Helping Yourself Through the Start-Up Stage

Helping Yourself Through the Start-Up Stage


For any entrepreneur, starting a business is a very personal journey, because as the business grows, you grow with it. An entrepreneur tends to feel every challenge and success the business goes through.  There are Five key learning’s that I have found have helped me along the way:

1. A clear vision of where you want to go with your life or your business. Vision and strategy are very important. If you don’t know where you want to go, everyone else will tell you where to go. As an entrepreneur you have to follow your own heart and passion, it is one of the strengths that help keep you sane.

At The Hope Factory my team and I have always had a clear picture of where we want to go, and over the years when people have come to us with their ideas it is very easy for us to say “yes or “no” because it either fits into where we want to go or it doesn’t.  This clarity in vision has meant that over 10 years down the line we have managed to achieve what we wanted to achieve.

2. What is important especially as an entrepreneur is self-sustainability. The work we do comes at a high price emotionally and time wise, especially talking its toll on family and personal time. A lot of entrepreneurs burn out after a couple of years either because they are overwhelmed by the enormity of the task or they were unable to balance their work and life and family.

I believe you must find a way to balance them, albeit skewed towards work! I try to make sure I work at a sustainable pace and my husband and children are still my top priority. And as much as I love the work I do, I am very clear from a values point of view. I have come very close to burn out twice, so it is necessary to recognise the signs of early and take the necessary actions needed to ensure longevity.

3. I have also learnt the lesson of having an understanding of your strengths, and playing to them. In the early days of running your business you tend to have to do everything, for example getting my printer fixed and handling IT, or cold calling for sales.

However as time has gone by, and the team and the skills within the team have grown, I have been able to play more and more to my strengths. Having a closely knit management team has meant that I have people who can assist where I am weak.

This makes work productive and enjoyable. If you can outsource or hire expertise then it is best you do so, in order for you to focus where your strengths lie.

4. Follow your gut instinct. Over the years I have learnt to trust my instinct a lot more. If you do, it can serve you really well. Often your subconscious is pulling up on information that your conscious mind may be too busy to filter.

In the early years I did not have the confidence to listen to it, but after seeing that following my instincts were right, I am much more sensitive to it; and use it as a valuable tool.

5. The fifth key lesson I have learnt in both life and business is relationship building. Good relationships are critical to get you where you need to be whether it is with your staff, your board, your investors and so on. Having good relationships with your investors or clients, mean that you will be more likely to retain them.

Trust and communication are the building blocks in any relationship, and business is no difference. And don’t forget “small guys” either, sometimes a good relationship with some one’s PA can be the difference between getting the meeting needed to get a potential deal, or not!

Liz Zambonini
Liz Zambonini is the CEO of The Hope Factory, an established Enterprise Development Initiative of the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA). For more information, visit