There is no silver bullet

“A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.” ― Franklin D. Roosevelt

As much as we might wish it to be so - there is no magic formula or secret recipe that you can easily follow to achieve success in business.

Running a successful business (apart from raising a child and completing the Comrades Marathon) is one of the most challenging things you can do.

What I find over an over again however, when speaking to and working with entrepreneurs and founders of start-ups in South Africa is that a lot of them have some delusional, romantic ideas of how to start and scale a business that is not located in Silicon Valley.

Many of them are sadly being advised by well-meaning mentors and councillors that are just simply dishing out advice based on a strategy playbook that has no relevance for conditions outside of the ideal.

Here's the reality.

There is no knight in shining armour that's going to magically come and save you by funding your business out of its cash squeeze. Daddy isn't going to endlessly plough loads of money into your little venture without expecting some kind of sustainable financial performance in the near future.

Having a nice neatly-packaged idea of what your business does and a clearly defined target market and lovely financial projections based on 'successfully selling your hyper-focused niche solution' is all total bullshit.

What works in Silicon Valley (or at least as they will tell you) doesn't work in Africa. It's different here...very different.

As an entrepreneur or founder of a start up in South Africa you should certainly have a clear idea of what it is that you are building, but you need to be prepared to hustle your way towards your intended vision of success.

"The secret of getting ahead is getting started."
- Mark Twain

If you want nice clearly defined goals and objectives and a predictable monthly salary then go get yourself a cushy job at Old Mutual (where they'll give you a desk, a 45-minute lunch break and a lovely salary all in exchange for your soul). At 65 they'll give you card and an awkward cupcake party at your desk, which will only add to your already chronic case of diabetes.

There is no nice soft place to sit and ponder when you are steering a business into the future that has no brand, no major source of endless funding and is still trying to land its value proposition with the right marketplace.

But if you want to fight, and hustle and figure shit out and stand the chance of building something of worth - then you need to think and act like an athlete.

Get in the fight; train your body, your mind and your skillset to be adaptable and innovative. Get comfortable with chaos, focus on your breathing when you get beaten senseless by disappointment and the daily struggle.

You have chosen to walk through hell, welcome to it.

As Al Pacino famous said in that locker room speech in the movie Any Given Sunday:

'I’ll tell you this, in any fight it’s the guy whose willing to die whose gonna win that inch. And I know, if I’m gonna have any life anymore it’s because I’m still willing to fight and die for that inch, because that’s what living is, the six inches in front of your face.'

Accept that the route towards your dream will not be a straight line, but rather a series of experiments and little cash-generating projects that buy you another day in the game.

It's great to get inspired by people who seemingly have all the answers so neatly packaged in great soundbites and how-to guides, but believing in that stuff is the same as thinking that your love life will play out just like it does in Sleepless in Seattle.

Wake up and then figure it out.