5 need-to-know business lessons
Charles Blaschke is a co-founder of Dubai-based start-up and energy services provider, Taka Solutions. The company won the regional round of The Venture, a globe-spanning social entrepreneur competition, in January and Blaschke has just returned from an “Accelerator Week”, aimed at preparing finalists for the international finals in New York this summer. There were sessions with world-class leaders and educators, aimed at empowering the winners with knowledge and skills needed to go to the next level. Blaschke shares five important things he learned that every start-up should know:
EQ over IQ: Every business wants to hire the people best qualified to fit the positions available. And often they turn to educational qualifications to assess a candidate’s suitability for the job. But while nobody wants to hire a fool, the factor that has a bigger impact on the success of a company is the employee’s EQ, or Emotional Quotient. This involves an awareness and aptitude for things like body language, people skills and social skills – and are also things that can be taught and learned. “These are critical tools to the success of start-up,” says Blaschke. “IQ cannot be improved but EQ can be developed and that can really have a direct impact on how your company becomes successful.”
Expand faster: Traditionally, a business would spend years settling down in one place before opening shop somewhere else and doing the same thing all over again. But today, expanding can be done in so many other ways and rapid growth – and therefore market share – is critical to success. Technology has made it easier for companies to expand their reach, without the actual need to physically be present in those regions. “If the world’s energy consumption is going to be reduced by 20 percent, we are going to have to use technology to scale faster and reach people faster,” says Blaschke of the next step.
Good leadership: Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the people in your business is important to spot any overall flaws in the team. While many psychological tests are available, Blaschke was introduced to the Four Seasons test, which categorises leaders as either summer, autumn, winter, or spring. This test highlighted where Taka Solutions could use some additional skills and temperaments. “The dynamics between the employees and how that drives growth is a really interesting lesson for the future,” he says.
A clear message: Taka Solutions retrofits buildings to leverage energy savings. It also wants to develop an app to help individuals reduce their output. This is a business that helps regular Joes and big corporations alike save money – and does so because the future of our environment relies on reducing consumption. But what’s the take-home message in all this? Blaschke now realises that what they are trying to become is largely influenced by the things they say and how they position themselves in the market. So it’s about taking every layer of their business and truly coming to terms with what they do and why they do it. “It’s not just to make money, or to deploy technology, or retrofit buildings and extend their lifespan, it’s because the world needs to do this,” he says.
A Pitch is a Story: Ultimately, the winners in July will be selected based on the pitch they deliver. So everything is riding on five minutes, but even that may be considered lucky. People aren’t always as fortunate to be given that amount of time and attention from investors. A professional pitch coach scrapped Taka Solutions’ entire 30-slide presentation to start over fresh. The most important thing they learned is that a pitch is essentially a story. No slides, no graphs, no pie charts, just you and your story. And a compelling story is essential for generating interest in your company. “How do you grapple with complex issues using the support of some graphics and slides to hook in an audience and educate them in five minutes?” asks Blaschke? “By putting the story first.”
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