Pinch me


Ever have one of those moments where the first line of a new document is something that you never saw yourself writing? Something that maybe six months earlier you couldn’t ever see happening?

Well, I had a couple of those in the week. And yes, I’m officially a whole week behind in blogging, so here goes an update that takes us through the end of February.

I think this was probably the most impactful week of my life. I took the red pill. But it was actually that I took the red pill a long time ago, and by the time you get to a certain point you can’t really make any other choices.

Flowers of Joburg #1

Flowers of Joburg #1

Well, there is always a choice. Usually several. But when faced with a fork in the road, I’ve always tended to trust my gut and it’s done well for me so far.

I was telling my friends who picked me up at the airport on Thursday that it felt like the worst week of my life except for that it was actually an excellent week. They understood perfectly.

It had everything! Except for sleep & training that is. Drama. Emotion. Fear. Greed. Anger. Sales. Excitement. Public Speaking.

I may not have trained but I did manage to snag this epic photo!

I may not have trained but I did manage to snag this epic photo!

I still find it weird that some people are more afraid of public speaking than of death, although I did learn something about myself and that is that I don’t actually like speaking per se. I like explaining. I don’t rehearse speeches although I could; I just get up there and talk, and the passion comes through! I really am utterly fascinated by the space we find ourselves in now, where telecoms, smartphones, location, and software are all coming together.

And it’s new! In a way, it’s like being at the beginnings of the dotcom bubble all over again. I can see quite a few similarities and it’s exciting and daunting all at once. No one is an expert; we are all trying to figure it out. The solutions are complex; the business models and the go-to-market approaches even more so. This is not your ecommerce site or simple enterprise sales approach … no, this is multi-stakeholder, highly complex solution to understand, let alone to sell.

Flowers of Joburg #2

Flowers of Joburg #2

Maybe it would be easier to be MWEB and just give away a commodity in a land grab. I take that back: it would definitely be easier. Boring as hell. But easy. Easy for now. Not sustainable; and a market distortion of note.

This particular week brought an event called the Shopper Indaba. A couple of reminders from that event (not rocket science just business basics):

  • Watch out for unintended consequences of your actions
  • Don’t bite off more than you can chew
  • Start with objectives. If you don’t know where you’re going it’s quite hard to know if you’re going in the right direction, or once you’ve arrived!
  • Go in measured steps: do, test, measure, learn, justify, expand (or not)

The week technically started in Johannesburg. I’d flown in Sunday morning early to save the company a few hundred Rand, which, among other things, gave time and space for a braai with some special CrossFitters that evening.

Flowers of Joburg #3

Flowers of Joburg #3

Monday was a true pleasure; starting off with a meeting with my development partners and we were then graced by the presence of my favourite sales guy who didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know. For an industry full of secrets, the biggest surprises can come from where you least expect them. Forget your competitors – watch your partners.

Speaking of: there’s this saying that if you’re looking around a table and you can’t see who the sucker is, then the sucker is you. I was thinking about this recently and I reject the premise. It doesn’t have to be that way. As a matter of fact, the sucker can sometimes be the guy who is NOT sitting at the table, who deserves to have his ass kicked. The fun of a common enemy!!

The next day or so brought three meetings related to one of our key target markets, in rapid succession. That was all very exciting; combined with a few evening Skype calls; then the conference. But the entire week was exhausting and draining. I didn’t train, I did break all the rules and drank a few times, but I kept my head when I needed it.

Mon Petit Throbb

Mon Petit Throbb

Quite a bit of exciting news to talk about once it’s all public, but what I can say is that I rediscovered that it really does come down to the people for me. Always. For example, our family at Skyrove has so much trust and mutual respect for each other; this thing called a company culture that one tries so hard to build. And you can’t build it, or impose it, you have to set certain principles in place, and lead by example, and then see what the people do.

There are three things in business that I keep coming back to:

  1. Money. Business isn’t charity. You need to have people who value what you’re selling enough that they pay you to deliver it. And you need to make sure you have more income than costs, or sufficient funding in the bank, or else you can’t continue. So money is important.
  2. Opportunity. You spend so much of your time at work that you should really be working on cool stuff. Your company’s raison d’etre should be more than just trying to copy what someone else is doing. Who wants to work all their life and not add value to the world? Not me.
  3. People. You can’t do anything without a team. There are different roles within the team, but it must function as a unit. This is something Rudolph & I worked very hard at Skyrove to build, is team unity, trust, and coherence. There are different management styles; I get that. Mine is to trust and empower. Oh: and respect. People are people, not horses or resources. Herding cats is hard enough; you try to herd people!

My team is great. I remember back to our year-end event when Rudolph said to me that he wouldn’t change our team for the world. Not a single person. And that is one of the moments that I know will stick with me forever; just like the one drinks night at Jeeves when I realised nothing lasted forever, and we’d never be like this again.

Even a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis is a period of intense stress for the creature. This week was very exciting and positive in some ways, and incredibly emotionally taxing at the same time. Many things to consider on the chessboard, and many of those things have emotions and other attributions attached to them.

It’s been fascinating to see how different people have reacted. Some people beat me to the punch and offered their support proactively, and in the strongest possible terms. Some people I reached out to explicitly for support came back with nothing.

Photobombed by a seagull

Photobombed by a seagull

It’s also interesting how you respond to one thing vs another. I’ve got a very thick skin. But some stuff still hurts. It’s interesting to see what does and what doesn’t. Same thing as always though: if I’m confident in something people can talk smack all they want and I don’t care. If I do have a weakness, or, worse, I’ve specifically exposed a vulnerability and you go stick a knife in there and then twist it … yeah, I’m human. I do bleed.

I was also perhaps a bit dazed from lack of sleep? By the sushi evening Saturday I was really in a state; the guys were gossiping about some inter-gym politics and what-what, and it felt like a whole different world. It’s a strange thing for me to feel so little and care so little about this sport in which I supposedly compete pretty seriously. Well; nothing’s serious if you don’t want it to be, or if it doesn’t feel right, huh?

That aside, taking candy from a baby ain’t cool. Unless it’s Stewie from Family Guy, who’d happily take all your candy.

Shooting the messenger ain’t cool.

And going after the women and children? That’s what terrorists do.

Me? I’d rather play open hands, be fair, honest, and trusting. You put something out there and see how other people react. If they steal your candy, you’ve learned your lesson.

Play the game; play it fair. And if you’re gonna be a hater, hate the game, not the player.

Someone stole the Drama Street sign. #figures

Someone stole the Drama Street sign. #figures

  • “See, that’s what I was afraid was gonna happen. And it happened.” – Ellie
  • “It worked until it fell off the wall.” – Dave
  • “Have you seen bumble bees flying around in slow motion? They bump into shit.” – Tristan
  • “I really don’t have time for people with no vision. They think they have a toasted sandwich shop.” – Tristan
  • “A loyalty programme is an admission of failure.” – Tristan
  • “I don’t want to sound like I’m being more condescending than I usually am.” – Mike
  • “Wait. I should be drinking now. #stupid.” – Ellie (rules are made to be broken!)
  • “Wow. Um. What favours did you have to call in to get that?” – Rudolph
  • “He says you are one of the few people he trusts.” – Rudolph (to trust anyone in telecoms is a hell of a thing to say!)
  • “By the way, the two of us are dangerously well connected.” – Rudolph
  • “4th bottle.” “What? Just for him?” “Yes.” – #Irish …. That is all! Ha!
  • “I just assumed you enjoyed the large time difference from Eastern Standard Time.” – Mike
  • “Do they need close oversight? Yes they do.” – John (understatement of the year!)
  • “Either that or they trust you.”  – Tristan
  • “I’m just tired of people who don’t think! Which is most people.” – Tristan
  • “I’ve seen this for longer than you’ve been alive.” – Mom
  • “You’re right in the forefront.” – Terry
  • “We think we are rational but we’re not. We’re good rationalisers.” – Sam
  • “Data takes the politics out of decision making.” – Sam
  • “Online retail has a lot to learn from walking into the physical store.” – Jonathan
  • “We are in a moment of incredible change.” – Terry
  • “I can be a bit strange so if I say weird things you can ignore them.” – Grace
  • “It’s not possible to have flexibility in a rigid framework.” – Grace
  • “Don’t think you know your consumer because you probably don’t.” – Melanie
  • “Are you jealous?!?! I think you are!” – Ellie
  • “I haven’t trained for a week.” “I haven’t trained for two days.” “I still win.” – Ellie & Rick (#CrossFitters)
  • “Who’s the puppetmaster?” – Craig
  • “The problem is if you give him the wrong brief he’d do it perfectly wrong.” – Craig
  • “Is Java good for anything?” “Yes! Let me tell you why I hate Java….” – Ellie & Craig
  • “Once you know all the rules that’s when you can break them.” – Byron
  • “It’s almost like I needed something and I got it.” – Charles
  • “Do they know what they’ve done?” – Sam
  • “He said he’s not drunk. Yet.” – Stefan
  • “Well, you did say one drink.” – Anita
  • “No. I’m not calling it Meatball.” – Ellie (this is why I don’t drink)
  • “You just said alcohol is addictive. I think that’s been proven.” – Ellie
  • “There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance.” “Yeah. And he’s not even flirting with it.” – Nats & Hes
  • “Yes, you were missed! Although the video of you in Beijing on a 3 minute loop got old by day 4…” – Mark
  • “Sometimes the harder road is the right road.” – a fellow CrossFitter
  • “We’re transforming the industry, Ellie. No joke. I wish I had more money to do it – but with the right ideas and energy, the money will come.” – Claus

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