Are You Building A Business Or Creating A Job For Yourself?

We recently spoke with a member of our co-working space who owns a PR/marketing company and is the only employee of his company. His firm is successful and has been in business for more than three years since he left a large organisation where he was the head of PR.

Our conversation got around to the issue of extra help. When he needs additional skills to fulfill assignments, this man told us, he contracts with other professionals. That was interesting, we thought. Because, although our PR friend is talented and able to support his growing family, his comment about contracting out work raised a question for us.

“Was he trying to build a company or create a job for himself?” we wanted to know. It was a question that struck a chord with this man – one that he later came back to discuss.

In that context, we want to state that we think that we consider either choice a valid one, but one that should be a specific choice, nonethless. We work with and mentor dozens of small start-ups. And many start as single-person firms completing short assignments for a variety of other small or midsized companies.

 Most of these individuals used to hold positions with larger organisations doing essentially what they do now. Some left their jobs for the chance to build a company; some wanted more flexibility or the autonomy to choose their own assignments. Others lost their jobs and turned to freelance work out of necessity. Either way, they are now part of what we know as the gig economy.

There are more than 28 million small business in the United States. Of these, single-person companies are in the majority, representing three-quarters of all small businesses. These individuals, whether they planned it or not, have created a job for themselves. They will not hire employees or scale their businesses. Of course, this need not be negative.

Done right, a one-person business can actually make good money. It can give the owner the flexibility to choose assignments that are interesting and fulfilling, and to enjoy the flexibility of working when and where he or she chooses.

The “micro-business” category

A person working alone, or essentially alone, is a business category we call a “microbusiness.” The defining characteristic of a micro business is that the owner or principal is doing the primary work of the business, whether that means providing PR services or baking cookies. He or she may have helpers in the form of other freelancers, vendors or assistants, but the preponderance of the revenue comes directly from the work of this principal.

The key to the success of a micro business is how well the principal does its primary work, which includes selling. We find that the biggest challenge in a micro business is finding a steady stream of work. By the way, our consulting practice is a successful micro business. We have one paid full-time employee, our marketing assistant, but we do the primary work of our business – consulting.

The small business structure

Many people who own micro-businesses choose to stay at this size. However, if you want to build a business, you will need to grow, at least to what we call a small business structure, where the primary work is delegated to others. The owner might keep his or her hand in it, but others do the preponderance of the work. At this point, how well the principal does the primary work of the business is not nearly as important as it was when the enterprise was a micro business.

Personally, we found it difficult to transition to a small business structure in our consulting business for a couple of reasons. First, when people hire Doug and Polly to consult to their small business, they want Doug and Polly, not an associate. Second, we are limited in the amount we can charge to the very small businesses we serve. The fees we charge are not high enough to pay talent at the level we would want and still provide a sufficient markup for our firm. Therefore, Whitestone Partners has stayed a micro business.

It’s important to note that the role of the entrepreneur changes dramatically as a business moves from micro to small. In fact, at the point of transition, the principal has to let go of doing the very thing that made the company successful at the prior step. In a micro business, the business lives or dies based on how well the owner performs the primary work of the business. This makes sense. You have created a job, and you keep it or lose it based on how well you do the work.

But, if you choose to grow to a small business structure, success depends on how well the principal hires and manages workers. If you are the principal, your role will change. If you want to bake cakes, stay a micro business. If you want to run a bakery, you need to build a business. This is a scary step and one that can cause the principal sleepless nights.

Many people we mentor balk at this transition when they realise they will be responsible for the livelihood of others. However, to grow a business, yourself,, eventually, you will need to hire and manage employees.

Next . . . the midsize business

If you’re successful at the small business stage and choose to continue to grow, you will become a midsize business. The business has transitioned from small to midsize when at least one layer of management has been inserted between the principal and those doing the primary work. The principal has gone from managing workers to managing managers. This might sound like a small change. It is not.

To effectively utilise managers, the principal must delegate decision-making authority to them. This means giving up a measure of control, which is often difficult for entrepreneurs who are used to making every significant decision in the company.

This also is the transition with which growing companies most often struggle. Letting go of some control is a scary thing for entrepreneurs, and they are right to feel trepidation. Ineffective delegation can lead to the ruin of the business – we’ve seen it too often. To enable effective delegation, the principal will need to ensure that the appropriate infrastructure is in place. This means making certain that the business has the right managers, that processes are well-documented and that appropriate metrics are in place.

Meanwhile, if you want to create a life that has flexibility and autonomy and allows you to work when and where you like, you should probably choose to stay a micro business. As we like to say, you can create a great job for yourself. If you want to build something more, you will need to move to a small business structure. You will know that you have transitioned from micro to small when you have delegated most of the primary work of the business to others.

To truly scale a business, you will need to transition to midsize or larger. You will have done this once you’ve delegated day-to-day decision-making authority to a layer of managers that is between you and those doing the primary work of the businesses.

Each choice is valid and comes with its own challenges. However, we believe that it should be a conscious and specific choice. If you are unsure which direction to take, find an experienced consultant or mentor with whom to explore your options, skill sets, and desires. Then move forward with purpose in the direction that works for you.

This article was originally posted on

Seven Reasons Exercise Benefits You and Your Employees

Encouraging your employees to exercise isn’t simply about keeping them fit and healthy, there are also a number of other benefits, both for the employee and you as the employer.

1. Nature’s a great healer

Encouraging exercise that can be achieved outdoors, such as cycling, running or competitive sports, will help your employees to harness the positive effects of nature on their wellbeing.

Simply being outside is known to reduce stress, improve our mood and increase our cognitive performance. Stress-free, positive and alert employees are far more efficient and productive, benefiting both their career and your business.

UK researchers found that moving to a greener area (or having easy access to parks or woodland, etc.) has a sustained positive effect, unlike pay rises or promotions, which only provided a short-term boost.
Their study also found that people living in greener urban areas were displaying fewer signs of depression or anxiety.
These findings appear in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.

Nature doesn’t just have a positive effect on the mind. Roger S. Ulrich, PhD, has found that nature can help your body heal too.

In a study, Ulrich investigated the effect that views from windows had on patients recovering from surgery. He discovered that patients whose hospital rooms overlooked nature had an easier time recovering than those whose rooms overlooked brick walls. Patients able to see nature got out of the hospital faster, had fewer complications and required less pain medication than those forced to stare at a wall.

Like other researchers, Ulrich has found that simply viewing representations of nature can help. In a study at a Swedish hospital, for instance, he found that heart surgery patients in intensive care units could reduce their anxiety and need for pain medication by looking at pictures depicting trees and water. Source: APA

Employees that heal better and faster will take less time off.

2. A healthier way to network

As a healthy alternative for working dinners, a gym is a great place to ‘sweatwork‘ and further your career. Networking doesn’t have to be confined to the weights however, sport is also a great place to network.

It’s nothing new to incorporate sport into business deals, golf has long since been a staple of executives when it comes to closing deals or welcoming a new client.
Encouraging your employees to choose a healthier option when it comes to their account management or sales will not only benefit their health, but also your reputation as an employee, conscious of the wellness and happiness of your employees.

Forming a comradery with a training partner helps to cement relationships and build rapport, perfect for a new customer relationship or a potential one.

Not all fitness activities are appropriate for networking. For instance, a yoga class won’t lend itself to creative discussion or negotiations. It’s important to pick the right type of exercise to suit your networking requirements.

3. Creativity thrives

Creative employees increase productivity, contribute more readily to discussions and contribute to a brands innovation.

Cognitive psychologist Professor Lorenza Colzato, of Leiden University in The Netherlands, found that people who exercised four times a week were able to think more creatively than those with a more sedentary lifestyle.

In order to free your mind and allow it to be creative and to ‘wonder’ it’s important that the exercise undertaken isn’t one that requires constant focus and concentration, such as a competitive sport. Walking, running or cycling (in green spaces) allow employees to think about all sorts of things, some of which may prove to be the answers to problems, new ideas for a product or an inspired marketing strategy.

Combining exercise with business has also been a trend in recent years with such things as ‘walking meetings’.
As well as the obvious benefits of exercise, encouraging meeting attendees to join you for a stroll reduces the time they’re sat at their desks (and the associated dangers this brings), improves energy and engagement, and helps to break down corporate walls between management and employees.

Simply changing their environment from a desk to the outdoors may be enough to reinvigorate your employee’s creative juices and inspire them to think of the next big thing for your business success.

4. Release the endorphins!

Exercise has been proven to fight the effects of stress, depression, anxiety and even ADHD.

As well as releasing endorphins in the brain, physical activity helps to relax muscles and relieve tension in the body. Since the body and mind are so closely linked, when your body feels better so, too, will your mind.
A greater sense of calm in your employee base, as a result of increased exercise, will contribute to a healthy, productive and happy workforce.

Exercising regularly also reinforces the feeling of a balanced office and home life, further improving employee mood, motivation and perception of the employer brand.

Physical fitness can boost self-esteem and improve positive self-image. Exercise can quickly elevate a person’s perception of his or her self-worth, increasing confidence and willing to involve themselves in company discussions.

5. Healthier employees mean productive employees

A 2011 report on workplace fitness examined 752 employees from a variety of industries and positions in the UK and US.
Those employees who reached (or surpassed) 10,000 steps per day reported significant boosts in job satisfaction and productivity (only 18 percent of employees walked 10,000 or more steps per day before the program, and 58% were hitting that goal by the end).

Participants who completed the program reported a productivity increase on average of 41%.
Employees who reached the 10,000-step goal felt more productive than those who didn’t. Those who hit the goal also reduced their systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading) by an average of 8%, more than twice the reduction of those who did not reach 10,000 steps per day. Source:

Exercise also helps you to focus on tasks and work through discomfort to achieve your goals, both great qualities when applied to your career and everyday work situations.
Working out is known to improve brain function. According to John Medina, author of Brain Rules, people who are physically active score better on cognitive tests than people living a sedentary lifestyle.
In a clinical trial run by the Body-Brain Performance Institute, in association with Swinburne’s University and Brain Sciences Institute, found there was a clear link between physical fitness, brain function and reduced stress levels at work. Source: TheNextWeb

6. Team cohesion

Breaking through barriers and setting new personal best times/achievements is great when shared with a colleague. Added encouragement from a gym partner will help to improve cohesion within a department or company as a whole.

By sharing common goals, individuals will gain a sense of comradery. Working together and providing encouragement will become a natural part of their relationship, one which will also enable them to work well as a team in the office.

Participating in team sports reinforces the benefits of working together to achieve goals. This could be anything from doubles badminton to a full company football team, regardless of the size of the team, and what being part of it means, is the important factor.

7. Added job value

Providing gym membership, discounted fitness classes or a company team kit, adds value to the employees perceived worth to the brand. As well as a salary, you as a business are also investing in the health and happiness of your employees and they’ll be grateful for it.
Employees who feel valued and appreciated will repay you with higher productivity, engagement and energy towards their career.

Source: CIPHR

4 Common Leadership Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them)

As a leader, you’ve got a lot of responsibility on your shoulders. Despite your best efforts and intentions, mistakes can happen, and when they do, it’s important to deal with them in an open, professional manner. Here are some of the most common mistakes people in leadership positions make — and how to avoid them in the future.

In a startup environment, founders have to work very hard in the beginning stages to accomplish everything that needs to be done. It’s tempting to hire the first potential candidate as soon as your budget allows for it so you can start building a team to help you. However, hasty hiring can be detrimental to your business.

“We’ve hired too fast because our team was spread thin, and that ended up backfiring in a lot of ways,” said Mona Bijoor, founder and CEO of fashion startup JOOR. “People encourage you to hire, hire, hire. We’ve found that it’s best to take our time and go slowly.”

Bijoor cautions hiring managers to beware of candidates who don’t fit the company culture and don’t share the same passion and work ethic as the rest of the team. If a bad hiring decision is made and the employee simply isn’t right, it’s better to let them go as soon as possible rather than stick it out until someone better comes along.

“At the end of the day, you have to have the best team to execute your business,” Bijoor said. “You need to have the right chemistry of people.”

Sometimes, the problem with a new hire isn’t that he or she isn’t right for the job, but that you as a leader are expecting too much of that person too soon. Anthony Lolli, founder and CEO of real estate firm Rapid Realty, noted that a promising employee can fail if he or she isn’t given the proper tools.

“When you run a business, you eventually want to buy some freedom by hiring employees,” Lolli said. “You give them a week of training to do what you’ve been doing by yourself for two years and wonder why they weren’t able to survive.”

Take the time to thoroughly train your team members before leaving responsibilities fully in their hands, Lolli advised. If you don’t cut them enough slack in the beginning, they’ll either disappoint you, or become overwhelmed and leave.

A dangerous trap leaders can fall into is thinking their decision-making power means that their way is automatically the right one.

“Oftentimes, leaders assume that because they have the title, that makes them the thought leader,” said Mitchell Levy, author of “#Creating Thought Leaders Tweet” and CEO of THiNKaha. “They assume that what they say goes just because they say it, even if they act contrary to that.”

A related mistake leaders often make is to not critically listen to team members. Duggan Cooley, president and CEO of United Way of Pasco County, said leaders are sometimes so driven to get their point across and get the job done that they don’t take the time to hear what others are saying. This can lead to major communication problems within an organization.

To solve these issues, Levy urges leaders to take a step back and let others aggregate, curate and originate ideas both internally among the staff and externally to draw prospects and customers.

“You need to encourage this behavior and allow your team to get credit for their initiatives,” he said.

Leaders who like things done a specific way tend to think they’re the only ones who know how to do certain tasks. With a full schedule and a tremendous to-do list, bosses with the inability to delegate can quickly run out of time to get the really important tasks accomplished.

“The most critical thing you can do as a leader is know yourself and your style of leadership,” Cooley told BusinessNewsDaily. “If you’re overwhelmed, ask yourself if it’s because of [a lack of] delegation. Could you have gotten others involved? Should you have been asking people to get something done or deal with an issue, but didn’t?”

Cooley acknowledged that it can be difficult for leaders to ask others for help, especially when it comes to assessing their own challenges, but also noted that delegation to trusted colleagues can not only help build the morale of your team, but also take some responsibilities off your already-full plate.


What can you do to ensure that if you do make a mistake, you’ll still retain the trust and respect of your team? All four sources agree that admitting and owning up to an error is the first and most important step to recovery.

“Be clear about why the situation didn’t work and what failed,” Bijoor recommended. “It’s so important to talk with your team about why things didn’t go well.”

Similarly, Cooley noted that people appreciate honesty and humility when their leader makes a mistake. In fact, it can go a long way in helping to bring a team back together.

“As a leader, you not only lead the team, but you’re part of it,” he said. “Humility conveys that you’re not above others but working with them.”

Originally published on BusinessNewsDaily.

Business Leadership: Leading A Culturally Diverse Business Team

As I witnessed the rain dancing against the window panes of the Mega mall in Midvalley, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia I started reflecting on how to lead a culturally diverse business team.

Thousands of Malay, Chinese, Japanese, and Europeans passed me in the hallways of this gargantuan construction and the Dalai Lamas’ wise words reminded me that at the core of it all, irrespective of what your nationality is or what your belief system is, in general:

“We all want to experience joy and avoid suffering”

A key question that every team leader should carefully consider is how do we collectively experience joy and manage and/or avoid suffering as a business and as a team?

How can we as a diverse team be united in the joys of experiencing an expanding and successful business with a wonderful and constructive culture and avoid the suffering of a failing business and the negative experience of a toxic culture?  These are of course ‘loaded’ questions because inherent within these questions are the birthing of other key challenges –

How can we as Leaders create a relatively stable and inspirational environment from within which it is easier for each individual to unlock their vast potential when vast differences in upbringing, schooling, world views, and religious beliefs exists within one team. Especially when considering the ever changing and evolving business environment within which we operate?

Fulfilling the role of a Business Leadership coach, trainer, or life coach as the situation demanded over several years I have coached, Lead, or trained Pilipino, Chinese, Malay, African, and European people. A very key learning from my experiences is that a “cross cultural and shared understanding” can be created that transcends any spoken language or any national culture.

This common language and culture has many elements but for the purpose of this article I will focus on the three key aspects:

Have a united and focused purpose

When a united and focussed purpose exists for the business team that they collectively place higher than themselves the barriers of differences in upbringing, schooling, and world views can dissolve within their shared purpose. As business leaders we cannot refer to purpose too much, even more importantly that that, we must be living, walking and talking examples of the businesses’ purpose.

To simplify the concept of purpose it can be said that purpose is the highest intent for, or the very good reason why we do what we do. That reason is or should be even more important than ourselves. When we really love what we do and sincerely so our performance is likely to be very good, on the other hand if we totally dislike the line of business that we are in or totally despise our role within an entrepreneurial venture we are likely not going to unleash our unlimited potential.

It could be argued that the sole purpose for having a business is to make a profit. Through this article I argue that that is not a strong enough reason to sustain you and make you thrive even through difficult times. The strange thing is that when you truly live your purpose with all your might and tirelessly inspire your team to do the same the money comes anyway…

 Servant heart and attitude

Rabindranath Tagore famously said:

“I dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold service was joy.”

A servant heart is universal and transcends cultural difference, a sincere and giving smile is a beautiful language of its own that needs no translation. If that ‘servant heart and smile’ is underpinned by well-developed people and technical skills it multiplies into a potent combination of character, experience, and wisdom that has great influential power within any culture.

Whether it is through the use of interpreters, and even if it takes great patience, even when a lot of mistakes are made, persevere until everyone in the team understands that servant leadership is the key to winning the minds and hearts of others.

When all in the team becomes aware that we were only ever meant to master ourselves and thereby become better servants to all, this heightened awareness can unlock the unlimited potential within individuals in the team.

Respect for people and their worldviews

My favourite poet Rumi said:

‘The wound is where the light seeps in’

Respect all as we could not understand each individuals’ pain and hardships unless we went through it ourselves. Have compassion for all as we, in general expect compassion when we go through hardships. We can only imagine what sets of beliefs we would entertain where we to grow up in a completely different culture.

My endless curiosity and determination to learn has served me well as a coach for when your interest in others is sincere they tend to ‘open up’ to you and share and thereby you fasttrack your own learning and gain insights into your co-team members worldviews which in turn greatly enhances the team dynamics.

Be authentic and acknowledge your vulnerabilities, ‘wounds’ and shortcomings and be proud of your strengths for then your team members will help you to overcome your weaknesses and learn from your strengths.


Source: Entrepreneur Magazine

12 Burning Questions for the Entrepreneur Trying to Get You to Eat Bugs

Whether a crispy cricket on the end of a fork triggers your spirit for adventure or makes you want to gag, there’s no denying that edible insects will soon be part of the food landscape.

Indeed, in a 2013 paper, Edible insects: Future prospects for food and feed security, the United Nations outlined the key issue.

“To meet the food and nutrition challenges of today — there are nearly 1 billion chronically hungry people worldwide — and tomorrow, what we eat and how we produce it needs to be re-evaluated,” the authors wrote. “Inefficiencies need to be rectified and food waste reduced. We need to find new ways of growing food.”

Mohammed Ashour, co-founder and CEO of Aspire.
Image credit: Courtesy of Aspire

To get more insights into this growing trend, Entrepreneur spoke with Mohammed Ashour, co-founder and CEO of Aspire, which operates cricket farms in Texas and Ghana and produces cricket powder, among other products. The company recently acquired Exo, the makers of a cricket-powder protein bar that’s backed by Tim Ferrissand Nas. Collectively, the new company is likely the biggest in the edible insects space.

We quizzed Ashour about why people should eat insects, the technology involved in farming insects and the best insect dish he’s ever had.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

1. Why should we eat crickets and other insects?

You should eat crickets and other insects because they are nutritious, delicious and better for the environment than almost any other source of protein. Most sources of animal protein require dramatically more land, water and energy resources to produce. To put that in perspective, to produce one pound of beef, you need around 5,000 gallons of water, whereas to produce one pound of cricket protein, you need less than 5 gallons of water.

2. How do you convince people to eat insects?

Most people just need to try it once and that’s all it takes. But the challenge is, how do you get people to be willing to try? Part of that has to do with how you present the product. Some people are adventurous and won’t mind eating a cricket that still looks like a cricket. Other people would prefer you to grind crickets into a powder and then add that powder to a product they already enjoy and are familiar with, like bars, chips, protein beverages and other consumer packaged goods.

3. What about the people who are terrified of eating insects? How would you get them on board?

It’s not irrational to have a fear of insects. Insects can be disease vectors, they can destroy crops and in some circumstances they can be directly harmful to human beings. However, we focus on insects that are edible and safe to eat. People can start off by trying familiar products that use insects as an ingredient. Rather than having a bag of whole roasted crickets, perhaps they would be open to trying a peanut-butter chocolate chip protein bar made using cricket protein powder.

4. What are some of the products that feature edible insects?

Under our brand we sell bars that use cricket protein powder, which are high in protein and low in sugar. We also sell granola paleo bites and crispy crickets. There’s other companies that sell chips, pasta using crickets flour and other edibles like beef patties and sausages using insect protein.

5. What kind of technology is involved in farming insects?

We use automated robotic systems that deliver feed and water directly to crickets throughout their entire lives. So instead of a person going around and inserting food and water into every bin — we have thousands of bins in our facility — and calibrating that food and water to the needs of each cricket bin, we have robotic systems that do that automatically and measure exactly the amount of feed and water and record it.

That recording is actually registered in our cloud so that we can keep and compile a massive data archive on how that particular bin has been serviced throughout its life. Because of that we can use theoretically blockchain to keep a ledger of every bin in the entire history of our facility and to know the relationship of the different bins to one another and which crickets ultimately gave rise to which future progeny bins and so on and so forth.

Image credit: Courtesy of Aspire

We have IoT sensors throughout our entire facilities to capture second-by-second data about different parameters like heating, cooling, temperature, humidity, water distribution, air flow, air ventilation, oxygen levels and things of that sort to help us constantly respond and improve the environmental conditions for farming.

6. Why acquire Exo, the cricket-powder protein bar company?

The merger makes a lot of sense if you think about any early stage industry where vertical integration can be essential to improving the product value proposition to the end consumer. Consumers more than ever want to understand where their food is coming from. Who’s farming it? What is the food that their food ate? What things did their food get exposed to? Did you use chemicals, antibiotics, any types of things like that that don’t resonate with these consumer preferences?

There’s a strong need for some type of supply chain transparency. One of the best ways to understand consumers is to actually have a consumer brand. So by being a company that can address the supply chain side and also understand the consumer, we are able to stretch the journey truly from farm to table.

There are some added value benefits like reduced costs, improved customer retention and loyalty because there is an increased level of accountability and transparency.

7. Can you name some famous people who are supportive of the collective company’s mission?

Tim Ferriss was actually an early investor in Exo. John Chambers, the former CEO of Cisco, is a major investor in Aspire. Mark Melancon of the San Francisco Giants was a huge supporter. Nas the rapper was also an investor in Exo. That’s just a handful of folks. It’s also worth noting that there’s a number of celebrities that have come out talking about how they enjoy eating insects. Nicole Kidman, Salma Hayek and Angelina Jolie are three that come to mind right away.

8. What are some of the countries that eat the most insects?

In Asia you have places like Thailand, Vietnam, South Korea, Taiwan and China. In Africa you have Ghana — we have a farm here. Many parts of Africa: Botswana, South Africa, Kenya, Senegal, Togo, Benin, Niger and Nigeria. Most of Latin America, and of course in North America you have Mexico, where insects are prominently consumed.

The common statistic that the United Nations cites is that 80 percent of the world’s countries have a tradition of consuming insects.

9. Why do the world’s wealthy nations need to adapt to eating insects?

There’s a need to adapt to it because of the sheer shift in how we’re producing food around the world and trends like reduced land, water, energy, more urbanization, higher population.

There’s also the fact that if you look at the history of most of our food, almost all began with a very inglorious and tough sell, but ended up at the top of the menu. Lobsters are an excellent case in point, but so is shrimp and sushi. Most people think insects are the food of the poor, but that could not be further from the truth. If you go to countries like Mexico, for example, one kilogram of grasshoppers is actually more expensive than beef, chicken and pork. It’s not actually a food of the poor. It’s a delicacy of the very wealthy.

10. What’s the most creative insect dish you’ve ever had?

In Mexico, I had the most delicious tamale that was made with a base that uses grasshoppers. It was peppered with flakes of cricket. On top of that it was garnished with ant eggs, which is called escamol. It was divine.

11. When do you hope to see a big turning point with edible insects?

A major turning point was in 2013, when the United Nations published a landmark report that put edible insects on the map in most parts of the world in economic and financial circles. In 2015 there were some very significant investments made into this industry and some early-stage companies. There’s a number of major retailers that are soon going to be launching cricket products for the first time.

12. What is on the horizon in the edible insects’ space?

Major retail launches, new product development and tons of growth in food service and other distribution channels (think: sports stadiums, airline snacks, convenience stores). This industry is rapidly approaching a tipping point, and we are excited to be at the forefront of this exciting market transition.

Source: Entrepreneur

South Africa’s ‘Big Five’ Growth Opportunities

In the two decades since South Africans worked together to transform their political landscape and usher in a new democracy, the country has made remarkable progress. In particular, GDP has nearly doubled in real terms, lifting millions of people out of poverty and into the middle class and greatly expanding access to services. Yet since 2008, average annual GDP growth has slowed to just 1.8 percent, while unemployment has stubbornly remained at 25 percent. Given the country’s vibrant public life and dynamic business sector, South Africa has no shortage of ideas, but a tone of pessimism is growing as many worry that the economy is stuck in a low-growth trap.

A new McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) report, South Africa’s big five: Bold priorities for inclusive growth, recommends reigniting the country’s economic progress by focusing on five opportunities: advanced manufacturing, infrastructure, natural gas, service exports, and the agricultural value chain. If government and businesses prioritize them, these five initiatives alone could by 2030 increase GDP growth by a total of 1.1 percentage points per year, adding 1 trillion rand ($87 billion) to annual GDP and creating 3.4 million new jobs.


Here are the “big five” opportunities we’ve identified—and why:

  • Advanced manufacturing. South Africa can draw on its skilled labor to grow into a globally competitive manufacturing hub focused on high-value-added categories such as automotive, industrial machinery and equipment, and chemicals. To realize this opportunity, South African manufacturers will have to pursue new markets and step up innovation and productivity.
  • Infrastructure productivity. While the country is investing heavily in infrastructure, big gaps remain in electricity, water, and sanitation. A true partnership between the public and private sectors could make infrastructure spending up to 40 percent more productive by maximizing the use of existing assets and increasing maintenance, prioritizing projects with greatest impact, and strengthening management practices to streamline delivery.
  • Natural gas. South Africa’s electricity shortage has constrained growth, and, despite new capacity, another shortfall is projected between 2025 and 2030. Natural-gas plants—which are fast to build, entail low capital costs, and have a small carbon footprint—can provide an alternative to diversify the power supply. With the necessary regulatory certainty, we estimate that South Africa could install up to 20 gigawatts of gas-fired base-load power-generation capacity by 2030. Gas can be provided through imports, local shale-gas resources (if proven), or both.
  • Service exports. South Africa has highly developed service industries, yet it currently captures only 2 percent of the rest of sub-Saharan Africa’s market for service imports, which is worth nearly half a trillion rand ($38 billion). With the right investments, service businesses could ramp up exports to the region; and government can help by promoting regional trade deals. In construction, the opportunity ranges from design to construction management to maintenance services. In financial services, promising growth areas include wholesale and retail banking, as well as insurance.
  • Raw and processed agricultural exports. With consumption rising in markets throughout sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, South Africa could triple its agricultural exports by 2030. This could be a key driver of rural growth, benefiting the nearly one in ten South Africans who depend on subsistence or smallholder farming. Capturing this potential will require a bold national agriculture plan to ramp up production, productivity, and agroprocessing.

Successfully delivering on these priorities will move South Africa closer to realizing its long-held vision of a “rainbow nation” characterized by shared prosperity for all. But first, the country will need to embrace some fundamental changes to become more globally competitive; not least, it will have to address a serious skills shortage through a dramatic expansion of vocational training. Tackling such foundational issues will require business and government to come together in a new partnership characterized by shared vision, collaboration, and trust.

Richard Dobbs is a director of the McKinsey Global Institute, where Susan Lund is a partner; David Fine is a director in McKinsey’s Johannesburg office, where Paul Jacobson is a consultant, Acha Lekeis a director, and Nomfanelo Magwentshu and Christine Wu are principals.


Nasir Yammama – Founder, Verdant Agri-Tech

Country: Nigeria

It all began in 1996 in the village of Yammama. On a clear day here, a blue sky covers the heavens and white cotton fields light the ground below. A dozen brightly-painted trucks are lined up; workers load sacks upon sacks of cotton. Then six-year-old Yammama, who carries the name of his village, walks the fields with his father. He saw the workers sweating and vowed to improve the work of farmers in Africa.

In 2014, he founded Verdant AgriTech, a social enterprise to support rural farmers with mobile technologies for sustainable farming and improved food production.

“The company was founded on the premise that smallholders should be able to produce more, sell more, make more profit and thereby attain an improved standard of living by using simple technologies,” he says.

Yammama began with 50 farmers in Katsina, his home state. He taught them to use their basic phones to gather market information, weather and management skills, and financial services.

Yammama has achieved a lot. He studied information technology and business information systems at Middlesex University, London, has a master’s in creative technology, was selected among 50 Global Entrepreneurs for the MIT Global Entrepreneurship Bootcamp and won numerous awards, including the British Council and Virgin Atlantic’s Enterprise Challenge in 2015. This gave him the chance to be mentored by Sir Richard Branson and receive a start-up grant for Verdant.

In collaboration with Oxfam and GIZ, Verdant is currently running a project to support 25,000 farmers. This June, Yammama will also receive the Queen’s Young Leaders Award in England.

Yammama has profited from linking technology to Africa’s rich red soil.

Source: Forbes Africa

Creating a Positive Work Environment

When it comes to managing your employees, one of the most important things you can do for them involves setting the right tone at work.  We’ve all heard some of the horror stories about terrible jobs or bad managers, and the one thing each of these stories has in common was the negative workplace environment.

An employee’s motivation to work is heavily influenced by his or her environment. You want your employees to respect you—not fear you. Creating a positive work environment will yield far better results for your employees and your company.

Clear communication

Good communication between a boss and his or her employees is essential for a positive working relationship. Your employees need to understand what you want them to accomplish, but you also need to have an idea of what they expect from you. There should be an equal amount of communication from you and your employees.

The key to good communication at work is to be clear and direct. If there are issues, don’t avoid them and pretend they don’t exist. Address them head-on and make it clear why it’s an issue. Especially if you are carrying bad news, it’s much better to be direct with your words. 

Listen to everyone’s ideas

Each one of your employees is with your company for a reason. Encourage employees to voice ideas. Even if the idea may need some work, it’s still important that everyone has his or her say. This will show that each member of your team is valuable and his or her input is just as important as a fellow coworker’s.

Encourage your employees to share their ideas.

Set up specific times during the day to open your office door and allow employees to bounce ideas off of you. Encourage your team members, especially the more quiet employees, by asking for input directly—that will help cement the fact that everyone’s input is important. At Swartz Kitchens & Bath, employees are encouraged to share design tips in their weekly meetings. This lets them learn from each other and also helps them to be on the lookout for more ideas to share with the team.

Recognize hard work

It’s a good idea to reward an employee who does a good job. Recognizing the individuals who work hard will encourage them to keep up the great work. It also instills the notion that hard work is acknowledged and appreciated, and encourages other employees to strive for the same recognition.

Staff meetings are a great time to acknowledge the work your employees do. You can take two minutes out of your meetings to bring attention to your employees’ accomplishments. Other rewards that are cost-efficient can involve letting your hard working employees either leave work early or come in later, or present them with a prize such as a gift card.

Internet marketing company WebpageFX has an “ongoing learning program” that rewards employees for spending time outside of work reading industry related books, learning code, or attending seminars. Some creative incentives they offer include tickets to play laser tag, Netflix subscriptions, and if you work hard at it for several years, you could even earn a safari to Africa.

Show your trust

You know those parents that hover over their children constantly and never give them time to breathe? You don’t want to be the workplace equivalent of that. Your instinct may be to micromanage and make sure everything is running exactly as you want it, but that will only create a negative environment for everyone else in the office. I once had a boss who read every email that anyone sent in the entire company. I would send a coworker a private email asking about the details of a project, and by boss would respond with input. Everyone felt like we were being watched, and morale suffered.

Step back and let your employees do their jobs. You have to trust that they will do a good job—after all, you hired them for a reason. While you should be periodically checking in with your employees, you don’t want to be overbearing about it.

Have some fun 

Your employees are spending eight hours of their day in the office. Maintaining a professional environment is important—but that doesn’t mean it has to be dull. A happier employee will perform much better than a miserable one.

There are many ways you can be both fun and professional. Allow your employees to decorate their work spaces to show off their personalities—even have small contests for the best decorated desk. Encourage employees to take breaks during the day and they’ll be happier and more productive. A staff retreat can do wonders for morale—provided you have a fun and productive retreat.

Lead the way

As the one in charge, you are the one who sets the tone for your employees. If you are grumpy and negative, your employees will react accordingly. If you stay positive, your work environment will reflect that. A smile is contagious—and a frown even more so.

Be comfortable and encouraging with your employees. Listen to them and keep up the constant communication. Once you create the positive work environment, maintaining it becomes a lot easier.

Source: Bplans

Find Your Why and Tell Your Story: Lessons for Budding Entrepreneurs From Gerard Adams

Gerard Adams exited from Elite Daily in 2015, hosts the show Leaders Create Leaders and offers wisdom and insight as the Millennial Mentor on Instagram. In short, he knows a ton about entrepreneurship and leadership, and is on a mission to share this information with the world. This desire is what led Gerard to launch Fownders, a learning platform built for entrepreneurs who want to develop the skills needed to align their purpose towards a prosperous career and lifestyle.

Read on for three key takeaways Gerard wants all entrepreneurs to learn and incorporate into their journey.

Find your why.

After his exit from EliteDaily in 2015, Gerard sought a new purpose and passion in his life. At a Tony Robbins event the phrase, “success without fulfillment is the ultimate failure,” seized upon him. As a young entrepreneur he had been greatly inspired by a visit to Silicon Valley, and blown away by all of the advice and mentorship he found in the community.

A native of New Jersey, Gerard decided to bring the idea of educating entrepreneurs back home — and Fownders was born. For Gerard, cultivating emotional intelligence and focusing on core values is the first key step to becoming a successful entrepreneur.

“You need to align personal values, purpose and what drives you – your why. Really focus on that personal growth and mindset. Focus on internal before you build something external.”

By beginning your entrepreneurial journey with a focus on personal mission, the rocky road of development will ultimately be more fulfilling, more satisfying, and easier to navigate, with a strong why at the forefront of your mind.

Idea isn’t enough.

You’ve heard it before at Propelify. Everyone has ideas. Only entrepreneurs build and monetize those ideas.

“A lot of people want to become entrepreneurs. And a lot of people have ideas. But how to actually take action, to execute that idea, to learn strategies and tactics, and then turn that idea into something profitable? That’s real entrepreneurship,” Gerard says.

Fownders is focused on helping budding entrepreneurs chart a path to success before they even begin. By using the lessons his previous mentors have already learned, Gerard wants Fownders to help idea generators become innovators and turn their ideas into reality.

“Being of service, offering something of real value – that’s the lesson entrepreneurs need to learn along the way,” Gerard says.

The next great idea you have, begin with the end in mind — the monetizaion — so you can craft a series of steps that will lead to success.

Personal branding is storytelling

“One of the most powerful lessons I’ve learned is to understand how you tell your story. To not only understand how you see yourself but to see how the world sees you,” Gerard says.

By learning to craft and cultivate a personal brand that tells the story you want to tell, you will entice collaborators and customers to your product and business, in a natural way.

Interested in tweaking your own brand or image? Answer these four questions to start the process: What is unique about you or your product? What are your strengths and weaknesses? What can you share that’s of value? What space or platform will be best for you to share your story?

Your brand is your story. Think about what story you want to tell as you make your vision a reality.

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