The WIBA Excellence Awards are a great platform to recognise the outstanding achievements of women-led businesses across the country; to develop and encourage competitive women-led businesses and demonstrate the unity of women working together. The significant role that women are playing in the development of our economy is something that should be emphasized, recognised and encouraged. I believe in the old Setswana adage that “mosadi ke thari ya sechaba” and that this country has a lot to offer in terms of women who are forward-thinking, enterprising, hardworking and visionary.
The sex ratio in our country indicates that women are the dominant gender in Botswana; but despite the head-start that we have in numbers and university degrees, we seem to be unable to translate this to dominance in business and economic participation. I have every reason to believe that as women we have what it takes to be the epitome of success in business.
Success is not a destination but a journey characterised by many events, some good, some bad, but in the end it is about courage, perseverance, beating the odds, learning from your failures and above all, believing in your story and your creation. Success means many things to many people, but in business there are a number of key things which are common to business; it is about bringing ideas to reality, generating a return to the business owner, creating expansion opportunities and creating much needed employment. While you may see yourselves as small fish, I want to acknowledge and appreciate the great contribution that you are making through your businesses. Your collective effort is helping to diversify our economy and the growth of your businesses will deliver sustainable growth to our country beyond the sunset of our diamond economy. You are true examples of what we should be doing for our country.
Times have changed and it's not easy to be in business, one can never make light of the situation; but in the same breath, it is when times are hard that true innovators are born, I want to believe the finalists are some of these innovators. I wish to emphasize the point that despite our challenges there are still many opportunities in the economy. I urge you to take advantage of these opportunities, including those that are available within the SADC block and internationally as well. Our government continues to engage with her counterparts to open up trade borders, this should hopefully assist your businesses, so our small population must never be the reason why our businesses fail or be the reason why we do not go into business.
As many of you may already know, success in business is underpinned by a combination of factors. I think that by virtue of you being here, you are already a success in what you do, and you wish to amplify your achievements. I wish to congratulate you for first of all taking the step to be an entrepreneur. This shows your level of ambition, assertiveness and the desire to chart your own path of success. These are remarkable qualities that should carry you to the next level of growth in your business. These are some of the qualities possessed by many of the great business men and women whose enterprises are iconic worldwide. The first step is self-belief; believing that you can do it; the next is acting on that belief and taking deliberate steps to make your dream come true. Many of us dream but never have the courage to act on our dreams. The road to success is the one less taken, so if at times you feel lonely and misunderstood, please take that as a confirmation that you are on the right path, do not lose faith; just keep on keeping at what you are doing.
Renowned motivational speaker Les Brown says that;
“The graveyard is the richest place on earth, because it is here that you will find all the hopes and dreams that were never fulfilled. The books that were never written, the songs that were never sung, the inventions that were never shared, the cures that were never discovered, all because someone was too afraid to take that first step, keep with the problem, or determined to carry out their dream.”
Many of us lack the courage to take that next step towards making our dreams a reality. Courage is the one defining characteristic that separates doers from dreamers. It comes when you begin to trust your instinct and release yourself from the fear of making mistakes or failing. So have the courage to get out there and do that which you are dreaming about. Any mistakes that you make will only serve as lessons for you to improve. But then again, I am preaching to the converted!
A renowned basketball player Michael Jordan once said and I quote "I've missed 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that's why I succeed," end quote. It seems like a contradiction but on close introspection it isn't. I am sure that all of us can relate to Michael Jordan's story, we have all missed important shots at some point, failed at the critical moment, the distinction that he brings, is learning from your failures, forgiving yourself, picking yourself up and staying focused and true to the course.
Courage is meaningless if it is not guided by a plan; therefore planning is very important. And then of course there is hard work; hard work in business is NOT overrated. One of the famous quotes by Albert Einstein is that “genius is 1% talent and 99% hard work”. Sometimes that hard work means putting in extra hours, especially when running your own business; networking with the right people; researching the industry that you wish to enter; and finding a mentor who can guide you and be your sounding board while you go through the different phases of your business.
This last point of mentorship is very important. No matter what you want to do in business, chances are there are hundreds of other people who have done it before you. These people can serve as your sounding board; they have made the same mistakes that you will likely make; and they can save you the headache by sharing with you the lessons and making the journey a bit smoother for you. We have many examples of successful business men and women in Botswana, who you can network with and find a suitable mentor to take you under their wing. When talking to the organisers of these Awards, I was glad to note that one of their future plans is to start a mentorship programme. This is an excellent move that I believe will connect experienced business people with those who still need hand-holding, and enable us to grow our pool of successful business people in Botswana. When asked about the recognition that I receive locally, regionally and internationally, in the form of awards and speaking opportunities at esteemed events, I like to acknowledge that it is not only my own personal successes, but it helps that I am working for a renowned company with a great team that helps me succeed and I have developed an extensive professional network of people who encourage and inspire me. No man or woman for that matter is an island, and we are successful because of those that we surround ourselves with. Therefore I urge all to embrace challenges as part of our journey; turn them into opportunities; change your attitude and develop a healthy degree of optimism, self-confidence and openness every time you’re faced with a difficult situation. We cannot rely on government or anyone else to address our challenges as women; we need to stand up and deal with them ourselves. I was also requested to share my experience on how to attain balance between my professional, social and domestic life. Many professionals with my level of responsibility will tell you that the notion of work-life balance is an illusion; it is truly difficult to attain, it's as good as walking on a tight rope. This is especially the case when you are running your own business. As women, we play multiple roles in society and cannot achieve a perfect balance on all aspects. Therefore, the key is to make the right choices, to prioritise and invest time in the things that fulfill you as an individual. Prioritising helps me to focus my time and energy so that I don’t get swallowed by the whirlwind. Some people are lucky enough to work in jobs they are so passionate about that it doesn’t feel like work at all. Hopefully, all of you are that passionate about the businesses that you run. Anne Sweeney, a former Executive at Walt Disney, says "define success on your own terms, achieve it by your own rules, and build a life you are proud to live." The truth is that many people live their lives chasing other people's dreams, if you want to be successful, you have to stand out; you have to chase your own dreams. I’d imagine that this is one way of tackling the work-life balance dilemma. Other than that, I think it’s important to maintain a strong connection with family and the community, to make time for spiritual growth and to make time to reflect, introspect and recharge.