In my neck of the woods we have a world renown Game Reserve called the Kruger National Park. It’s a really popular destination both locally, and with international tourists that come to experience the African bush and authentic safari experiences. Some fun facts about the area are: The game reserve is the largest in Africa spanning 19,633 Kilometers (about 7580 square miles). Hope to glimpse one of the “Big 5”? No problem, elephant, lion, rhino, African Buffalo, Leopard… They’re all in there somewhere! Quite a lot of them too! Along with a huge array of additional fauna, flora and picturesque bush camps where you can sip cocktails as the sun sets behind an Acacia tree and the giraffes meander off in the distance.
“People with goals succeed, because they know where they are going” – Earl Nightingale
In the spring of 2014 myself and a few friends had decided to take a trip to “The Kruger” as we affectionately call it for a much needed getaway. A decision made spur of the moment one evening. We would leave in a week and pack in the interim. I was to drive – my first time doing this. What could possibly go wrong…
In business the most obvious requirement is to have a goal. Not just any goal mind you, but a clearly defined one. I have to emphasize that for dramatic effect… Not just any goal mind you, but a clearly defined one! Forgive me for repeating it but it’s really that important. Some may call it a “vision.” Without that you are just wandering in the wilderness and that probably won’t lead you anywhere good. There are lions in the wilderness. Most entrepreneurs don’t necessarily struggle with the vision but having a goal is just the first step… Having a destination in mind then necessitates having a roadmap… That’s what gets you there safely or at the very least, intact. It consists of a series of subgoals, ultimately broken into actionable tasks that lead you and your team to where you are going. Having a few rest stops to check-in, re-evaluate and measure progress is a good idea too.
Business lesson one: Clearly define where you are going and how long it will take you to get there. Understand that your success will also depend on your ability to say no to other possible routes and destinations as you are finalizing your vision.
“Failure comes from ego, greed, envy, fear, imitation. I have success, not because I am smart but because I am rational” – Warren Buffet
It was my first time navigating this endeavor and as I sat with one of my closest friends finalizing the details for the trip it dawned on me that I don’t really know the way. We had our destination but the roadmap to get there was not well defined. My friend knew I had not driven this way before and asked me hey, are you good to-do this… Enter, my ego! “Yeah of course, just point me in the right direction and I’ll be fine… Should I go buy a map?” My friend thought for a second… Enter, his ego… “Nah, I know the way, done this a million times!” The deal had been sealed.
Looking back, embarking into the African wilderness, on a whim, with barely one week’s preparation, no clear roadmap, determination fueled by ego and no contingency plan for anything that could go wrong was not the rational thing to do. None of that sounds like a goal waiting to be achieved right!
Business lesson number two. Plan your route carefully! Business without a clear strategy is like a lost explorer in the park, meandering without direction. A roadmap becomes your compass, guiding decisions, setting goals, and steering your venture towards success whilst avoiding potential hazards around the corner.
Dealing with challenges
“Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.” – Henry Ford
We had set off and were well on our way… Enthusiasm abounded and everyone was full of aspiration for the adventure that lay before us. I had been driving for about 3 hours when in a moment of distraction we had taken a wrong turn and found ourselves on unfamiliar roads… My friend, who knew the way, assured us that if we kept our bearing for a little while longer there would be an opportunity to turn North and get back on track… An hour later and a huge rainstorm hit… Tensions began to rise… Could we be lost? Another hour… Cities were left behind, towns became little villages, we were now in rural surroundings… and then nothing, nothing but open road and bush! In hindsight, you know you have a problem when tar roads begin to turn into dirt roads without expectation! Another hour of aimless meandering and we found ourselves with a flat tire on a dirt road, now turned to deep mud and in the middle of nowhere… There was literally not a soul in sight and we were not equipped for a long stay in the bush without the comforts and safety of a camp… It was now getting dark really fast and we were struggling to see. This was not part of the plan! It became impossible to operate in the mud and the dark and so we had to admit defeat and huddled in the car for the night. Certainly not the way we thought we would be spending the evening. The next morning the tire got fixed amidst much frustration and time lost, an argument and another 40 minutes of panic and driving brought us some hope as civilization opened up to us again… We had arrived in the little town of Komatipoort on the Southern tip of the Kruger Park and right near the Mozambique border… At that point we learnt that we were about 320Km (198 miles) off our mark! Just as well as the locals informed us we had been close to an area with a flood warning too. We did eventually get to our destination but was the lost time, stress and added costs worth it… Absolutely not! With better planning and a less nonchalant approach we would have been much more successful in our endeavor.
We all love predictability, relishing the comfort it promises, but real life seldom provides such luxury. Inevitable challenges will be had. It’s amidst these unpredictable moments that our resilience shines brightest, where our ability to adapt and overcome defines our journey. Embracing the uncertainty becomes a skill, a way to navigate the ever-changing landscape of life and business. Challenges, though unwelcome, often gift us the chance to grow, evolve, and emerge stronger on the other side.
Business Lesson number three
During our short stint parading around the bush as the lost boys of Neverland we got really discouraged. It’s important to remind yourself that perseverance and consistency serve as the stalwart pillars essential for weathering the tempests of business challenges. Initially, they instill a resilient mindset, fortifying against setbacks that often punctuate the entrepreneurial journey. With each obstacle faced, perseverance fuels the determination to push forward, to navigate through turbulent times without succumbing to defeat.
Consistency, akin to a steady hand on the rudder, ensures that despite the storm’s chaos, the business remains steadfast in its approach. It fosters reliability, cultivating trust among clients, customers, and stakeholders, even amidst the most trying circumstances. The unwavering commitment to quality, service, and vision becomes a beacon guiding the business through the darkest of moments.
In the face of adversity, it’s the unwavering belief in the end goal that perseverance brings, enabling entrepreneurs to innovate, adapt, and pivot when necessary. Consistency complements this by establishing benchmarks, protocols, and operational norms, creating a stable framework even when everything else seems uncertain.
‘The strength of the team is each individual team member. The strength of each member is the team.” – Phil Jackson
When we realized we were lost the team fell apart… Rather quickly I hate to admit.
The chaos of the situation quickly enveloped us. It started off with everyone in the car having a different opinion on what was to be done in the situation. That inevitably led to snide remarks as panic set in and pretty soon a full blown argument as everyone was blaming someone else for the situation. The truth, we were all to blame and had to take responsibility for it. Fortunately we were able to see that and pull together as a team to get ourselves back on the right course. Once we re-centered ourselves we were able to foster encouragement to each other and use each person’s rationale to fix the tire, find the right direction and get us moving again.
Business Lesson number three: Consider your team. A strong team will not let external factors impact their countenance. Ultimately, in business, your team will incur challenges. You need to know that you have the best combination of skills to weather the inevitable storms that may come your way. Picture the diverse ecosystem of Kruger: different terrains, a variety of wildlife, and unpredictable weather—similar to the business landscape. Just as animals adapt to their surroundings, successful businesses adapt to market changes. Agility and flexibility are your survival instincts, allowing you to thrive amidst the ever-changing conditions.
“You can’t be successful in business without taking risks. It’s really that simple.” – Adena Friedmann
This is absolutely true, so anyone with a vision or a destination in mind should be prepared to take the risk and begin the journey but the risks need to be calculated in order to maximize the potential for success. Have a roadmap, think of the plan and the milestones that will get you there. Ask for help and get a team of skilled people around you but most of all be prepared for the ups, downs and detours that will ultimately get you to where you want to be.
With the right mindset, growth is always the outcome even in failure.(That’s a pretty good line and if no-one has said that before I hereby claim it as my own!). In the end we did get to where we were going. I was able to relax and take in the sounds of the African bush as I sat around a campfire one evening and watched real life versions of Timon and Pumba running around a watering hole. We had pulled together and grew from our experience. Growth was indeed the outcome but the lessons had been hard leant. A series of bad choices and lack of foresight allowed us to narrowly miss the bullseye on a piece of real estate the size of Belgium and put us in a precarious position that fortunately turned out okay in the end. We learnt how to adapt to unforeseen situations, how to work together to overcome challenges and how to plan properly for any given endeavor. All inter-personal skills that transfer well to the world of business. We have since been back to “The Kruger” a few times as well as done several other cross-country trips without so much as a hiccup. The reason: no matter if I’m going on Safari, starting a venture or getting milk from the grocery store… I never leave home without a map! Until next time!
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