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Are You Suited to Entrepreneurship

Everybody Wants to be an Entrepreneur… But Can You Cut It?

How not to fail at starting your business (and other awesome start-up advice).

Dylan Kohlstadt

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It seems to me that everyone and their dog wants to be an entrepreneur these days. Perhaps it’s that I live in Cape Town and that the Government of the Western Cape and other corporates here are really doing their best to encourage entrepreneurial thinking, which is a good thing.

There are tons of organisations focused on helping entrepreneurs succeed… so why is it that so many still fail?

I recently hosted a business breakfast and met with over thirty established small and medium-sized entrepreneurs, each a success in their own right, each carving out their space in their highly competitive and over traded industries… and so I asked myself, why is it that some businesses succeed and others fail?

So, after much thought and chatting to those who are succeeding, I’ve listed ten points I think are critical for you to get started on your first million.

  1. Stick to What you Know. If you’ve spent years in the hospitality industry, don’t launch a product in the education industry. You can, but you will have a massive learning curve and might misjudge the opportunity. The best place to start is with a need. When did you last think this thought: ‘I know I can do this better than the way it’s currently being done’, because that is the beginning of your business idea right there.
  2. Share your Idea with a Start-up Guru. South Africans are notorious for not wanting to share their big idea in case someone steals it. To me this just shows our ignorance. It takes real effort to make any idea succeed, and even if someone does copy it, the business that implements the idea best will win in the long run, and hopefully that’s you! Spending some time and money with a professional mentor can help you move in the right direction instead of running down your resources by following the wrong path.  Consider hiring a mentor like Neil Hinrichsen, who has two highly successful start-ups under his belt and lots of experience working with entrepreneurs across South Africa. You could save yourself a lot of wasted hours, money and tears.
  3. Do your Research. Find out who your competitors are and what they’re doing well, what they’re doing badly, what customer’s think of them, what they charge, etc. The more information you have on the industry, your customers and the market, the better your chances of positioning yourself accurately and succeeding in your business. One serial entrepreneur in America first studies new markets and researches new ideas for up to one year before even putting his toe in the water. And he’s sold a few companies for over a million dollars each time. So believe me when I say that this is one step you can’t afford to skip. Need research done and don’t want to or have time to do it yourself? Email me and our team of researchers will get the low-down on your industry for you.
  4. Launch as Quickly as Possible. Don’t spend months or years developing the all singing, all dancing product. Rather go to market quickly with a beta version that is rough and ready, and test the product update. Having ten paying customers is priceless compared to a pie-in-the-sky idea that might take so long to develop that you run out of funding and interest. Use WordPress for your website as it’s free and you can set it up yourself with minimal learning curve, or get a WordPress and SEO ecommerce expert to help you with this like Vasso from VaSEO.
  5. Keep your Costs to a Minimum. Please don’t rent fancy offices and buy a Nesspresso until you’ve got at least 100 paying customers (or whatever the amount). Resist the urge to buy the red leather couch and designer carpet before you’ve got sales in the bank. Hire staff who will work part time or try your hand with interns (not for the faint of heart) until you are able to hire full time. Unless you’re lucky enough to get funding, in which case, go wild! Working from home is the cheapest but can be depressing and demotivating. Best thing to do is share an office or rent from a studio like Studio 41 or TheBarn.
  6. Get a Business Mentor. It’s impossible to know everything, and when you’re deep in the trenches you can catch a bad case of navel gazing. Make sure you’ve got someone in your life who has ‘made it’ out there and who is wise, insightful and can serve as a sounding board for your ideas. Selecting a mentor or coach is a very personal thing and you might need to try a few out before you find the right match. Peter Moss is an excellent mentor for established businesses and will help you navigate any challenge be it personal, financial or strategic with diplomacy and wisdom.
  7. Don’t Ignore the Paperwork. Accounting and admin are not my forte! Marketing, sales and advertising I can do with my eyes closed, but don’t ask me to capture slips into a spreadsheet. If you’re anything like me you will need someone to come in and set up your paper systems for you, so let an expert show you how it’s done and then you can decide whether you want to take it over yourself, or carry on letting them do it for you. Try Sheri Cumings from Back Office or get someone in your family or a friend to help set up your systems for you.
  8. Your People are your Brand. As important as your product is your people. Do not neglect them or you will find yourself flying solo just as the storm is about to break. Have weekly one-on-ones with your team, make sure they have targets, job descriptions and performance evaluations. Reward them for a job well done with time off, compliments or financial rewards, depending on their personality and what motivates them. Have a Monday morning status meeting where you go through everything that’s being done and what’s been done, and make sure you attend the morning Scrum sessions so you’re on top of the issues as they’re raised.  If you have energized and dynamic staff, it will rub off on your brand. Anyone who has shopped at Hirsch’s in Milnerton will tell you the same thing, that’s one company who understands this principle and is reaping the reward with customers who are so loyal they refuse to shop elsewhere.
  9. Don’t Partner With Anyone. When you start becoming successful potential partners start climbing out of the woodwork second to none. Resist the urge to partner or give away equity unless that person is bringing in a lot of capital or a lot of business. Also, the only people you can partner with are ones you would be happy to marry. Partnerships are like marriages, so don’t sign anything until you know everything about them, and that includes everything.  Many businesses that fail site poor partnerships as the reason; their partner either ripped them off or didn’t deliver on their end of the bargain. Before inviting anyone in make sure you’ve spoke to a few experts and a few lawyers to get their input. Try Bertram Richards from Kulea Consulting for advice on mergers or partnerships.
  10. Get help with Marketing. ‘If you build it, they will come’ is a line from a movie that a lot of people think is true, however it is rarely the case in my experience. Getting customers to your website takes a lot of time and effort and expertise so why don’t you rope in an expert to help drive traffic (customers) to your website or store. You can’t be expected to be all things to all people, so while you focus on stocking the shelves, they can start filling the sales pipeline with leads or get customers in through the front door.  Don’t neglect your marketing whatever you do. Just having a store or ecommerce website sin’t enough to guarantee sales. Get active on social media like blogging, Twitter, Google+, Facebook and Pinterest at a minimum. Plus try your hand at article writing or write a white paper. You can also chat to me and we’ll go through who you are targeting and whether you price, product and positioning are aligned for maximum uptake plus we can fulfill on your PR, Email, Social Media, Blogging and general go-to-market strategy for you at rates targeted at enrepreneurs.

Being an entrepreneur takes a lot of hard work, but it is the most exciting thing you can do with your life. I encourage every South African to have an idea that they develop on the side, and that way learn about what it takes to take your idea from paper to kah-pow!

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Entrepreneurs Need Certain Traits. Do You Have the Right Kind of Confidence?

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Dylan Kohlstädt is the founder and account director of Shift ONE: outsource marketing for entrepreneurs. She has ten years marketing management experience in insurance, financial and property industries plus six years hands-on experience in online marketing involving web, mobile, SEO, CRM and Social Marketing and is considered a subject matter expert on all things digital. Visit www.shiftonedigital.com for more information.

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Are You Suited to Entrepreneurship

What Real Entrepreneurs Do When They Hear The Word ‘No’

Are you strong enough to push through early struggles?

Jason Saltzman

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In this video, Entrepreneur Network partner Jason Saltzman sits down with two founders to hear their stories of perseverence and resilience.

Raul Tovar is the co-founder of WindowsWear, a fashion tech company based in New York City that archives display windows. He moved from Mexico to New York determined to make something of himself and resolved that he would not go home empty-handed.

Jordan Wan is the founder and CEO of CloserIQ, which builds sales teams for startups. He started his business through tragedy – losing his mother and his marriage in the early stages.

You might think these difficulties – whether moving, or being told their ideas weren’t good enough, or working through tragedy – would be enough to make them give up. But they didn’t. They only spurred them to greater success.

Related: How To Start A Business With (Almost) No Money

Click play to learn more.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Are You Suited to Entrepreneurship

(Podcast) Being An Entrepreneur Is Painful

There is a pain attached to running your own business. It’s time to discuss how tough it is – address the reality and you might just be one of the successful few.

Nicholas Haralambous

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Entrepreneurship is fun. But on the whole, running a business is hard. Far fewer business owners succeed than fail. Statistically your business is going to fail. Those are the hard numbers.

There is a pain attached to running your own business. It’s time to discuss how tough it is – address the reality and you might just be one of the successful few.

Listening time: 5 minutes

Related: (Podcast) Playing To An Audience Of One

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Are You Suited to Entrepreneurship

3 Dangerous Entrepreneurial Myths You Need To Ignore

This terrible advice won’t actually get you anywhere.

Entrepreneur

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Entrepreneurial Myths

We’ve all heard the numbers about how hard it is to build a long-lasting business. While there are many factors at play to get there, without effective marketing and sales a business cannot survive.

Unfortunately, there is a multitude of dangerous and destructive marketing advice swirling around the heads of vulnerable entrepreneurs. Like vultures seeking their next meal, “gurus” pontificate nonsense that these hard-working business owners follow, only to discover that what they tried doesn’t work.

Often, once the damage is done, it is too late for them to do anything else about it.

If you want to not only survive, but thrive, here is some of the terrible advice you need to start ignoring:

1“You need to be everywhere”

I’m sorry, but how do these people sleep at night without the use of narcotics? “Experts” spew out dribble to make headlines saying you need to get on Snapchat, get on Periscope, do YouTube Live … be everywhere! They’ll say you need to get on this platform or that social media network. Oh, and use LinkedIn Live! And make sure to post on Instagram three times a day and Facebook twice a day. And don’t forget those Facebook Lives. Make sure to do them every day.

Related: The Journey Of Entrepreneurship: How The Tough Get Going

ACK! Just writing that paragraph stressed me out. How the heck are you supposed to be on all of those channels, never mind doing it all effectively, and still run your business? Of course you can’t. And you shouldn’t. (Unless self-torture is your thing, in which case have at it. There are books about that, but I’m not giving any titles because I’d have to Google them and then I’d be retargeted by the ads and that would just be gross.)

It is impossible to spend even half an hour on each major network and still get any work done. Forget about focusing on measurement, profit and return on investment. They don’t mention that on purpose, because then these crazy-pants suggestions would really make no sense. But, then these “experts” would stop making the headlines, so they keep serving up spoiled advice for the poor folk who chow down and then get sick on it.

Don’t allow yourself to fall victim to their plots of deception. Demand strategies that value your time and produce results in a significant and measurable way quickly.

2“It takes money to make money”

cash-flow-management

I didn’t take the easy way out. I am part of a group of scrappy entrepreneurs who have a lot of hustle and heart and little/no/negative funds. I didn’t come from family money, and the big banks certainly weren’t lending to businesses like mine.

The only way I was going to get a big pile of cash was if I won the lottery. And since I’ve only played about four times in the last decade, the chances of that happening were slim. What I had to find was the same thing you most likely want – a solution to predictably bring in customers when there is no marketing budget to play with.

3The Schmo-bags

The worst are who I call the “Ferrari Marketers.” They rent a sportscar for an hour or two, hang out in front of it and then sell us shiny object strategies that they haven’t even used in their own business.

Related: 6 Timeless Strategies That Drive Successful Entrepreneurship

They are abhorrent, hideous and dangerous. Not only are they crooks stealing the money of the people who are seeking a solution from them, but they may prevent really talented people who have a gift/service/product/offer to share that can help someone else from ever reaching them.

Did I mention they suck?

But, once you discover a game-changing system, you are responsible for implementing it. You can’t be distracted by shiny objects any longer.

As Jack Welch says, “Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision and relentlessly drive it to completion.”

Don’t allow yourself to be enticed or distracted by fads or the “latest and greatest/not greatest” new social media strategy, channel or tactic.

Once you uncover how to truly get results, be strong-willed and stubborn. Repel any idea, strategy or initiative that requires you to keep spending money to make money. If you keep throwing dollars and time at a goal, hoping and wishing that it will work, yet not tracking or measuring the results and scaling accordingly, then you cannot expect results.

Start measuring, tracking and demanding results from your time and money, rising above others and landing in the successful minority that thrives instead of survives.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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