Each month I will interview an exceptional individual that is creating their career success – you will learn about their life, business & work and gain invaluable insights from their experience.
YM: Growing up, what did you learn about life, work and success from your family?
RT: Wow, how much time have you got? The lessons that have helped me the most are to not sweat the small stuff, that success is measured by who you have in your life rather than what you have, and that if you’ve done your best, then you need to be happy with whatever the result may be. I’ve also been raised to be kind and to help others, in whichever way they may need help, which speaks to the work I’ve done in my career so far.
YM: How well did formal education prepare you for the workplace?
RT: I was very lucky in that the Journalism course at Pretoria Tech (back then) was very practical. We worked on the community paper, the campus radio station and had as much exposure to the workings of a news room as possible. It definitely laid a very strong foundation on which to build a career.
The third year of study took the form of an internship, which I did at Primedia Publishing. That’s definitely where the learning curve got alot steeper. But I never felt like I was thrown into the deep end without a lifeline, and I know it’s not always the case. Since then, I’ve been attending the University of Hard Work and received a QBE, i.e. “Qualification By Experience”; the best kind of education, in my personal opinion. I’ve decided now that my “Master’s” will be in Entrepreneurship.
I worked in print media – magazines and newspapers – for a while, writing about anything from the engineering trade news to teenage sexuality. I then moved into the online world, where I did entertainment for a bit, health for a few years and now I’ve entered the exciting world of entrepreneurship. I’d say all of the above broadened my perspective on life, on my work and my willingness to try something new. The phrase: “fake it till you make it” is exactly how I take on any challenge thrown my way. A journalist is always hungry for knowledge, and that’s something I’ve never lost.
YM: You have worked as a Content Manager (HealthInSite) and Online Content Administrator (Business Partners). For the rest of us, what is content management and why does it matter?
RT: All it means is that I write content for the web. Basically, I research stories, write them, interview people if necessary. I also get industry experts to write articles for the site and do whatever needs to be done to keep the site constantly updated and relevant to our users; never a dull moment.
Essentially, you are providing a service, so you have to find out what your target audience needs. I’ve done it by reading a lot and talking to as many entrepreneurs and industry experts as possible. It also helps to be based at Business Partners, which is a gold-mine of insight and information. So I ask a lot of questions and try to put the answers on the Toolkit. The more feedback I get from the entrepreneurs themselves, the better, so I know what their challenges are and what I can do to make life a little easier.
YM: What do you think about the ongoing debate between giving away free content and charging for it?
RT: Mmmm… there are arguments for both sides. On the one hand, if writing this content is part of your job and livelihood, charging for it is justified. It is after all your intellectual property.
But if you’re more about writing to educate and empower, then those who need to be reading your stuff probably can’t afford to pay for it. It’s a very fine line and each person has to decide which line to toe. There is no right or wrong answer; simply what works at the time. (Another thing I’ve learnt over the years)
YM: With so much content entering our lives each day, how does an entrepreneur deal with info overload?
RT: Constantly searching for information and reading as much as you can, is very important for an entrepreneur and for anyone building a career. You need to keep your mind open at all times, and listen to what others have to say. But that doesn’t mean any one recipe will work for everyone.
It’s about taking in as much as you can, and then sifting out what is relevant for you and adjusting it to your circumstances. You also have to be prepared to learn some harsh lessons, which will only make you tougher to beat next time ’round.
Getting advice is never a bad thing; what you do with it, is where your own judgement comes into play.
YM: You are passionate about the SME Toolkit. Why should it be the first port of call for any entrepreneur?
RT: It’s really not hard to be passionate about the SME Toolkit. A team of people with the average entrepreneur’s needs at heart, have created this product in order to provide South African small business owners with practical information they can use to make a success of their businesses.
The articles and tools are absolutely free and, I truly believe, can be of great value. How can one not be passionate about a website that’s sole purpose is to help small businesses – the lifeblood of our economy – to grow and prosper? I’m so blessed to have a job like this.
YM: From experience, I know that you are a savvy networker, online and offline. How has networking contributed to your career and the current position?
RT: I must say that I’m a relative newbie to the networking scene, with just over a year of “moving and shaking” under my belt. Initially, I started attending networking events around entrepreneurship and small business, for two reasons:
1. to learn about the industry and the challenges that face small businesses.
2. to promote the SME Toolkit, as we don’t have much of a marketing budget.
I had no idea it would become such a fantastic way to promote the website and make contact with people who are either experts in certain fields or are entrepreneurs themselves. Meeting people in these type of forums, together with establishing an online presence, has really done amazing things for the awareness around the Toolkit.
Not only do I learn a lot just by talking to people with similar interests and huge amounts of experience, but through these connections made, I’ve also managed to attract some serious talent to contribute content for the website and promote it to their respective network of SMEs.
I’d definitely recommend it as a way of keeping abreast of what’s happening in one’s industry and creating awareness around yourself or your product. This goes for online and face-to-face networking.
YM: What’s your long term plan: Employee or Entrepreneur?
RT: Mmm… that could be a career-limiting question! LOL. But seriously, for now I just want to continue a steep upward curve in the SME Toolkit’s growth, as well as my own. I still have so much to learn and there are so many gaps left to fill in terms of what this website can do.
We want to start diversifying our offerings to reach more SMEs, whether they have Internet access or not, and no matter where in the country they find themselves in. The opportunities – and the challenges – are endless.
So in the next 5 years, my goal is to build the SME Toolkit as a brand known to support, inform and empower South African entrepreneurs. Cheesy, but true.
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