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Performance & Growth

Now You Have Funding, Use It Wisely To Grow And Scale Your Business

Donna Rachelson and Sadaf Vehedna, Seed Academy Chief Collaborator, points out the key priorities an entrepreneur should focus on at the outset to build a business.

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In this article, Donna Rachelson, CEO of Seed Academy, points out the key priorities an entrepreneur should focus on at the outset to build a business.

It is unlikely that you will receive financial support if your business is not ready for it. So, once you do receive funding, you need to impress your investors by giving them a return on their investment, expanding your business, creating jobs and contributing to the economy.

When starting up a business, there a few basic things that are really common sense, but not many entrepreneurs do this. Some entrepreneurs have different ideas about what kind of company they want to run or CEO they want to be.

They don’t necessarily realise that some of the biggest companies in the world started out in a garage – bootstrapping their business, working hard, improvising and making do till they started making the money that allowed them to scale.

Often the attitude is that if they are getting funded (especially via a government grant) then they can start ‘properly’ in a ‘nice’ office – with a few employees and all the gadgets they need in the name of work environment.

Related: Gearing Up For Funding Applications: What Does It Take For A Small Business To Be Funding-Ready?

Reality isn’t kind to entrepreneurs like these. They often find that they have run out of money before they’ve even made the first sale.

It is vital to focus on user or customer acquisition. Marketing is not a waste of money. It’s an investment, not an expense.

When you start thinking of a business you have a few assumptions about who your customer is going to be. You need to thoroughly test this theory. Pick a potential customer and make a pitch. You can do this even before your launch your business. See how many companies will give you a letter of intent. See how many engage you and are excited by your business.

The more you talk to people, you will also be able to start profiling your potential customer and what they want. Based on this, you will be able to formulate a strong marketing strategy. As a start-up you need to ensure you don’t experiment with marketing money because you can’t afford to. It’s critical to get this right.

The truth is that there is only one true proof of concept – and those are your sales which put actual money into your bank account.

Invest in hiring the right people

Highering-staff-to-grow-a-business

These people may come at a price, but you can keep their remuneration performance related. Do not use a recruitment company for at least the first five employees because at this point the company’s culture is still being built and these people should be strategic and deliberate.

Most entrepreneurs come across the right people as they network (if they’re being a good entrepreneur). Often these employees buy into the entrepreneur’s vision and are willing to build the company along with the entrepreneur.

Ultimately this is one of the most difficult parts of building your company – and only when you work with someone do you know the chemistry.

I ask people to do a trial period of about a week with me for which they’ll be paid. It’s a good way to establish who has a good attitude and work ethic and who will fit in with the company culture.

Related: What Funding Options Are There For Entrepreneurial Businesses In South Africa?

Critically, keep an eye on your cash flows

Just because you have received funding it doesn’t mean you can go crazy with the cash. Cash flows are your oxygen. Without cash your business will not survive. While it’s very important to have an accountant (and there are lots of accounting and book keeping options available for small and micro enterprises) – this cannot replace the business owner keeping an eye on the cash.

Even if it’s rough calculations: How much do we have right now? What do I need to spend on? How fast do I need to close the sales I’m working on? How many sales do I need to cover my expenses?

Often your cash flows dictate what trajectory your business will take. This can change a few times based on the cash status. The entrepreneur needs to learn how to look at and manage the cash at the very least until a CFO comes on board.

Salary Increases

Don’t use funding for a higher salary for yourself as the founder (if you can afford not to). As a founder you can get a higher salary when you make a profit. You certainly do not need that state of the art laptop right now!

We are lucky to live in an age that is entrepreneur-friendly in many ways. There are very affordable cloud based software solutions to organise your business.

Often if you use a good CRM system that is linked to your email. It’s very easy to organise information and pull out reports as needed.

Focus on meticulous accounting

Without this it’s like driving a car without being able to see through the windshield.

Be prudent about your spending, market as much as you can, and form a strong core team. Network, network, network …

Related: Small Business Funding In South Africa

Think deeply about your business every day

Entrepreneurs should maintain a journal to record their ups and downs – their ideas that change so often. It helps to put things in perspective. I don’t advocate “work-life” balance. I don’t believe there is such a thing when you are starting out. Your business is your life, and it should be.

But, often the emotional intensity of being an entrepreneur can be too much for some entrepreneurs to handle. Don’t beat yourself up if something doesn’t go as planned. Expect nothing to go as planned. As an entrepreneur your job is to improvise, change direction and try again.

Entrepreneur Magazine is South Africa's top read business publication with the highest readership per month according to AMPS. The title has won seven major publishing excellence awards since it's launch in 2006. Entrepreneur Magazine is the "how-to" handbook for growing companies. Find us on Google+ here.

Performance & Growth

Proven Strategies To Grow Your Start-up On A Scale Following These Guidelines

The following strategies can help you make the start-up scalable and grow it to accommodate a larger demand.

Joseph Harisson

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Scalability and flexibility are important properties of any business. Let’s say you’ve managed to build a successful start-up. It’s profitable and promising, but you want it to become better. The scalability of a business involves its ability to adapt for bigger workloads without losing revenue.

Even if your business is currently small and doesn’t generate huge profits, scalability can help it turn into a large enterprise. The wrong approach to developing a start-up can deprive it of an opportunity to become better.

The following strategies can help you make the start-up scalable and grow it to accommodate a larger demand.

Scaling Vs Growth

Many companies make a mistake of thinking that scaling and growing a company is the same thing. In fact, growth involves increasing revenue or the size of the company (the number of employees, offices, clients).

Constant growth requires numerous resources and may not always lead to a proportional revenue increase. In many cases, the growing number of services or products needed to boost revenue involves high costs related to the growing number of employees and equipment.

On the other hand, scaling allows you to increase the revenue without the costs involved in growth. You can handle the extra load and boost your profits while keeping the costs to a minimum.

At some point, a successful start-up needs to make a choice between growing at a constant rate and switching to the scaling business model.

Even though a single clear method for scaling your business doesn’t exist, there are some guidelines you can follow.

Related: If You Want Scale, Fail Fast And Learn Quickly

1. Get Ready To Be Patient

Scaling is not a quick process so you have to be patient. The overnight success story is not about you. In fact, scaling too fast usually results in unfortunate failure.

Allow yourself to spend the time to understand who your ideal customers are and how you can solve their problems in a better manner. Make sure you understand how to be confident about the new volume of your work.

Do research to find out how you can find the right resources to achieve scaling rather than growth.

2. Choose The Right Software

The lack of time and team members is a common problem for a startup looking for scaling methods. That’s why they need to try and automate as many processes as possible. This can be done with the assistance of the right software.

  • Trello – to simplify in-office and remote teamwork
  • MailChimp – to improve marketing campaigns
  • Brand24 – to get insights about your business
  • Survicate – to collect customers’ feedback
  • Voiptime – to increase connectivity.

Enterprise SEO specialists at Miromind also recommend paying special attention to different programmes to help you with your marketing efforts. Many digital marketing tools available today are free.

3. Take Advantage of Outsourcing

Since you are hoping to limit the expenses while growing the revenue, you have to find ways to spend the revenue in the right manner. The biggest mistake made by business owners who think they are choosing scaling is hiring a big team. By doing so, they turn scaling into growing.

Your best bet to avoid hiring a large team and paying large salaries while achieving your plans is to outsource. Using your resources wisely involves finding freelancers and remote employees who are willing to work for a lower pay on a one-time (or several) contract bases.

For example, you don’t need a lawyer or a computer specialist sitting in the office all day long. Why should you pay them a monthly salary?

Related: What It Will Really Take For South Africa’s Businesses To Scale And Create Jobs

4. Don’t Do It Alone

Even though certain team minimisation is necessary to improve your scaling efforts, don’t try to handle everything on your own. It’s important to have at least one person you can rely on to manage the business-related problems.

Conclusion

Scaling your start-up is possible as soon as you understand what scaling is in detail. You need to be careful not to start growing your business instead of scaling it in the process. Once you have all the fundamentals figured, resources managed, and the right people in place, you are ready to start.

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Performance & Growth

Selling The Cape Town Lifestyle In China

GSB alumnus Grant Horsfield has built a rapidly expanding business in China that aims to provide a better lived environment – both at work and at play – and deliver a more balanced, sustainable and enjoyable lifestyle.

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When Grant Horsfield moved to Shanghai, shortly after completing his MBA at the GSB in 2004, he wanted to find a product to sell to China, when the rest of the world was focused on buying from China. “I had a clear purpose,” he says, “I wanted to import something from Africa and bring it to China – I just didn’t know what it was.”

Horsfield had completed the Doing Business in China elective on the MBA programme, taught by Professor Kobus Van der Wath, which led to him accepting a job in China with Van der Wath’s consulting firm – The Beijing Axis. He also completed an exchange programme at Jiao Tong University in Shanghai. During this time, although he found China to be exciting and full of opportunity, Horsfield missed the Capetonian lifestyle – particularly the outdoor life and the interaction with nature.

He says, “that was when I realised that the product China needed was the lifestyle that we have in South Africa. I was sure that if the Chinese knew what they didn’t know, they would be living a more balanced life and be able to appreciate and relax in nature – so that was what I really wanted to import to China, the Cape Town lifestyle.

“At that point there was no concept of a weekend getaway spent relaxing in nature that we are so used to in South Africa,” Horsfield explains. This realisation kickstarted his vision for Naked – a chain of boutique eco-resorts set in natural landscapes across China.

Related: Want To Start An Import Business – Here Are The Importing Terms And Documents Involved

The naked Group, which Horsfield founded in 2007, has built and now operates four luxury resorts with a further six under development. The first boutique resort, naked Home opened in Zhejiang Province in 2007, followed by naked Stables – an award-winning resort in Moganshan which offers horse riding to guests. Naked Stables is an industry pioneer in that it was the first resort in China to receive the prestigious Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum certification – an American certification system encouraging the design of energy and resource-efficient buildings that are healthy to live in. Horsfield extended the concept of a luxurious retreat with the addition of naked Castle, a 95-room castle with two restaurants and a spa surrounded by lush forest, and naked Sail which offers a unique travel experience on a 70-foot catamaran in the Andaman Sea.

In 2015, the naked Group expanded into the co-working office space industry through naked Hub. Horsfield sees the move into office space as a natural extension of the naked brand.

“Essentially we had been inviting people to have a better lifestyle outside of work and we realised that we could do that in the work experience too,” he says. “When you build a resort, you build a space that allows people to experience a certain level of comfort and enjoy themselves, so why not do that in an office?” The naked team’s skillset in designing and building sustainable comfy resorts was easily transferred to building office spaces that people enjoy working in.

Naked Hub has seen rapid expansion, opening 50 hubs across China, Vietnam, Australia and the UK in just two and a half years. Initially based on smaller start-ups or freelancers in the gig economy, Naked Hub now caters to larger firms. “The idea of co-working space was born out of trying to make a more efficient smarter space for smaller companies but today more that 50% of our companies are multinationals,” says Horsfield.

The principles of a more balanced lifestyle and a cleaner more sustainable environment are present in all naked projects. For Horsfield, it’s all about trying to make the world a better place.

“No matter what kind of entrepreneur you are, you have to have some values that are important to you. For me, trying to change things for the better has been paramount in everything we’ve designed, and we probably have more sustainability experts on our payroll than most companies. What we do is not just about building, it’s about people, communities and how people interact in their environment.”

Commenting on what it takes to start a successful business in China, and then follow through with rapid global expansion, Horsfield says perseverance, a belief in what you want to achieve, and above all – courage – all play a role.

“You’ve got to have courage to do what looks very scary. If you don’t have a sound belief that it will work, then you just can’t do it.” He adds, laughing, “or as my mom says – I’m just too stupid to see the potential problems! But seriously, courage is what separates businesspeople from entrepreneurs – and that’s something that can’t be taught.”

Horsfield also believes strongly in what he terms AQ, or adversity quotient. “This is the mentality that allows me to overcome obstacles, the ability to hit a wall 20 times but pick myself up and keep on trying.”

Related: Meet The 40 Richest Self-Made Entrepreneurs On Earth

Looking back on his experience of the MBA, he believes the programme’s value lies in promoting self-knowledge and reflection. He says, “each project I did allowed me to examine what I had done before and to consider how I could have done things differently. Examining my strengths and weaknesses was a huge benefit. Today I don’t hire people who have low self-awareness.”

“The other wonderful thing about the MBA was the diversity of students. We had a mixed group internationally, with people from many different cultural and work backgrounds, that was really enlightening. It also gave me a strong network of likeminded people.”

Horsfield believes his South African upbringing and his education at the GSB certainly helped him on his entrepreneurial path. He says, “wanting to do some good in the world, wanting to change things for the better, is a uniquely South African strength.”

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Performance & Growth

What Are You Prepared To Lose?

While business growth tends to be a major goal for most business owners, with growth comes pain. Here’s how you navigate those challenges.

Ed Hatton

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Many, perhaps most entrepreneurs would like their businesses to grow — whether from ambition to create an empire or just to reduce the risks inherent in being a little business. To do so the entrepreneur has to change roles. They must move from where they can control everything, and change from working as they always have. Being human, we fear moving away from familiar routines, we find it hard to give up authority and we lie awake at night worrying if we can afford all those extra people.

When you run a small business you make all the decisions, you monitor performance of your employees, have direct contact with customers and have a small nest egg so you can still pay your people in bad months. A bigger business means higher overheads, more debtors, and additional inventory, all of which will put a strain on cash flow. You are likely to need more working capital to finance growth and may have to take a loan, which only adds to the risk.

You are also likely to have less day-to-day control over operations and will worry about whether your managers are about to commit an appalling blunder. A more insidious risk is the growing distance between you and customers as the business adds layers of sales managers, sales people, project managers, and branches.

Finding the opportunities

It’s difficult enough just to stand still in tough times, let alone grow strongly. The more difficult the competitive and economic situation becomes, the more we want to control every aspect of the business. We hesitate to fill vacancies, clamp down on expenses, get enraged when people make mistakes and push the sales team until they get nervous.

We develop a hang-in-there mentality and hope for better times. Paradoxically, tough times offer great growth opportunities. While others cut down on training and marketing, you have the opportunity to lure customers away from them with aggressive marketing and pricing. You can build a work environment that will attract the best people by offering strong customer support and good development opportunities. If you are bold, you have the opportunity to lock in the best suppliers by paying on time and signing long-term contracts while others delay payments and seek cheaper suppliers. It takes courage to do this, and you will feel the loss of security and comfort zones.

Related: 3 Ways To Promote Business Growth In A Troubled Economy

In this rapidly changing world, it may be easier to grow a business now than it has ever been. Businesses that embrace change and look for opportunities in uncertainty can scale rapidly. Disruptive technologies have changed the rules and allowed new businesses to grow to international giants. Waste — especially packaging waste — green energy, medical technology and urbanisation have all presented global opportunities for smart entrepreneurs.

Change is difficult to manage; we prefer our comfort zones, but treating change as a friend rather than a fear could give your business the growth spurt you desire.

Letting go to move forward

One of the hardest things to do as a business grows is to discard products, people and processes that have built your business to where it is today, but will be a hindrance to you as you grow. You may have a favourite product that was the essence of your start-up, but is now out of date and uncompetitive. Kill it.

There is pain in dealing with staff and suppliers who will not be able to keep up with your growth, especially those who stood by you when you needed them. I am all for loyalty, but if loyalty becomes a hindrance you must act. Be kind to them, give them their dignity rather than carrying them as a charitable favour. Change their roles, or find alternate work for them. Getting rid of encumbrances, products, people, suppliers, customers and processes is all part of what you need to do to take your business into a growth phase.

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