When she left being a CEO of a major bank in Botswana to start Sally Dairy, Mme Lorato Ntakhwana quickly learned the challenges of entrepreneurship.
Leaving corporate, let alone being a CEO of a major bank to being a CEO of a startup, is not easy.
The biggest challenge is downgrading your lifestyle and freeing yourself from the financial shackles of living a corporate lifestyle so that you can invest your resources in your startup.
Being used to red carpets being rolled down for you, to having to buy carpets and stationery for your business is not easy.
Being used to flying business class and going economy class is not easy.
Being used to wearing power suits to wearing jeans and overalls and being hands-on in your plant is not easy.
Being used to having stimulating intellectual discussions about economic trends, monetary outlooks, budget analysis with colleagues, to having basic conversations with your team who most of them only have matric is not easy.
Mme Ntakhwana had to hit the ground running, learned fast the trials and tribulations of entrepreneurship and sticking it out to build a growing business that is Sally Dairy.
What makes Mme Ntakhwana and other entrepreneurs like her, special is that she has the courage to disregard all the perks, the social status, and soldier through what she thinks is correct.
She is understands the difference between being employed and being an employer.
She understands that even the major bank she led before was once a startup.
More than intellectual smarts, connections, amazing product, and a great cv, entrepreneurship will teach you humility.
No one owes you a sale, customers don’t have to buy from you because you are this superstar person.
You can’t bring your Phd title, your “Do-you-know-who-I-am” attitude, your I’m popular, I’m beautiful, I’m smart attitude to customers.
Customer don’t care about your accolades, they care about themselves, about what value they can get from you in exchange for their hard-earned money.
In corporate you are given a budget to spend, in entrepreneurship you make your own budget.
That’s a huge shift in mindset. It teaches you to be humble.
Being humble teaches you that life is not about you and your title, but about others [customers].
That’s why entrepreneurs don’t really care much about their positions and titles, they know customer want excellent service, not titles of who is who in the business.
Being humble teaches you to serve, instead of insisting to be the centre of the universe.
This then creates a strong culture of customer care and relationships.
If customers feel appreciated and feel like they matter, they will always come back.
Being humble about your work, means you always leave room for improvement.
When you think you have arrived, it becomes difficult to discern areas of improvement.
Jeff Bezos, when asked about a company disrupting Amazon said: “It’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when.”
Despite Amazon’s success, he has the presence of mind that startups can disrupt Amazon and succeed.
Being humble is an antidote to arrogance.
It is a virtue that allows you to stay ahead of the classic innovator’s dilemma while your startup can be disrupting an incumbent your company might be the one to get disrupted in the next innovation cycle
A humble leader says: “when the company succeeds, credit goes to the team, but when the company struggles, I take the blame.”
Reflect credit, and embrace blame.
A humble leader spawns other humble leaders around herself.
Being humble does not mean being tolerant of mediocrity.
Being humble means striving for excellence and not compromising standards, but being humane about it.
You can still fire a non-performing staff, but after you have tried to help them perform and given them time improve.
There is so much power in humility.
Transformation starts with someone saying, I’m leaving my job to start a business. I’m aware that to succeed in this journey I have to put customers at the centre of everything we do at _______ [insert your company name].