A while back I was privileged to be on the judging panel of a TV business show.  The participants, a group of young entrepreneurs, were divided into two teams. Each team was given challenges to do within a set period of time and later, the teams would receive an evaluation from the judges.

A team member would be eliminated from the show every week based on their performance in the challenge and the results. The (wo)man left standing at the finale would get a reward of Sh5 million.

Throughout the show’s seasons, I would sit with these young minds and pick their brains. Most of them reminded me of my younger self. Back then, I shared their perspective on so many things and I certainly needed a push like these young minds did.

This push always comes from a mentor.  I wish a show like that existed when I was just starting out in business because then, I would have done so many things differently.

Currently, one of my mentors is Russ, an upcoming rapper in America who is not only making good music, but is also making great business moves. The mentorship he offers is very raw and if you are a keen student, you will learn a lot from him.

He also says that mentorship was a great part of his journey, and he didn’t take shortcuts; a thing that many young people now want to do to achieve success.

Recently I met up with Susan, one of the contestants from the show and even though she was eliminated way before the finale, she sure did take advantage of the visibility the show got her.

She runs an accessory brand mostly known for customised watches. She confided that since her business was growing, she wanted to scale it up and was using lessons from the TV show to build a team that would get her business where she wanted it.  

The perfect team

Susan pointed out that one of her challenges was getting the right team members as she had had many disappointments in her choices. I could totally relate with her challenge. I remember making many mistakes back in the day, when picking my team. I got my friends on board, and this didn’t work out as expected.

My business suffered and execution for simple things was slow and tedious. Working with friends can be great, but only if everyone is working towards the same goal. So I did lose some friends along the way and I learnt my lessons. I still have some friends on the team, but I had to be sure our visions were aligned.

I reminded Susan that before she finally got her A-team together, she would go through some hiring and firing. And that she shouldn’t compromise on quality.

One of the major elements of a functional business is a good team and this applies everywhere; even in football. If the team has a great striker and a poor goalkeeper, they can’t bet on wins.  But when every team player plays their role well, you can definitely bet on the team.

The right time to grow

Often, most brands die because they didn’t take the opportunity to grow when the chance presented itself. We have read stories about Yahoo not buying Google when they had the chance, Blockbuster not buying Netflix when they had the chance, Nokia not accepting room for growth among others.  So how do you know this is the right move and time?

I do not advise that you jump on every opportunity that presents itself, but always think about growth. Don’t get comfortable. Remember that consumer patterns change every day, and you have to adapt to them lest your business dies.

Susan admitted that she felt the need to grow, but she was not so sure how to go about it.

For small businesses, the trick is to do it in small doses until you are confident to take the big step. But what I am sure of is that growth will give you new challenges that will give your business a new jolt of life.  

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