Go up to almost anybody and ask them “What do you do?” and they will tell you that they are a “lawyer” or an “accountant” or they “design websites” – rightly or wrongly they define their purpose by the work that they do to generate an income.
But what happens when you take that away from them?
Look around your network. Do you know:
- Somebody who has lost their job and not been able to return to the equivalent position in the workforce because of the economic situation in South Africa?
- Started a small business and subsequently “let people down” because the business hasn’t succeeded?
Their self-worth is wrecked.
I’ll use myself as an example. When I left my job over a year ago, I was convinced that people would back my ventures. I mean it’s me?! I have 12000 Twitter followers, a book of contacts at the top of SA business and I had done [at least what I thought] were some innovative things. Yet every month that dragged by with no uptake, starts to eat away at you… “what am I good at?” and “why am I even trying?”.
Similarly I can use the example of a former national cricketer who was admired by millions He had toured the world, met thousands of people and had a number of successful people to call on. Today he’s trying to make ends meet by selling low-cost security solutions over social media.
Or I can use the entrepreneur who messaged me yesterday who has for 6 months tried to get their business off the ground and slowly descended into depression because of their perceived “failure” to make their business work.
When we don’t perceive ourselves to have a future or “be good at x”, we stop trying. We start seeing problems in everything rather than looking for solutions.
One of South Africa’s biggest problems is that we have youth unemployment that sits somewhere between 30 and 50% depending on the metric we use to measure it. That’s 30 – 50% of our youth who have no motivation to try anything. They are told to start businesses rather than look for jobs but when nobody will support them, what is the motivation to create value?
Even without platitudes around the state of youth unemployment in South Africa, just bring it closer to home.
Consider for a moment how disempowering it is for an SME owner to go back to their family day after day with no good news to report. Where the conversations should be about the wonder of creating value, the cycle is one of negativity and failure.
It is an absurd situation when the future of your country can see no future.
Yet if we look at the 3 examples I mentioned above, every single one of them had something in common: The moment that somebody attached a value to what they do, they started to perceive themselves as valuable.
- The entrepreneur who messaged me saw their motivation lift because a potential client had contacted them through our Business Opportunity Marketplace to request a quote for their product or service. After 6 months of bashing away, somebody suddenly saw value in what the entrepreneur did. It validated them.
- The cricketer who experienced the thrill of scoring hundreds for South Africa felt empowered when somebody recognized him as an SME that offered a valued service.
- I felt empowered and validated when somebody from Australia contacted our medical technology business and said “I see what value in what you have created and would like to purchase it”.
There is a saying that when you start your small business, your friends are going to make all the right noises in support of you but probably won’t be the people who keep your business going. External validation from a client who attaches value to what you do, will always be the real test.
It goes further than that.
When I share with Anke and York from the SME Movement the stories from entrepreneurs who receive enquiries via The Business Opportunity Marketplace, they are motivated to commit new resources and skills to expanding this mission.
They are not financially wealthy (hint hint corporate South Africa) but what they do encapsulate is the spirit we need to tackle some of the worlds biggest problems.
Just like the national cricketer, the business exec or the SME owner, they also have self doubts. Each time they see a small win, they invest a little more.
The rising tide lifts all boats.
What we need you to do:
In Roman days, there were the gladiators. I found this definition of the gladiators on Wikipedia:
“Some gladiators were volunteers who risked their lives and their legal and social standing by appearing in the arena. Most were despised as slaves, schooled under harsh conditions, socially marginalized, and segregated even in death. Irrespective of their origin, gladiators offered spectators an example of Rome’s martial ethics and, in fighting or dying well, they could inspire admiration and popular acclaim.”
… that sounds a helluva lot like SME owners right?!
If you have read this far, I need one of three things from you:
- If you are an SME looking for new clients or opportunities then please join our Business Opportunity Marketplace. It costs nothing to join but I believe it will at a minimum open your eyes to the opportunities out there and expand your network
- If you don’t run a small business then look around your network for the entrepreneurs who need support and get them to sign up. If you don’t know anybody then at least share this post on social media 🙂
- If you run a business and are responsible for procurement, supply chain development or the like then find one opportunity where a small business can contribute and post it to the Business Opportunity Marketplace. Whether it is a multi-million Rand tender or the supply of flowers for your next corporate event, it doesn’t matter – give these modern gladiators the opportunity to get into the fight.
To sign off this message, I want to leave you with the words of Al Pacino from that incredible speech in “Any Given Sunday” where Pacino talks about winning inches in life:
I’ll tell you this
in any fight
it is the guy who is willing to die
who is going to win that inch.
And I know
if I am going to have any life anymore
it is because, I am still willing to fight, and die for that inch
because that is what LIVING is.
The six inches in front of your face.
Now I can’t make you do it.
You gotta look at the guy next to you.
Look into his eyes.
Now I think you are going to see a guy who will go that inch with you.
You are going to see a guy
who will sacrifice himself for this team
because he knows when it comes down to it,
you are gonna do the same thing for him.
You can watch the full speech below if you’re looking for some motivation: