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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
12 Entrepreneurial Traits That Will Tempt You To Quit Your Job Immediately
Unhappy in your job? It’s possible you’re an entrepreneur.
You’re sitting at your desk one day, and a light bulb goes off for a business idea. After a couple of days spent contemplating the idea, you decide it’s not worth pursuing.
While the idea might not have been as great as you initially thought, the reality might be that you’re uncertain if you are cut out to be your own boss. After all, starting and running a business isn’t for the faint of heart.
You may actually have what it takes to be an entrepreneur but you have been focused on providing for your family or just need a little spark to ignite that fire. If you’ve been on the fence about entrepreneurship, see if you have the following traits.
1. Your “business mind” began spinning at a young age
Think back to when you were young. Were you the type of kid who was making money with a side gig? That’s one of the most common denominators linking successful entrepreneurs.
For example, Daymond John created customised pencils for girls in his first-grade class. Mark Cuban sold trash bags in his neighbourhood as a 12-year-old. Richard Branson bred and sold parakeets. Juliette Brindak designed a website at age 16 that went on to be worth $30 million.
Simply put, the gears of an entrepreneur’s “business mind” start spinning at an early age. If you’ve always been looking for ways to make money, you’ve probably been an entrepreneur your whole life – you just didn’t realise it.
2. You’re a self-starter
Entrepreneurs are known for carving their own paths. They don’t follow others, wait for permission or let distractions get in their way.
Reflect on your life. Did you start an organisation in college? Have you volunteered for a local charity? When there’s a project to complete at work, have you been the person to take the reins and rally the troops?
These are signs that you have a get-it-done personality, which is essential to making your vision a reality. This is a very good sign you’re an entrepreneur.
3. You think like MacGyver
Back in the ’80s, there was an amazing TV show called “MacGyver“ – there’s a reimagined version currently on-air. The series was about Angus “Mac” MacGyver, who was a troubleshooter with unconventional problem-solving skills. One time, he made a hot-air balloon out of a soccer ball, kerosene, newspapers and cotton.
Entrepreneurs are also troubleshooters who develop innovative and out-of-the-box ideas to solve problems. They are resourceful and think quickly on their feet.
4. Losing gets you fired up
No one likes to lose. But there’s a big difference between entrepreneurs and everyone else – they’re motivated by setbacks.
They don’t make excuses, complain or give up. Instead, they use setbacks as motivation. Take Gary Vaynerchuk, for example. He loves losing. It sounds a bit out there. But, as he explains, “I’m obsessed with losing.” The reason? “I love losing, because I know what you’re thinking about my loss, and I can’t wait to stick it in your face when I come back.”
5. You’re driven by passion
Passion: It drives us to take risks and pursue our dreams. For entrepreneurs, this also means focusing only on the goals they’re passionate about. It encourages them to see those goals through – regardless of distractions or hurdles.
If you’re the type of person who works out when you’re in pain or completes a project at your current gig before the deadline, you’re driven by passion.
6. You are easily bored
Do you find yourself easily bored? Some people might think that’s a problem. There’s nothing wrong with being bored with activities that don’t use your abilities or aren’t challenging.
That’s why throughout school, you couldn’t stand most of the classes you attended. They either weren’t difficult enough or you just couldn’t sustain any interest – you knew you wouldn’t be using the information presented to you.
7. You’re able to delay gratification
Few successful entrepreneurs experienced overnight success. The reality is that it may take years, if not decades, for entrepreneurs to develop and launch a business. Even after they start their business, it takes a decent amount of time to start turning a profit. It takes many around three years, but this can vary.
Because of this, entrepreneurs must be patient and willing to delay gratification. At the same time, they can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
8. At work, you’re a super connector; at home, you’re a loner
When you’re at work, are you a rock star? This means you excel at your job, and people flock to you. When you get home, are you more of a loner?
That’s not exactly shocking. Entrepreneurs place a huge emphasis on their work. Even bigger on having productive habits at work. It’s their priority – even at the expense of close personal relationships.
Richard Branson has said that “Business is all about personal contact. No matter how heavy your workload is, do not allow yourself to work in your cubicle or office all day, every day – for your own well-being and the health of your business, you need to get out and about, meeting people and developing relationships.”
9. You can spot trends
When entrepreneurs are out and about, they’re taking stock of what’s going on around them. It’s not some strange safety precaution. It’s because they’re looking for trends and analysing what customers are demanding.
Take Beanie Babies, for example. The craze started when a community in the Chicago suburbs started trading the stuffed animals. After it went national, Peggy Gallagher noticed it hadn’t reached Germany. Gallagher contacted a distributor in Germany and placed an order for $2 000. She brought the box of hard-to-find stuffed animals back to the States and made an impressive $300 000.
10. You go big or go home
“We’re often told not to ‘bet the house’ on anything,” writes Lauren Elmore, president of Firmatek. “It’s generally good advice. But the best business advice I’ve received is actually the opposite: Bet the house on it.”
“Betting the house is the best piece of advice I’ve received because it’s not a singular thing to do,” explains Elmore. “It’s a way of life and a mentality that promotes taking risks and giving everything you have to make it work.”
Of course, just because you go all-in doesn’t mean you do so carelessly. Entrepreneurs minimise risks by surrounding themselves with the right people, being resilient and addressing their fears to let them go.
11. You’ve had a history of losing jobs
Have you bounced from job to job because you got fired? Don’t be embarrassed. You’re just too creative, driven and self-motivated to work for someone else.
I’d even say you may be a bit selfish – why should someone else reap the benefits of your hard work and talent?
12. You’re never satisfied
In school, did you best your classmates in academics or sports, but still feel disappointed? Do you have more sales than your colleagues, but it’s still not enough?
You’re constantly striving for more because you realise victories are short-lived. That’s why you see a lot of entrepreneurs start a thriving business and move on to another – they want to tackle new challenges and setbacks.
You may not have made the entrepreneurial leap yet, but if these 12 traits sound familiar, it’s more likely a matter of “when,” not “if.”
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Want To Get That Side Hustle You’ve Been Dreaming Of Off The Ground This Year?
Stop dreaming. Carve out 30 minutes a night after the kids are in bed, and start putting together something tangible.
Want to make extra income? Who doesn’t? That’s why so many people in recent years have been taking their talents and skills and turning them into a side hustle. In fact, according to a recent survey from Bankrate, nearly four in 10 Americans polled (37 percent) said they have a side hustle.
Unfortunately, though, a lot of people get stuck in the “dreaming” stage. They sit around brainstorming ideas and dreaming of the day they have a successful side hustle that brings them joy and money but never actually get started. Well, scratch that: This is the year to turn it all around.
And to do that, and get one step (or multiple steps) closer to turning your side gig idea into an actual money-maker, check out these five tips for how to get your side hustle off the ground this year.
1. Change your mindset
A lot of people never get their side hustle off the ground because they have the wrong mindset. I know it seems simple, but believing in yourself and thinking of yourself as a business owner and not just a hobbyist will make all of the difference when it comes to starting a successful side hustle.
Even if you’re nowhere near to being a successful business owner yet, act like one. In fact, the “fake it until you make it” strategy actually works. According to a study in Psychology Today, people gain influence by acting dominant and confident. This strategy has the ability to convince people you’re serious about your side hustle and can win you customers, too.
2. Create an agenda
You can’t expect your side hustle to take flight on its own; you’ve got to put in the hours to get it off the ground. I know it’s hard to feel motivated to do that when you’ve already got a full-time job and a ton of other responsibilities, but you’ve got to set time aside.
Luckily though, you don’t have to fear burning out to get it done: Chris Guillebeau, founder of the Side Hustle School and author of Side Hustle: From Idea to Income in 27 Days, says that you can develop a successful side hustle by carving out just 20 to 30 minutes of your day. If you’re a parent, you might choose 30 minutes each evening after the kids are in bed; or you could even use your lunch break at work.
Whatever time you choose, put it in your calendar, set an alarm for it, stick to it and don’t let anyone drag you away from it.
3. Join a community
Sometimes we all need a little bit of inspiration to give us the push we need and some good solid advice to help us improve. That’s why you should join an online community for side hustlers. Joining with like-minded people can help you build a support system of buddies who have been where you are now and can provide a wealth of information to get your side hustle going.
There are tons of such groups onlines. Simply search for them on Facebook and LinkedIn and you’ll discover numerous groups for every niche. Ask questions, bounce ideas off other members, learn from others’ mistakes and get inspired by stories of success. All of this community interaction will push you in the right direction.
4. Build a tangible brand
Branding is the personality that identifies a company to its customers. Even if your business is only part-time, you still need to build a brand in order to attract customers and present yourself as a professional business. This means creating a logo, coming up with a tagline and developing a theme for your website, including a colour scheme and personality. All of this will work together to show your target audience who you are as a business.
If you’re thinking that all of that sounds expensive, don’t worry. For side hustlers who are strapped for cash, there are a number of ways to create a stunning brand while still saving your pennies. If you set up your website with WordPress, for example, you’ll find many free and affordable website themes to help you build a brand with just the click of a button. You can also use a free tool like Canva to create a gorgeous logo, business cards, flyers and more for your side hustle venture.
5. Start marketing your side hustle
The final step to getting your side hustle off the ground is to start putting yourself out there. So, whatever you do, don’t keep your side hustle a secret! Start telling all your friends, family and neighbours about your side hustle. One of them could become your first client or customer or could recommend you to someone he or she knows.
Next, get online and start marketing your side hustle on social media. Social media platforms like Pinterest and Instagram are particularly great for marketing product-based side hustles. Other free ways to market your side hustle online include joining forums like Quora, blogging and building an email list and cold-emailing potential clients to offer your services.
Over to you
Don’t sit around again this year wondering if your side hustle has what it takes to make money. Get out there and make it happen. With the new tips you’ve learned, this year will finally be the year you hit the ground running.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
7 Skills Every Entrepreneur Should Adopt Today
There are certain skills that any entrepreneur can adopt to help build a business and shape their future.
The road taken by the entrepreneur used to be the one least travelled. The one where only the bold dared to tread and few understood the risk or benefitted from the reward. Today, the road may be one travelled by many but it still comes with challenges and obstacles that can trip up the unwary. The best way to thrive, is to learn from other entrepreneurs, using their learnings and mistakes to sidestep the challenges and embrace the opportunities.
Here are seven skills that any entrepreneur can apply to their journey today:
1. A vision
Know exactly what you want. Have a clear idea of your end goal. Write it down, verbalise it, embrace it. This is how you know exactly where your steps will take you. Your vision is what defines the strategic goals of your company and what helps you create a business plan that will get you where you want to go.
2. Ask questions
Question yourself, your plans, your strategy, your business plans and your decisions. This is a critical skill that will ensure that you are constantly driving yourself to be better tomorrow than you are today. By challenging yourself at every turn you will refine your vision and ensure you are always on the right path.
3. Passion and energy
Nobody else is going to be passionate about your business. Nobody else has the energy to take it where it has to go. It is entirely up to you. This may sound extreme, but without these two key qualities you will battle to take your business through the complexities that lie ahead and onwards into long-term success.
4. A work ethic
Like passion and energy, a work ethic is critical. This is your business and your vision so you need to put in the hours. And there are a lot of hours.
If you’re not prepared for the weekends, late nights and unexpected holiday disruptions, then you may not be ready for the demands of being an entrepreneur.
5. Create opportunity
While you may be the vision, the passion and the workhorse of your business, it is important to remember that your company can only go so far with only one person behind the wheel. Learn how to build a team and focus your energy on building something bigger than yourself. Your drive should not be just about building a successful business, but creating opportunities for others.
Throughout your journey you will need to share your vision, ideals and business plans with your employees and your executives. They have to buy into what you are planning, to be fully engaged with the work that they do. This means you have to learn how to communicate clearly and create a transparent culture so people feel part of something and committed to what it represents.
Ultimately, you want your business to grow and this means mastering the art of selling. Regardless of your business proposition, it is likely you need customers to buy into your product or service. So, learn how to sell. A large part of this magic formula is made up of the passion, energy and work ethic you’ve already mastered, the rest is all about relationships, communication and hooking the clients.
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