Sunday 26 July 2009

We all have a boss

The Leadership Summit now seems so long ago. What a week it has been!

One really great thing that resulted from this leadership event was that I got to spend time in the months leading up to this, thinking about the lessons we learnt since IS began. There are so many compelling tales and anecdotes – I never realized how many of them make for good stories.

I remember going to pitch Internet connectivity at our second corporate customer back in early 1994. I remember being asked if we could come up with a discount. I replied with “Let me check with my boss”. And the guy asking me suddenly felt a bit uncomfortable and goes “I don’t want to cause you any problems”. And I go “No problem at all – I am going to ask the boss to check with the board as to what kind if discount we can apply here.”

So I call up Dave Frankel, and I say to him “Please can you check with the board what kind if discount we can offer here.” And this what Dave replies with “We are ordering pizzas – don’t be late or yours will be cold”. And I go “I understand – I know the margins are tight – I thought it wouldn’t hurt to ask.”

And the customer was cool and looked relieved that the call was now over. They are one of our biggest customers to date and our relationship with them is solid.

Now, this is a colourful story, and what I learnt early on in life is that everyone has a boss. If I had said that I was the boss, and that we were the board, it would have sounded strange. Yes, all people have a boss, and they can't connect with you or relate to you if you don't have a boss.

When I left my customer that day I added lib a bit and said “You know, the board said if I ask for a discount one more time I should find another job.” He just looked at me and winked. We have very friends ever since.

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Thursday 23 July 2009

Leadership Summit

The highlight of the week had to be the Leadership Summit that took place in Johannesburg - what an experience!

I gave a pretty good talk; not the best talk I have ever delivered, but a good, solid one. The one point that I am really glad I had time to get out there was this : If you do succeed in persuading people on an intellectual basis (with facts and figures) it is not good enough, because people are not inspired to act by reason alone.

Of course, the highlights of the day were Malcolm Gladwell and Richard Branson.

Here are some pearls I wrote down from their talks :

Life is about taking risks - yes, the brave may not live forever, but the cautious may not live at all.

Fortune are made in good times but empires are built in tough times.

Adrian Gore was the best of the day, in my view, and I think Discovery were very chuffed with the event, and as the key sponsor I think they did great - it was a big success.

Check out web site for this event -
The Leadership Summit.

It was a week of networking - there was also our annual IS conference in Cape Town: Internetix. This was very well attending and the vibe was fantastic!

What a week indeed!

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Sunday 19 July 2009

Billy Joel said it

Honesty, it's such a lonely word...

There is difference between honesty and integrity. I think that if you have integrity then honesty is a given. But many people who are honest may lack integrity, as in, they left something out.

It is one thing to answer a question honestly, it is about thing to hold your cards close to your chest.

Leaving out a key piece of information lacks integrity. I think disclosure is never an issue when a person has integrity. But, when someone plays games they may not always disclose all the important facts.

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Thursday 16 July 2009

Hello, who is that?

When I was a teenager, phoning a girl was a proper adventure. You never knew who was going to answer the call, her dad, her brother… there was real pressure!

We didn’t have cell phones back then. We couldn't just call someone up, any time of day, whenever we felt like it. There was a lot of thought and preparation when it came to the call.

Her side was less nerve wrecking than my side - I had to make sure the house was quiet, and that my brother was not around waiting to use the phone, or that my mother was shouting in the background "don't spend an hour on the phone". I would go "Mom, please be quiet for a while - she thinks I live on my own in my own pad". Yeah, right, at age 13 - but that was how it worked back then. It had imagination and creativity. Today it is all cold and instant and without thought or effort. Just like it is with all those digital cameras you see everywhere.

The worst actually, was that second line, where your mother would pick up and go “I need the phone … get off”.

There was always that anticpation before the call. That anxiety. Who was going to answer on her side? But there was no caller id back then - so you could just hang up then if you got cold feet. They never knew who was calling.

Seems like a lifetime ago, but it wasn’t. And the fundamental lessons we learnt from those days are still as important.

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Saturday 11 July 2009

Know thyself (well, at least try guess)

There are very few people out there that really know what they want, and are willing to risk everything for it - those people deserve to be happy!

This week gone by I was very privileged to have met an inspired man called Peter. Peter said to me that a sense of humour is the philosophy of the unbeaten.

And then I read something that said "Live your life to the fullest and make sure you spend as much time as you can with the people you love."

I know I am hard on myself, and I know I push everyone around me, but the thing is, I don’t expect more from anyone than I expect from myself.

Tonight, as I sit here and gather my thoughts, I have counted my blessings, and I am feeling very inspired about the road ahead. There is a lot on the go, and the pressure is on, but things are exciting. I am learning to say "no" more and I am getting more done. Yes, life is only short if you don't pack a lot into it.

Lots to ponder this beautiful winter's evening.

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Tuesday 7 July 2009

Money and sense

I was reading the paper recently and there was an interview with someone and they asked the question "Can money buy happiness?". The guy in the interview sounded like quite a spiritual person and this was his response to this question:

If money could buy happiness, then would you be able to buy happiness for someone else?

If money could buy happiness, then would we haggle over the price?

If money could buy happiness, then would there be a limit to how much happiness you can buy?

I then read also read recently a blog that focuses on start-ups, and this was a comment that the author had to say, about the things investors don’t shout from the rooftops:

I’m in it to mostly have fun. If I wanted to do unpleasant work, I’d have my own start-up.

And, I got to thinking. Start-ups can make you excited about life, yes, if they succeed. But the reality is they are very very hard on the soul. The expression “no pain, no gain” really comes to mind when one thinks of a start-up. It is about hard work and sacrifice.

I know that the lessons we learn from pain are the ones that make us the strongest, but, sometimes the journey really can take so much out of you.

When it comes to making money, the start-up is more about creating magic than anything else. Happiness, in my view, is about making magic.

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Thursday 2 July 2009

Farkin freezing!

Another month goes by at lightning speed. It's hard to believe half the year is behind us! It is also hard to believe we are in Africa, because it is farkin freezing over here!

The past month we spent a lot of time with Kagiso Media on the classifieds initiative we are exploring with them. We have made some significant progress on being able to supply white labeled versions of our classifieds site to partners. While MoneyWeb was our first partner in this regard, their classifieds system is a complete standalone site from their main website.

The sites we are currently putting together for Kagiso (the first will be for Jacaranda FM and East Coast Radio) are different in that these classifieds sites run as part of the content on the existing pages on their site/s, and things like menu options and search facilities which run off their side are now integrated seamlessly with our classifieds engine.

Also, since the radio stations are regionalized, so are each of the sites, meaning that they will default to showing content in their relevant provinces.

We are also customizing the look and feel for each site and have improved our admin tools significantly to make managing of white labeled sites much easier.

On other news, is progressing well - we now have a proper mobile demo which is really cool. This month we will have 6 corporates on a pilot service and we are hoping to have our first official customers by August.

On the Wantitall side we are currently exploring launching a site in Nigeria - again, like with Brazil, the learning curve has been intense, but so far so good - we are also very excited about this!

Make sure to catch the TrafficFundi team at the IS annual conference this July: Internetix.

Posted by Ronnie Apteker