Becoming successful out of necessity.

By Donnavan Finlay, Co-Founder of GuydingPrincipals

“Life is 10% what happens and 90% how you react to it”


A while back it was mentioned to me that in our darkest hour we could achieve our greatest success. Hearing it at first made me think that it was a bit of a crazy statement. When everything is going wrong, how on earth can you achieve anything even remotely great? We all go through tough times but to my understanding we never really achieve anything from that. So I deemed the whole theory ludicrous.

It was not until later that I truly understood the theory and got to see it in action. I have to admit that it changed my thinking about achieving better results out of desperate times.

Recently I have been active in some projects around South Africa when established entrepreneurs coach and assist up and coming entrepreneurs. In a country where unemployment within the youth and working force (age 15-34 is considered youth) is at 32,8% (Q1, 2018) it is crucial that the public sector has to assist where the Government is failing at an alarming rate. Overall national unemployment is at 27,7% (Q1, 2018). So needless to say that many families are struggling to keep up with the living costs.

I would like to share a story of a young man I met while working with entrepreneurs in impoverished communities. This is a great example of how we can create a better situation for ourselves even from desperate times.

For the sake of the story, lets call him David.

David came to South Africa as a refugee only 6 years ago. He was unemployed with a below par education and no real job skills. Him, like many refugees around the world leave their home countries in search for a better life for them and their families elsewhere.

Like most refugees new in a foreign country, David was not able to speak any of local languages (SA has 11 official languages) and was forced to live on the street and beg for money. Ridiculed by the locals for being a refugee he struggled finding any form of employment that could help him get on his feet and even just a place to stay. Day in and day out was a struggle for him, a struggle many can not even understand.

He saw numerous other refugees turning to a life of crime. Selling illegal drugs and armed robberies. He was struggling so much that he had no choice but to consider doing the same. Being in that position will force anyone to make some drastic decisions.

He told me that he thought about what he was going to do day and night. It completely consumed him. He was starting to think and act on instinct as it was becoming a fight for survival.

He then made a commitment to himself not to go for a life of crime, no matter how bad it got. He told me that he felt that he had survived some terrible condition at home and that he survived the long trip to South Africa. He felt that he needed just a bit of luck to get him out of that situation. Notice how he was becoming positive in the dire conditions he was in.  He started to believe that there was a way out, and a better future ahead.

Eventually he did find a job as a delivery person for a small take out restaurant. He did not need a drivers licence as they were using bicycles. He mentioned that his pay was not really great but at least he could afford a room to stay in and that he was given meals when working. He said that it was like a dream come true considering where he was just a couple of months before.

He kept on working at the same restaurant for some time but he still had that dream of something more. The same dream he had when he arrived to South Africa, his new home.

After a couple of years he was in a better financial situation and mentally and physically a new person. When I met him for the first time he could speak the local language and came across as a professional and disciplined person. I had no idea about his past and what he had to overcome just to be able to be alive and working.

He got involved with the program as he is now part owner of that take out restaurant he worked at. The owners have decided to retire and left the restaurant for the staff that was working there. It is not a complete fairytale ending as he still has a long way to go to live the dream life he is chasing. Owning a business is a big responsibility and can be very challenging. And he admits that this is only the real start for him.

With assistance from the previous owners (as they have great experience with this operation)  the program I am part of is guiding and training the staff on how to best manage the operation and good financial practices. I believe that if he commits his energy to the business as he has to himself there is no other option but success.

The point I would like to get across is to show that we all react differently in tough situations. David could easily have chosen the easy and fastest way out of his troubles by choosing a life of crime. Just like many others did. But he chose the honest and positive way out. He believed in a better future and his situation did improve. Not overnight, but with persistence and hard work he is a lot closer to his dream than he was when he just arrived.

This story reminds me every day about how lucky many of us actually are and that we as humans are very resourceful even in the toughest of times.

We can achieve greatness even through the darkest of times.






























Why Are My Staff Unhappy?

By Donnavan Finlay

“Treat Employees Like They Make a Difference and They Will – Jim Goodnight”

In my previous career at a large establishment the topic of staff retention was ever trending. The turnaround in staff was concerning to HR and many questions were raised on how to keep the staff happy so they will stay longer.  After leaving the company and now being in a position where I employ my own staff, I asked myself the same question. “How can I hold on to my staff?” “How can I keep them happy?”

Turns out asking how to keep them happy, is the wrong question.  The annual retreat with your team to some resort is no longer enough. We live in a society of quick turnover and instant gratification. A week after an annual trip, most will be back to the moods they were before the trip.

I met up with one of my old HR managers at a large corporation and he mentioned that all companies are keeping a very close eye on the staff turnaround and what he mentioned was the Glassdoor ratings. He stated that they are working hard on building inclusive and multi-generational teams within the organization.

We all understand that the attitude from the staff towards their work or company has a direct connection to productivity levels. Negative staff will have a negative effect on the results and positive staff will have a positive effect on the final results.

So, in the world we live in today, what can we do to ensure more staff stay with the company, and more importantly, what can we do to keep them positive?

First things that come to mind are money and position.  But can it really just be that simple? Pay the staff more and they will suddenly deliver better results for longer periods of time? Actually, money and position will only have a temporarily positive impact on the staff. This is not what we are looking for. We are looking to be able to sustain positive attitudes and therefore positive results.

The problem we are dealing with is actually very complex. First thing we have to understand is that in many companies we have to deal with multi-generational staff. This is a very good asset but can be tricky to deal with. People at different ages will have different values. Communication between the different age groups may also be challenging.

It is also easy to say that we should just engage the staff more and people will be happier. This is true but the thinking is a bit limiting. We need to look at building the organization that is exciting, fulfilling and fun. Think of companies like Google, from what I have only seen n magazines, has created an incredible workspace for the staff. You need people to get fully committed, not just engaged.

We have to start right at the beginning. We need to look at who is being hired. Are you getting the right people in the right positions? If you place a person in a position that they are not ready or good for, they will just face more and more pressure and eventually just quit. This is not the employee’s fault, but fault of the person that did the placement.  Make sure you get the right people in the right positions with a clear career path and they will be in a better mental state about the job and their career at the organization.

Second suggestion is to make sure you have a good training and development concept in place. It is great to have such a department internally, but there are also many coaches and consultants out there.  Training your staff can only yield positive results. The better they are trained at what they do, the easier the job will be. Simple as that. Training should also go beyond just the job. Why not train people on topics like cultural or age diversity? Training around positive thinking and different personality traits.  Topics that will broaden their minds, expand their thinking and understanding of society.

Another idea is to have staff complete surveys. They are anonymous so the staff will feel free to tell the truth. This is great information and you will be able to read their thoughts. This will put you in a good position to make the changes that are needed.

Celebrate milestones with your staff. Get something in place that will make you aware of birthdays and other celebrations. People spend most of their waking hours at work during the week so it is a good idea to make an effort to make it feel a bit like family. In a large company it can be done within a team environment, no need to get everyone involved.  Celebrating service awards should go without saying. People should be publicly recognized for achievements. Whether it is years of service or top sales person. The importance is around the recognition.

Earlier we discussed having a training and development department or consultant in place. No more so than for your leaders within the organization. All leaders should be well-trained in their position beyond just the job description. Part of the job at hand is to look after the team and make sure it is a well-oiled machine. All leaders should have extensive training in conflict resolution and dealing with different personalities.  The best book I can recommend on this topic is “The Oz Principle”. All leaders should read this book, often.  I attended extensive training sessions around this book for a few weeks at my previous employer. It is extremely empowering and effective when implemented correctly. With well trained leaders in place the rest of the staff will follow the example set by the leaders and function effective to achieve the collective goals of the departments and the organization as a whole.

My one big gripe when I was an employee was meetings that could have been an email or meetings that had nothing to do with me. Meetings are important for everyone to touch base but also to get everyone’s point of view. I always hated meetings as I though to myself, “Why am I here, this has nothing to do with me”. Truth is that my boss wanted everyone’s opinion on the matter. I never realized that, as he never made me feel included. He had no game plan. This is why I suggest doing comprehensive planning around your meetings to make sure they are effective and everyone feels included.  This is a complex topic so I suggest reading a book like “Meetings Suck by Cameron Herold”.

At the end of the day you need to see your staff as part of the product. Even if you are in retail, your staff becomes part of the purchase. If your staff are well-trained and in a positive frame of mind, it will come across to the customer. That is nothing more that value added service. This is something that is lacking in many organizations these days and will put you ahead of the competition.












Making That First Impression.

“Two things are irretrievable, time and first impressions”

By Donnavan Finlay, Co-Founder of Guyding Principals.

Over the past month I have been travelling all over our planet again for personal and business reasons. Although I hoped I would have some off time, it turned into endless meetings, networking events and dinner parties, one after the other. I ended up having the privilege to meet many great people from different countries and backgrounds. It all turned out great thinking back.

At the events I was meeting these new acquaintances, both personal and professional, I started to realize how some people’s body language changed the tone of the conversation and ultimately the outcome of the discussion. Taking note of how people were addressing one another and how they presented themselves through non-verbal communication, aka body language.

I noted how some people just got it all wronged watching in agony as they suffered through one conversation after the other and that is why I decided to touch on this subject again.

When we meet someone for the first time we pass judgment on that person in only a few of seconds. We would all like to think that we are not that superficial and do not judge a book by it’s cover, but we would just be lying to ourselves. Think of meeting two people. One person is well dressed and intently listening to what you have to say and engages as part of the conversation. The other person is untidy, looking around all the time and checking his phone every 30 seconds without it making a sound. This all while you are talking and trying to make your point. Which one of the two do you think you would like to keep the conversation ongoing? My guess would be the person that is intently listening and engaging in the conversation. Why would you want to spend time with a person who is obviously not listening and would rather like to be somewhere else?

This is why you need to practice good body language at all times. With time it will come more naturally and you will be able to carry across your points and visions for others to see without misunderstandings. Not just verbally, but non-verbally as well. Good body language can set you up for a successful evening, dating or professional. Poor body language will have the opposite effect.

This is the same for your professional and personal life. Every time you go out and would like to meet someone, you should focus on your body language. Giving a positive first impression will put in a good position to have a good night. On the other side, when you make a negative first impression, you have a tough disadvantage and will most likely end up creating a bad reputation for yourself.

At the end of the day, body language is a pivotal form of non-verbal communication.

Here are some tips to focus on and make that positive first impression.

  • Eye contact

When you are having a conversation with someone you should make and maintain good eye contact. No need to stare the person down, just keep eye contact to show that you are listening and interested. How would you feel if you are in a conversation with a person and they keep looking away at the TV in the corner of the room? You will feel that the person is not interested in what you have to say and you are wasting their time, right? This will end a first date early, guaranteed.

  • Posture

Keep yourself relaxed, whether you are sitting or standing. Keep your back straight but not too stiff. Relax your shoulders and hands. This will state that you are comfortable with your surroundings and help the other person feel relaxed as well. If you sit up too straight and fidget with your hands, it will let the other person feel that you would rather want to be somewhere else.

  • Lean in

When you are in a conversation with another person, you should lean in slightly towards that person. This will affirm that you are interested in what they have to say. When you do the opposite by leaning away it will tell the person that you are not interested in what they have to say, or make them think that they might smell funny.

  • Arms

Always try to avoid crossing you arms in any conversation. When you do, you are sending the message that you don’t like what is going on around you. It shows you are closed to the conversation and hostile to the environment. Practice on letting your arms hang by your side or bring your hands together on your lap. This sends the signal that you are open to the conversation. This goes for sitting and standing.

  • Affirming movements

Smiling and nodding your head shows that you are listening to the conversation and will show you have empathy with the person. When dealing with a difficult person this is an important attribute. People in general just want to be heard. When smiling and nodding, (and not interrupting) you will make them feel that you are listening to them and that you understand their plight.

  • The Handshake

This is a key non-verbal communication point. In some circles this can make or break your reputation and can even show disrespect to the other person. Make sure you have a firm grip, but not crush the other person’s hand. Combined with good eye contact, this will set a good tone for the meeting or conversation. A weak grip and avoiding eye contact will make you look weak and fragile. Not a good way to start a conversation. Especially a first date or job interview.

  • Slow down

Take a deep breath and relax. Slow down your talking and movements. This will show that you are confident and thoughtful. It will have a relaxing effect on you and the other people in the conversation.

Now you have some pointers on what you should work on to make that good first impression. Doing this will help you start a conversation on a positive note and people will listen to what you have to say. Important to remember is that this needs to be practiced in all areas of your life. Whether you meet new colleagues at work, networking events, new boss or just going on a first date. First impression is a lasting impression.

  • Not to do

Now for the NOT TO DO list. These are some notes I made while travelling and seeing people actually make these mistakes. I cringed at some of them and did not know how people can be so ignorant to their own behavior. Then I realized that it is something that needs to be practiced. It takes time. I had to learn like everyone else. This at the end of the day is why we started this venture of Guyding Principals.

  • Fake Smiling

People can pick this up very easily, so ne need to even bother. This will just annoy people and make them dislike you. Think of the times you have had to go to a store and was greeted by someone with that fake smile. You picked it up easily and so can other people. Avoid at all costs.

  • Checking the time

I have no real idea why someone would think this is okay. Checking your time while in a conversation tells the other person that you are not interested and already thinking of what you need to do later. You might be in a hurry but at least tell the person that you have limited time if you have to. Then when you tell the person that you have to go, it will not be so bad.

  • Tapping

Avoid tapping your fingers or feet. This tells the person that you are in a hurry to get this conversation done.

  • Interrupting people

When you are in a conversation, listen. Truly listen. Avoid thinking of your response and rather focus on what the person is saying. Do not interrupt this person. When they are done talking, then you can ask questions. This will tell the person that you were actually listening. They will respect that.

  • Avoid distractions.

Avoid looking at the TV when you are in a conversation. Keep eye contact and avoid looking around the room. I know a TV can be distracting, but you can always look up the football scores at a later time. If you do this on a first date you will show the other person that you are more interested in the sport scores and you will be going home alone. This goes for checking your phone all the time as well.

There you have it. Focus on the things I suggested and you will notice that you get a more positive responses from people. This is all from experience and I have had to work on them to improve my own body language, and I still do. Body language is controlled by our subconscious but that does not mean that we cannot work on it to improve it. Studies have shown that most communication is nonverbal. Up to 90%. The first impression will be a lasting one, so make sure it is a good one.

What have you noticed other people do that annoys you and tells you that they are not interested in what you have to say?


7 Tips when Starting your own Business.

“Life is too short to be working for some else’s dream”

By Donnavan Finlay, Co-Founder of Guyding Principals.

Starting your own business venture is one of the most rewarding and scariest things you can ever do.  Stepping out from a steady job is daunting and will never be easy. But when done correctly and passionately it can give you unknown freedom and pleasure. Many say they would like to be their own boss one-day but very few have the guts to actually get out and do it.

I have started many ventures on my own. Some that were great successes and some that were not so great. The most important thing is to learn from your mistakes and move on to the next. Remember that it is not a race. Forward is forward.

Since I am in the process of doing it again I thought I can note my experiences as someone may be thinking to venture in the entrepreneur field. I am not talking about a massive company and getting involved with venture capitalists. I am talking about a normal small business. A coffee place or a small grocery store. Places you can start on your own and your own money or limited investment from outside parties.

  • Have an Idea

Without an idea there is no business. Brainstorm and do your research to see if there can be such a business. What are the options? Start your own place, go for a franchise or partner up with an already existent business. You need to look at all the options and get all the information to make, what will be one of the most important choices you will ever make.

It needs to be something you are either good at or very passionate about. Passion is fundamental, as this business will consume most of your time and life. If you are not passionate about the product you will offer you will lose interest and the venture will fail. You will have to separate yourself from your normal life at the start. You will have to choose work over parties. I read an interesting quote a couple of weeks ago.

My friend told me they never see me at the parties. To which I replied “I never see you at the bank”. Not sure who said this but it is relevant in this case.

  • Build the Plan.

Once you have settled on the idea of the product or brand you want to offer you need to look at how to put it in place. You need to look at location and how the final product will be served.  There are actually many more questions but let’s start with the basics.

Key question you need to ask yourself: “what is the purpose of the business”? Once you have an answer for that you are in a good place. From there you can put the smaller details in place.

At the start you will need to ask some tough questions.

  • What obstacles may you encounter?
  • How will you manage the cash flow?
  • How will you ensure sustainability?
  • What are you going to do to grow your customer base?
  • How will you ensure quality control and customer satisfaction?

These are only a couple of questions you will have to ask yourself to build a clear path during the first couple of months. This time period will put all your skills and experience to the test. From experience I always tell people to just calm down and never make rush decisions. Focus on a solution and never let the issue at hand overwhelm you.

  • Look at the Finances.

This is an area that is too wide for just one article to look at for a variety of businesses. The variables are just too many. It is very market dependent and things like location and just size will make a big difference.

There are many options out there. You can go the more traditional route by loaning the money from a bank. There are also other options out there and I strongly advise you to do your research. It is fine to take on investors but make sure you understand how repayments needs to be done and that you are comfortable with ALL the terms. Last thing you want is to fail due to a misunderstanding or over eagerness with a loan or investment.

Also make sure you have enough funding to keep the business afloat for up to 12 months, as that will be your toughest time concerning money. There will be many unplanned events that will cost money. Things you cannot possibly plan for. Equipment issues. Rising supply costs. Employee strikes.

  • Choosing a Partner.

You might be considering taking on a business partner. Nothing wrong with that, as it can spread the workload and the risk. In my current new venture I am alone and there are reasons for that. I have a very clear vision for what I want this product to be. It is something I have done before, successfully so I know what to get done and what to expect. Taking on a partner at this stage will just slow down the process and dilute the vision I have. Maybe I am just stubborn.

I can’t tell you what to look for in a partner but I can tell you what to be wary of. Be careful of friends and family. From personal experience I have been in many awkward situations with family members due to money issues.

Look at a person’s work ethic and overall personality. You need to remember that you will have to deal with some tough situations with your business partner. You need to be sure the person will be able to be a solution to the problem and not make a tough decision even tougher.

  • Building a Team.

Finding the perfect employee and team members is task you cannot make mistakes with. These are the people that will represent your company to your clients. These are the people that will be the face of the brand. You need to know that you can trust them and that they will care for the business as much as you do. They need to be passionate. They also need to be good at what they do. Make sure they have all the training they need before you open for trading.

  • Brand Yourself.

Start by putting together a mission statement and have a logo made. You need to stand out from the crowd. Be present on social media and be active to inform your current clients and potential clients of all new deals you may offer.

Make sure your staff have the correct uniform at all times and the guest facing area needs to be in immaculate condition at all times.

And branding goes beyond just this. I was walking towards a shop this week and saw some of the staff smoking outside in their uniforms. This is something I hate in my own businesses and I do not tolerate this from any of my own staff. When I walked into the place the one person put out their cigarette and came straight to assist me without washing his hands. This is part of the branding process. This whole experience made me question if I will support this business again. Branding is everything your customers and potential customers can see and experience.

  • Open the Doors.

Congratulations on starting your own business. Now the real work starts. In the beginning months you need to be very active in the business to ensure the business is growing towards what you envisioned right at the start. You need to ensure quality is consistent and that you deliver exceptional service. This is key to your success.  Delivering a quality product and great customer service will ensure you are separated from the competition. That is the ideal. To be seen as different from the rest.

There are a number of other areas you need to cover and they are as listed below.

  • Make sure you have correct insurance.
  • If the place is going to sell any food you will have to be cleared by a health inspector. This will be dependent to state or country.
  • The company needs to be registered with the IRS. Go see an expert for this matter.
  • The building will have to be inspected and approved by a safety inspector. This will be dependent to state or country. There will have to be fire extinguishers and correct safety signage. Staff will also have to be trained for emergency situations.
  • Your staff needs to be interviewed and make sure you check with the previous employers. I have never seen a bad resume in my life.
  • You will have to look at areas to promote the business. Will the local paper suffice or will you have to do more work online.
  • You will have to make contact with all the possible suppliers. Choose the suppliers that can best keep consistent flow of merchandise. No point in getting the best price but they are always out of stock.

If you have ever started your own business, what is the one thing you wish someone had told you before you started?

Top 10 Books for Entrepreneurs and Leaders.

“All Great Leaders are Great Readers”

By Donnavan Finlay, Co-Founder of Guyding Principals.


When starting off in any new venture as a small business owner or a supervising manager, the one thing you can never get enough of is information. Information is all around us but there is quality information and then just information.

The internet is full of short bursts of inspiration but that will only carry you so far. There is a saying I hear often “All Great Leaders are Great Readers”.

We are not all in a position to have mentors that we can call when we need some direction. That is where books come into play. The world is full of books written by successful leaders, in business and leadership.  All the information you will ever need is written in a book somewhere.

My Kindle is full of these books and I like to revert back and forth for ideas and inspiration.

Lately I have started listening to audio books as I can listen anywhere.  Have to drive somewhere? Have to stand in line at the bank again? Why not listen to an audio book while waiting and learn something new. Using this feature you will never have the excuse you did not have time.

The following list is my Top 10.  

There are many books out there I have found inspiring and of great value but not on the list. This doesn’t mean they are not good, I just feel the following are good to start off with.

  1. Blue Ocean Strategy

    If you have ever wondered how to separate yourself from the other businesses in your industry, this will give you start you need. This opened my mind.

  2. The Entrepreneur Mind

    By Kevin D. Johnson. Filled with personal stories and great advice. The book is a must have to any person wanting to be better as and entrepreneur. Filled with great information it will supply you with most of the answers you may have about starting your own business venture.

  3. How to Win Friends and Influence People

    By Dale Carnegie. Basically any book written by Dale Carnegie should be on your must read list. This book will provide the tools for any person looking to improve their overall social skills. Although the book may be old it is still very relevant in our world today. This could be the life changer you are looking for.

  4. Meetings Suck

    By Cameron Herald. We all have to sit through meetings at some point. Most would agree with the title of this book. Well, it doesn’t have to be. In this book you will read that there are some great ways to improve the experience and actually improve productivity and team performance. You will read how to ensure there is more engagement from the team. Last but not least you will read how to cut on time spent on meetings with increased overall results.

  5. The Personal MBA

    By Josh Kaufman. Not everyone has the finances or time to get a MBA at a top business school. Some may be a bit older when starting a new business venture. This book is exactly what you may be looking for. This book changed my thinking in many ways and I achieved increased results with my shift in thought and the changes I made in my own business ventures. I made changes to the way I looked at me staff and my clients. This book is worth your time.

  6. The Quick and Easy Way to Effective Speaking

    By Dale Carnegie.  This book is practical and inspirational.  Very reader friendly with great examples. Great public speaking is a trait of good leaders and the money spent on this book will provide you with the tools to be exactly that.

  7. Secrets of Closing the Sale

    By Zig Ziglar. From the super salesman himself. This book covers all areas of the sale. Not every person is a born salesperson. After reading this book and implementing the principles you will see a positive change in the numbers. When leading a team you can break the book up in sections and do great training sessions that will provide your team with the guidance to increase the numbers.  A true must have book.

  8. Simple Numbers, Straight Talk, Big Profits

    By Greg Crabtree. This is a must read for anyone starting a small business. Written by an accountant. The book simplifies what you are looking at so you have a better understanding of what is going on. At the end of the day we need the revenue to survive so we should learn how to read the numbers and how to leverage it.

  9. The Lean Startup

    By Eric Ries. This is truly a must for anyone starting a business. After reading the book the odds are in your favor to have a successful startup business.

  10. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

    By Stephen R. Covey. And last but not least. This book is very inspiring and I feel very well written. Great examples and easy to follow. This is a book you don’t just read once. It is a good idea to read it as often as you need to reinforce the habits. The habits are there to build character and not just attain better results.


What book is on your MUST read list?


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