Herman Mashaba’s 11 Ingredients required for Entrepreneurship

In case you have not noticed, I am a very big fan of Herman Mashaba’s entrepreneurial acumen.  The fact that he achieved business success during the Apartheid Years, should make him a National Hero in my eyes. (It might be important to note at this point in time that my focus is on his entrepreneurship skills.  I am definitely not a fan of politics and am the very last person that should give a view on anything other than Herman Mashaba’s entrepreneurial skills.)

I was the lucky recipient of Herman’s autobiography Black Like You and would love to share the ingredient that he believes is required to be a successful entrepreneur, or at least his view on the subject.  The question that he gets asked the most is “what is the one thing that is common to all entrepreneurs.”

Wouldn’t we all want the magic recipe to be a successful entrepreneur?  Is there any person walking on this earth that has not secretly thought that it would be really cool to own a company of your own?  To be a successful entrepreneur? Or to get the winning numbers for the Lotto or both?  But, as Herman Mashaba points out, there is no magic ingredient.  He does list a couple of qualities that could be handy, and after summarizing them for myself, I thought you might like to have a look too.

  1. Every successful entrepreneur has his or her own unique story.  You cannot compare yourself to your friends, family, or whoever you are reading about in the news and on social media.   Heman did not have the privilege of completing his tertiary education.  I do, however, wonder if he would have been such a successful entrepreneur if he did receive formal business training.  He might have been an excellent candidate to feature in Malcolm Gladwell’s book David & Goliath where the theme of the book is about reaching success as a result of and not despite your hardships.  But the reality is that everyone’s story is different.  Comparing yourself to another person could be fatal to your success.

  2. Versatility is important.  You must be able to fit in wherever you are needed.  As an entrepreneur, you do not have the luxury of excusing yourself from a task.  My late father used to say that if you are not willing to do a job yourself, how can you expect someone else to do it?

  3. Salesmanship.  No matter whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, you cannot run your company successfully if you cannot sell it.  Sales are about believing in what you are selling with your whole heart.  Your business will not last if you are trying to ‘sell ice to an Eskimo’, but you need to be able to share your love for your product or service in such a way that it literally flies off the shelves.

  4. Mentors are an invaluable part of your development as an entrepreneur.  Yes, not everyone is lucky enough to have a mother or grandfather that can share their entrepreneurial stories ‘around the firepit’.  This is one of the main reasons why #ExpeditionBusiness aims to share as many entrepreneurial stories as possible with our future and existing entrepreneurs.  And yes, whether you call it a coach or a mentor, having someone to confide in, that is not going to judge nor dish out unsolicited advice, you need someone in your corner.

  5. Read, read & read some more. Herman read every autobiography of entrepreneurs that he could lay his hands on.  One such story is Raymond Ackerman’s accounts of his entrepreneurial journey.  Hearing Grasshoppers Jump, The Four Legs of the Table, and A Sprat to Catch a Mackerel is definitely worth the read.  This reminds me of the wisdom often appraised to Nelson Mandela.  Yes, it does show wisdom to know when to use what quote, but in the end, most of those wisdom comes from the insane amount of literature that Mandela consumed while incarcerated.

  6. Believe in yourself.  If I could get a cent for every time that I have heard this line.  It is so true, yet we forget it so quickly.  Mostly because we compare ourselves to others.  Probably also because we do not always take as good care of ourselves as we should or have slipped on our discipline yet again.  Whatever is breaking down your belief in yourself, you should fix it and fix it fast.  If you do not believe in yourself, who else will? 

  7. Work hard.  Herman shared the stories of Richard Branson and Filicia Mabuza-Suttle who were not just talented but worked their butts off to get where they are.   Gary player once said after sinking an impressive put for a Masters win: “the harder I work, the luckier I get.”  You can have all the skills in the world, but if you do not pull your finger, you are doomed to tell the story to your grandkids of once when their Gran almost succeeded.

  8. Creative Flair & Vision. Entrepreneurship is not like engineering.  It is not an exact science of black and white.  I can hear our numbers-friends who would immediately share their thoughts on ‘it’s all in the numbers’.  Yes, one can get a bit carried away with the notion of flair and creative vision and you should get a grip on your numbers.  You can however have all the right numbers, but without the vision, without the ‘why’, you can kiss your cognac goodbye.

  9. Think on your feet.  These are things that can’t be taught.  You either have the ability to be as sharp as a knife, or you don’t.  If you are in the thick of things, you need to be able to adjust as you go along.  It is only corporates with massive budgets to burn, that can afford another board meeting to consider whether or not the company should purchase another stapler or not.

  10. Gut instinct.  Yes, it is debatable whether this should fall under the heading of being able to think on your feet or not, but I do believe this is so important that it must be underlined.  Herman adds that “there are excellent tertiary business, marketing, and sales courses that can be taken, but none of them can teach you gut instinct or belief in yourself.  These are intangibles that a person either possesses or they don’t.”

  11. What is interesting is that Herman does not add his ever-present wife Connie to this mix. With the risk of sounding like I’m voting for the Women’s Lib Party, it is almost impossible if your partner does not play a major role in your entrepreneurial journey. Whether they are full-time involved in your business or not, they have to understand your here and now. Your why’s, hows, and specifically your when’s. And whether your partner is a wife, a husband, a girlfriend, or whatever, they do play a massive role in your success and the level of success that is possible.

To Herman’s credit, he does talk about Connie throughout the rest of the book and does give credit where credit is due.

If you want to get more detail on the Herman Mashaba Entrepreneurial journey, I do suggest you read Black Like You. And one day, if you subscribe to our ExpeditionBusiness YouTube Channel, you might be the lucky winner of hearing him share his story in person.

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