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SME chat: Great entrepreneurs are generous visionaries

There are not that many companies in the world in which one man attains such an iconic status as to be personally identified with a brand.

Steve Jobs was biologically an ordinary person, no different from you and me. But he was different in his thinking. Even after dropping from college after just one semester, he went on to score some extraordinary achievements.

The man was a visionary. In the early 1980s, Steve Jobs saw the commercial potential of mouse driven graphical user interface before many others in the computer industry, which led to the creation of the commercially very successful MacIntosh personal computer. Since then, Apple has produced many exciting and entertaining electronic products, including the iPod, iPhone and iPad.

Steve Jobs was very innovative; he produced products that filled gaps that customers didn’t know existed. That is being visionary; seeing a beautiful future before it happens and working hard to ensure that the dream comes true. Jobs changed the way we live; the way we view technology; the way we listen to music and the way we communicate. He also changed business. For him, the old adage that the customer is king did not hold true. In another sense, he did not give customers what they wanted because they didn’t know what they wanted. No-one knew they wanted an iPod before it existed.  In his vision, he could see that customers will want what he created once it came into existence.

One of the best characteristics of great entrepreneurs is generosity. They create products and services that help other people enjoy life better and solve their problems. When you look at history, the richest people have been generous in one way or another. Henry Ford became a billionaire by providing affordable cars for the masses, at a time when cars where only for the rich. Companies that made expensive cars went out of business while Ford Motor Company grew into a global industrial power, fulfilling Ford’s vision.
Strive Masiyiwa thought of providing cheaper and more convenient communication to ordinary Zimbabweans. Today the vast majority of Zimbabweans can communicate through the mobile phone from almost anywhere. His products are not confined only to the rich but are affordable to most people. This proves that if you want to succeed in business, you have to constantly work to find ways to give more to more and more people.

In his book Retire Young and Retire Rich, Robert Kiyosaki shares the story of a friend of his who always had these new “brilliant” ideas for making millions. One day he had an idea to open a clothing line selling products that his employer refused to stock. He said people were always coming into the store where he worked part-time asking for that particular brand. So he was asking for money from Robert so he could open a shop right across the street from his employers’ and customers would flood in. Robert asked the friend if he would attend a business and financial management course but he declined. His response was, “Why would I need to do that? I’ve worked in this store for years and I don’t need to learn anything more to run a store.” Robert said he turned him down simply because he was not willing to acquire the basic skills that would help him succeed in business. If he was good in business management he wouldn’t still be working. But the fact that he refused to learn meant that was reducing his own chances of running the business successfully and profitably.

Many people who go into business are not willing to acquire the very skills that will help them succeed. That is one of the reasons only five out of every hundred new businesses succeed. The owners are stingy; they don’t want to give, even to themselves.

To succeed in business you need to be visionary, to dream big. You also need to be generous, helping as many people as you can. And you need to remember the age-old Law of Reciprocity — “Give and you shall receive.” Serve the needs of other people first and you shall be duly rewarded.

In the book, Secrets of closing the sale (1984), Zig Ziglar said “You can get everything in life you want if you will just help enough people get what they want.”  In other words generosity is what makes you money. Great entrepreneurs and great innovators have all been generous people, who solved problems, made products affordable to many and made life more convenient and more exciting. Think like that if you want to build a profitable and growing business. And also think big and visionary. The world needs more people like Steve Jobs to create jobs and bring out exciting new products and services.
Start by being generous to yourself.

lPhillip Chichoni is a business planning and financial management consultant who works with SMEs and entrepreneurs. He may be contacted on email: chichonip@gmail.com.

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