As President of Sage International (Africa, Australia, Middle East and Asia) and Chairman of Sage Foundation, Ivan Epstein has a lot of experience in launching a humble start-up and developing it into a successful international business. Here are a few lessons he’s learnt along the way.
Data will never tell you everything
Sure, data is important and it can tell you an awful lot, but you can’t rely purely on data when it comes to decision-making. Most successful entrepreneurs trust their gut and instinct as much as they trust formal market research.
Creating a new business is about defying the odds, disruption and finding opportunities. It’s about heart and courage as much as it is about intellect and analysis.
Share the wealth
It’s important to give back and make sure that those who helped and supported you also share in the success. Making people feel that they’re recognised and valued is vital to employee engagement and retention of wonderful talent.
It also aids in creating a healthy company culture and attracting great potential employees. Great people want to work for great companies that recognise their talents.
Be careful with your early hires
When you’re growing quickly, it can be tempting to hire whoever you can get your hands on to lighten the load. But remember that early employees will have a profound impact on the culture of your company. They lay the foundation for everything that will come afterwards.
When your business is a start-up, you’ll find it hard to attract the right people. Your budget will be limited, which means your choices of potential employees will be too.
Great talent usually wants to work for well-known and successful brands. Don’t make a bad appointment out of desperation — take your time to find the right fit.
As your company grows, your control may diminish
It will become impossible to micromanage every aspect of the business, and you may need to raise funding by potentially offering up equity in the company. You need to figure out early on what level of control you’re willing to surrender.
Many entrepreneurs dream of securing venture capital funding, being bought out by a bigger brand, or even listing their businesses on a stock exchange. It’s important to be willing to let your role evolve if you embrace such changes — leading to increased transparency and flexibility as well as delegate aspects of the business to others.
Sometimes you will need to cut your losses
Perseverance is a good thing, but there’s no point in pursuing something that’s just not working. Accept the fact and cut your losses. If a product line or a division in your business is failing, act quickly. If it’s considered beyond redemption, dispose of it as cleanly and rapidly as you can. Don’t let a failing part of your business disrupt your strategic direction.
You will occasionally disagree with your partners
Building a business is a stressful and difficult yet a fun and rewarding thing to do, and it’s unrealistic to think that you won’t sometimes disagree with your partners. If you have partnered with other people to build a business, be ready for some potential challenges once the idealistic glow has worn off.
Be sure that your partners complement your strengths and weaknesses and that you are able to turn the challenges in the relationship into a net positive. Conflict, if well managed, can create great opportunities.
Always agreeing with your partner doesn’t stimulate great ideas and innovation. Treat conflict as an opportunity for growth. Never make it personal.
Change the world
Don’t be afraid to dream big and really make a difference in the world. Use your talent and organisation to make an impact. Give something back.
It instils in your people a wonderful feeling of being part of something amazing. It also attracts investors, customers, and other stakeholders who want to be associated with a company that has a heart.