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How To Think Like An Entrepreneur

Unlock your entrepreneurial potential with our guide to thinking like a South African entrepreneur. Discover key strategies, daily habits and insider tips to navigate the journey from ambition to achievement.

A wonderful Afrikaans saying used daily by South Africans from all walks of life is "’n boer maak ’n plan". Translated literally as 'a farmer makes a plan', it's about so much more than that: it speaks to the South African entrepreneurial mentality of solution-finding, creativity, tenacity, and ingenuity.

Learning how to become an entrepreneur in a country where most citizens are willing to 'make a plan' is indeed achievable – and well worth it. Cultivating the right enterprise mindset is crucial – and with these strategies and daily habits, you can put yourself on the path to becoming an entrepreneur.

How to Think Like a South African Entrepreneur

#1 Be Goal-Oriented

“A winner is a dreamer who never gives up.” ~ Nelson Mandela

It starts with a dream – and then the tenacity to keep chasing that dream. Developing an entrepreneurial mindset begins with a vision of what you want to achieve. Create a vision board or a detailed business plan to map out your short-term and long-term goals. Break down these goals into actionable steps and set deadlines to keep yourself accountable.

Tip: Start your day by listing three key tasks you need to accomplish. This practice keeps you focused and ensures you're always moving forward. Keep the tasks manageable so you enjoy a feeling of accomplishment at the end of each day.

#2 Embrace Creative Problem-Solving

“Think big and windows of opportunities will appear.” ~ Siya Beyile, founder of the Threaded Man.

Think big, think outside the box, and try to be open to unconventional solutions. Engage in activities that stimulate creativity like brainstorming sessions or arts classes. Books like The Creative Act and courses like The Artist's Way are great places to begin unlocking a different way of looking at the challenges you're faced with.

Tip: Take a different route to work or try a new hobby, like painting or writing. These activities can help train your brain to approach problems from new angles.


#3 Perseverance is Key

Perseverance will help you push through tough times. Sometimes that will mean asking for advice, other times it will mean starting over. Entrepreneurship is a rollercoaster ride with lots of highs and lows. The entrepreneurial mind chooses to remember that at all times; setbacks are merely stepping stones on the path to success!

Tip: Reflect on your achievements at the end of each week. Celebrate small wins and remind yourself of your progress.

#4 Take Calculated Risks

Research and analyze potential opportunities and outcomes before making decisions. The enterprise mindset requires taking calculated risks, not reckless ones. Build your risk-taking muscle by challenging yourself to step out of your comfort zone regularly. Perhaps public speaking can help unlock a new business idea.

To quote the most famous South African entrepreneur of all, Elon Musk: "When something is important enough, you do it even if the odds are not in your favour."

#5 Be Customer-Oriented

Understanding and prioritizing your customers' needs is crucial. Conduct market research, gather feedback, and constantly improve your offerings based on customer insights. The key here to developing your business mindset is that you are always prepared to learn from those around you.

Tip: Spend time interacting with your customers. Attend local markets or set up feedback sessions to understand their pain points and preferences better. Sometimes the best market research can be achieved by asking members of your extended family to give you their honest opinions.


#6 Stay Organized

"Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do." ~ Steve Jobs

By developing good organizational habits, you can create a solid foundation for your business and increase your chances of success. Oftentimes the entrepreneur wants to do it all themselves, but a true enterprise mindset sees the value in outsourcing when necessary.

Remember, organization is not a one-time task but an ongoing process that requires continuous attention and adjustment. Being organized is a crucial skill for learning how to become an entrepreneur. It helps you manage your time and resources effectively, stay focused on your goals, and maintain a productive workflow.

Five Tips for Staying Organized:

  1. Dedicate a few minutes each evening to plan the next day. Organize your workspace to increase productivity. Minimize paper clutter by scanning important documents and storing them electronically.
  2. An enterprise mindset sees the potential of leveraging technology for your business hustle with tools like Trello or Asana that can help you manage projects, assign tasks, and track progress in a team environment. Identify tasks that can be delegated to employees or outsourced to freelancers. This allows you to focus on high-impact activities.
  3. Create standard operating procedures (SOPs) for repetitive tasks. This ensures consistency and saves time.
  4. Use automation tools for routine tasks like email responses, invoicing, and social media posting.
  5. Create and stick to a budget. Regularly review your financial statements to stay informed about your financial health.

#7 Think Independently

Having an entrepreneurial mindset is about being brave enough to think independently, even in the face of conservative ‘same old’ thinking. Independent thinking allows you to make decisions based on your analysis and instincts, rather than following the crowd.

Why are things being done a certain way? Learn to question your assumptions and those of others. Your entrepreneurial mind is a tool that needs sharpening, so back up your critical thinking by reading widely and keeping abreast of current events and industry trends. Context always matters! Stay informed, but be bold and trust your gut.

#8 Learn from Failures

I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." - Thomas Edison

Failure is an inevitable part of entrepreneurship. The key is to learn from your mistakes and use them to grow. Analyze what went wrong and how you can improve in the future. After experiencing a setback, write down three lessons you learned from it. This practice helps you see failure as a learning opportunity.


#9 Get Networking

Surround yourself with other entrepreneurs and mentors who can provide guidance and support. Join local business groups, attend networking events, and participate in online forums.

Attend workshops and seminars at institutions like the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) or the University of Cape Town's Graduate School of Business (GSB). Join entrepreneurial communities like Startup Grind Johannesburg or the SA Innovation Summit to get a sense of what ideas are moving the market as you stimulate your entrepreneurial mind.

Practice spotting business opportunities by identifying pain points in existing markets. Look for areas where customers are underserved or industries that lack competition. For example, consider sectors like renewable energy, tech solutions for agriculture, or niche e-commerce markets. Ideas specific to the needs of everyday South Africans abound!

Tip: Keep a journal of daily annoyances or problems you encounter. These could be potential business opportunities.

#10 Develop Relevant Skills

Certain hobbies and activities can help develop your business mindset. Consider activities like chess for strategic thinking, improv classes for quick thinking and adaptability, or volunteering to develop leadership and organizational skills.

You could also dedicate time to learning new skills relevant to your business. Online courses on platforms like Coursera or Udemy can be valuable resources as you learn how to become an entrepreneur from experts in your particular field.


Thinking like a South African entrepreneur involves a mix of goal-setting, creative problem-solving, perseverance, risk-taking, customer orientation, organization, independent thinking, and learning from failures.

By engaging in daily practices that foster these qualities and surrounding yourself with the right people, you can cultivate the mindset needed to thrive in the entrepreneurial world.

Start today by taking small steps towards building your entrepreneurial mindset, and watch as these habits transform your approach to business and life. South Africa is a land of opportunities, and with the right mindset, you can seize them and turn your entrepreneurial dreams into reality.

Stuart Wood

About the author

Stuart is Editorial Manager at He has worked as Editor for a B2B publisher, Content Manager for a PR firm, and most recently as a Copywriter for Barclays.