It’s All About (The) Network

This is pretty simple, it’s business, that’s all it is. The guys that disguise its actual meaning use ambiguous words to explain it, they sophisticate it, but in its truest sense it is a pretty basic concept that becomes complex depending on its magnitude (like any other concept in physics or mathematics). It is as simple as selling sweets on a busy street corner in the Jo’burg CBD, that’s what business is. It’s a process of doing certain actions, repeating them, and striving to perfect them each day – “that is business”. Why are people good enough to be employed and they do an excellent job, but when it comes to them owning businesses they are being told about all of the complexities they will experience?

To this day, I remember my struggles in tertiary while pursuing my engineering degree, it was not easy, I could compare it to starting your own business; I was fragile, naïve, I had no network, I was not the smartest in the class and didn’t have all the resources I required to make a seamless success of my studies. I was in a foreign land, all by myself, I had to survive and I went for it head on. It was a struggle and after many years of pushing and pursuing it, I eventually achieved my dream. These are similar struggles every business man and woman go through in my view.

When you start your own business it begins as this bright idea, with endless possibilities of success. Then you start to develop this idea by doing the basics; you; register your business, design a logo, build a business profile, define your purpose, clarify the niche, acquire resources, build a website, do the branding and marketing and so on and so forth. You have your eyes on the ball, you are so proud of yourself because this idea is slowly starting to take shape. You discuss it with family, friends and peers and the feedback is positive, you get hyped up, your confidence shoots through the roof. You build your strategy, you produce the working documents and templates, you are busy building the core of your business and you are confident that you are going to succeed.

A wise man I once worked for said to me; “if you want to build a strong business, like a house, you have to start with a strong foundation”. What he actually meant is that, it is not so much what is on the surface (the glamorous office and excellent marketing material), but rather what is behind the scenes (your Intellectual Property) that is important. This is a guy I hold dearly to my heart because through him I saw the possibilities of being a successful business man or woman.

Then you start knocking on people’s doors to be given opportunities to take this great business of yours off the ground, that’s when you suddenly get awakened. It is not really about how good it looks on paper or how skilled you are to execute these great ideas – business is about people. The people that have to appoint you to do work for them, they hold the keys to what could make you or break you, and the bottom line is all about signing on the dotted line and getting the work done. All your preparatory work contributes a minute percentage to your actual success. It is about people, conversations and trust. Not about people that speak positive things just to pass time. It is about people who are honest to you and your ideas, who will contribute to your growth, who are blunt and can tell you straight up that it won’t work. The people who will be so honest to you that you almost want to quit.

“It’s all about networking”, and let’s clarify what a network really is, in my view it is not about inviting people to expensive restaurants and buying them expensive drinks. I don’t know if that really works, maybe I am still wet behind the ears. But my view is that you build relationships and integrity with your networks, and over time, trust is built and eventually it pays off.

Now, the biggest challenge in business is corruption, this is what we call blue collar crime. This kills all aspirations for emerging entrepreneurs. If people don’t really invite you into their office to look you straight in your eyes and hear your business out in its truest sense then quite frankly it is a waste of your time as an aspiring entrepreneur, to be in these meetings. Your success should not be about the crisp suit you wear or the brilliant English you speak or how you have prepared those colourful graphs on the presentation. Great ideas have been tabled by government, such as small business incubation (this is like being a graduate trainee or being a beneficiary of a bursary scheme, these are opportunities that set you up in kick starting your career), but this is not implemented the way it was intended and it fails a majority of entrepreneurs on the ground.

It is all about the core business offering you present, not all this fairly outward look of businesses. Do not be misled by the corporate look of big business, they have big financial reserves to fund these expensive marketing and advertising campaigns, but their intellectual property (what really brings in the money) is behind the scenes in plain black and white locked away in a very big safe. So let’s not attach roses to the idea of business and glamourize it, business is about people and networks, that’s it.

Writer: Kabelo Motsugi