Alan Knott-Craig Jnr: 7 career lessons learnt thus far

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Alan Knott Craig Junior is mobile entrepreneur, who was previously the CEO of wireless internet provider iBurst. He recently stepped down as CEO of Mxit, after buying it in 2011, and World of Avatar, the startup group he co-founded. In this post, he explores some of the lessons his various ventures have taught him.

When I think of the factors that led to any successes (or failures) in my career thus far, the following come to mind:

1. Communicate

If you can’t effectively transmit the picture in your head into the head of the person you’re communicating with, you’re dead. This is the key to getting people swimming in the same direction, and it applies to customers, staff, partners, suppliers and shareholders.

The more people swimming in your direction, the more likely you are to reach the other side.

Of course the content must be good, but the medium is almost more important… language, video, audio, P2P, email, time of day… all these factors impact how much of the message is absorbed.

Marshall McLuhan said it: “The medium is the message.” Ignore at your own risk.

2. Take risks

I heard Michael Jordaan recently say to a bunch of youngsters that one of his biggest regrets is that he didn’t take more risks in his life. As he pointed out, most of us are brought up in an environment where no one is encouraging us to take risks, and therefore by the time you realise that taking risks is the only path to greatness you already have school fees and a mortgage to pay off, and its too late!

There are three kinds of risk:

a) Financial — Whether you’re investing money in a venture, or taking a salary sacrifice to be part of a new business, you’re taking financial risk.

b) Emotional — In many ways, business is like marriage. And in marriage, you risk emotional harm every day!

c) Reputational — You must put yourself out there. The world is busy, no one is going to “discover” you. You must bring yourself to the attention of the world. By shining a light on yourself you risk embarrassment and worse, ridicule, but you need to suck it up.

“The people who matter don’t care, the people who care don’t matter” — Anonymous

3. Change your mind

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos recently said that “the people who are mostly right change their mind the most.”

While it’s great to know what you want to do, its better to backtrack when it becomes clear you’re going down the wrong path. Never lose sight of your dream, but don’t be too proud to admit you’ve taken the wrong course.

Make decisions, move forward, correct quickly. Don’t worry what people think.

4. Balance form and substance

There are people in the world who think substance trumps form, and there are people who are convinced form trumps substance. Neither camp is right. The secret is form and substance. If you must choose (and in the real world, choice is inevitable), start with form. A falling tree doesn’t make a sound if no one is there to hear it.

5. Sales

I’m no good at taking money off the table. “You first.” “No, you.” “No, really, you go ahead.” It’s just not in me, so I’ve historically shunned it. But that’s no good. In future I’ll pay more attention to generating short-term revenues. Whilst it’s uber-important to keep your eye on the big picture, it’s also uber-important to pay the bills today.

6. Process

Process is different to detail. I’ve had detail people in my life, but I’ve always lacked people with a knack for designing and implementing processes. Repeatability is the key to efficiency, and process is the key to repeatability. In future I need to pay more attention to process.

7. Be grateful, and do something!

I was fortunate to have been presented with opportunities in my life, and even more fortunate to have been in a position to take risks. But regardless of the luck factor, at the end of the day you must have the courage to take a chance and do something with what you’ve been blessed with.

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