Your date with destiny

Aug 17 2012 07:33
*Anesu Machaba

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Fin24 user Anesu Machaba

OFTEN in life, we wait upon a rare opportunity for recognition and more often than not, it never comes. 

The uncommon gift women possess is our fighting spirit. Our ability to preserve and traverse even the most difficult of circumstances is legendary and yet somehow, when it comes to the business world we sometimes lose that spark. 

In law school I observed with delight at how my female peers fought every case through moot court with zeal and conviction, and won! This was the one place were the playing field was levelled; your God-given abilities, discipline and preparation were all that you needed to make it through. 

However, the reality of the corporate world is often less simple to navigate.

When faced with the complexities of finding employment in a foreign land, I chose to take the path less travelled. I started my own business.

Armed with every lesson from Og Mandino's scrolls in his groundbreaking book The Greatest Salesman In The World, my dad's wise advice from his vast experience in business and, to top it off, the all-important street smarts, I set off. 

I was upset after the first two rejections, endured the next 20 or so, then after that I just went numb.

I had no real choice so even after closing my first business which failed to reach expectations, I was going to give it a second shot and it was in persevering that I finally found the ray of sunshine in the midst of grey clouds.

The lessons I learnt were many; however, now I will share only five of the most important ones. 

The first lesson was in observing my successful peers, who were mostly men; I learnt that they didn't possess anything else which I couldn't possess. I just had to be confident about my own vision and to never ever give up. 

Sometimes we think that men are successful because of some rare X factor. In the world of business, anyone can have the X factor. It's when you accept and know yourself that find you already possess the treasures the world yearns to discover.

The second lesson I learnt was the power of relationships. Building enduring relationships is in my view part art, part science. However, nothing is beyond reach. 

In fact, I soon realised that women actually have somewhat of an unfair advantage in this department and yet we don't always make use of it. 

Our nurturing ability, that's the key.

We are emotional creatures and we care about how people feel beyond the bottom line and that's what drives business. 

When you show people that you really care about them, you have their ear, and when you have their attention, you can close the deal. Business is not composed of people in straitjackets, everyone has a soft spot.

Find that soft spot and you not only succeed in getting your foot in the door, but you also sustain the relationship. Long-term relationships are what sustains your business, so you have to be sincere.

The third lesson I learnt is that everyone's journey is different. Don't be a copy, stay an original!

Many people start a business because other people are doing well in that area, but what fun is there in that? Sometimes your journey will take you away from what you studied, but nothing you've learnt is ever lost. 

If you believe in yourself, you will believe in the importance of your journey and this resonates in a powerful way.

The fourth lesson I learnt is educate yourself.

Everyone likes to deal with competent people and most people fail because they just don't know the facts.

If your journey takes you into a field where you have no real formal training, then it's up to you to equip yourself with the relevant information. Some sectors are more technical than others, as I found finance and construction to be.

You might have to read a lot or take up a course or two to gain credibility. Once you're negotiating contracts there's no turning back; if you missed something for lack of knowledge then know for sure, it's going to cost you. 

Having a mentor helps but soon you're going to have to get in the trenches and draw from your own resources.

The fifth and final lesson I learnt is the importance of not underestimating  people.

You really never know where your favour comes from. Sometimes we seek out those with title or prestige, thinking they will be the ones to guide us or open uncommon doors. 

I never got to a CEO without being cordial with his secretary, I never got a major opportunity through a member of the board. I always identified the foot soldiers, the guards of the sacred throne and it was them and not the top guys who gave me an ear and to whom I owe any little ounce of success I've achieved thus far. 

My journey has just begun, I don't profess to know all the answers but this is the little wisdom I have garnered thus far, which has helped in steering my path.

I hope it will inspire you, mighty woman of valour, in your special journey.

* Anesu is executive chairperson of Elah Capital.

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