How to Grow Your Business: 5 Takeaways From The Omidyar Network Growth Strategy Workshop

In 2016 alone, I have attended three re – learning workshops and this was the third, in Sandton, Johannesburg, South Africa. This was my first time in South Africa, and nothing can be more exciting to be finishing the year re-energized, and ready to get 2017 cracking! I have been looking forward to the 3 – day workshop which started on November 28 – 30, 2016 at the Michelangelo Hotel, just because the last 4 months at CODE for me, has been dedicated to our growth strategies, and I know this workshop might affirm or deny various strategies that we have put in place to take the organization forward. Just to state, the 3 days were worth it, and I totally feel ready to get going in 2017, and below are the five things I really feel every entrepreneur should take cognizance of:

  1. Start Organizations to cede the controls: You need to have it at the back of your mind that you are not the owner of any organization you have founded. In Africa and some south Asian countries, many people start businesses and want to hold on to the business, and not cede control of the organization. You should be thinking of exiting the organization in the nearest future, so you can take an advisory role. It will also give you the reality of how the organization you have started looks like in the eyes of clients, beneficiaries and customers. Furthermore, organizations that have their creators, founders, and owners give up the role of CEOs and role of the board become successful, and become a big enterprise.
  2. Hire people that can take the organization to the next level: Once you have tested your product at the early stage ( 2 – 3 years), and it has worked, and you are now thinking of recruiting or adding more people to your venture, please hire people who are more knowledgeable than you do. In Africa, owners of businesses still bring in their families and friends, who cannot fit into the culture of your business (who are not capable), into the business at the early stage, thus stunting the growth of the business.
  3. Plan long term relationship before you recruit: If you rely on hiring through candidates sending CV’s to you, and interviews alone, then you might be wrong, as there are now books and videos that teach how to write excellent CVs, and also websites that hep candidates prepare for interviews . At CODE, we stopped recruiting this way, as 85% of the recruits end up not fitting into the culture and ideologies that the organization share. We found out that most recruits cannot cope with the task at hand, as such, we rely on a 6 – month internship period before you can become a core team in our organization.
  4. Develop yourself faster than your business: As an entrepreneur, you need to grow yourself, even at a faster pace than your business. 95% of people that starts businesses do not understand all stages of growth of their business, and because the kind of approach and thinking for each stage of the business is different, you need to learn more about managing business performance against targets; managing individual performance and growth; how to build and lead an effective board; frequent strategic planning for your business; building processes and business infrastructure to support future business scale and complexity; growing your human capital in line with business needs; prioritize and plan for the most important things, so you can balance work and family.
  5. Avoid scope creep, Focus on developing that one product: For you to achieve the four points with ease, you need to focus on one product, at a time. It takes a time to be good at one thing, so you must dedicate all your time to building that one thing that people like your organization about. It is better to be number one in one thing than to be number 2 in four different areas. This allows you to have time in design thinking of your product, also gives your staff the time to focus on specific tasks and become a perfectionist on it over time. Products such as Facebook, Apple, Microsoft had one thing their founders were thinking of – “improving on their one product, and making it better”.

These and other great learnings at the 3-day workshop was very useful, especially at this stage of growth for CODE itself. As someone that has been facilitating training in the past 10 years, I was impressed with the simplicity of the sequence of the presentation and great facilitation skills exhibited by Jason Goldberg, and the exceptional informational manual created by 10X-e. Omidyar Network‘s idea of human capital, aside the financial capital invested in investees, is a laudable idea, because many times, we all start businesses, ventures, etc without understanding the nitty – gritty or what comes up in the next 7 years, much reason why it is only 5% of start – ups that make it to becoming big enterprise. To all entrepreneurs amongst us, let’s keep grinding and learning – it’s the only thing we can do!