- Player: Rapelang Rabana
- Company: Rekindle Learning
- Claim to fame: Rapelang Rabana is an entrepreneur and investor who was voted the Entrepreneur for the World by the World Entrepreneurship Forum in 2014. She has also established herself as a popular and insightful speaker through the Unique Speaker Bureau (USB).
- In March 2017 she was named to the 100 Young Global Leaders list by the World Economic Forum.
- Visit: www.rapelang.com
The move into a growth phase in your business requires a shift in focus. Here are four key areas that you should be looking at if you’re serious about expansion.
1Systems and processes
I think I’m naturally a systems-oriented person, so I probably implemented systems and processes quicker than a lot of other entrepreneurs typically do.
It sounds daunting and complicated, but it needn’t be. In fact, it shouldn’t be.
The aim should be to ensure that everyone is on the same page, and that activities aren’t needlessly duplicated. It’s should be about breaking down barriers and making everything transparent; not tying employees up in red tape.
The last thing you should want is employees who are not empowered to get the job done. The good news nowadays is that you don’t need to implement a complex and expensive ERP system. Applications like Slack and Trello allow even start-ups to get systems in place.
The quicker you embrace these, the better. People are increasingly working from different locations, so online collaboration tools are becoming a must-have.
2Finances and legal
When I started out, I did all the bookkeeping for my business. It was about three years before I hired someone else to do it, which was a huge mistake.
Dealing with the day-to-day finances of a business takes up way too much of your time. It distracts and disrupts you — you’re constantly task-switching, which means you aren’t being effective in your role as founder.
This doesn’t mean that you should hire a CFO right away, or that you should ignore the financial situation of the business, but pay someone to handle the bulk of the finances. The reality is that they will probably be better at handling the finances than you are, and can help you get a better picture of what you can and can’t afford.
Decisions like how to structure your sales commissions can have a huge impact on the bottom line. Someone with the necessary knowledge should guide you.
Similarly, I recommend getting a lawyer quickly. When a business is still young, this can seem like a waste of money, but it is totally worth it. Many entrepreneurs end up paying for this mistake down the line. Don’t draft your own contracts.
3Being busy vs being productive
You can be incredibly busy but actually struggle to move your business forward. Tactics are important, but you need people to help you with the day-to-day tactical decisions so that you can concentrate on the overarching strategy. That’s why being your own bookkeeper is such a bad idea.
It can take up all your time and never allow you to focus on the long-term strategy of the company. You need to ask yourself: How close is this activity to the revenue line? Will this result in extra income?
Bookkeeping and marketing activities are far from the revenue line, so they shouldn’t occupy too much of your time. Unless you’re very established with a strong management team, your focus as founder should be on sales and client issues.
That’s where the revenue comes from. The key to being able to do this is delegation, to have others take ownership of certain functions.
4Growing your customers
Once you’re out of the start-up phase and looking to grow your business, your focus will be on rapidly expanding your customer base. This is a tricky phase, since the tactics that allowed you to secure your early customers won’t usually allow you to 10x your revenue.
It’s too time-intensive — you spend hours and weeks with a client. So, what’s the solution? My advice would be to focus on B2B.
It’s tempting to try and go straight for the consumer, but an economy like South Africa’s is very fragmented, which makes it hard to access.
My advice is this: You don’t always need to go straight to the end-user. This might be your ultimate aim, but focusing on partners and distributors who can help get your product in the hands of customers can be a huge help while you’re still growing your business. Setting up an efficient way to market through partners and resellers is a solid tactic.
Don’t let daily tasks derail you from your long-term vision for your business. Put people, systems and processes in place that allow you to take a step back from the daily chaos and work on the future of your company.