Let’s vuka in the face of VUCA

A relatively modern term that describes the complexities facing an aspiring entrepreneur in the South African context is that of VUCA.

VUCA is an acronym that stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity, a combination of qualities that, taken together, characterise the nature of some difficult conditions and situations.

Coined in the early 2000s, this military-derived acronym reflects our increasingly unstable and rapidly changing business world.

Being a new business owner and entrepreneur in the present “Vuca” environment is not for the faint-hearted.

Starting your own business holds the promise of time and material freedom. It is possible to start a business where the business concept is bankable, with an existing market and opportunity to scale it sustainably.

Yet every new level has a built in new “devil”. These are limitations, challenges and constraints that need to be managed and properly addressed.

Often the budding entrepreneur is high on dreams but low on resources; high on passion but low on planning; high on the end vision, but low on how to start.

Starting a business requires a mastery of skills: In addition to technical knowledge and familiarity with your industry, there is also a strong mental component.

In the past 14 years or so, I have had the privilege of working with a host of different kinds of businesses; business people and entrepreneurs. Not one of these was immune to the common challenges or inoculated against the variety of fears they were facing.

Each one was faced with the challenge of how they would navigate the stormy waters to get to the destination they desired.

I would like to believe that there is a marked resilience in South Africans and that we can learn to navigate the Vuca by being vuka. This Xhosa and Zulu word means to get up or wake up.

Here are six small steps that can help with getting up.

Understand you are not unique and that all aspiring entrepreneurs face fear.

Everyone faces fear, we deal with it differently. Our former president Nelson Mandela said it like this: “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

This means that while fear is a factor on the journey, it doesn’t mean it should stop you from taking the journey.

Work on finding solutions and a “GPS” that will work for you. Developing your problem-solving competencies while being systematic and focused in addressing said challenges, can go a long way to safely navigating potential icebergs on your journey.

Seek out the input of experienced entrepreneurs and mentors. Over the past nearly five years of guiding and incubating start up businesses at the centre, we have seen the immense value of having business support, coaching and mentors at the centre.

The journey is challenging and often lonely and the presence and contribution of a friendly external person has been integral in the growth of our beneficiaries.

R and R is part of the journey. Stress and fear can debilitate an entrepreneur, so you need to take extended breaks at least twice a year in order to avoid entrepreneurial burnout.

These breaks should include technology breaks – no laptop, no tablets, no cellphones should be switched on during these breaks.

“It is a good thing for everyone who can possibly do so to get away at least once a year for a change of scene. I do not want to get into the position of not being able to see the forest because of the thickness of the trees” – Franklin Roosevelt

Revisit your why.

Simon Sinek writes the business classic, Start with why.

This means that those who achieve significantly in life revisit why they get up in the morning, why they exist. And so to start with your why means taking a hard look at yourself right now, identifying your core belief, your main purpose, and from there, let it be proven and realised by your hows and your whats.

Audit what you read and listen to. Inundation of news and trauma can lead to what is known as disaster fatigue, making us less concerned and more apathetic and feeling a diminished sense of urgency about the crisis at hand. Disaster fatigue occurs when prolonged exposure to news coverage of disasters causes potential donors or volunteers to lose motivation to address the problem.

“One way of coping with this continual exposure is not getting overloaded with the news and pacing yourself with your consumption. Everyone has a different limit, and you have to find out what your limit is,” explained Susanne Babbel, a psychotherapist specialising in trauma recovery.

So learn to filter and limit your exposure to news in a way that will still keep you in touch but not so that you will be in a “grip” of fear.

Steve Reid is the manager of the Centre for Entrepreneurship (CFE) at False Bay College. Entrepreneurs with creative ideas in manufacturing can also contact the CFE at 021 201 1215.