When I am looking to set up interviews, I try to think of people who have come from nowhere and created something truly amazing. With that said, I thought I would interview Mat Jacobson, the founder of the Global Education Company, Ducere. The vision of Ducere is working directly with global leaders on topics they are experts in, to deliver a formal education. What makes Ducere truly unique is that they have been able attract some of the best leaders on the planet including five Australian Prime Ministers, two Canadian Prime Ministers, Heads of State from Europe, Asia and Africa, Nobel Prize winners, Oxford and Harvard professors and the list goes on and on.
Mat is very inspiring to talk with and is always looking for ways to help the entrepreneur community. He thinks big by nature and is not afraid to share his opinion about what needs to change in the entrepreneurial education system. I get the feeling that Mat see’s entrepreneurship as a way to solve many of the world’s problems and using trusted, global leaders to deliver that message is one way he can have a major impact on the outcome.
It was important when Mat created Ducere that philanthropy was embedded into the business and wasn’t a case of if they make money they would write out a cheque to charity when they could afford to. There are two companies that make up Ducere, one is the academic arm, and the other is the Ducere Foundation. Part of the profits of Ducere Education go to fund the Ducere Foundation. Ducere doesn’t donate money to third parties, they create programs in Africa with their philanthropic arm through education programs that are now in 12 countries. This business model is quite unique and has helped create a vision that has attracted the types of global leaders they have onboard.
***Spending Time With Bill Clinton***
Ducere is a member of the Clinton Global Initiative where they partner together on a publishing program for Africa. Mat had the chance to speak with Bill Clinton a number of times.
Mat says that Bill just has a genuine interest in the projects they are involved in so when you speak to someone of his stature, you might think they are aloof or politely nodding their head, but with Bill Clinton he is 100% engaged in the conversation with eye contact the whole time and listening very carefully to what you’re saying. He will then ask very good questions and give his opinion on how you can take your vision a step further. Bill gave advice to Mat on the politics of Africa, where the Ducere programs should be based and people they should work with like Sir Ketumile Masire. Having someone like Bill Clinton for Mat to bounce ideas off was an invaluable experience and just demonstrates how the Ducere vision has successfully captivated everyone.
Later this year Ducere will be rolling out four bachelor degree’s with applied qualifications and coursework directly tied into real-life business projects.
After my interview with Mat I thought I would share with you his top seven ways to create an amazing vision for your startup.
1. Attract the best leaders to your startup
You must have a very compelling reason for someone to be involved with your startup. One of the reasons global leaders are attracted to Duceres vision is because of their social enterprise elements.
Having said that, you still have to get in front of someone to communicate your idea. This can only be done by having people around you that have great networks and connections. To get great leaders, Mat said it’s usually done through an introduction or via someone who knows about their work – it’s always one or two degree’s of separation. A method that you should avoid is sending a letter that says “Dear Sir we would like to introduce ourselves to you.” To be successful in attracting global leaders, you need to create a trusted environment that they will gravitate to more than anything else.
2. Decide if you’re startup should have a global vision
It’s just a question of how far do you want to expand the activities you are involved in. If you’re an organisation that operates in one country, and then you take that same product or service to 50 countries, then obviously that’s global. It’s more a question of ambition.
By Ducere doing their philanthropy in African countries, as well as their academic programs in first world countries, they have become global by nature. Another example might be if you create an interesting platform for transport that helps people, such as Uber, that could equally apply in one country and the founders might be happy generating revenue, on the other hand if it’s a product or service that is really popular, maybe it could be spread to more than fifty countries. It comes back again to ambition and not so much whether a product or service is limited to one or more countries
3. Reframe your prior failed visions
In order to create an amazing vision, you need to be able to reframe your prior failed visions and be able to use the lessons to help create your new vision for your startup. Of course, things don’t always work out as planned. There a lot of things that don’t go the way you intend, especially in a startup environment.
The problem with the word failure is that it has a very negative connotation. Mat believes we should use a more scientific type of terminology like experimentation or trial and error. This terminology is really the way startup and entrepreneurial businesses operate. It’s not a question of success or failure it’s a question of how quickly can you move, adapt shift to create a successful outcome. That’s the case with any organisation that you can point to. No company in the world has a 50-page business plan on day one that ten years down the track they can look back on and say “that’s exactly what we intended to do.”
Look at the genesis of Facebook, what it does today is completely different to what it started out as in its first version a number of years ago. If you look at Google and what the plan, idea and vision of was when it first started, it certainly wasn’t self-driving cars. Even when we can point to a business that is successful, it’s still constantly about adaptation and evolving in order for that business to stay in the same successful position. Mat believes we should talk more about experimentation because in an experimental environment it’s very normal for things to be cut-off, modified, focused more on a different area and to go off on tangents.
Failure is such a negative word and people don’t like to be associated with it, which is perhaps why in the western world we have such a risk adverse culture. Trial and error, and experimenting until a business model succeeds is far more palatable.
4. Take the Steve Jobs approach – simplify and focus
How do you balance opportunity with focus? There are always lots of opportunities out there. People overestimate the value of ideas, and they underestimate the value of implementation. People talk about the idea and vision to a great extent, but this is only one component.
There are lots of people that have interesting ideas, but there are far fewer people who can actually execute that vision into a successful, global organisation. It’s about the execution and for Mat that’s the balance between lots of ideas and focus. There are constantly more ideas than the amount of focus you can have to successfully implement those ideas within your startup. It needs to be about having a good sense of core value and being the best at something rather than doing lots of things poorly.
In Ducere’s case, education is a huge space. They implemented this idea of simplification by narrowing down their focus to a business school rather than teaching all the broader areas that a typical business faculty in a university would offer such as bookkeeping. This allows them to leverage off their unique skill of business programs that can utilise global leaders in the areas of entrepreneurship, leadership and management.
Your startup needs to look constantly at the core focus you are trying to achieve and make sure it is relevant to everything you do. Don’t just implement something because it sounds like a good idea or financial opportunity, if it doesn’t meet your core focus.
5. You need lots of diverse thinking, interactions and experiences
If you work in the airline industry, you would typically go to airline industry conferences and deal with people in your industry. If Mat was in the banking industry and wanted to come up with something novel, he would spend time trying to understand how the airline industry works. On one hand, the airline industry has nothing to do with banking but that’s where opportunities for innovation arise. It allows you to see something totally unique and different, and then you start thinking to yourself, how can I use what I have learnt from the airline industry in banking.
A classic example of this was when the founder of Ikea went on holidays to New York to visit the Guggenheim. Most people would wonder what visiting a museum has got to do with a furniture business. When he was in the Guggenheim, he had to follow a set path through the different attractions. This experience he had while on holidays became the impetus for the now famous IKEA model of a structured pathway through their stores, ensuring customers have to walk past every product.
Another important component of creating a vision is being in an environment where you can have headspace and think clearly. A holiday is a perfect example of this and often you can think that a holiday is to get away from work. What a holiday does is to allow you to think outside of the hustle and bustle, the hundreds of emails / meetings and phone calls where it’s very difficult to think innovatively, and completely change your environment.
Mat does his best work often when he is on holidays or an aeroplane where he can’t be interrupted. The idea for Ducere came to him when he was in holidays in Bali, in a pool, thinking about what he wanted to do to start up his new education business. He already had a few things like philanthropy, education qualifications, and leaders in his head and these began to link together while in Bali.
6. Stay focused on your vision
True entrepreneurs are typically not very disciplined or organised people; they are more the creative type. Mat says that it’s very easy for him to stay inspired because he has created a business that allows this process to occur naturally. Their programs in Africa are world-leading initiatives to improve education and then in their academic side they are working with the most inspiring leaders from all over the world. This makes it very difficult for Mat to not be inspired. If you embed these types of things into your startup, you too can achieve the same inspirational results.
“An entrepreneur is almost like an artistic equivalent but in a business environment”
Mat applied the concept of staying focused by only allowing Ducere to partner with not for profit, public institutions because he saw that they had the right focus, which is on skills and quality outcomes. Mat found that the focus in education is not necessarily the same for “for-profit” education institutions. Public education institutions typically aren’t the most nimble or entrepreneurial but that’s why the partnership works so well because Ducere’s thinking is totally different and much less traditional.
At the same time, these institutions bring a very different level of process, rigor and compliance that is non-typical for a fast moving, innovative, startup company. Sometimes these two sets of strengths that both organisations have can bring operational challenges but if the end goal is aligned, you can work out the detail. As long as you have a vision with your partners of where you want to go ultimately everything else can be figured out.
7. Execute your vision in line with the fundamentals
Be outcome focused. It’s not about sitting in a room and pitching to investors about a concept or idea. Ultimately it’s the customers who decide whether a business is successful or not. If customers buy your product or service, this single ingredient will determine whether your startup is successful. You need to refine your business model around the customer through speaking with customers and doing focus groups. Often the reverse happens. People go out and think about their startup, product or development and then go out to customers and say this is what we have
Be very clear about the niche focus of the organisation because it’s very easy to take on too many opportunities as opposed to saying “no that’s not our core business.” It’s harder to say no than yes.
When it comes down to executing your vision make sure you do so in the biggest and most exciting way possible because that’s what get’s people on board. No one is interested in who came seventh in an Olympic race. On one measure coming seventh in the Olympics is unbelievable because out of billions of people in the world that person was the seventh fastest. The reality is no one cares or remembers who came seventh. People care about who is the most successful and came first. You need to be thinking about what you can be successful at and be number one in, and then create a bold vision around that.
Lessons from Africa
Mat loves spending time in Africa, and one of the things that was surprising to him is the culture and the positive attitude of the people. When you think about going into a place that is the poorest area in the world where they don’t have running water, earn less than $200 USD a year and have schools that have no libraries you would expect these people to be very disgruntled.
What’s amazing is that you find the opposite. Kids in schools in these areas have such a positive attitude, a desire to learn and such an appreciation for any opportunity they have. It makes you feel how complacent we are in some western countries where kids can take a lot for granted and run a muck or be disruptive in class instead of appreciating how incredibly valuable the opportunity of a good education is. In Africa, it’s the opposite, if you give a child a book to own for the first time, you can just see the gratitude and value they have.
Just by providing some of the basic necessities people need, you can achieve amazing things quite quickly because of their willingness to learn.
Final advice from Mat Jacobson
Work on the most exciting thing that you can possibly work on. Only work with people that you enjoy working with and that you trust in. If you have the passion and work hard then you can do absolutely anything and can change the world by working on something exciting, and working with people who share your vision, and believe in you.
14th-century scholar Maimonides, “The highest form of charity one can give is to give someone a livelihood, so they needn’t rely on charity“
If you’re looking for a global education provider that tailor entrepreneurial courses around amazing global leaders and real world projects, then head over to Ducere’s website to find out more at www.ducere.co
You Are The Problem With Your Business
A great way to screw up your company is to get into the habit of blaming your suppliers, the market, your staff or your product for your failures.
I recently heard a story of a business that had set up a website. They sold various products and services focusing on helping people with psychological issues. The business owner was smart. The product solved a problem.
Unfortunately, the company was making almost no money. They’d hired someone to help them with their digital marketing and it wasn’t working.
Plenty of traffic was coming to the site, users were having a look around and then not buying a single thing. Who’s fault was this?
Well, according to the business owner it was the person running their digital marketing. As a result, they wasted approximately eight months marketing a website that couldn’t make any sales. The reason the business was failing according to the owner was because of the keywords that were being targeted in the marketing campaign. This is a horrible excuse.
The reason your business fails is because you’re blaming someone other than yourself. It’s the quickest way to bankruptcy. Don’t do that.
Your company is a reflection of you.
It took me a long time to figure out that a company is a reflection of its founder.
One of the businesses I had, had a toxic culture and a bunch of people that were rude to customers, arrogant and not nice people. That was a reflection of exactly who I was at the time.
The company was reflecting the flaws of my own life and what I refused to admit.
In the case of the business owner above, what was obvious is that they were good at telling lies to themselves. It was easy not to change as a business owner and insist that the change needed was nothing to do with their vision.
The issue of their company was not the digital marketing strategy but their lack of understanding around what their customer wanted.
The thought that their products were too complicated, not solving a real problem or priced incorrectly was an admission of guilt they wanted no part in. Hence the eventual demise of their company.
Take responsibility and it will change.
When you own the business, everything is your fault.
You have the power to solve any problem you choose. It starts with you being brave enough to admit that there’s a problem, and then secondly, being bold enough to insist it’s your fault and that you can change it.
The problems in your business can all be solved. That’s what it took me a very long time to understand. When I changed as a person and faced up to my hidden battle with mental illness that I didn’t want to talk about, the odds turned in my favor.
Had I have not taken responsibility for my mental illness, I would have never become a leader in a business or started another side hustle. I would have been crippled by the big, bad world that I thought I could control.
Control came from responsibility, and responsibility solved the major problem in my business: me.
Change is a must.
Not with your digital marketing strategy.
Not with hiring new people.
Not with developing a new product.
“Changing yourself is the *must* because YOU attract the problems and the solutions into your business”
You can’t find the solutions or stop the never-ending problems until you stop the cause of it all: you. You’re the problem with your business. The good news is that it’s entirely within your control to fix.
Not the business.
The Different Ways of Measuring the Success of Your Start-Up
You’ve probably heard people use the term “unicorn” in a business context. This means a privately held start-up whose value has grown to at least one billion American dollars. Think Airbnb, Uber, and so forth. There is no doubt that some start-ups have been major financial successes. And many smaller-scale start-ups are doing great as well, working hard and turning a steady profit. But that begs the question of whether finances are the only way to measure the success of a start-up. As it turns out, they might not be. At least, not always and not on their own.
How to Evaluate Success
As anyone who’s been involved with start-ups knows, you need a fair amount of flexibility to do well in this environment. Take the division of labour for example – rather than strict roles, you’ll often see everyone do a bit of everything. The same principle extends to measuring success. It can be vague and mean different things to different people, and it can change over time.
But amongst all that vagueness, one thing has become clear. Predicting the success of a start-up is very difficult for external observers. As a matter of fact, it’s often impossible. Therefore, in order to evaluate how successful a start-up has truly been, we need to know the goals of its founder(s).
“Success means we go to sleep at night knowing that our talents and abilities were used in a way that served others.” – Marianne Williamson
When people think about business, it’s common to boil matters down to the finances. And it certainly is possible to use numbers to measure and predict the performance of a start-up business. Net worth, gross margin, customer acquisition cost – these can all be indicators of success. But, a start-up can post impressive numbers for a while, perhaps even attract large investors, and still shut down in the end. So does this make it a failure?
The answer to this depends. If the founders wanted to start a lasting business, then yes, they failed to meet their goal. However, that isn’t always the case. If they were looking for a short-term solution and came out with more money than they had coming in, a closed-down start-up needn’t be unsuccessful. It can actually be the opposite of that.
So, looking at the figures isn’t enough, and there are different perspectives to consider. When they start planning their business venture, start-up founders may not have any particular numbers in mind when it comes to profit. Instead, they can judge their success according to some of the following criteria.
1. Happy Customers and Solving Problems
The story of a start-up often begins with a problem. The desire to help people overcome a specific issue can be the spark which ignites the creation of an entire business. And in the end, that may be all that matters to the founders.
This is closely connected to the happiness of the customers. If the resulting product or service has made people happy by helping them solve a problem, that is all that may be required for a start-up to be a success. Now, no business wants unsatisfied customers. But in cases like this, happy customers aren’t the way toward the ultimate goal – they are that goal.
In other words, some start-up founders don’t just use financial reports to measure how much they’ve achieved. To them, the one metric which stands above all others is the quantity of positive feedback they’ve received. The main area of focus is customers who use the start-up’s products or services to solve a problem they were having.
Every start-up founder likes doing well in terms of revenue. But for some of these entrepreneurs, the profit is merely a side effect of what they actually set out to do – impact the world in a positive manner. You can see an example of this line of thought with Elon Musk. He said that back in college, he had wanted to be a part of things that could end up changing the world. The continuation of this philosophy is evident in his electric cars (which aim to reduce pollution) and the SpaceX program (which strives to break down some of the barriers of space exploration).
In both cases, the furthering of mankind is the ultimate goal. Many other start-up founders feel the same, even if they have smaller goals in mind. To these people, there is no greater proof of success than if their company has had a positive impact on society or even a small segment of it. In their view, to make a difference is to succeed.
“The only limit to your impact is your imagination and commitment.” – Tony Robbins
For some, starting up their own business is less about getting rich and more about gaining the freedom to conduct their business the way they want to. In this case, financial success is just a means to an end. The endgame is to be your own boss.
The fact is, some people don’t do well when they’re constantly receiving orders. They are simply hardwired to be free thinkers and they require an environment that allows them to do things in their own way.
Being in a position where you hold all the cards can be exhilarating. The knowledge that your decisions are final is very empowering, and many strive for such freedom. If a start-up can allow such people to go from being a regular employee to being in charge of making all the decisions, then it has already achieved all the success that it needs to.
4. Time for Friends and Family
As many people know all too well, a job can easily turn into the focal point of your daily life. Instead of being a way to support your lifestyle, your work dominates your time. And when that happens, the time you have to dedicate to your loved ones becomes scarce. Combating this is precisely what some have in mind when they decide to take the leap and start their own business.
Now, running your own company is no mean feat and it will require a lot of effort. But the beginning is the most time-consuming part of the process. Later on, it can be possible to create a system which leaves you with a lot more time on your hands. You can spend this time with your significant other, your children, or your friends. A start-up which gives you this opportunity is perhaps the greatest success of all.
A start-up is an extension of its founders and so are that company’s goals. Some entrepreneurs are in it for the profit, but not all of them. In the end, there is no single way to measure the success of a start-up. It all comes down to the specific aims of those who established it. But if the founders can end their day on a happy note, then the venture is a success even if it doesn’t fit some standard definition of the term.
The Problem Is Not Your Website Or Your Product.
I spend a lot of my time talking to business owners. They focus on their product, their marketing channels and trying to make more profit.
I met one such business owner who was in the plastic surgery business. Their product (boob jobs and nose jobs) was not working. Their website sucked and people clicked off as soon as they visited it.
People would call their office, get put on hold, listen to the on hold message and hang up.
This business didn’t seem all that special. I’ve talked to many businesses and didn’t think for a microsecond that a plastic surgery clinic could ever teach me anything valuable.
I’ve been to Hollywood on holidays and the issues of body image are all too apparent to me. Anyway, this post is not about body image.
I ended up losing this business as a customer — not that I would ever have sold anything to them if it were up to me. I sat down one afternoon and thought about why we no longer did business with them.
That’s when I realized it’s not about your product or your website. All the issues with this plastic surgery clinic and a lot of other businesses I’ve dealt with stem from one thing. Let me explain in more detail.
Your Google Reviews say you’re an piece of work.
I looked up their Google Reviews and their customers said they were assholes.
They spoke down to clients, they didn’t deliver their clients what they wanted, they argued with their staff in front of customers and they treated people like they were nothing more than a dollar sign.
All I had to do was read their Google reviews to see that the problem wasn’t their product or their website.
Your clients tell you every day that you suck.
I asked the plastic surgery what their clients said.
Many of their clients told them that their services sucked and they would prefer to go to places like Thailand where they could get a better product at a much lower price.
The business owner made the mistake of thinking it was their product that was the problem and that a new website will tell clients a different message.
That wasn’t it.
You abuse your staff and they consistently leave.
I spoke with many staff that worked for this business.
Every single one of them hated the company and were not afraid to say what they thought of the business owner.
The business owner would sit outside on a nice sunny day and look across the street at all the yachts and the people boarding them.
They’d sit there and think that every lead they got was going to take them one step closer to owning their very own yacht.
“If only I could deliver more boob jobs, maybe I could have one of those,” they thought quietly to themselves hoping that no one else could hear how ridiculous this sounded.
I can remember multiple times being on the phone to the business owner and having one of their staff burst into tears halfway through the call.
The first time it happened I didn’t think much. After the third time, I got the message. During the short time I dealt with this business, people consistently left. If you made it to the six-month mark, you were some sort of hero and would probably be given a free surgery to say thank you for your work and make you feel worse about your own body at the same time.
It was free noses and boobs in return for daily abuse.
The problem still wasn’t the website all the product.
You don’t solve real problems; you solve your own problem.
A good business solves a problem.
That problem typically affects human beings and solving it is how you make money in business. Solving problems can start out with a problem that affects you, but at some point, you’ve got to start solving that same problem for other people/businesses.
This owner of this plastic surgery clinic was only trying to solve their own problem which was making more money to buy fancy items like yachts.
Only solving your own problem is not just selfish but bad business.
Good business is solving a big problem or lots of small problems for entire strangers who you don’t know thus doing something valuable for the human race.
Solving only your problem will make you poor.
The problem still wasn’t their website or product.
Creating more problems.
Everything this business owner sold created more problems.
They’d film videos to purposely make people feel like their body wasn’t perfect.
They’d write articles suggesting that everyone needs botox to feel young.
They’d take photos of men and women who were supposed to be perfect so that young people would dream of looking like them.
Not only was their business not solving a real problem; it was also creating more problems every day that it existed.
If your business creates more problems than it solves, you’re in real trouble.You need to take a long hard look at the business and become obsessed with doing everything you can to change it — and do so damn fast to limit the whirlwind of problems you’re creating behind you.
The heart of the problem.
It’s the business owner.
The business I mentioned will fail. That part is certain. The problem with the business is not the website or the product.
The problem is the business has no heart because the business owner has no heart.
You cannot focus on your own selfish desires, create really bad problems in the world, treat other human beings like garbage and expect to go buy a yacht and live happily ever after. It just doesn’t happen like that.
Whether you are a plastic surgery clinic like the one I described or a solo entrepreneur, the problem with your business is you.
Fix the problem of YOU. You can’t get away with being horrible forever.
Being horrible is bad business.
Being respectful, kind and valuable is the final answer to the problem with your business.
18 Must Read Business Books for Emerging Entrepreneurs and Startups
Reading is both relaxation and training for the mind. Who reads, dives into another world. Learning, entertaining and breaking out of everyday life for a short moment. One could go even so far as to say reading is the second most beautiful thing in the world! Whether it is non-fiction or a novel of all the world’s man has created, the book is the most powerful tool. That is also, why we wanted to find out which business book you should undertake in the new year. (more…)
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