I have friends who have a German Shorthaired Pointer who is their pride and joy, named Casey. She is the most amazing dog with boundless energy and the most incredible focus that I have seen. One of her favourite activities, amongst the many that she loves, is to play ball. Casey can play for hours and in all that time, she never once loses focus. No matter the size of the ball, she will catch it or find it every time. She leaps to incredible heights to catch the ball and it is like poetry in motion. Her eyes stay fixed on the ball and don’t stray until that ball is in her mouth.

And so it is with entrepreneurship. Focused determination is an essential element to successful entrepreneurship. It has been said that focus gives exponential results.

What is Focus?

Focus is clarity of vision.  It is the recognition of where you are and where you want to be. Knowing what is relevant to you and what will get you where you aim to be. Focus is carefully choosing the right opportunities and discarding all others. It is eradicating distractions, which will cause you to struggle on the path to your success. Like Casey, you need to single-mindedly pursue your ball.

When the sun is directed through a magnifying glass, it’s heat is intensified and it has the power to ignite fire. So focus can intensify your path to the future. So, choose your destination, then focus on the means to get there with determination.

By Karen Lancaster



Walt Disney said that all of our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them. Last week we looked at courage in the life of an entrepreneur, but this week we are looking at another element of successful entrepreneurship – vision.

Without vision and goals:

  • we will have nowhere to go,
  • no-one or nowhere to lead,
  • nothing to focus on.

Dreams lead to vision. Vision leads to goals. Goals lead to action and results.

So the question is “What are you trying to achieve?”

Vision gives us consistency, however we don’t just need vision for that end result, we also need vision for the many steps that it will take to get us there. We need targets, monthly goals and so on.

I have heard the suggestion that when you know where you want to go you can work backwards to get the steps to get there.

We all have different ways of setting our vision and going for it, but it all starts with a dream. Here are some questions to help you work through vision.

  • What makes your heart beat a little faster?
  • What would you love to do all day every day?
  • What do you want to do with your success?
  • What do you want your venture to look like?
  • What kind of people do you want to hire?
  • What kind of company culture do you dream of?
  • How are you going to get there?

And most importantly, do you have a vision and what is it?


By Karen Lancaster



I’m sure you’ve heard it said that courage is not the absence of fear, but going ahead anyway, despite the fear. Anyone who has ever had to face a fear head on, like bungy jumping with a terror of heights or caving with claustrophobia, knows the amazing sense of achievement that comes when the fear has been tackled and overcome.

A first time business start-up needs this same courage to break out of old ways and take the calculated risk of going for the dream. The rewards certainly make up for the risks, but it doesn’t make it easy in the early days when bills are piling up and making enough to pay them is a challenge. The most frightening part is probably the initial decision. However, with every big milestone in business, there will be new challenges and courage will have to be exercised again.

Here are a few moments of courage that will be needed as you start your new venture.

  • Courage to turn your back on the security of a job
  • Courage to walk a different path to start your own business
  • Courage to follow your own convictions
  • Courage to stand your ground against those who challenge you
  • Courage to step into unknown territory
  • Courage to follow your instincts

The problem is where do we find the courage for all of this? The following are some simple tips to help build courage.

  • Start with small steps
  • Acknowledge your fears
  • Be willing to fail
  • Don’t focus on anxiety
  • Don’t give up
  • Just do something every day
  • Revisit your vision frequently
  • Manage your stress through exercise, breathing techniques, meditation or whatever helps you best

Courage grows with use. The more we use courage, the easier it becomes. It is much like exercise – difficult initially, but it improves with practice. So, there is nothing else to do but to simply do whatever you keep putting off.


By Karen Lancaster


drive and determination

I recently read the story of the son of a horse trainer who worked at stables and ranches. At school the boy was asked to write about what he wanted to be when he grew up. Without hesitation, he wrote a seven-page paper about his dream of owning a horse ranch, including many details, the location of buildings and stables and even a house plan.

He received his paper back with an “F” on the front. When he asked the teacher why, he was told that his dreams were unrealistic as he had no money or resources. The teacher offered him a rewrite with a more realistic goal.

The boy asked his father’s advice who encouraged him to think carefully and to make his own decision.

After a few days the boy gave the paper to his teacher with no amendments. He respectfully told the teacher to keep the “F” and he would keep his dream.

Years later as an adult, he now owns a huge house in the middle of 200-acre horse ranch. He still has the school paper, which is framed over the fireplace.

We can have all of the passion and self-belief in the world, but without drive and determination, we will not achieve our goals. Passion motivates us, self-belief gives us the courage, but drive and determination gets the job done.

Drive and determination, which are fundamental to success, start with desire. We need aspirations. We need to want to get somewhere. Sit down and think about the goals for our new businesses. What are our dreams for the future of the venture. Where do we want to go? How do we want our enterprise to operate? How much do we want to expand? What are our personal aspirations that the business can facilitate? What social causes do we want to empower?

Once, we have an idea of where we are headed, we need to go for it with single minded pursuit. We need to have the attitude of “where there’s a will, there’s a way”. No matter what confronts us, we need to push through and allow the drive to kick in, always remembering why we are doing this.

We will quickly discover that nothing goes according to plan and we need to overcome challenges and obstacles much of the time. Generally, there are more setbacks than successes and without determination, we will quickly flounder and give up. Drive and determination is what will get us through all of the hard times. Think of the many different movies, like “The Pursuit of Happiness”, that have illustrated this. It has been said that most successful businesses founders failed seven times before they found success. Disney, Einstein and many others were considered foolish before they found success.   

 So, examine your desires and fuel your drive. I’d love to hear some of your success stories.


By Karen Lancaster


Network Explosion

Please excuse the interruption of our weekly look at Elements of Successful Entrepreneurship, however I have some exciting news to share regarding business matters.

As many of you know, I launched out in business in April last year after years of working for others and teamed up with Gill Bates to form Bates Lancaster Consulting. A few months later, Gill was headhunted and could not refuse the offer and I found myself continuing alone. It caused me to focus on the skills that I was offering and fine-tune the future of the business, however the name no longer made any sense. I narrowed down the offering to networking services, both online and face to face (F2F) and so the name Network Explosion was birthed.

The website should be live any day now and Network Explosion is already live on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Pinterest. Please feel free to interact on any or all of those platforms. With this in mind, I will be phasing out the Bates Lancaster Consulting blog over the next few months. However this blog, which is my personal blog, will continue as normal.

I am very excited about what 2014 has to offer and I look forward to meeting, working and collaborating with many of you.

Here’s to a marvellous year!

By Karen Lancaster


Karen Lancaster Blog

If you don’t believe in something, then you will never persuade someone else to believe in it. If you don’t believe in the potential of your business, how do you expect anyone else to see it? If you don’t believe in yourself, who else will believe in you?

Self-belief is another element of successful entrepreneurship. It goes beyond confidence. Confidence is attractive, but self-belief engenders trust.

The enemy of self-belief is self-doubt, which is the most debilitating characteristic. I started the year with a new mantra – “Banish self-doubt.” All of us experience self-doubt from time to time, but we need to actively walk away from it and not entertain it in our thoughts. We need to surround ourselves with positive, supportive people and believe them when they highlight our strengths.

Self belief and confidence can be built up by increasing your knowledge in your field and by practice. Think of any new skill, such as learning to cycle. Initially, you feel afraid and insecure, but the more you learn how to do it and practice, the more confident you become, until you are doing wheelies down the road.

So take these tips to build your self-belief.

  • Build faith in your skills through knowledge and practice
  • Develop an “I can” attitude by trying new challenging activities on a regular basis
  • Do the things that you are passionate about
  • Develop your vision and work step by step towards it
  • Just do it
  • Acknowledge each small achievement
  • Celebrate each achievement
  • Surround yourself with positive people
  • Keep developing yourself
  • Enjoy yourself


By Karen Lancaster


Karen Lancaster Blog

Passion. A word that immediately evokes feelings of intense desire. Sets a person on fire. Passion is seen in romance, the arts and business. How can we use the passion we have as entrepreneurs to our best advantage?

  • Passion causes enthusiasm, which makes work so much more enjoyable and is contagious in the workplace,
  • Passion is the drive that pushes us onward during setbacks,
  • Passion gives us confidence to trust ourselves,
  • Passion inspires others,
  • Passion allows us to have the single minded pursuit that is necessary in business,
  • Passion needs to be mingled with determination and aspiration,
  • Passion needs a strong work ethic,
  • Passion and perseverance go a long way.

Obviously passion alone is not sufficient, but passion together with the 11 other elements that will be looked at over the next few months are a surefire way to reach the business goals that you have set for yourself.

How does passion help you?


By Karen Lancaster


Farewell Tata Madiba

It’s only fitting to use my last post of the year to say goodbye to our nation’s hero.

I was one of the fearless who braved the weather on Tuesday with a dear friend, to attend the State Memorial Service for Madiba. I wanted to celebrate his life and shed a few tears saying farewell to my hero too.

Kate fetched me at 4am and we drove through the fine drizzle to Park Station to catch the promised train ride to the Calabash. On arrival we were met by a small funky group of “Black Diamonds” who instantly took us under their wings and told us that the first train was only due at 6am, but they knew of a Park & Ride in Simmonds Street. So, in convoy, we followed our trendy new friends, until we finally found the Standard Bank parking venue. I was expecting busses to be waiting to transport us from there, silly me. We five had to walk in the fine rain to Commisioner Street where we found the Rea Vaya station in complete darkness, still locked up, with not a soul in sight. So we set off  in search of transport. Fortunately a few blocks further up Commisioner Street we found another Rea Vaya station, still locked, but with staff standing around and another young man also looking for transport. They told us a bus was due at 5:30am  so we decided to wait for it.

The station started filling up and then we noticed that we were opposite Walter Sisulu House, which started the celebratory atmosphere. At that stage, Kate and I, being the only “Whiteys” present were called upon to pose in loads of photos with everyone. I was really beginning to enjoy the atmosphere that was building.

Waiting for the bus #Madibamemorial

A nation mourns #Madibamemorial

When the bus arrived, we all squashed on and the whole bus load of people spontaneously broke into song, which continued all the way to the FNB Stadium. It was an electrifying atmosphere and I could not help but join in with great jubilation. A BBC film crew pushed their way to the front of the bus and began interviewing people, including Kate and myself. A great start to a long day.

On the bus

We finally arrived at the stadium just before 6am and danced and sang our way from the station to the gates of the stadium, waiting in the rain with more song and dance. Everyone was in high spirits and there was a feeling of ubuntu as the gates remained closed at 6am, not opened as promised. No problem to the throngs, just keep singing.

Waiting for the gates to open #Madibamemorial

Finally the gates were opened and everyone charged into the stadium, only to find the turnstiles were locked and, yet again, we had to wait. Despite the rain, spirits were still not dampened. Again, we found ourselves being interviewed, this time by a Mauritian TV station. And finally the turnstiles were opened and we poured into the stadium. Kate and I ran to get up high under the cover, so as not to sit in the rain. We were exhausted, but satisfied and happy. Seeing as there was very little, if any, in the form of catering we had brought our own little food packs, so out came our sandwiches and we munched our breakfast merrily and drank our coffee to warm our wet bodies.

Then the singing began and it was truly electrifying. Spontaneous bursts of freedom songs, which I am still singing in my head, that was taken up and sung around the stadium, with actions, dancing, stamping and flag waving. What an awesome experience. I was convinced that this was going to be a day to go down in the annals of history.


For the next few hours I felt like a journalist as we watched the bizarre and amazing scene unfurl around us. The atmosphere was incredible until the official programme began and then it quickly slid downhill as speech after boring speech droned on and the wet crowd who had come to celebrate and mourn their national hero became restless and annoyed. The booing of Zuma was astounding, then amusing, then completely embarrassing. I cannot bear his leadership, but I even started to feel sorry for him. I recorded everything on my Facebook and Twitter pages and found myself chatting to people from Dubai, England, Ireland, the United States and all across South Africa. In the stadium we met wonderful people sitting around us and everybody had their two cents worth to chip in.

Facebook screenshot #Madibamemorial

I could go on and on, but I fear that I shall bore you. Suffice it to say that it was a memorable and extraordinary day that will indeed go down in history, but not for the reasons that I originally thought. I had anticipated going to bid Madiba farewell and experiencing grief and celebration. I fully expected to spend the day in tears and deliberately wore no mascara. Instead, I found myself chuckling hysterically through much of the service. I realised that I do not know the people of my nation at all and that there are still huge cultural gaps. Even though I was an activist mixing with all races from a young age during apartheid South Africa, I do not fully understand many of the people of this wonderful nation. I realised that I love this nation with all of it’s quirkiness, faults and problems deeper than I thought I did. I realised that I really do have to be a part of the solution to South Africa. I also felt robbed. I felt like the world took our day of memorial and turned it into a political rhetoric, all sprouting the same eulogies without much feeling. I sure that they meant what they said, but it just had no passion. We, the people, wanted to sing. We wanted to cry. We wanted to be much more of a part of the proceedings. At least we have these few days to bid Madiba farewell in Pretoria.

I finally returned home by 6:30pm, elated, disappointed and exhausted. I know that Madiba was a mortal man, however his dreams for this nation are well worth pursuing and I am glad that I could be a part of history and say farewell, even if it was not quite what I was expecting. I will never forget the experience and it was truly enlightening to me. South Africa, let’s stand together and go forward. We are an amazing nation of diverse, crazy, intense, opinionated, strong and fun-filled people. And may we never lose that.

Farewell Tata Madiba.

By Karen Lancaster


It's Been a Good Year - Karen Lancaster Blog

Next week will be my last post for 2013 before I head off to the tropical climes of Thailand for a priveledged holiday. As the year winds down to an end, we generally tend to get nostalgic and find it hard to resist reviewing the past 12 months.

I took a look back and the highlight for me was leaving my job in March and launching my part time Digital Media business into a full time venture. It has been an exciting ride with a few unexpected turns, plenty of learning and discovery and absolutely no regrets.

Blog posts on social media have included articles on Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Google+, as well as various tips and how to’s. Posts on entrepreneurship have abounded logging my progress along my entrepreneurial journey. The business has expanded from digital networking to face to face (F2F) networking too with monthly networking sessions for small business owners, entrepreneurs, start-ups and those who are heading there.

2014 looms with great excitement as the relaunch of my business approaches with the new name of ‘Network Explosion’, that came about as a result of a competition on my business blog.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has supported me in any way whatsoever in this amazing roller coaster ride. I appreciate every one of you and have loved meeting new people, aligning with some great business partners and consolidating long term relationships. You guys rock!

By Karen Lancaster


12 Essential Elements of a Successful Entrepren

The following are 12 essential elements needed for successful entrepreneurship.

  1. Passion
  2. Self-belief
  3. Desire
  4. Drive and determination
  5. Courage
  6. Vision
  7. Focus
  8. Hard work
  9. Persistence and optimism
  10. Wisdom
  11. Common sense
  12. Opportunistic judgement in risk-taking

Develop these elements in your life and put them to good use in your entrepreneurial ventures – they can only help.

In the new year we will explore each one of these 12 elements and how to use them in our business ventures. We only have 2 more blog posts this year before I go on a well earned holiday to Thailand, but will be back with a bang in 2014 with weekly posts.