- Player: Allon Raiz
- Company: Raizcorp
- Claim to fame: In 2008, Raiz was selected as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum, and in 2011 he was appointed for the first time as a member of the Global Agenda Council on Fostering Entrepreneurship. Following a series of entrepreneurship master classes delivered at Oxford University in 2014, 2015 and 2016, Raiz has been recognised as the Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School.
- Visit: www.raizcorp.com
Allon Raiz is a quintessential entrepreneur. He’s enjoyed successes and suffered defeats. As the founder of Raizcorp, a business incubator that supports the growth of entrepreneurs, he focuses on what it takes to make businesses succeed – particularly on a leadership level.
Raizcorp currently looks after about 500 businesses across South Africa, Angola and Tanzania, and about 12 000 businesses have gone through Raizcorp’s programmes over the years.
Q: Why did you need to learn to accept the good and the bad in your entrepreneurial journey, and how has this impacted growth?
There are two pieces of advice that have really stood out for me over the years. One came from my mentor and one came from a good friend.
The first piece of advice came from a good friend who, after witnessing me agonising over what I deemed to be painful events in the business’s growth, said these words:
“If you are a professional cyclist, you cannot keep complaining that you have a sore bum from a bicycle seat. There is no alternative; it’s part of the deal and you have to learn to live with it. So, Allon, change your relationship with the bicycle seat in your business.”
Crises are bound to happen, failures are bound to happen, people are bound to let you down – it’s part of the deal of being an entrepreneur. My friend’s advice percolated for some weeks before I got to the point where I truly accepted all aspects of my entrepreneurial journey – good and bad – as part of the deal.
As a result, that acceptance freed me to move forward far more quickly from so-called painful events but, more importantly, it made me move on from successful events, so I spend less time gloating and more time just moving on.
My mentor’s advice was that if you find a competitive advantage and a gap in the market, go in aggressively as if there is no tomorrow, for tomorrow your competition will be right there next to you.
This is a piece of advice I wish I had mastered earlier in my career and, as I grow as an entrepreneur, I feel I’m getting better and better at truly expressing it.
Q: How have you become more focused, effective and productive as a leader?
Many years ago I read a book called Getting Things Done by David Allen. The major premise was that you should have one place where all your ‘work to be done’ is collated.
Many people have to-do lists on their phones, on their computers, in notebooks, with piles in their offices and piles at home. Over the years, I have effectively created a single pile of work to be done that moves between my office and my home, and a single notebook that contains my full to-do list – complete with handwritten boxes next to each item that create immense joy as I tick each item as completed.
A more important embellishment to this process is prioritising and reprioritising the work pile and to-do list on an ongoing basis. The mere process of prioritising or, more importantly, reprioritising creates a strong momentum in completing more tasks. Task completion is always rewarded by a break, a coffee or (embarrassingly) a sneak peek at Facebook or Twitter. But that is tightly monitored and back to the list I go.
Q: Leaders need to be constantly developing. How do you follow a programme of continuous self-improvement?
I break down learning into four categories. The first is reading. I read approximately ten books a year and listen to an additional four on Audible. But the important difference is that I write notes while I am reading or listening, so you will always find a notebook and pen on an adjacent table.
Even while running on the treadmill and listening to an audio book, I write down notes of sparked ideas – much to the amusement of those around me. Owing to the illegibility of these scrawls, I need to immediately transfer those thoughts into either my to-do notebook or my ideas notebook.
My second category is peer-to-peer learning. I was one of the cofounders of the Entrepreneur Organisation South Africa and the part I enjoyed most was Forum – a group of eight to ten entrepreneurs that would meet once a month for a minimum of four hours to share their issues and new learnings.
This was an immense source of learning and support. When I left EOSA ten years later, I set up a new, more private organisation where I have been able to replicate that experience but in a smaller, more intimate group where we are able to delve very deeply into a particular issue.
My third form of learning is online. I spend at least three to four hours a week reading blogs or articles by experts in various fields and watching YouTube.
My final source of deliberate education is engagement with my five different mentors, whom I contact regularly with specific questions and problems to solve.
Q: Why is it so important to write ideas down?
My favourite mantra is: If you think it, write it down and make it a reality. My strong view is that there is too much emphasis on ideas. Entrepreneurs will often admit that in an average week they are flooded with dozens of ideas – just from their morning shower routine. Most do nothing about them.
The process of writing it down brings an idea from the ethereal to the physical. It’s part of the process to manifest an idea.
By taking the time to transport an idea from one state to the other, you provide that idea with a higher probability of manifestation.
Many entrepreneurs just stop there… perhaps jotting down an idea or two. But the real deal is taking that idea and, day-by-day, ensuring it becomes a reality. In my opinion, this is the real difference between successful entrepreneurs and wannabe entrepreneurs – the ability to work day-by-day on carving their ideas into reality.