“Handsome. Tall. Smart. Fast. Whatever. In [the] startup world, it doesn’t matter how impressive you sound [or] look. The only thing that matters is whether you deliver the goods. In [the] startup world, you can’t fake it,” says Alan Knott-Craig (Jr).
This is not the only piece of brutally honest advice you can expect from the serial entrepreneur, author and speaker who is best known as the founder of Project Isizwe, the award-winning initiative facilitating the roll-out of free Wi-Fi networks across Africa, and as former Mxit head.
Knott-Craig, who has also invested in numerous companies, knows a thing or two about running businesses, and more importantly, the reasons why most of them fail.
He puts it all in his newly self-published book 13 Rules for Being an Entrepreneur which offers no-nonsense advice that can only come from someone who has been in the trenches.
The book includes an honest take on everything from leadership and respect to character and reputation and other words of advice you won’t read in your typical business book.
Most of Knott-Craig’s teachings are also available on his blog The Big Almanack and on online publication Medium.
For a taste of what you can expect from Knott-Craig’s book – Here are 7 of our favourite lessons from him.
“If I could just get General Motors and Ford to sign up. If I could just get ABSA and Standard Bank to sign up. If I could just get Unilever and P&G to sign up. Big companies are elephants – silver bullets to solve your cash flow woes. Don’t build a business that needs an elephant to succeed.”
“Reputation is what people think you are. Character is what you really are. Don’t stress about reputation. It doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is your character. Character is a function of integrity. Integrity is a function of values.”
“On occasion, you’ll meet someone who is desperate. Desperate for customers, desperate for investors, desperate for cash. You can smell the whiff of desperation. Beware.”
“Use it as an opportunity to gather your thoughts. To breathe deeply and stay calm. Let the other person succumb to the internal pressure to break the silence. Being comfortable in silence is a sign of confidence.”
“Your job is not to be Mr Generous. Your job is to make a profit. No profit = no sustainability = no product for your customer in the long term. You’re not doing anyone any favours by giving away value.”
“Having a plan B doesn’t mean you don’t think plan A will work. In fact, sometimes it’s easier to execute plan A when you have the comfort of knowing you have a plan B.
“Startup life is unpredictable. If plan A doesn’t work, you don’t want to go under water. Always have a fall-back position.”
“Your first business is full of lessons learnt. Wrong shareholders. Too much overhead. Too little focus. Weak product. It’s unlikely you won’t make any mistakes. Most people pay for those mistakes by losing their money, but at least they have lessons learnt.”