John.F. Kennedy was once asked why America chose to go to the moon yet people were dying of starvation in the world. “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do other things not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone and we intend to win”
In April 2011 it felt like we were going to the moon; my partners and I chose to do the difficult thing instead of the simple one. We were going to launch a Company with almost no money, little experience but with lots of passion and work our way to the top.
The odds were stacked against us; we were young, inexperienced and broke. What drove us was sheer ambition and imagination. Oh, plus lots of academic degrees to prove ourselves to the corporate world.
Most companies start small and work their way up, not us. We saw a great opportunity to announce ourselves on the Innovation landscape as a Company. We bought a license using a loan from a friend for Chick-fil-A Leadercast. We were to stream the Leadership conference from Atlanta Georgia that had speakers like; John Maxwell, Dave Ramsey, Seth Godin, Muhtah Kent (President of Coca-Cola then), Suzy Welch, Frans Johansen etc.
We even called media houses for a press conference to announce how the biggest leadership conference was here. At the moment, only South Africa had the license so we saw it as a big entry point. Did the press conference work?
It did because we got the sold forty-two tickets to big Companies. On D-day everything went wrong. The internet speeds were slow, we didn’t have all the money to pay up the hotel and all our attendees had showed up. We felt like echoes of our ambition were being mocked in the corridors of Imperial Royale Hotel. Did we give up?
Noooooo we don’t quit. we don’t have to tackle a challenge head-on we can find ways to side-step it. We refunded the money of those who were impatient and fixed a different date for the conference as we thought of a solution. We instead ordered for recorded DVDs of the conference and so we were going to play it off DVD. On the fixed date we had less than fifteen people show up for the conference, needless to
Conventional wisdom says that early failures can permanently damage a brand while it is still forming first impressions. For us, it worked differently, from then onwards those that got to know our story were attracted to work with us because of our boldness. The associates and early customers we had came from us doing the hard things.
In 2011, we turned the obstacle into an opportunity by;
Moving fast amidst challenges. Never let obstacles slow you down or stop you. Obstacles are stoppers to the extent you make them be so in your mind. See the opportunity in the challenges and move fast as if the obstacles don’t exist.
One of the greatest lessons we learned from our early days that has helped us many years on is that going against the grain in business requires speed, balance, perfect choreography, endurance and guts.