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The East African : Nov 3rd 2014
The EastAfrican 46 BUSINESS NOVEMBER 1-7,2014 MANAG E R Leaving day job to become you≥ own boss ≥equi≥es thoughtful ≥isk-taking COMMENTARY RICHARD BRANSON “It is wise to preserve a regular income before you dive into running a new business.” I have been lucky enough to be my own boss since leaving school at 16, so I have never faced the decision of whether to leave a day job. But at Virgin we have started hundreds of businesses, so I know that turning an idea into a successful enterprise requires a lot of hard work. I also know that it can sometimes feel like there is never a good time to start another company. Launching your own business is one of the most rewarding and fulfilling things you can do. And while thoughtful risk-taking is something to be encouraged, it is important to keep in mind that most new businesses fail within the first year and a half. So, before you give up the security of a steady pay cheque you need to be as sure as possible that the risk is worth it. For example, back in 1972, our team started Virgin Records alongside our first business, Student magazine. We eventually changed our primary focus from the magazine to the record business, but only after we were certain that there would be a strong market for records. Back then, the decision was an easy one because demand for our records was growing so fast that it quickly outpaced requests for our magazine. We had proof. Today, proving that there is demand for your product or service (while keeping your day job) is easier than ever. Crowdfunding websites such as Indiegogo, for example, let you test out your business idea through videos, and if it is an idea that viewers like, they will put money into it (often before you have even created your first product). If you strike a chord with po- tential investors and are able to collect adequate funding, you will have proved that a market for your product or service exists, and you will have enough money to start building the business you want. So, seeking funding for your business before giving up your day job is a very smart move. Before you dive We recently launched Virgin StartUp loans in the UK to give entrepreneurs the funding they need to get set up, as well as guidance on creating a realistic cash flow forecast. Often, this forecast shows that a business will not bring in enough money to support the entrepreneur for quite a while, so it is wise to preserve a regular income before you dive into running a new business full time. That said, at Virgin we en- courage an entrepreneurial spirit in our staff, and many of our employees have gone on to launch successful businesses in a range of industries. But just as many have stayed on to celebrate 10- and 20-year anniver- saries with Virgin. Just because a person enjoys the benefits of working for someone else does not mean he is not cut out to be an entrepreneur. For a long time, students were taught in school that their goal upon graduating should be simply to get a good job, and that is what most tried to do. This sort of thinking was shortsighted — not everybody is cut out for a 9-to-5 job, and little consideration was given to supporting the job creators of the future. Things are changing, though. The most recent recession saw tens of thousands of people suddenly lose their jobs after spending most of their adult lives on the same career path. This prompted many to consider whether it would make more sense to work for themselves rather than for a company. These days, more people are deciding to take their future into their own hands and become their own bosses. Create entrepreneurs This focus on entrepreneur- ship has filtered down into education systems, as well, which is a great thing. We are doing our part to expose young students to entrepreneurship through initiatives like Virgin Money’s Fiver Challenge, which provides £5 ($8) to children aged 5 to 11 in the UK so that they can set up mini businesses and see if they can make a profit. Programmes like this can help to create more entrepreneurs in the future and may even prevent some people from believing that their only option is “to work for corporations their entire lives.” Of course, no business is guar- anteed to succeed. But if you are looking for an excuse to stay in a job rather than focus full time on your business, you will always find one. When you do eventually cut away the safety net and put everything into your startup, it is key that you launch it in an area that you are passionate about. Remember to have fun, and if the venture does not work out, learn from your mistakes so you will be better equipped the next time. Good luck! Richa≥d B≥anson is the founde≥ of the Vi≥gin G≥oup and companies such as Vi≥gin Atlantic, Vi≥gin Ame≥ica, Vi≥gin Mobile and Vi≥gin Active. He maintains a blog at www.vi≥gin.com/≥icha≥db≥anson/blog. Leade≥s, help you≥ team spend time on the ≥ight things By RON ASHKENAS and AMY MCDOUGALL New York Times WHAT IS the most common resource that is always in short supply? The answer, of course, is time. This applies not only to your time, but to your team’s. It is the one organisational re- source that is neither expandable nor renewable. Therefore, making sure that time is spent in ways that will have the biggest impact is a critical determinant of organisational success. Unfortunately, many managers do not think about time as a finite resource in the same way that they consider the limitations of head count or budget. Therefore they do not hesitate to give their teams more assignments without taking any away. The consequence of this is that their people work longer hours — and it is often not clear to them what their priorities should be. This cascades through the ranks so that almost everyone feels over-stressed and overworked. As one senior executive sadly said, “There is no time in the year any more when things quiet down.” But managers can take steps to overcome this dynamic and better leverage organisational time. The first thing they should do is sharpen their vision of what their unit needs to improve on over the course of the next year or two, so that the team’s priorities are clear. Next, they need to free up time to move toward that vision by consolidating, eliminating or streamlining current activities. Finally, managers must reallocate this newly liberated capacity toward short-term experiments that can help them to realise their vision quicker and with a greater impact. Drive customer relevance Let us look at the Americas Field Marketing organisation for Cisco Systems, as an example of this three-step process. For two years, this nearly 130-person unit had worked hard to drive customer relevance, generate demand and increase loyalty in partnership with its sales teams across North, South and Central America. Unit mem- bers had organised trade shows, delivered direct marketing, generated leads and provided useful customer insights — the basics of a successful marketing organisation. During this time, however, Cis- co’s customers were beginning to purchase and use technology in new ways. Increasingly, tech-savvy business managers were making buying decisions; user-generated applications were being added on top of the basic technology; cloud computing was becoming prominent; and digital media were becoming a key influence in deciding which technologies to purchase. Customers were self-educating and researching buying decisions in new ways — not just with a salesperson. In the face of this new reality, the marketing leadership realised that many of the unit’s traditional faceto-face activities were no longer sufficient. So at an off-site, they began to develop a vision for marketing 2.0 — with a focus on data analytics, cloud marketing, more targeted use of Cisco.com, third-party websites, social media and better identification of organisational buyers, all in support of generating better leads for the Cisco sales teams. New initiatives are necessary to move an organisation forward. But without a strategy for managing time, the chances of success may be limited and, if achieved, shortlived.
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