Olwethu Libala, founder of promotions company, Modern See Brand Activators, lives by a few simple business rules. Some of them are derived from an inherent business sense. Others were learned the hard way. All of them have helped her build a successful company.
In a marketing industry that’s saturated by players both large and small, being the new kid on the block is tough. The need for work can divert your focus away from the original vision you had for your company, and while being flexible and responsive, the market environment is a critical aspect of any business’s survival, so too is a clear sense of self.
“It’s so easy to take on any job when you’re starting out and you’re desperate, but I realised that if I did that, I would just get lost among the hundreds of other non-specific marketing companies. I realised that what you need to do is understand, focus on and master your core business. Accept that you can’t be everything to everyone,” says Libala. Bearing this in mind, she’s worked hard on building her company as a niche specialist. “Our goal is to be top-of-mind within our specific field – and you can’t achieve that if people associate you with everything in general and nothing in particular,” she adds.
Sometimes this means turning down work, and Libala says she struggled to learn how to say no. “I think many entrepreneurs who are still trying to prove themselves and who are eager to impress their clients make promises they know they can’t keep. I learned that accepting impossible deadlines can damage a relationship or even lose you a client. When you over-promise, you inevitably under-deliver. It’s important to remember that saying no is not a sign of incompetence,” she says.
Another tough lesson was about learning the importance of financial management. “I neglected this aspect of the business initially and it caught up with me. One days SARS informed me that I owed them a whole lot of money, and it came as an enormous shock,” she says. She describes it as ‘a very expensive lesson’ but it taught her not to run her business ‘like a tuck-shop’. “I very quickly made sure I became financially educated,” she says.
Player: Olwethu Libala
Company: Modern See Brand Activators
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; +27 (0)82 864 2676