Friday 29 October 2010

Funny Business: the book

We’ve always been taught that the world is made up of atoms. It’s not. It’s made up of stories. Think about it. Someone had to make up that story about the atoms, right? I’m not saying atoms aren’t real, but come on, when did you last see one?

Stories, on the other hand, are a real, tangible part of our everyday lives. We connect over stories, we swap and share stories, we bond over stories. Business, too, is all about the stories we tell and the stories we are told. Just look in any Annual Report, and you’ll see what I mean!

A good story, like a funny joke, is something we will always remember. We never forget a compelling punchline, and we love to hear people's reactions when we tell them our colourful tales. Inspiring people with stories is a big part of what make life magical.

In our country, we are surrounded by stories, many of them uplifting and unforgettable. The World Cup story, from earlier this year - although it seems like a decade ago now - united the nation, and captured the world's imagination. That kind of story is one in a billion.

So when Gus Silber approached me with an idea for a book that captures the lighter side of business, I got excited. Gus is a fantastic writer (he agrees) and has a sharp sense of humour and a great insight into life in general.

What started out as two bagel-eating guys talking crap about the spirit of entrepreneurship, resulted in what I believe is a very cool book of stories about business and life. It’s called Funny Business. It’s a book that explores the way the world works, how to get things done, and why stuff happens.

It’s about why people sometimes succeed against their expectations, and why people sometimes fail despite their best efforts and intentions. Talent and competence are two very different things. While many people in the world have talent and enthusiasm, a lot of them don't win, and vice versa.

Yes, a lot of people win without much talent, and with sloppy work ethics. What is the connection between being smart and winning in business? Is there a connection at all?

Universities are full of very clever Professors with no money, and the world is full of crazy characters who are loaded with money. Of course, there are also a lot of smart people who have built big businesses. But the bottom line, whether you are smart or not, is that there is one that everyone needs to succeed - luck!

Without good luck, all bets are off. The American industrialist J. Paul Getty once said the secret to success was: "You wake up early, you work hard, and you find oil."

Tomorrow you could get up in the morning, and find gold in your back yard, and the rest will be history. Of course, the more you dig, the more you have a chance to find the glory at the end of the rainbow. But one thing is for sure, if you dig for oil in the Karoo you are not going to find it.

You need the ability to recognise luck, good or bad, when it comes your way. You don't need to be a genius to build a business, but you do need luck on your side, and the good news is that luck is something you can influence. Being nice to people helps. And keeping your promises is the secret.

People who say what they mean and mean what they say always tend to be luckier than those who don't. And of course, as the saying goes, the more you practice the luckier you get. Yes, luck does favour the persistent.

Woody Allen once said that 80% of success is just showing up. You would be surprised how many people don't know how the world works. Being punctual, for example, is fundamental. Delivering and keeping your word is paramount. Being good is just good for business.

In today's world of high-tech and fast communications, so many people don't know how to get things done, especially the youth.

The youngsters of today, to a large degree, confuse Facebook with a real network, and they send SMS's rather than talking to someone over the phone. They have tons of experience behind a keyboard and have clocked up thousands of hours of screen time, but put them in a room with a bunch of non tech-savvy folk, and nothing happens.

All business is about winning and losing. An entrepreneur who has never had a setback or a loss is simply just a lucky sun of a gun. All of life's journeys are about climbing mountains, and more often than not, falling down.

Those who get back up and keep climbing often get to the summit. The key to all of this is to remember to laugh. Taking your work seriously is one thing, but taking yourself too seriously is not good for your health!

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Saturday 23 October 2010

Slam dunkin'

If I brought you a property deal (or any deal for that matter) that was a slam dunk you would invest - of course you would - it is a no brainer! Finding a good opportunity, with a good idea, an idea that is already in motion, is the hardest thing in the world. Finding someone to invest, to write out a cheque, is the easy part.

Good opportunities are very few and far between. These youngsters today think they are just lying around - investors are the ones lying around - the good opportunities are not!

Remember, everyone wants to attend a party, but few will conceptualize, arrange and stage them!

Boy, am I tired - I need some rest. Soon soon ...

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Monday 18 October 2010

Who wants to be a billionaire?!

You know the world is uninspired, and short of role models, when they say things all the time in the newspaper like "Billionaire Joe Soap bought a stake in Acme Inc." Can't they qualify the person with what he/she has done for the world, like hotel entrepreneur Joe Soap, or technology pioneer Jane Doe, or restaurateur Bill Jones ... Everything is millionaire this and billionaire that. Ask these clowns how they became a billionaire and you won't get a straight answer.

But that's not where it ends, because all we ever hear about is the stakes they buy - not what they have created. How boring!

Where are the role models these days?

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Thursday 14 October 2010

Wrapping up

Not too long ago, I put something in this blog that I read in a Global Wrapps newsletter. And, again, something in their media message got my attention, well, a couple of things actually. Perhaps it is also because I know the driver here, the man behind the mission, and he is top draw. A more enlightened and inspired person is hard to find. This is what they had to share with us this week :

As I am writing this the Chile Mine rescue drama is coming to a successful end. This human drama has been a case study in disaster management, leadership and co-operation. The entire rescue was expertly managed, above and below ground.

Why was this so successful? Why did the human spirit triumph under such adversity when daily it collapses when confronted by trivial issues?

The first and obvious reasons that come to mind is that the situation was never politicised. No one used this to gain political points, although many points were earned. There was no monetary motive and exerts gave their time and knowledge freely, as was equipment given. No energy was wasted in trying to apportion blame or to avoid responsibility. And of course the bravery shown, by the miners their families and the rescuers. It was triumph of engineering and a triumph of the human spirit. Humanity at its best, a lesson for the entire world.

And then the Wrappers go on to another story, something which I follow with great interest:

Stats SA have finally lifted the embargo on the OFFICIAL June and July 2010 Tourist Reports. Consequently, the TRUE figures (well, as true as they get at Stats SA anyway) are there for all to see.

Overseas arrivals for the period June and July 2009 totaled 283 703. Overseas arrivals for the same period in 2010 amounted to 460 387.

That's an increase of 176 684 overseas visitors in total for the two months June and July 2010.

And they've probably inflated those figures as much as they possibly could - like they've included 36 053 "overseas arrivals" BY ROAD! - which I must presume to be re-entries from Swaziland, Botswana, Lesotho, Zim etc., that they have cheerfully double counted.

Nevertheless, there you have the OFFICIAL WORD on the HUGE WINDFALL South Africa experienced because of the 2010 world Cup: at best, a paltry total of just 176 684 additional overseas visitors.

Given that the expenditure incurred to host the 2010 World Cup was about R31 billion, the "acquisition cost" was R176 684 for each one of the 176 684 additional tourists that visited during that period.

Fascinating, eh!

And with that, I am off to the Global Wrapps up the road from us, to get a quick bite!

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Monday 11 October 2010

Sleep glorious sleep

I asked my friend Dave in Boston about the current mood there in America. And this is what he said to me, "Everyone always asks me that. The answer though is simple. When the sun is out the mood is good, and when it rains the mood is not as good."

Yup, life is really quite simple. If I get a good night's sleep, then the next day I feel good, and if I get a bad night's sleep then the next day I don't feel so good. So, are you going let me sleep peacefully tonight, or not ?!

There I go again - talking to myself ... and as my Rabbi recently said, "It takes rain and sunshine to make a rainbow."

Ah, I need a good night's sleep!

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Wednesday 6 October 2010

Funny Business

So, over a year ago, the author, Gus Silber, approached me about writing a book: Funny Business. And guess what: it is coming out next week!

It turned out great (even if I say so myself). Gus, thank you - what a fantastic journey!

Here is some of the back cover for you - I hope this intrigues you enough to get a copy - I promise it will entertain you.

Funny Business: The Secrets of an Accidental Entrepreneur

Why does an entrepreneur, like a comedian, need to close a deal every 15 seconds?

• Why it helps, as an entrepreneur, to have a nice Jewish mother

• Why being a waiter is the best training for an entrepreneur, especially if you’re serving steak tartare
• Why you sometimes need to slow down to move fast in a world where progress is a paradox
• Why some mistakes are too good to make only once

Much more than a business book, this book is everyone’s business. It’s about the way the world works; it’s about living your life with grace and purpose; it’s about learning to love what you do for a living. And it might help you to make it as an entrepreneur … not to mention a stand-up comic.

Sales points (the pitch from the publisher):

• A business book for people who never want to read a business book: offers pithy, witty, yet serious business insights and wisdom in an accessible and entertaining way.
• Contains fascinating inside stories on the movie industry, a world unfamiliar, yet fascinating, to many.
• Will appeal to businesspeople or those who want to be in business for themselves.

It will be out in stores from next week or get it online already from Kalahari or Exclusives, etc.

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Friday 1 October 2010

Who enjoys more?

A friend of mine sent this to me - it made me laugh - I had to share it.

A man and a woman were having drinks, getting to know one another and started bantering back and forth about male / female issues. They talked about who was better in certain sports, who were the better entertainers, etc. The flirting continued for more than an hour when the topic of sex came up. So they got into an argument about who enjoyed sex more. The man said, "Men obviously enjoy sex more than women. Why do you think we're so obsessed with getting laid?" He then went on for several hours arguing his point, even going so far as to ask other men in the bar for their opinions. The woman listened quietly until the man was finished making his point. Confident in the strength of his argument, the man awaited her response.

"That doesn't prove anything," the woman countered.

"Think about this - when your ear itches and you put your little finger in it and wiggle it around, then pull it out, which feels better - your ear or your finger?"

Posted by Ronnie Apteker