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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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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

(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”

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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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Are You Suited to Entrepreneurship

5 Mindset Changes You Must Make When Going From Employee To Entrepreneur

As one prominent author wrote, “Entrepreneurs don’t finish when we are tired. We finish when we are done.”

Sujan Patel

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Thousands of people dream of the day they can quit their jobs and escape the 9-to-5 life. In fact, Gallup found that 87 percent of the employees it surveyed worldwide did not see themselves as engaged.

But quitting your job and starting your own business is only half the battle. You need to prepare to be an entrepreneur. Besides getting your finances in order and having a plan in place, you also need to prepare your mind.

Your habits dictate your success, and if you’re still stuck in that 9-to-5 mindset, your endeavors will fail. You must adopt an entrepreneurial mindset and start thinking the way the world’s top leaders do.

Being an entrepreneur is very different than being an employee, and the way you envision it may be completely off base. Here are five changes you must make to your thinking in order to prepare yourself for the realities of being an entrepreneur.

1Train your mind to think outside the box

Once you leave your office job, you’re no longer confined by corporate life. That means you need to open your mind to new possibilities – possibilities that may not have been an option in your old life.

Related: For Shatty Mashego Success Lies In Maintaining A Positive Mindset

In an article for TIME magazineWarren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, said, “People will always try to stop you doing the right thing if it is unconventional.” In short, others may not see your vision, but you can’t let that stop you. You need to be creative with your business, offer something new and be different to be successful.

2Develop both short-term and long-term vision

Albert Einstein once told the New York Times, “A new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move toward higher levels.”

That new type of thinking needs to be focused on a strategic goal. You must have a vision for your company – an idea of where you’re going and how you’ll get there.

As an entrepreneur, you are the leader of your company, and your team members are looking to you to show them the path to success.

What’s your plan? You should be able to see the big picture as well as all of the steps it will take to reach your main goal. Then, you must communicate that vision to those on your team and ensure they each understand their individual roles in the plan.

3Let it all fall on your shoulders

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Becoming an entrepreneur can be scary. Your success is now completely dependent on the work that you do. You can no longer fall back on a salary or benefits.

As an employee, if you had a bad day at work, you were still paid your salary, regardless. But as an entrepreneur, if your business isn’t successful, you won’t make any money. Plus, you now have others relying on you for their livelihood.

Ryan Farley is a typical example of corporate employee-turned-entrepreneur, quitting a fast-paced finance job to start lawn care marketplace LawnStarter Lawn Care. “I was used to working extremely long hours in the corporate finance world,” Farley told me. “I thought that would have conditioned me well, but nothing can prepare you for this amount of stress.

“It’s pretty common for founders to have the stress get so bad it affects your physical and mental health,” Farley continued. “But you have to press on, and you’re better off for it.” Prominent entrepreneurs like Brad Feld and Mark Suster, have expressed similar sentiments.

Working for yourself also means you need to be your own motivator. You no longer have a boss hounding you to get your work done. You need to stay organised and focused, and you’re going to have to be comfortable with hard work and long hours.

Related: 8 Mindsets That Will Set You On The Path To Success

4Get ready to be a jack of all trades

As an entrepreneur, you can’t say “That’s not my job.” Every job is your job now. There’s no one else to pick up the slack but you. You need to make sure everything in your business continues to run on track, and that may mean doing work you aren’t used to doing. You may need to be the accounting department, IT, marketing and more in addition to leading your company.

Entrepreneurs wear many different hats and are constantly learning new skills and working hard. If you think becoming an entrepreneur means you get to sit back and kick your feet up, you’d better stick to your day job.

As entrepreneur, author and investor Robert Kiyosaki has written on Twitter, “Entrepreneurs don’t finish when we are tired. We finish when we are done.”

5Be flexible, focused and positive

Attitude is everything in business. You can’t let challenges get in the way of your dream. Entrepreneurs need to be optimistic and stay focused on their goals. Your passion must drive you.

Related: An Entrepreneurial Mindset – Why And How To Develop One

As Steve Jobs once said in an interview with the Smithsonian Institution, “Unless you have a lot of passion about this, you’re not going to survive. You’re going to give it up. So, you’ve got to have an idea, or a problem or a wrong that you want to right that you’re passionate about; otherwise you’re not going to have the perseverance to stick it through. I think that’s half the battle right there.”

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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