Are you adding value to your life?

Have you ever gone to the market without a grocery list and you found out you bought something you did not need? In the movie, “i think i love my wife” by Chris Rock, he goes out shoping and brings back home a green shirt. His wife then ask him how he could bring home a green shirt when he doesn’t like the green colour. He responds that he just saw it and he thaught it was nice and so he bought it. The truth is that the sales attendant in the shop persuaded him to buy it though he did not need a shirt not to talk of a green one. Similarly, in life there are a lot of distractions and if you do not stay focused, you would find time slipping by without you achieving anything. The following are ways you can add value to your life and get that promotion you are looking for or that job you seek or that business you have always wanted to start.

1) Get further education.

When Arnold Shwarnegger, the film actor, arrived the USA from Austria,he brought along just a small bag with a few clothes inside. He later started having film roles and making money but he knew he had a problem. He had never gone far in school. He registered in university and got a BSc in Accounting that later made it difficult for his accountants to cheat him out of his hard earned money. What are you waiting? Go in for further education now.

2) Learn a new language.

Bernard Njome ia a Cameroonian businessman who goes to China to buy goods. He realised that because he does not speak chinese, he hardly gets any favours from his chinese partners. He decides to study the language and to his amazement, the reception he gets from the chinese is different when he speaks their language. Equally, you make yourself more employable by speaking several languages.

3) Take an apprenticeship.

While studying in Denmark, i decided to take a carpentry apprenticeship though i never knew what i would use it for. Toom my homeday, i can do most wood work in my home and save some money.

4) Learn to play an instrument.

You are a singer or film actor and you have some spare time in your hands, why not learn to play the guitar or some other instrument.

5) Take an internship.

If you graduated from university and you can’t find work, why not accept to work for free by taking an internship in a company. It would help you extend your networks and showcase your talents. You mighy eventually be recruited by that company.

These are just a few ways you can add value to your life. Which other ones do you know that i did not include here? Write in the comments below. Editor’s Note: Entrepreneur Richard Branson regularly shares his business experience and advice with readers. Ask him a question and your query might be the inspiration for a future column.

Q: I’m from Pakistan, where venture capital funding is not yet readily available. How can entrepreneurs here ensure cash flow in a startup’s early days and pay salaries to employees? What are the top three building blocks needed for entrepreneurs to transform a startup into a sustainable organization? –Ibraheem Ahmad

After seeing so many tech startups rocket to billion-dollar buyouts so quickly in the past few years, some new entrepreneurs might mistakenly think that starting a business is an explosive sprint that ends quickly. In reality, it’s an endurance race that only a few survive: According to Bloomberg, 8 out of 10 companies fail within 18 months of opening for business.

There is no hard and fast rule that distinguishes the two businesses in 10 that survive from those that fail: Business-threatening challenges can pop up at any moment, no matter what you do. However, one of the best ways to protect your enterprise is to make choices with the long term in mind. Here are some tips on three areas where your decisions will make a difference for years to come.

1. Choose Your Clients Carefully When you’re launching your startup, it may sometimes be tempting to take orders or make deals that you can’t afford to fulfill in hopes of gaining clients. This is almost always a mistake. If your business grows too fast, you’ll likely end up producing an inferior product or service and disappointing those customers — and if you’re unlucky, the entire enterprise will then fall flat.

It may be difficult to take some time out in those first hectic days of launching your business, but before you sign any deal, you must consider the proposal carefully, keeping the bigger picture in mind. Sometimes you may need to pass on an order for the good of a fledgling enterprise. You might lose a little business, but it’s better to focus on building steady growth rather than on gaining quick wins; this is how we’ve been building the Virgin Group for more than 40 years.

The No. 1 killer of startups is cash-flow problems, so as you review any new deals, be sure to think about how payments should work. A common issue smaller businesses face is late payments from big corporations, so be sure that you’re clear about payment terms before you sign any agreement. Don’t be afraid to ask for part of the payment up front, if that’s what the health of your enterprise requires.

When you start delivering your productor service, send your invoices promptly as agreed and keep close watch on payments. If you run into problems, be honest with your own suppliers about the difficulties — they may be willing to wait until you are paid so that they can keep your business.

2. Choose Your Employees Wisely Rather than hiring staff you can’t afford, start small — I began one of my first businesses, Student magazine, from a telephone box with an idea and 300 pounds. Doing all the work by yourself may be difficult, but it will also help you to explore your idea’s strengths and weaknesses more quickly.

When you do have funds to bring in employees, ensure that they understand and buy into the purpose of your business. This will motivate them to go the extra mile to make it a success. (I have written more about how to hire in other columns — for more, please take a look.)

3. Find a Mentor When we launched Virgin Atlantic, my mentor was the great Freddie Laker, the founder of Laker Airways. British Airways muscled his business out of the market long before we came along, and his advice was invaluable in helping me to establish a successful airline, to British Airways’ dismay.

He was the best sort of mentor: an entrepreneur whose business had been in the same sector, so he could warn me when I was about to make a mistake. And as he reminded me, if you do make a mistake, all is not lost; it’s how you learn from such experiences that matters.

If you are having trouble finding a mentor, websites like Eventbrite can be useful. You are likely to meet potential mentors at entrepreneur meetups and other gatherings; it is often surprising how willing entrepreneurs can be to help each other. Whether you are based in Pakistan or Peckham, Portland or Peru, we are all part of the same community.

Ibraheem, good luck with your startup! Whichever industry you decide to enter, don’t overlook the possibility of reaching potential customers online, since Pakistan has so many mobile customers. Now go for it!

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