What can you achieve in a year? To find out, we asked our thought leaders to share their highs and lows of 2019. Success came from staying focused and aiming high, writes Yaw Dwomoh.
If 2019 had a theme running through it, it would be: accountability. Hashtags like #Xenophobia, #AmINext, #GBV and #FairnessFirst showed us that sharing our stories is still the best way to make people care and it inspires them to act. It also showed that a gap between what we say and what we practice is a sure-fire way to lose business.
Whether you are a blue-chip company or an one-man band, you represent a set of values and aim to evoke a specific set of emotions through your brand. Brand storytelling shows people who you are. It cuts through the noise of marketing blah and humanises your business. Or as Celinne Da Costa says: “Be profitable and human.” Generation Z, in particular no longer trust what you say – they want to see what you do. So, it matters more than ever that who you say you are matches who you really are.
Before others will back you, you need to back yourself
Our own year as a business was scattered with this intention to be transparent and accountable on all the issues that are dear to us. In the spirit of transparency then, here are my key takeaways for the year…
This year showed me that growing for the sake of growing, is not growing at all. We have long felt the call to expand our African storytelling into the rest of Africa. However, I learnt that the cost involved stretches much further than just business registration and flights. You need to count the cost of your and your staff’s time and resources while you perform a proper due diligence on offshore entities to partner with and while the normal work still needs to tick over.
We’ve slowed down the race to grow and have been connected with a fantastic strategic fit in Kenya, who matches with our values. And this time we’ll keep a slow, sweet courtship.
Tell your story
In 2019 we also had to learn to be fearless and tell our own brand story following our re-branding. We spent quite a bit of time thinking about and talking in the media about what we do and the how and why that drives us. It is a vulnerable space to be in, but so necessary. Before others will back you, you need to back yourself.
Pick the right people
Jack Welch (love or hate him) increased General Electric’s market value by approximately $300 billion. His view was that getting the right people is not solely based on their skills. According to him it is easier to train someone who already has the right attitude and set of values – someone who has the same goal in mind – than a person who is skilled but not a culture-fit.
People are your business’ greatest asset. Show them a clear path to growth and support them in it. This year, more than ever, I have spent time showcasing the work that the women in our team do as well as making sure that the systems we have in place empower them. Spend time finding out what your “family” values are as a business before you employ people.
And if you are the only person in the business? Make sure you take care of yourself too!
My advice to other entrepreneurs is: Don’t try to be everything to everyone
We were fortunate to secure a brand storytelling retainer and were appointed as through-the-line agency for Jimmy’s Killer Brands – an exciting restaurant franchise. We also took home a Bronze MMA Smarties Award for our co-creation work with the McDonald’s McCafé’s #SAFTAS19 campaign.
My advice to other entrepreneurs is: Don’t try to be everything to everyone. Distil what you do best to an award-winning elixir and grow in that. If you can’t do something, say so. Or find a strategic partner who does, so that you can offer that service to your clients with excellence.
As a business we have identified four immediate areas of need for our clients and have formed strategic partnerships in the eventing, VR/AR and Gamification, digital technology and production space. We will be launching these services to our clients early in the new year.
I am hopeful that the year ahead will be kind to SMEs on the economic growth front. Either way, as entrepreneurs we need to be fearless and venture out boldly with our value proposition. Or as US comedian Jonathan Winters said, “If your ship doesn’t come in, swim out to meet it.”