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Monday, 27 November 2017 10:39

13 Rules for Being an Entrepreneur by Alan Knott-Craig – An Interview

Alan Knott-Craig, is a successful entrepreneur, best-selling author and chairman of HeroTel, a wireless broadband provider, and founder of Project Isizwe, an NGO rolling out free WiFi in poor communities. Alan was named as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2009. Forbes listed him as one of the top 10 young African millionaires to watch. He was also included in “100 Choiseul Africa”, a list of top 100 young African business leaders in 2014, 2015 and 2016. Alan was nominated as the 2015 ICT Personality of the Year by ITWeb, and nominated by Entrepreneur Magazine as one of the top eleven entrepreneurs changing the African landscape in 2017.

Alan has published seven books in the last 9 years, including a national bestseller, Don’t Panic.

With a resume such as his, how can one not read his latest offering? Alan released 13 Rules for Being an Entrepreneur this year, and we had the opportunity to discuss his new book with him.

1. What or who was your inspiration for writing the book?

It started as an employee manual. I collected a whole lot of rules and lessons that we share with staff, and turned it into a book called Be A Hero. After a few iterations I realised that most of these principles apply to aspiring entrepreneurs, so I rewrote the entire book, but this time focused on helping people that want to start their own business.

2. When did you start writing this book? How long did it take you to write?

I started writing in January 2017. I finished June 2017.

3. Where did you get your ideas from?

I write a daily blog at www.bigalmanack.com, targeted at entrepreneurs. The discipline of forcing myself to come up with something useful to write every single day resulted in me becoming super-observant of the myriad lessons learnt in startup life. The book is a collection of those ideas. They are all from my personal experience.

4. What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?

Sadly, none. One of my dreams is to visit Oxford University and study history. I love history. If I could I would read history all day every day.

5. As an entrepreneur, do you take the advice you offer in the book?

Every day.

6. Did writing this book energise or exhaust you?

The thought of writing a book can be quite enervating. But the actual writing of it was very energising. The painful part is the rewriting. No draft cannot be improved upon.

7. What, in your opinion are common traps individuals fall into on the journey to becoming a successful entrepreneur?

From my own experience, the big pitfalls are:

  1. Under capitalisation – starting a business without enough capital is like having a premature baby. All the energy goes into survival rather than growth.
  2. Thinking product is more important than sales – If a tree falls over in a forest and no one hears it, then it didn’t make a sound. Revenue is everything. No sales = no revenue. Sales first.
  3. Losing focus – Get married. Live in a quiet neighbourhood. Live a simply life. Strip as many distractions out of your life as possible. Focus on your business.
  4. Ego – You need a strong sense of self confidence. But beware an ego that is out of control. Success (or lack thereof) can create a brittle ego.

8. What advice do you have for your readers?

I was an accidental entrepreneur. I started my first business because I couldn’t get a job. In retrospect, not getting a job was the best thing that ever happened to me. I don’t have the peace of mind of a monthly salary, but I have freedom. And I have responsibility. Taking responsibility for your own financial future and destiny is one of the most important lessons in life, being an entrepreneur will teach you that. My advice to youngsters is to marry young so you can focus on your dream.

If you would like one of 20 copies of 13 Rules for Being an Entrepreneur, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and tell us why you should get a copy of Alan’s latest offering.