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Lessons from pioneering a Centre

I have had the privilege of pioneering a business incubator within the private sector (Raizcorp) and now, pioneering a Centre for Entrepreneurship within the TVET space.

Starting something from scratch has many advantages as well as disadvantages. Many entrepreneurs are in a similar boat. They start things in an environment of uncertainty. Perhaps they have little “street wise” experience in the area they are entering. Perhaps they have little examples in the Industry with the innovation/enterprise/service they are seeking to bring to the market.

In any event, they are often called upon to “pioneer” and create their own momentum.

I thought I would share a few thoughts on lessons gleaned along the way. Perhaps these thoughts may help you in starting a new project; a new position; a new business or in a new role. In each case, I want to choose one book that has helped shape my thinking. I trust you will find encouragement in these three thoughts.

Understand the playing field

It is vital to understand the environment in which you operate. Who are the stakeholders? What is important to them? How will delivery be measured?

What is the culture and organisational style prevalent in your new organisation or post? In moving from a privately funded organisation to a publically funded one, I had to make some adjustments in my approach; my communication and even to my style. Adjustment should be modelled by and in you.

In this instance, I found the book, “The first 90 days”, by Michael Watkins, most helpful.

Stay true to your strengths

I have always been interested in understanding the link between output, human behaviour and strengths. I was massively impacted by Marcus Buckingham’s book, “Now discover your strengths.” Leading a business incubator and playing in the entrepreneurial space demands quite a collection of niche strengths and capacities. I have come to see the wisdom of accurately knowing your own, playing to them and developing a team with complementary strengths to your own. Some of my own strengths have led me to grow in the communication field. Thus I love the writing and speaking platform that I am privileged to use. There are, however, quite a few areas that I know are not my strengths. It is wonderful to know that others in the team possess developed strengths that they are great at and can help us consistently

Always be learning

One of the worst things for those playing in the entrepreneurial space, is to think you have arrived. Even if you have considerable experience and insight, you will be so much the poorer for not intentionally wanting to and welcoming new avenues of learning. I recently met up with a twenty something young man who showed a great mix of personal entrepreneurial competencies coupled with a gracious attitude towards learning. I hold to the value of a great attitude and try to live that, but that single meeting was a reminder of that choice and that strength. Allon Raiz’s book, “Lose the business plan” also reflects a value that is inculcated in Raizcorp-that of always be learning. If you go into their learning rooms, you will find constant reminders of this value in that it is engraved on bowl’s on the table. More importantly, I saw that engraved in the thinking and actions of the Raizcorp staff.

Here’s to doing business….stronger

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