Running your own business is the most difficult thing you can do with your career. “At times you will be miserable and think ‘why did I ever give up my job?’” This is what Barrie Terreblanche, author of Starting Your Own Business, believes.
Terreblanche says starting a business by first developing a business plan is not how it really happens. His research shows that the business plan concept was developed in the US and is a necessary tool in a corporate environment for convincing bosses about the need for a budget to start a new project. Terreblanche says when starting your own business, you don’t have to convince a boss, so you don’t need a business plan. “No businesses start with a bank loan, so it’s not even necessary to develop a plan for a banker. Most people turn to family and friends for a loan, and your uncle doesn’t look at a business plan,” he adds.
Where to start
According to Terreblanche, as many business owners as there are in the world, there are different ways to start a business. The approach he recommends is to start small and scale up. “You can start as a one man show working from your garage. You can outsource additional services and start working on weekends or evenings.” He realises that this is not necessarily the only way, as some start-ups could have larger funds available to them and wouldn’t need to start small, and some businesses just can’t be started small.
The messy desk dilemma
The main obstacle for business growth, says Terreblanche, is the business owner. “Whenever I have met with a struggling business, I have looked at the business owner’s desk and it’s a mess. A business is an organisational thing, you have got to be able to organise.” He believes many business owners can’t manage themselves and their time properly. He says they spend most of their time operating the business and postpone important tasks like book-keeping, and managing cash flow. “Admin is a big part of owning a business. It is an unglamorous, dreary job — the idea of Richard Branson is not real. Successful entrepreneurs usually have the ability to organise. They can organise their lives, other people, the business, clients, logistics, etc.”
Another common reason for business failure in South Africa, according to Terreblanche is business partners. “One of the biggest pain points for start-ups is problems with partners. Partners often fight amongst themselves and this leads to failure of the business.” Terreblanche suggests that start-ups think carefully before taking on a business partner. “A drinking buddy is not a good partner.” He also says that taking on a partner to provide money for the business is a big mistake as this means you are negotiating from a position of weakness. The same can be said for taking on a partner with business skills you are lacking, like finance. “Rather teach yourself finance than have a partner who holds the purse strings. You still need to know about the finances in your business.” Terreblanche says that if you are the type who needs to work with other people rather than working alone, then you can take on partners.