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A most useful list from SA’s thinkers

Feb 18 2016 13:24
Jon Pienaar and Mandy de Waal
Richard-Mulholland, co-founder of 21 Tanks

Richard-Mulholland, co-founder of 21 Tanks

Rich Mulholland

“A motorbike-riding, board-game-playing, punk-rocking, kung-fu-fighting, kettle-bell-swinging, business-running, microphone-abusing, inked-ellectual gentleman,” is how Mulholland self-describes. He kicked off his career as a rock ‘n’ roll roadie, operating lights for bands such as Iron Maiden and Def Leppard.

He then started Missing Link (an SA firm specialising in putting together presentations), and co-founded 21Tanks (specialising in identifying and solving problems within organisations). A highly regarded speaker, Mulholland guest lectures at The Cape Graduate School of Business and the Gordon Institute of Business Science.

Most useful apps and hacks: My go-to catch-all app for taking notes and making lists is Workflowy: it works across all platforms and on the web, and is the first app I add when getting a new device.

It does that job that used to be reserved for Evernote, however, as Evernote became feature-bloated it was downgraded for me to the position of “place to store stuff”. WorkFlowy on the other hand is clean, simple and just works.

I like my devices to work for me as opposed to feeling I work for them, so my personal mobile operating system of choice is Android, and my favourite ‘hack’ is Smart Launcher. An hour with this app will save so much time later, and it’s just all kinds of cool. I also use TypeIt4Me as a text expander (for Mac) so I don’t have to write the same things over and over.

Then for security, I use Dashlane (passwords) and Prey (device location). I believe that both are must-have apps for you and your family.

I find that the most underutilised of all the app stores is the Chrome Store. It is essentially a series of web-based apps that run online and offline. So many of the apps I use are actually from there. One notable one to try for writers is Calmly Writer.


Most useful book: Selling the Invisible by Harry Beckwith did more than inform my thinking; it completely shaped how I see business (specifically service businesses). It is succinct, smart, and full of nuggets. No other book shaped me more. Other notable mentions are Your Business Brickyard by Howard Mann, and The Book of Yo! by Simon Woodroffe.

Most useful business hacks: If you can, absolutely stop managing your calendar and email now (the calendar is an easy first step). There are smart people who can do this for you, and the prioritisation alone is worth a fortune. Secondly, take a week off every October. This is my annual siesta and by taking a break then, I find that I handle the sunset of the year with the same energy I tackle January. Before I started this, I was simply counting the days, waiting for the year to end.Lastly, www.FancyHands.com is an unbelievable concierge in your pocket.

Most useful travel and productivity hacks: Short-haul flights: Book a window seat. Long-haul flights: book a window seat. I eat and brush my teeth before I fly. The most affordable business class upgrade is a sleeping pill and a Cabeau Evolution travel pillow (it’ll change your life). With a Scrubba wash bag, you can do your washing in a hotel room in around two minutes.

Most useful leadership or management advice: Leadership is not management with a fancy title. Managers have a to-do list, leaders have a to-solve list.Your job as a leader is to think and communicate. If you are not a great speaker, get a coach. More than 50% of your success is reliant on your ability to get people to ‘go to war’ for you.

Most useful CEO dashboard: It’s actually a principle I learned from The Business Brickyard (mentioned above).Our dashboard is more factual than fancy.I get the key information of my business in five lines every day at 5pm. ?If you need much more than one email, you need to fix your business, not your dashboard.

Most useful acquired wisdom: A hospice nurse once wrote a book called Deathbed Regrets where she listed the various things people truly regretted as they reflected on their final days. The number one regret was, “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.” Read that sentence three times, look at your life, and act accordingly.

Marlon Parker

The founder of Reconstructed Living Labs, Parker is a South African social entrepreneur who uses information communications technology (ICT) to empower communities.

A World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, Parker was named by the Mail & Guardian as one of 300 young South Africans you have to take out to lunch.

He was elected an Ashoka Fellow in 2014. Parker says of himself: “I’m a dreamer and explorer who believes that the greatest return on investment is found in people. Seeing positive change in the lives of people is what drives me, and I never let circumstances determine my destiny.”

Most useful business advice: Always give your customer the best value and service. This advice came early while I was doing part-time website building and consulting, but I kept this in mind when I started RLabs. We always ensure that our communities that we service with our products and services get the very best.

Most useful business book: One that made a big difference in how I do business is by Peter Thiel: Zero to One. It encouraged me to think about creating something new instead of just copying. In the work that we do, new approaches and systems are needed to drive major change through our work.

Most useful life hack: Every day when I wake up I’m thankful, and I reflect on the things I learnt the day before. It helps me to embrace the day ahead. I even do this while on holiday – not all things learnt have to be work-related.

Most useful app: The ones I use the most are my messenger apps, such as WeChat, Telegram and WhatsApp. They simplified communication with people across the world for me and allow me to nurture connections with family, friends and colleagues.

Rodain Joubert

Co-developer of Desktop Dungeons, a game that won international indie game awards and put South African game development on the map. He describes himself as: “Goat enthusiast. Occasional bio-updating person. Fishasaurus. Now working on Cadence.” [The billy thing is a wry reference to Desktop Dungeons, which contains goats. Cadence is a music-creation game/app.]

Most useful phone app: My basic memo app. It’s simple, yet holds my day-to-day life together. Personal organisation improved massively when I just got myself into the habit of writing everything down.

Most useful productivity hacks: As above: writing everything down – definitely number one. Beyond that, it’s listening to the right sort of music for productivity’s sake (when I’m able) and paying respect to one’s sleep.

Most useful creativity tips: I always believe that my strongest creative boost comes from regularly exposing myself to other people’s creativity. Local game developers have an excellent habit of regularly organising ‘game jams’ outside of work hours, where we all gather to work on something rough and half-baked for the sake of flexing our creative muscles. It doesn’t have to work out 100% of the time either – you just need to be doing it often.

Most useful/inspiring games: I try not to get stuck on any single game (though I admittedly get hooked from time to time). Having a broad range of exposure to small and experimental games is valuable inspiration and research material.

Most useful software: Slack is excellent. Most of my friends and colleagues use it too.

This article originally appeared in the 11 February 2016 edition of finweek. Buy and download the magazine here.

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