Staying grounded for business success

Wayne Zwiers Founder of Basalt Technology
Wayne Zwiers Founder of Basalt Technology

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“If entrepreneurship were easy, stories like that of Mark Zuckerberg would be far less newsworthy. As it is, one of the only things harder than starting a business is keeping it going,” says entrepreneur Wayne Zwiers, who’s company Basalt Technology won the Tech Business of the Year 2020 at Africa Tech Week. Zwiers offers his advice on how to stay grounded for success.

A purely financial motive is seldom strong enough to keep you going through the hard times

“One of the greatest pieces of advice I ever received when I was starting out was from a business owner who told me that if I did what I loved, everything else would follow. While this is true to an extent, it’s not always that simple, as running a business is enormously complex. As an entrepreneur, you will be called upon to make choices you never imagined, like: should you sell your car so that you can pay your employees’ salaries? Unless you have a purpose strong enough to push you through such dire situations, you will falter and ultimately fall. My own purpose revolves around having the freedom to build systems that help other people and creating an environment where my employees are able to build their skills.”

Someone else’s advice may not work for you

“You need to find out your own formula. Usually, this comes about through many failures and hard lessons; at the very least, there will be a great deal of trial and error involved. My own experiences have led me to understand the importance of calibration. This means understanding how the various parts of my life work together: What energises me, and what depletes my energy, and what I need to be giving more attention to at a particular time. You need to find a principle or method that makes it possible for you to perform consistently, even when the world around you is volatile. You cannot allow yourself to be swayed by your external environment.”

Authenticity is key

“Simply put, being authentic means staying true to who you are, what you do and who you serve. In an environment where human elements matter, authenticity creates value and benefits for your team, and improves your business. We often look to role models and people we wish to emulate, but it’s when you put away the façade and have the courage to be yourself that the magic happens. People want to have honest relationships with the businesses they deal with. Inauthenticity wastes energy. Authentic people display a consistent set of values which governs their behaviour, and this allows them to be consistent.”

Embrace failure

“I have yet to encounter a challenge that didn’t contain an opportunity. This comes back to the need for consistency: if you make yourself impervious to what is happening around you and focus instead on how you can continue to perform consistently, you’ll manage to avoid the trap of the emotion that accompanies that feeling of failure. Instead, you’ll develop the ability to look at those circumstances which turned out differently to how you’d hoped as lessons. Appreciate the outcomes, because although they have taken you in a different direction, they have also led you to a place that may, in fact, be better for you.”

Understand your goals

“Not every entrepreneur wants to change the world. While some may, indeed, wish to leave their mark on the global business landscape, others want to be founding entrepreneurs and try for the next exciting venture as soon as their current startup is up and running. You need to decide what you want to achieve. Within these parameters, what does ‘enough’ mean to you? When are you going to be satisfied that you have given your all? Accept that learning, like success, doesn’t happen overnight and there are no sudden epiphanies. Your journey may be slow or even halting, and you may seem to experience more setbacks than big breaks, but you will reach your destination and find what works for you.”


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First published on: ForbesAfrica