Social Enterprises Advisor
Is there a more opportune time than now to talk about entrepreneurship in South Africa? There are several opportunities related to global problems needing local solutions, for example as climate change, increased proliferation of technology, and new ways of working. Cracking these problems require creative problem-solving and thinking outside of the box.
For this article, I thought I would share some thoughts on drivers of success and my experience with design thinking, a concept used primarily in building technology solutions. Increasingly, there is consensus that the utilisation of this concept has applicability in small business entrepreneurship. This is premised on the ability to be creative in problem-solving and taking incrementally small, rather than large, high capital-intensive steps when creating a business. The foundational steps to this approach are as follows:
Understanding the problem As I delved into the world of technology, I came to understand how important it is to take a user-centric focus to building products. This typically involves removing biases, and truly placing the user at the centre, understanding the problem the user is experiencing without preconceived notions or having a solution in mind. Similarly, entrepreneurs can benefit from placing the customer at the centre before embarking on a venture – investing the necessary time understanding the problem the customer is trying to solve. Amazon is a seminal example of how placing the customer at the centre of the business proposition can lead to incredible success by having a customer-centric approach.
Taking time to understand the problem In interviews with user groups, it’s not uncommon to hear disgruntled users complain that their counterparts in technology and business are inherently problem solvers and like to immediately jump into problem-solving mode without taking enough time to really understand the problem, choosing only to scratch the surface superficially. Design thinking advocates the value of a listening and understanding approach – really understanding the problem from various points of view – multi-layered, before leaping into problem-solving.
The failure and feedback loop In most of my interactions with successful entrepreneurs, they are at pains to explain that failure is an integral part of their success. Failure is difficult to swallow, and at times, can seem insurmountable, especially if considerable resources are invested. However, it is equally important to consider that failure is a stepping-stone to success. In the world of design thinking, ideation and prototyping are key steps in the design process. Small, incremental steps are taken, tested at every stage, and course corrections are made before a final launch of a product or service is planned. In this manner, investments and risk are spread over these stages, with the benefit that significant investment is not sunk in the initial/early stages.
Food for thought
- Does design thinking have applicability in my new venture? How can I involve my customer/target audience in the design phase of my product/service?
- Do you really understand the problem you are trying to solve? How many customers/users have you interacted with?
- Can you prototype to a controlled group to test reception to your idea/product?
So, whatever your age …
- Understand your financial planning framework and objectives for each class of asset.
- Don’t ‘bet the house’ on your business with your retirement investments.
- Protect your business assets and personal wealth with appropriate assurances for when ‘business or life happens’.
- Invest the wealth from business assets prudently whether for business growth or building personal or retirement assets.
- Evaluate the legal structures, estate planning, tax planning, and cash flow planning options available to you.
- Have a clear understanding of the value of the business you own and your exit strategy.
- Seek professional financial advice in each category.