:

1. Honesty (With Yourself)

Lots of people have ideas.

Students, especially, before stepping into the real world, tend to get caught up in their ideas. They love thinking about them, brainstorming them, and sharing them with their friends and family. Unfortunately, ideas without execution don’t go very far. And while there is absolutely value in coming up with great ideas, an idea cannot become “great” until it faces its first customer.

One of the most valuable skills you can acquire early in your professional career is knowing the difference between what sounds great in theory, and what holds real value to a paying customer or a loyal user. And the only way to acquire this skill is to try a lot of different things. The more you create, and the more you try to build yourself, the faster you will learn what people are willing to pay for and what they would rather do without.

You’ll learn how to be honest about whether your idea has real potential or not.

2. Leadership

Entrepreneurship, working within a startup, or being part of a smaller team within a larger corporate environment, all require some capacity of team interaction.

Many entrepreneurs or “intrepreneurs” (those who bring massive value inside larger organizations) tend to forget that the best business ideas in the world require more than just plug-and-chug execution in order to be successful. All execution requires teamwork, and all teamwork requires a lengthy list of soft skills in order to keep people motivated, focused, and loyal. One of those soft skills is the ability to communicate your vision and lead those around you to victory.

The best way I’ve found to acquire the skill of leadership is to put yourself in environments where you either have the opportunity to learn from a talented leader, or to be forced to step up and become a leader yourself. Ideally, you’ll have a number of both of these experiences in your professional career.

3. Discipline

The kind of discipline school encourages is not the same discipline the real world asks of you.

In school, the punishment for not being “disciplined” with your work is quite inconsequential, all things considered. You might fail a test, or get a bad grade for the semester. But when you’re starting a company, or working within someone else’s company and handling paying clients, suddenly the consequences become very real. Your mistakes can be measured in cash.

Taking the idea of discipline a step further, school plans the path out for you. What is much more difficult is determining where you want to head on the path, while simultaneously dealing with unforeseen challenges at the same time. Persisting in the face of uncertainty, pressure, or the potential of failure, requires a level of discipline that cannot be acquired in a semester.

Discipline is something that takes years to master.

The best way to get started, then, is to find as many things in life to become disciplined about. If you can become disciplined with your finances, your daily schedule, your health, etc., then you are creating the habits that will set you up for success.

4. Optimism

This is a skill many don’t consciously acquire.

But the truth is, entrepreneurship and professional advancement is tough work. Every day isn’t great. The wins are far less frequent than the losses. And it can be very easy to fall into a state of mind where your day to day is seen as stressful, overwhelming, and a pain.

Listen, if you want to make it to the summit, remember this: it’s all in your head.

The ability to be optimistic and positive, even in the face of great obstacles, is not to be undervalued. You’re the one who chose to pursue a path of success. You’re the one who wanted to build something great. You’re the one who chose this life, for yourself. So, don’t look for the bad, the ugly, and the stressful. Instead, look for things to be thankful for: like the fact that you even have the opportunity to pursue what you’re passionate about in the first place.

Optimism isn’t a weakness. Optimism is the state of mind that will give you endurance for the long road ahead.

5. Resilience

Last but not least, I firmly believe it’s imperative that every young individual find opportunities, any opportunity at all, to build the skill of resilience.

For me, I gained this skill-building my first company, Wilmar, starting as a teenager in a flea market. There I was, selling hand tools off of a fold-up card table prices–I heard the word “No” dozens of times each day. But when I would eventually hear a “Yes,” I learned the importance of resilience and persistence. Had I accepted the first, or second, or twenty-third “No,” I might never have built Wilmar, a company that ended up eventually being acquired by Home Depot.

The reason why I always take fancy resumés with a grain of salt is because a resumé doesn’t always show you how resilient someone is. Sure, I want to know where you went to school, but I also want to know about a time in your life when someone told you, “No, that’s not going to work,” and you pressed on anyway. Regardless of whether you were successful or not doesn’t matter. What matters is that you tried, and you became a little more resilient in the process.

This article was first published at Inc

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Change the Way You Think About Your Business With These 6 Thought Exercises

By David Finkel

Many entrepreneurs have taken to wearing the same thing day in and day out to reduce decision fatigue and free up their time to focus on more important matters. Barack Obama, Mark Zuckerberg, and the late Steve Jobs all believed in minimalist wardrobes. And while I agree the concept is a sound one, I want to challenge the idea a bit and encourage you as a business owner to mix things up, even if it’s only metaphorically.

Here at Maui Mastermind, we often teach our mastermind groups about the power of the six hats, and I want to share the concept with you today.

What Is a Hat?

In this context, a hat is not a physical piece of clothing but a state of mind. It is a tool that can be used to push the boundaries of thinking and help you grow as a group and as leaders. There are six different types of hats:

  • White Hat: The Professor or Thinker Mode. Focus: Exclusively on the objective facts, information and data without any interpretation or “story.”
  • Red Hat: The Emotional/Intuitive Hat. Focus: Exclusively on feelings, emotions, and intuition.
  • Black Hat: Your Bodyguard. Focus: Exclusively on what is wrong or could go wrong.
  • Yellow Hat: The Enthused Champion. Focus: Exclusively on how to make an idea work and looking for what’s good about a specific situation.
  • Green Hat: Your Creative Genius. Focus: Exclusively on new ideas and creating possibilities and new combinations and mixtures.
  • Blue Hat: The Organizing Hat. Focus: Exclusively on the thinking process itself and how we are recording, organizing, harnessing, and putting to work the thinking we are doing.

What Are the Benefits of the Hats?
In our mastermind group, we regularly sit down together as a team and put on a different hat. We will discuss what hat we are going to wear and explain the ground rules before sharing our ideas.

This exercise has many benefits:

  • It lets people play and relax into the fun of the hat in question.
  • It reduces people’s perceived risk in contributing to the group and helps them feel safer playing a role that they put on…it’s not “them,” only a hat they are wearing.
  • It helps people avoid arguments, which is rarely needed in masterminding and almost always detrimental and destructive. Now you can simply note all sides in parallel and move forward in your masterminding. In the rare case in which you need to choose, you lay out the map and eventually let your red hat choose.
  • It simplifies the thinking process. Rather than use all thinking styles all at once in a great big muddle, you can break out the parts and really flesh out the ideas.
  • It helps people switch thinking patterns and avoid thinking ruts.

Three Final Tips to Harness the Power of the Hats
Remember, the hats are about direction, not description…. They are about influencing the way you are behaving and thinking, not a label you put on your thinking in retrospect.

When you use a hat, make sure everyone wears the same hat at the same time (the only exception is if you want to keep a facilitator wearing the blue hat).

The hats are tools. You don’t need them all the time. You use them when you want and put them away when they become too much. Avoid living in any one particular hat.

In upcoming articles, I will dive into the differences between the six hats in greater detail.

This article was first published at Inc

How to Strengthen Your Company From Within by Volunteering

By Tanya Hall

“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” This quote from David Viscott may ring true for many of you on a personal level, though in the business world, giving anything away (time, earnings, or otherwise) may not mesh with your profit-driven nature.

However, incorporating volunteerism into your company culture will certainly reinforce its deserved role in your company’s overall values and esprit de corps.

For the business owner or executive with bottom-line responsibility, office-wide volunteerism may feel like a frivolous waste of valuable company resources and billable hours. Certainly, having half (or all) of the office off the clock for any portion of the day is a direct hit to the bottom line.

But if we look past hourly billings and productivity reports and consider overall culture, the cost to replace employees, the strength of a tight and collaborative team, and the fulfillment that comes along with volunteering, the business case for carving out dedicated time for volunteerism becomes clear cut. Here are a few benefits to consider:

Connection

Company-wide volunteer efforts allow your team to interact and connect with other employees who they may not often work with in the course of regular business. The personal connections that are forged during volunteer efforts create lasting bonds that build interdepartmental relationships and general camaraderie. The respect and human connection from that bonding will positively impact future collaboration, problem-solving, and crisis management.

Values

Identifying volunteer efforts that are aligned with company values helps to reinforce the all-important purpose of why the team shows up each day. This is especially important for employees in roles that focus on a micro-aspect of the bigger picture, so that they are reminded of the bigger “why” around company purpose. For example, here at Greenleaf Book Group, we might choose to support the local public library by volunteering to clean and re-shelve books, reminding everyone on staff, from the receptionist to the technology team, of the value of making knowledge and growth available.

Career Advancement

Your team cares about career advancement and anything that helps to make their résumés a bit shinier. This can be a hard pill to swallow for a leader–you don’t want them to focus on the next step towards leaving! But realistically, career advancement is important, and even if you can’t promise an outcome, you’ll come out ahead if you can help boost your employees’ overall chances of demonstrating growth and contribution.

Volunteerism on a résumé is a strong indicator of someone who walks their talk. Your staff will value this résumé booster and will likely show more loyalty to you because of it.

New Skills

Certain volunteer opportunities can open a door for your staff to learn new skills that make them more valuable on your team. For instance, a volunteer role that requires someone with no management skills to oversee a project or launch can provide an experience for them to develop in that area, if it’s attractive to them. That experience may help them gain clarity around their future development goals without you having to take a risk on it in the day-to-day operations of your company.

Recruitment and Fulfillment

Getting out of the office to do something completely different is generally welcomed as a fulfilling benefit for your team. Breaking monotony, trying new things, doing work with purpose, and feeling like a part of a greater goal is important to any employee’s satisfaction. If you can’t compete on salary, offering up a culture ripe with the opportunity to give back may be the tipping point required to recruit the talent you need.

A company-wide volunteerism program may look like a waste of resources at first glance, but once you quantify the value of the benefits outlined above, it’s clear that giving back transcends the bottom line to create an environment of dedicated, purpose-driven teams supported by strong interpersonal connections.

Whether you think your culture is strong or in need of repair, consider the benefits of volunteerism and how you might use it to build a culture that is fulfilled, aligned, committed, and productive.

This article was first published at Inc

The 1 Temptation Every Founder Needs to Resist

By Kevin J. Ryan

The idea of growing your company’s product line can be very tempting. But sometimes, you need to tap the brakes.

That’s the advice offered by Carey Smith, the founder of Big Ass Solutions, at the Inc. Founders House on Monday. Smith founded his company–initially called Big Ass Fans–in 1999 as a manufacturer of ceiling fans for industrial spaces. The startup later expanded into other products such as lights and residential fans, and revenue climbed, reaching $240 million in 2016. The following year, Smith sold the company to private equity firm Lindsay Goldberg for $500 million.

Despite that success, Smith advised resisting the common urge to quickly roll out new offerings. “Everybody has it, because you’re afraid you’re going to miss something,” he said. “I hate to say ‘slow down’–but you need to step back and take a look” at the market.

Smith was joined on stage by Chris Anderson, founder of pool furniture maker Ledge Lounger, whom he will be advising as part of the Inc. Founders Project, which pairs early-stage entrepreneurs with established mentors. Since founding his startup in 2009, Anderson has expanded from underwater chairs to products like deck furniture and cabanas.

“You have to be very careful at this juncture,” Smith told him. “It’s easy to overdo it.”

Smith admitted Big Ass Solutions looked at some markets way outside of its natural sphere, ranging from robotics to yogurt. The company never strayed that far, but it did release several products that failed to catch on with consumers.

A good way to avoid that problem, Smith said, is to do your homework. While proper market research could take several weeks and thousands of dollars, that’s less costly than creating something that bombs. “It could take you a year to develop a product,” he said. “We developed products that didn’t go anywhere, because it turned out people just didn’t understand them.”

And if you need help coming up with ideas in the first place, remember you have a valuable resource available: your own customers. It’s wise to talk to them about what kinds of products they crave.

“Not because you need to make everything they want,” Smith said, “but to get into their brains.

This article was first published at Inc

South Africa: Absa partners with digital academy to empower youth


BY IOL STAFF REPORTER


Absa and The Digital Academy hosted a technology showcase to unveil solutions and applications built by The Digital Academy interns as part of a six-month programme.

The programme is aimed at helping to bridge a skills shortage in the technology and banking sectors.

The Digital Academy has created a real-world and industry-leading platform which allows for young software developers to grow technically and to solve real problems with innovative solutions. The programme is designed to identify top talent and to fast-track opportunities and success for participants.

Participants in the internship work in simulated software development environments, which encourage digital product innovation in Africa and allow skills to be aligned to industry demand.

Absa has made a substantial investment in developing young talent in partnership with The Digital Academy. Both organisations contribute to improving the employability of South Africa’s out-of-work youth and promote economic inclusion, while passing on critical skills needed to succeed in the workplace of the future.

“Disruptive technologies and trends such as the Internet of Things, robotics, virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI) are changing the way we live and work. We need to train and develop a skilled workforce that has the ability to take part in the digital revolution, which is one of the reasons that our partnership with The Digital Academy is so important,” said Lee-Anne Wyman, Programme Manager for Young Talent and Citizenship in Absa’s technology division.

Each year, The Digital Academy hosts two intakes of 30 students that are trained for six months. The only prerequisite for joining the programme is for students to have completed Matric, to have a foundation in coding and a passion for technology.

The initiative supports these young interns in their development by building commercially focused prototypes that address local challenges for the local and African market. To date, 178 interns have been placed at Absa as part of the work-based experience component of the internship, of which 12 are current interns, 85 have been placed permanently and 41 have been placed on fixed-term contracts

“Our latest showcase will build on the success Absa and The Digital Academy have already enjoyed in ensuring that we continue to pass on the support and skills that South Africa’s youth need in order to become leaders of the workplaces of tomorrow, as well as to play an active role in their communities,” concludes Wyman.


Source iol


SA: A South African Case Study – How to Support Young Job Hunters


ANALYSIS

By Lauren Graham, University of Johannesburg and Leila Patel
Young South Africans spend on average R938 (US$85) a month looking for work. This astronomical cost includes transport at R558 ($41) and an additional R380 ($28) for internet access, printing, application fees, agent’s fees and even money for bribes.


The picture is even more alarming when you consider the unemployment statistics. Over the last decade unemployment in South Africa has increased from 21.5% to 27.2%.

But perhaps most concerning is that it’s especially high for South Africa’s almost 10 million young people between the ages of 15 and 24. For this group unemployment sits at 50%. Not only do young people struggle to find work but the process of getting a job in South Africa is expensive.

The data on the cost of looking for work has been collected by the Siyakha Youth Assets for Employability Study. The ongoing study launched in 2013 to assess whether government programmes designed to help young people is actually making a difference in their efforts to find work.

The programmes offer some form of skills training – usually a combination of technical and general workplace skills, along with some advice and support on finding work. The study is looking at whether youth employability programmes – improve employment for youth and what elements help them in their job search.

The study participants were predominantly African, women and from poor backgrounds. The average age of the participants when they completed their training was 23.5 years. Three-quarters of the sample were between 18 and 25 years of age. This demographic is the most affected by unemployment.

The reasons most often given for youth unemployment are limited skills, lack of work experience, and high wage expectations. But our findings show that over half of the sample had prior work experience and did not report unrealistic wage expectations, suggesting there were other factors keeping young people locked out of the labour market.

We conclude that one reason contributing to the continued inability of young people to break into the jobs market is the cost of seeking a job.

The survey

The survey has involved a sample of 1 986 young people who participated in eight of these programmes at 48 training sites across the country. The vast majority of the participants were young – with an average age of 23 – black (94,4%) and unemployed (78%).

A key reason that those surveyed gave for not looking for work is the cost of doing so.

The reason for this is that apartheid era spatial planning, in which townships were established far away from economic hubs, continues to affect the ability of people to look for work in a cost effective way.

Two-thirds of the participants in the study live in townships often located on the periphery of urban areas. This means they have to travel long distances to the urban economic hubs to access job opportunities.

The remaining third were based in far flung rural areas, meaning they needed to travel even further than their urban counterparts in search of jobs.

In addition to the burden of travel costs, the study found that over half (51%) of young people live in households that are classified as severely food insecure. This meant that they, or another member of the household, had gone without food to eat more than once in the 30 days that preceded the baseline study.

This means that households had to make difficult decisions between funding the costs of seeking work and affording basic necessities.

The findings

Our research found that close to two-thirds (61.6%) of participants relied on family members to fund their costs of searching for work, which puts a huge strain on their personal relationships and often made these young people feel like a burden.

Blessing, a young mom of two with a diploma in tourism management said:

[I experience] financial challenges in the case of going to drop my CV, so I have been asking my mum and even my husband, to drop my CV on my behalf on their way to work to save on costs.

Nevertheless, 15% of youth in the study showed real initiative and commitment to finding work. They funded the costs from their own savings. A smaller number (6.2%) reported using the stipends they received from the various programmes helping youths find employment.

The study found that 87.2% of those interviewed used the internet to look for work, but there was still a reliance on newspaper adverts, which often required applicants to submit physical applications.

The research found that 83% of young people spent money on printing their CVs, and that one of their biggest expenses was for mobile data. The youth employment programmes helped in alleviating some of the financial costs.

Support for work seekers is crucial, especially if South Africa is going to address the needs of the millions of young people that remain unemployed. Failure to provide this support means that young people’s potential will not be realised and significant human capital will be lost to society.

Leilanie Williams, a researcher at the University of Johannesburg, contributed to the research and this article.


Source The Conversation