Joshua Cox | Founding Director Of Fix Forward
Josh was born in England and moved to South Africa when he was just two years old. After graduating from the University of Stellenbosch in 2004 Josh tried to set up his own business in Pretoria. He was driven by entrepreneurial spirit, but sitting with an enormous student loan, with no contacts and no network proved to be a major struggle. This experience helped lead Josh on a path of community development work. Josh is passionate about helping communities that face enormous challenges. In 2008, when he realised the insurmountable obstacles that tradesmen in the townships are up against he became determined to change the industry for the better. Josh came up with the idea for Fix Forward and became determined to turn his vision into reality. Others got involved, working nights and weekends to build the business up from scratch. Josh started marketing Fix Forward through his church in Somerset West and was recognized for his work when he won the LifeCo UnLtd SA award for social entrepreneurship. Josh is inspired by people working hard to overcome enormous difficulties and hardships to improve their lives and the lives of people around them.Spend 2 days at Fix Forward?
My Definition Of Success | As an 18-year old about to finish school, I knew that my working life would be dedicated to making some contribution to the world. My view of success then was to make as a big and meaningful a contribution as possible. I still think of success in a similar way. What has changed, in starting to bring my own social innovation idea to life over the last couple of years, is that I now view success not just as making a contribution in my lifetime. Building an idea that benefits society and will long outlive me has become really important to me.
I Am Driven By | As a Christian I feel that God has called me into the work that I do, and so it is a big driver for me to honour that calling. I also have a vision and an enduring hope for what South Africa (and developing countries around the world) can become and am driven to play a part in seeing that vision realized.
The Difference Between Good And Great | Great people are always passionate about what they do and are focused more on doing something important for the world, rather than their own enrichment. Passion usually brings with it the commitment necessary to persevere and perseverance is crucial to becoming great at what you do. Humility and a hunger to keep learning from others are also essential. Most people who achieve extraordinary things surround themselves with other people who are great at what they do.
A Key Talent | Perhaps my most useful talent in terms of entrepreneurship is self-awareness. I am keenly aware not just of what my strengths are but more importantly of what my areas of weakness are. That helps me to ensure that the areas of weakness are covered by other people whose skills, expertise and experience I can lean on. It certainly also helps that I’m not shy to ask for help. Self-awareness extends beyond personal ability into evaluating how the business is really doing. I spend a lot of time trying to learn and understand what makes some businesses succeed and others fail, then incorporating those lessons into what we are doing at Fix Forward. I’m constantly challenging my own assumptions on the best way to do business and that inevitably leads to improvement.
Lessons I Have Learnt | One of the most important lessons I’ve learnt over the years is how to distinguish between failure and a setback. Failure is when you have tried every option that you and those smarter than you can think of and there is nowhere else to turn to make your idea into a success. A set-back is when one element or your idea or a particular approach fails and you need to change or try something different. Of course sometimes it’s just a bad idea and no amount of improvement will make it work. It’s important to always be open to that as a possibility, to weigh it up with candid feedback from objective outsiders who are smarter than you. Know when to walk away.
Dealing With Doubt | I think any honest entrepreneur would admit to having experienced self-doubt and fear of failure. The first point about dealing with it is to recognize that it’s normal to feel this way. My advice would always be for entrepreneurs or leaders to surround themselves with a team of people who are positive and encouraging yet critical and candid when necessary. There are many times where I have doubted myself or my idea and having people who encouraged me to keep going, that we would find a way, certainly helps. Having a strong team also helps to lighten the load of responsibility somewhat. I also have deliberately played out the scenario of complete failure of my idea in my head. I’ve imagined what I would feel like, what I would do from there. In doing so I’ve gotten to the point where I’m completely OK with prospect of failure. I’m prepared and ready for if it happens, but am always looking forward with the conviction that it won’t. I’ve also spent a lot of time imagining what ultimate success looks like and focus most of my energy on that.
Resources I Use To Stay Inspired | I’m a bit of a nerd, so I watch a lot of TED Talks. I also read a lot, books on leadership, books by highly successful entrepreneurs and leaders that inspire me. Elon Musk, Richard Branson and the founders of AirBnB and Uber are entrepreneurs from whom I draw a great deal of inspiration. I also meet face-to-face with business leaders and coaches who can give guidance and input that help shape my thinking as an entrepreneur and a leader. You learn a whole lot just from the day-to-day work of being an entrepreneur. However, I believe we should still be getting inputs and learnings from outside our work.
The Best Advice I’ve Received | Very early on the FIX FORWARD journey I sought advice from a variety of leaders who had, amongst other things, started their own NGOs or ran highly successful businesses. One of the businessmen I met with had this to say to me, “Don’t think that just because your business idea is not in the market now that no-one else has thought of it. Many people will have thought of the same thing. The difference is that they either didn’t start it all or simply gave up when the going got tough.” After that discussion I made myself a promise to only give up and walk away when I was 100% certain that my idea wouldn’t work. It’s been tough at times, but my team and I have always found a way to keep going. I don’t ever want to walk away and later think, “What if I had just kept going?”
On Inspiring Others | Part of what I love most about being a social entrepreneur is that as the leader I get to set the culture of the business. I get to decide how we treat and value the people in our team. There are a few things I have put in place to make sure we have a team that is working well and making progress towards reaching our goals:
Firstly, I recognize that one of my main functions is not to do the work, but to create an environment where those in my team are able to work to their full potential. This means ensuring that they have all the resources they need, are clear on what is expected of them, are sufficiently challenged in their work, are allowed to get things wrong and understand how their activities contribute to the grand vision which they buy into. I say ‘grand vision’ because there is no better way to motivate people than to set a big vision, for them to feel they are part of something truly exceptional.
Secondly, I make sure that there is strong communication between me and everyone in the team. This means making sure everyone is aware of where the organisation is at currently as well as what exciting developments we are working on and what possible risks lie ahead. It also means checking in with my team regularly, informally on a weekly or daily basis, and a formal ‘Check-in’ with each team member every quarter.
Lastly, we want to see people flourishing in every area of their lives. This means we create space for people to attend to other areas of their lives, during work hours if necessary. If their family needs them and they are on top of their work, I’m happy for them to take off early, or even skip a day, without deducting it from their annual leave. Happy people are productive people.
The Legacy I Would Like To Leave | I would like to build an idea that adds value to society and contributes positively to the progress of this country, and other developing countries around the world. I would like for that idea to gain its own momentum and continue beyond my lifetime.
Useful Links |
Personal Twitter: @SimplyJoshCox