Empowering entrepreneurial minds across Africa

“Entrepreneurship isn’t the finish line – it’s a journey of continuous learning, unlearning and relearning. As an entrepreneur you must strive to be an expert in your respective field. You may not have all the answers, and that’s okay, but don’t settle for the mediocrity of not knowing.”

This is the expert advice from Anele Mkhuzo-Magape who founded Zinde Zinde (Pty) Ltd t/a African Entrepreneurship Initiative – a consulting and entrepreneurship education training company with a focus on youth in townships and peri-urban areas.

Mkhuzo-Magape is an entrant in the 2018 Entrepreneur of the Year® competition sponsored by Sanlam and BUSINESS/PARTNERS.

She started her career at the Gordon Institute of Business Science’s (GIBS) Enterprise Development Academy, designing programmes for long-term sustainability in entrepreneurship. After three years in the position, she discovered that there was a gap in the market: there were too few Enterprise Development Agencies creating programmes specifically targeted at young black entrepreneurs in townships and peri-urban areas. Some entrepreneurs had to travel far to access these programmes and access was further worsened by a language barrier in their execution. This meant that some entrepreneurs didn’t have the confidence to adequately express themselves and what their businesses do.

When she left her job to focus on her business full time, Mkhuzo-Magape had almost nine years of corporate experience in customer service management and project management, and an education background in Economics and Business Administration. This, she says was a solid foundation to build from and she felt very privileged for the opportunities that she had – she knows this is not every entrepreneur’s story.

“I knew I wanted to change that narrative through education and entrepreneurship. It is my responsibility as a young person to plough back into the community what I have learnt and to continue learning every day.”

New business development is always difficult. Mkhuzo-Magape says her greatest challenge was identifying corporates and government departments that were truly passionate about realising her vision. “We didn’t want to simply consult and deliver training as a tick box exercise; we wanted to create sustainable and thriving enterprises, and programmes that change lives and communities.”

Mkhuzo-Magape says the business model is built on accessibility, and that beneficiaries do not pay for their services. Funding comes from corporate and government institutions that they partner with. “Our greatest challenge is convincing potential investors of our passion and making them see the value it offers in terms of their long term strategy.”

But she says seeing entrepreneurs who have been through their programmes develop and reach for opportunities to realise their ideas is her greatest achievement. “There are so many talented young people with amazing ideas but they just need the right support and platforms to help elevate them– I get to do that every day, and that’s my success.”

Over the next five years, Mkhuzo-Magape envisions African Entrepreneurship Initiative to grow into a knowledge hub for young entrepreneurs across the continent, and says she has structured the business’ growth strategies to achieve this. “We want to bring innovation to entrepreneurial education through practical tools such as simulations and gamification. Our training must be relevant and accessible to youth and be presented in the vernacular languages that are appropriate to the youth we want to target.”

Finding the start-up sweet spot

Entrepreneurial lessons from generations of entrepreneurs

Picturing a typical entrepreneur – the chances are you visualize a young, mission-driven techie with a mind-blowing idea that will make him or her the African version of Mark Zuckerberg.  While the fast, digitized millennial entrepreneur’s approach to business is highly beneficial for future success; there’s a lot to be said for more seasoned entrepreneurs and the wisdom they have gained during their years in the game.

Gugu Mjadu, spokesperson for the 2018 Entrepreneur of the Year® competition sponsored by Sanlam and BUSINESS/PARTNERS, says that instead of pitting one generation against the other – entrepreneurs looking for guidance should seek out a sweet spot between the two – as there are important lessons to learn from both:

Entrepreneurship is a tricky road at the best of times. In South Africa, the business ownership path is littered with a number of macro and micro environmental challenges making entrepreneurship even more difficult. These include access to markets, successfully navigating the legislation landscape and accessing finance. With this in mind, it is important for entrepreneurs to seek out advice from as many trusted sources as possible – to ensure they learn and gain insight into how to prepare their own business for success.

As the world of work shifts and evolves, it’s important to recognise that business lessons can come from all generations in the entrepreneurial world.

This includes millennials, who characteristically approach life and business with a fresh ideas and a new perspective on existing methods. Some valuable lessons from the millennial entrepreneurs include:

1. Be different – and not just in your USPs

Millennials are generally recognised for their ability and enthusiasm to stand out and be different. Differentiating from your competitors in the market with Unique Selling Points (USPs) is something all the entrepreneurial text books will tell you – but ‘being different’ goes beyond this. Entrepreneurs shouldn’t be afraid to show their unique characteristics, to embrace diversity and look for opportunities outside of the proverbial box.

2. Question everything

Characteristically, millennials are curious. There is plenty to learn from this character trait – being willing to question why things are done in a certain way, and being brave enough to question if historical processes are still relevant and efficient. There is nothing wrong with changing the way something is done if it doesn’t suit your business. Standard practices are ineffective if they don’t evolve with your changing business needs.

3. Do and do quickly

Millennials were born into the technological age – they have grown up in a world filled with instant gratification, artificial intelligence, the internet of things and always-on connectivity through the internet, smart phones and social media. As a result, these entrepreneurs tend to work faster and this plays into the growing global trend of ‘failing fast’ – the skill of knowing when to stop planning and execute, and additionally, to recognise and stop doing something when it is not working.

On the other hand, seasoned entrepreneurs, who are perhaps more traditional and methodical, also have priceless tips and best practices as well as lessons on what not to do – all of which are valuable takeaways:

4. Be open to learn

Many established entrepreneurs admit to regretting their youthful arrogance when they first started their business. They have realised through years of experience that learning comes in many forms – advice from a business mentor, lessons through reading or even from receiving harsh criticism. Entrepreneurs should be open to looking at every situation as a learning opportunity – if something didn’t go well, what can be changed? If something went well, how can it be further improved or how can that process be applied to other areas?

5. Be deliberate

Part of building your business is building a network of clients, suppliers and other internal and external stakeholders. More seasoned entrepreneurs will attest to the value of being mindful about who you conduct business with – essentially, you want to trust your suppliers and stakeholders as they are an extension of your own brand. You want to deliberately pick out and nurture these networks as they are the relationships that will take your business further.

6. Don’t be afraid to fail

More established entrepreneurs, having been in business for a good while longer than millennials and having suffered more than a few set-backs themselves, will explain that the key is not to become despondent when things don’t work out. Failures are natural, and necessary for growth. As long as you actively learn from mistakes and proactively take steps not to repeat these in the future – failures can be the most valuable stepping stones to success.

What people really buy

It is said that the perfect timing for a sale is when a client has a need and our business is aware of this need and ready with our product/service to offer a solution. This is all good in theory, but how do we make this happen in practice?

I guess the person who can answer this loaded question will be an instant success. My caveat is, therefore, that I am not proclaiming to have the answer, but I do have a couple of suggestions for moving closer to an answer.

There are mainly two reasons why people buy any product or service:

  • The need to avoid pain, or a loss
  • The need to gain pleasure

If this is true, then how do they decide to consider and buy a specific product or service?

It boils down to the benefit(s) they will receive and if these benefits will address the reason(s) they were looking for a solution in the first place.

Let us look at a couple of examples to drive the message home:

Example 1: You own a carpet business. It might be better to position your product as something that helps people to decorate their homes; i.e. you are selling beauty, not carpets.

Example 2: You are a business advisor. You are not selling consulting methods, but rather improved business performance and increased turnover or profits; i.e. improved profitability.

Example 3: You have a deli focussing on organically grown produce. You are not selling vegetables or naturally grown foods, but rather health.

Example 4: You are not selling financial planning products, services or advice, but rather wealth or peace of mind.

How to apply this learning in our businesses:

Compile a list of all the benefits your target client will receive when they buy your product or service. Then choose the one or two benefits with the strongest client value (many times it speaks to the emotion of a person) and use it in all your marketing and sales endeavours.

So, the answer to why people buy any product or service might be far removed from our perspective about the business we own or operate.

“Know what your customers want most and what your company does best. Focus on where those two meet.” – Kevin Stirtz, business author and strategy manager.

Past winner catch-up – where are they now?

2018 marks our 30th year in honouring entrepreneurs and the contributions they make toward growing the South African economy. We’re celebrating by catching up with some of the past winners of the competition.

Catching up with: Mpodumo Doubada
Winning year: Innovator of the Year® – 2017

Winning business: Pimp my Book is a successful chain of campus stores across the country, founded on the simple premise of buying and selling used textbooks. After earning his first 10% commission on the sale of his friends’ textbooks, founder, Mpodumo Doubada, quickly saw the opportunity to create a one-stop platform where students could sell their used textbooks for cash, as well as purchase the books they need.

It’s been almost a year since you won the Innovator of the Year title in 2017, how has business been since then?

Over the last few months, business has been very good. We do operate a seasonal business, but even taking this into account, we experienced a bumper season. We have since signed two big clients – bringing in an additional 800 students to our direct market.

The direct spin-off from the EOY competition has also been amazing to watch.  We’ve seen a far more positive reception from various universities and corporates – who have now heard about us through the media and are a little more open to trying our innovative approach.

Have you made any new developments in your business since winning?

At the time of our win, our tech division was relatively new. It has now been rolled out across all our stores and is bringing in more and more business. We have seen a significant increase in laptop sales in the Cape Town area alone. 

Also new, is our new Hatfield store in Pretoria – targeting students of the University of Pretoria and UNISA.

We are also working on an exciting new project for an international market – and we will share more details about this in due course.

On a personal note, I was very fortunate to be selected as a finalist in the 2018 Mandela Washington Fellowship as part of the Young African Leaders Initiative. In June, I will join the other candidates from Sub Saharan Africa as we travel to the United States to learn from our American peers – with the aim to bring leadership skills back to Africa. 

What was the biggest lesson you learned from your stint in the EOY competition?

I’d never seen myself as an “innovator”. Whenever I think of the term, I always think of high tech or new inventions. The competition showed me that in fact, innovation is just about doing things differently. If you change the way something has traditionally been done to solve a problem – then you are an innovator. This was a big eye-opener for me.

One of the toughest things to face during the competition, was the questions posed by the judges. Their questions required a fair amount of self-evaluation. Up until this point, I didn’t recognise the full impact of what we do – until others told me what a great job we were doing. The process really opened my mind to see the changes we make to the communities we serve.

What would your top piece of advice be for anyone looking to enter this year’s competition?

Be authentic about yourself and your business. You need to you know your business and industry inside and out as the judges will interrogate this at a deeper level than you ever have – so you need to be prepared to do the same in preparation.

Above all – let your passion shine through anything you prepare.

Past winner catch-up: where are they now?

2018 marks our 30th year in honouring entrepreneurs and the contributions they make toward growing the South African economy. We’re celebrating by catching up with some of the past winners of the competition.

Catching up with: Elian Wiener

Winning year: Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year® and Innovator of the Year – 2011

Winning business: Epic Communications (now MSL) is an award-winning integrated communications and public relations agency with offices in both Johannesburg and Cape Town. The company specialises in helping businesses build and protect their brands and reputations.

It’s been 7 years since you won the Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year® and Innovator of the Year titles in 2011, how has business been since then?

There have been significant developments for myself and the business since 2011. In the subsequent years, we have continued on our rapid expansion path as we continue to lead the evolution of the communications industry in Africa. Most notably, Epic Communications, which has rebranded as MSL, was acquired by Publicis Groupe in 2014. Publicis Groupe is one of the world’s largest advertising and communications companies in the world. This acquisition has enabled us to bring global best practices to bear for our clients as well as offer a more integrated marketing solution in collaboration with our Publicis owned sister agencies in Africa.

Have you made any new developments in your business since winning?

We have always placed innovation at the forefront of what we do, which has been key in an industry that is rapidly changing. Over the last five years, we have evolved from a traditional public relations agency to an integrated communications agency that seeks to guide our clients through this ever changing marketing landscape. To do this we have completely restructured our business into full service integrated marketing teams and added new offerings in the digital, social media, influencer, reputation management, training and reporting spaces.

What was the biggest lesson you learned from your stint in the EOY competition?

I learned the importance of maintaining a competitive advantage. As a business grows, it naturally loses its start-up advantages – which need to be replaced with others to remain competitive. For us this means constantly reviewing our vision, structure, skill sets, service offering and market positioning. Winning multiple awards at the EOY competition in 2011 also helped to boost our profile and introduce us to a strong network of companies, many of which have gone on to be clients of ours.   

What would your top piece of advice be for anyone looking to enter this year’s competition?

Spend time and effort on your entry. It is crucial to really think about what makes your company special – its vision and the value it adds to all stakeholders.

Nine tips for entrepreneurs to attract investors and secure funding

The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor South Africa 2016/2017 reports that two-thirds (67%) of small businesses closed in 2016 either because they were not profitable, or because they encountered problems in accessing financing. Access to finance is not only a significant constraint for early-stage entrepreneurs in South Africa, but also problematic for established businesses. However, contrary to what many entrepreneurs believe, there are various financiers and investors with funding available who are eager to invest in South African entrepreneurs which too often is not effectively accessed or tapped into.

Many excellent business ideas never get past the ‘spreadsheet stage’ because entrepreneurs cannot find the right investor for their specific business model, or do not manage to convince investors because the true potential of their business idea is not effectively conveyed.

Business owners who are seeking finance should conduct thorough research on different financiers before approaching them. Understanding the specific criteria of the investor or financier and matching their investment preferences to the entrepreneurs’ business saves not only time and effort, but can improve the success rate and result in a funding proposal that is aligned to both the needs of the financier and the entrepreneur.

It is also important for entrepreneurs to realize that investors often invest more than just money into a business, they are often prepared to invest time by advising and supporting the entrepreneur behind the business –and this can only happen if the partnership between the two parties is a good match.

Finding the correct investor and successfully pitching your idea is a valuable business skill that can be continually enhanced. Entrepreneurs should consider the following suggestions to improve their success rate in raising finance:

1. Get connected and network. Investors are out there, and they are usually only one or two people away from those with whom you regularly do business. For example, accountants or suppliers can often recommend potential investors that may be a suitable fit. Emphasise the “work” in “network” by investigating your options and asking for referrals.

  1. Prepare a sharp and concise story outlining the purpose of the funding you are applying for (to start, expand, restructure, etc.). Investors need a clear and well quantified idea of what the money will be used for, as well as realistic financial projections that support the business’ ability to repay the debt or provide a return on investment.
  2. Know all the aspects of your business and incorporate the key points in your business plan especially your industry analysis and market segment identification. The more concise and crisp the business plan is the better. A compelling description of the core product or service being offered by the business is vital, how unique is it compared to other suppliers in the market and is there a demonstrated and proven need for the product or service; and is there sufficient market potential to make the investment worthwhile?
  3. Always have a detailed business plan ready. Not only will it help to solidify the knowledge mentioned in the previous point, but you will be able to send or present the plan quickly if a potential investor wants to have a closer look. This will help to convince them that the business owner is prepared.
  4. Understand the current state of the business. Investors want to know where in the life cycle of the business you find yourself and whether the business owner and the support team understand the industry in which the business operates or will operate. Knowing the background and business experience of both the entrepreneur and the support team, and the current state of the business can provide a level of comfort to the investor regarding their investment decision.
  5. Have an online presence. It is almost guaranteed nowadays that an investor who is interested in a business idea will do a background search on the internet. Therefore, it helps to have a good website and a strong presence on social media in which the entrepreneur’s successes are highlighted – not only in the current business, but in previous ventures and jobs. Most astute investors interrogate both the strengths of the business idea and the prowess of the entrepreneur.
  6. Be prepared to pitch in person, often investors will request a follow up meeting which includes a detailed presentation of the business plan, profit projections and industry insights. Be prepared for this request and have a more detailed presentation available in advance.
  7. Once contact has been made with a potential investor, stay in touch, even if it is just to ask for advice, such as how a proposed investment can best be restructured. The entrepreneur should also be open to feedback from potential investors. It is important to show investors that you are open-minded and adaptable. Chances are that the investors you are pitching to can enhance your idea with their advice, whether they decide to invest in your business or not.
  8. Have a realistic exit strategy for the investor. The investor’s thinking is likely to be around whether they can make the best return possible on the investment, so this point should be included in the exit plan. The time frames that most investors work with are between three and seven years.

Past winner catch-up: where are they now?

2018 marks our 30th year in honouring entrepreneurs and the contributions they make toward growing the South African economy. We’re celebrating by catching up with some of the past winners of the competition.

It’s been almost 3 years since you won the Entrepreneur of the Year® title in 2015, how has business been since then?

It has been an incredibly interesting time to be in business. It was an amazing coincidence that the Entrepreneur of the Year® awards were announced on the morning of 2 September 2015, and it so happened that later that day, we finalised the sale of our business to the Publicis Groupe – the 3rd largest communications group globally.

We have, however, remained in the business since the sale and we now consult to the business as a whole.

We have also each started different initiatives since then. I am currently working on my 4th start-up – a private equity company called LLH Capital, investing in businesses that are transforming and digitising the African continent.

Have you made any new developments within your business since winning?

The communications industry as a whole has experienced a lot of changes. There have been market entries of new services and technology. To keep up and ensure that we were always able to meet our clients’ needs, we developed OBI – a software programme and system for managing people on the ground. OBI helps businesses to gamify what they do and helps staff track their own performance against that of their peers. We are very proud of OBI, what it does for our staff and in turn, what it can do for our clients.

What was the biggest lesson you learnt from your time in the EOY competition?

Before EOY, we didn’t focus too much on our own brand building or competitions. We thought that people would find out about us if they needed to.  When we entered the competition, we quickly discovered that there was a whole new world waiting for us. Winning was a game-changer and completely shifted our perceptions.

After winning, we received so much recognition and respect from clients, suppliers, and staff. We realised we were actually a force to be reckoned with, not just a small company – something which is very important, but equally something we, as entrepreneurs, tend to struggle with.

The biggest lesson for us was that you need to get your name out there and seek some recognition.

What would your top piece of advice be for anyone looking to enter this year’s competition?

It is important to understand why you deserve the award. Perhaps some advice to this year’s entrants would be to look inwardly and 1) how you contribute to the economy? 2) what you stand for? 3) how have you improved unemployment rate in your community and have you changed people’s lives? 4) how have you contributed to the social fabric of society? What are you proud of?

If you can answer these questions with integrity, then you have a good chance in the competition.

Any last thoughts?

Winning the Entrepreneur of the Year® competition has improved my personal journey as an entrepreneur and definitely our business trajectory. I am still so inspired to do more.

Past winner catch-up – where are they now?

2018 marks our 30th year in honouring entrepreneurs and the contributions they make toward growing the South African economy. We’re celebrating this milestone by catching up with some of the past winners of the competition.

Catching up with: Kim Whitaker

Winning year: Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year® – 2015

Winning business: Once in Cape Town is a combined product of two different accommodation types – a backpackers’ lodge and a luxury hotel – globally dubbed as a ‘poshtel’.

It’s been almost 3 years since you won the Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year® title in 2015, how has business been since then?

Business has been very good – we’ve grown year-on-year and even achieved some goals that we had set out back when we started our journey.

Shortly after winning the title in 2015, we were fortunate enough to realise one of our big dreams – expansion into Gauteng with “Once in Jo’Burg” in 2016. It has been incredibly exciting to watch the new branch grow from strength to strength.

Since the 2015 competition, I also became a parent and being a working-mom has now brought a few new challenges to my life – such as needing to travel and attend business meetings with my child (even to Germany for a trade show!).

Have you made any new developments within your business since winning?

We very recently launched a tourism academy for young women in the tourism industry. The academy will begin in May 2018 with 20 students initially – taking them through the basics of tourism management. We hope this will empower these young women to forge long and successful careers within the local tourism industry.

Eventually we hope to grow the academy to host up to 100 students per year. We want to be a driver of growth in our sector and contribute toward bolstering youth employment in our country.
We were also recently awarded our Fair Trade stamp after a thorough audit – achieving a 100% pass rate which we’re very proud of.

What was the biggest lesson you learnt from your stint in the EOY competition?

The competition was an eye-opener. Bearing witness to the innovative things others are doing reminded me to always put my best foot forward, and to be proud of our achievements.

The entire experience was exceptionally inspirational. I was able to meet and learn from so many like-minded entrepreneurs who have amazing businesses. In turn, this has led me to discover a personal passion for networking with other local entrepreneurs and for investigating the entrepreneurial landscape in South Africa. I am eager to be more involved in helping others discover their entrepreneurial talents and seeing how we, collectively, can grow our country.

What would your top piece of advice be for anyone looking to enter this year’s competition?

I think the biggest, and possibly the most important piece of advice I could offer other entrepreneurs looking to enter the competition would be to be themselves completely. Don’t be something you’re not – you should be proud of your business, and your uniqueness. Be proud to fit outside the box. Most importantly – know your business inside and out – and don’t be shy to show it off.

Entrepreneurial pearls of wisdom

The 2017 Entrepreneur of the Year® winners share their advice for turning 2018 into a success

When it comes to being an entrepreneur, there is no sure template to follow or instruction manual to refer to, and no two journeys will ever be exactly the same. There are, however, parallels that can be drawn and lessons that can be learnt from those who may be a little further on in their entrepreneurial journey.

In the hopes of finding some of these valued nuggets of entrepreneurial wisdom, we sat down with a couple of winners of the 2017 Entrepreneur of the Year® competition and asked them about the biggest lessons they’re taking with them from the past year, as well as any advice they have for up-and-coming entrepreneurs who hope to make 2018 their year. 

Siphiwe Ngcobo, the founder of iLawu Hospitality Group and the 2017 Job Creator of the Year® says that the biggest lesson he learnt in 2017 was that no one has monopoly over ideas. “As an entrepreneur, you should always strive to keep abreast with what is happening around you through reading relevant literature and networking with people who will contribute in making you a better entrepreneur and human being.”

For Zenzele Fitness Group founder and Small Business Entrepreneur of the Year® winner, Tumi Phake, an important piece of wisdom came from a book he was reading. “While reading Good to Great by Jim Collins, what really stood out for me was the idea that in life, or business, you need to get the right people on the bus, put them on the right seat, and get the wrong people off the bus.

“It’s about surrounding yourself with people who bring out the best in you, people who want to make it happen and are self-motivated. If you have the right people sitting on the right seats, there’s no need to micromanage,” he says.

Tumi continues by explaining that while having a great business idea is important, it’s not critical. “The most important thing is having the ability to execute your idea – this is what investors look for. To do this you need to find people with the skills you may not necessarily have yourself.”

Siphiwe finishes off by offering the two entrepreneurial principles that he lives by. “The principles I live by are simple and usually come quite naturally to anyone with an entrepreneurial spirit. Firstly, be obsessed with understanding how things work and, secondly, take ownership. This means interrogating and understanding ideas before making a decision; and then taking full ownership of whichever path you choose.”

Four steps to create an inclusive work environment for your business

Business owners are lucky that they create their own work environment, unlike managers in large corporations who step into rigid, pre-created cultures. However, many business owners allow the working culture in their businesses to flow organically from their personality, without giving much thought to how it could be perhaps better engineered.

Kgomotso Ramoenyane, executive general manager: human resources at Business Partners Limited (BUSINESS/PARTNERS), believes that there is a lot to be said for consciously shaping the work environment in a business rather than leaving it up to chance, and specifically to aim towards creating an inclusive culture.

Inclusivity in a business means that the staff members feel valued and free to express who they are, where workers are keen to contribute not merely their contractually required output, but any of their ideas, knowledge and support that can help build the business. In an inclusive environment conflict is not shunned or suppressed, but channelled in such a way that everyone is keen to debate, participate and resolve, even if their ideas do not always hold sway.

Ramoenyane says inclusivity is not the same concept as diversity, although the two are closely linked. Almost always, diversity provides a force that steers an organisation in the direction of inclusivity because different kinds of people – young and old, male and female, black and white, local and foreign – are thrown together in one space and naturally seek to find harmony with each other.

But although diversity can often lead to inclusiveness, inclusivity is more than just diversity. It is quite possible, for example, for a diverse organisation to develop an oppressive atmosphere when management fails to make staff feel valued and included.

Why is inclusivity good for business? Can’t a regimented business where everyone does exactly as they are told also be a highly efficient organisation? Perhaps, but it is also a rigid organisation that is highly fragile in an ever-changing environment, says Ramoenyane. Inclusivity helps a business to adapt easily to changes in the market.

Her list of advantages of an inclusive business culture include higher productivity and lower staff turnover because workers feel valued, solutions to problems are found and implemented quickly because everyone feels free to contribute, innovation thrives because the development of products, services and systems are the result of inputs from many people, the knowledge base of the business expands, making it easier for the business to adapt to changes and ultimately enter and conquer new markets.

Ramoenyane acknowledges that creating an inclusive work culture can be difficult for owner-managers, many of whom characteristically have strong beliefs about how things should be done. Often, they are more used to being listened to than to listen. Another problem is that creating a workplace culture is intangible, abstract and all but impossible to measure. Given all the practical problems that business owners have to contend with, it is not surprising that something like the culture of the workplace is ignored as a fuzzy and less important issue.

Yet the results of an inclusive workplace culture is anything but fuzzy. Those very practical problems that tend to keep business owners preoccupied at the expense of working on their workplace culture can be solved so much easier if the whole workforce is fully engaged in the business.

Ramoenyane offers four steps that business owners can take toward creating a more inclusive business:

1. Define your business goals

If the business owner does not have a clear direction and vision for the business, chances are that the employees’ involvement in the workplace will not go beyond an I-just-work-here attitude. The vision for a business can go beyond growth in turnover and profitability and can include values and ethos. Having inclusivity expressed as part of your vision will of course help towards creating an inclusive work environment.

2. Share your vision with your staff

Whether it is in a series of workshops, discussions, memos or day-to-day interactions with your staff members, explain and engage constantly with them about your business goals. Invite comments and suggestions on how to make your vision a reality, and be genuinely open to their ideas. Employees who buy into your vision are much more likely to feel at home and included in your business.

3. Strive for diversity

With every new staff appointment that you make, you have the chance to increase the diversity of your company. The case for purposefully striving for diversity in your workforce is strong: it can enhance creativity and innovation, it can help to open up new markets and to increase productivity and profitability.

4. Give – and take – feedback

Don’t tell valuable employees for the first time just how valuable they are when they hand you their notice of resignation. By then it is much too late. Giving praise and corrective advice is an art which every business owner should refine and practice as a habit. But it is just as important to remember that feedback is a two-way communication. Business owners must learn to listen as much as they must learn to give feedback. If you can do both with genuine empathy, everyone in your business will feel at home.