When I started my company eight years ago, back when I was a student, I had no idea of the learning curve I would face before I might actually make it.
Today, as I continue to run my firm as well as speak to and advise other startups, I continually go back to some of the lessons I learned through direct experience (many times, the hard way) and through helping other companies avoid the same mistakes.
From all the years I’ve been an entrepreneur, a few of those lessons stand out as defining moments in my career.
They also represent moments in the trenches when I had to make a significant change, to either my business infrastructure or my personal mindset, in order to advance to the next stage in my company’s growth.
Related: 4 Types Of Business Models
Here are 10 of those lessons from my personal experience:
1. If you don’t start delegating as soon as your budget allows it, you will burn out fast
One of the most important lessons for me as a founder was that you need to spend as much time as possible, as soon as possible, in building teams.
You may be able to last a year or so as a one-man show. But if you’re seriously growing your business, you will not be able to wear all of those hats on your own. You can only hoard your cash and keep your overhead low for so long. Start reinvesting into team building and the dividends will multiply.
2. Shoot for goals that are 10 times bigger, and actually believe in them
A lot of times, it takes just as much effort to close a small deal as a big one. The only barrier is your own thinking. Further, if you build your business plan around a goal that’s ten times larger, and take that much more action, it’s a lot more likely that you will hit and surpass your original goal anyway.
3. Do the stuff you don’t want to do
In almost every case, the stuff that you least want to do is the stuff that is most important to do. I learned very early on that I needed to suck it up and do those boring/hard/not-fun tasks if I was ever going to move the needle.
Even when you delegate what you’re weak at, you still end up with something on your to-do list you don’t want to do. This is what separates the best from the rest.
Related: How To Create Founding Documents
4. There are some things you shouldn’t do
I spent a lot of time in the beginning doing tasks that I shouldn’t have been doing simply because I tend to be a taskmaster and perfectionist.
Now, each morning, I review my to-do list; and if there is something there that ultimately isn’t necessary and consequential, I either delegate it or eliminate it altogether. Focus on the top two-to-three areas where you can make the most impact on your business.
5. Watch out for information overload
I love to read, and I read a book per week. But I’ve also learned to be careful about overloading myself with too much information.
There are a thousand books about everything out there. Find a few really high-quality sources of information that serve you and drill down on them. Read them over and over and immerse yourself in them.
Implement what you learn and then move on to your next source. Don’t get lost in the bog of information out there to the point that it keeps you from taking action.
6. Know your ‘why’
You’ve got to know why you’re doing this, and it can’t just be money. There needs to be a reason beyond financial goals that pushes you to get up and do this every day.
Building a company is hard, and lots of obstacles will make you want to give up. You need to have a reason for hanging in there that is much bigger than the problems you are going to face every day.
Related: 10 Business Ideas Ready To Launch!
7. Recognise that many wins were originally far-fetched ideas
Oftentimes, the idea that you think is least likely to work or is too far-fetched is the idea that becomes your next home run. Whether it’s that potential client that you are unsure about contacting because he or she is out of your league, or that marketing campaign you never thought could work, just do it (while managing your downside) and let results dictate what’s a good idea or not.
8. Measure everything
The only way to improve anything is to measure it every single day. Why? Measurement brings clarity and awareness.
9. You need only one service/product
When you are a fledgling company (and especially if you’re an agency), don’t waste time, money and effort trying to offer 20 different services. Sell one service and become the best at it. Down the road, an expansion will be much easier when you have the cash.
10. Keep in touch with everybody
Always look at every contact as a relationship, and not just a transaction. Keep in touch with as many contacts as possible on a regular basis. Send personal notes, articles you think they’ll enjoy (such as this one!) and holiday greetings. Relationships are critical to long-term success.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
6 Resources For Start-ups Looking For Funding
Here are 6 online resources that can help you pay the bills and grow your business at the same time.
Anyone who has ever considered starting their own business, or is currently in the process of doing so, knows that every little bit helps when it comes to making ends meet. Part of the charm of start-up culture is the low-budget creative atmosphere that seems to continually fuel innovation. But, eventually you’re going to have to keep the lights on and water running, and you can’t do that with creativity alone.
Whether you are a business that is just starting out, or already well on your way, there are plenty of online platforms that offer start-ups advice and funding opportunities. Here are 6 online resources that can help you pay the bills and grow your business at the same time.
At one point it seemed that anyone with a clever idea could make a video showing why the world should invest in the next big thing. While a lot of crazy projects have gotten funded over the years, utilising a crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter continues to be a viable way to get your project off the ground. Of course, if you want to reach your funding goals, it’s best that you have already done your market research, have a solid plan, and treat crowdfunding like a global VC.
Visit Kickstarter here.
Those who are new to the start-up world might not know exactly where to start when it comes to looking for funding. While the freelance economy has grown immensely in the last 5 years, it’s important to know where to look.
Platforms like Toptal offer a wide range of freelance professionals that specialise start-up funding. Start-ups seeking a consultant on Toptal can also rest easy knowing that they carefully screen each candidate, ensuring they have the necessary professional background and experience to guarantee a successful project.
Visit Toptal here.
If you couldn’t already tell by the name, appbacker is definitely worth checking out if you are a start-up working in app technology for both Android and Iphone. The platform helps people discover different apps through the crowdsourcing model. Investors can scroll through apps from around the world, and if they like what they see, they can choose to invest. Funding incentive is based on an investor’s ability to purchase an app at the wholesale price, eventually making a profit once the app starts flying off the shelves in the official app store.
Visit Appbackr here.
Investors are more likely to invest locally, which is why Gust is an attractive option for start-ups around the world, as they represent over eighty countries worldwide. Founded by a team of investors and lawyers, Gust knows their way around the start-up world.
With portals for both start-ups and investors, the platform seamlessly connects those seeking funds and those looking to invest. Start-ups can create a profile on Gust, and also have access to tools and tips to help them regulate finances and legal matters.
Visit Gust here.
Not just for investment, although that is a major part of the platform, AngelList is also a great place to find start-up jobs as well as recruitment. Those start-ups that are looking to expand can greatly benefit from this feature, while also getting their name out there to potential investors.
Their syndicate platform, led by technology experts make room for those who are looking to invest the chance to apply to a lead or directly invest in a fund.
Visit AngelList here.
From top corporations to big name accelerators, Seedrs aims to simplify the funding process for investors. Providing a vast network of investors from 48 different countries, who tap into an additionally impressive network of start-ups, there is plenty of room for collaboration on this platform. Seeders also encourages investors and start-ups to continue their relationship after the transaction is made. Their online and offline networks aim keep both start-ups and investors in the loop.
Depending at what stage of development your company has currently reached, exploring various funding options available to you is a worthwhile endeavour. Rather than blindly pitching investors, investigating each potential platform, whether it’s crowdfunding or a hiring a freelance funding expert, will save you time and resources so you can focus on the right type of investment based on your needs.
Visit Seedrs here.
Picking Your Lane: Maximising Your Chances Of Success And Happiness
How do you choose? What do you prioritise? What’s right for me is almost certainly not right for you.
Most entrepreneurs start businesses out of necessity. They do what they have to. They don’t think far ahead. They fight fires every day. They are the foundation of every economy all over the world. Some succeed, some fail, few shoot the lights out. Some are happy, some are not.
For me, there’s nothing more thrilling than building a business. Seeing your ideas turn into reality. Seeing your team exceed your expectations every day. Seeing your customers’ lives improved by your products.
But, entrepreneurship is not for the faint-hearted. You pour blood and sweat and tears into your business. You get more than your fair share of punches in the nose. It’s hard, but if you’re lucky and you persevere, the rewards are great.
So, how do you maximise your chances of getting into the ‘happy and shooting the lights out’ club?
Picking the right lane – figuring out what you’re going to do – is probably the most important decision you’ll make. Once you’ve figured that out, you can get down to the nitty gritty of picking your team and building your business.
But, how do you choose? What do you prioritise? What’s right for me is almost certainly not right for you.
The Sweet Spot Model, which has been drifting around the web for years, provides great guidance. If you do what you love, the hard yards won’t feel like work. If you do what you’re good at, you’ll beat or (even better) outstrip the competition. If you provide something the world needs, you’ll feel a sense of purpose. If someone will pay for it, you have a business.
When I co-founded Simply, I wanted to tick all 4 boxes AND work from Cape Town AND be extremely flexible (so I could prioritise family health).
I worked on three different ideas: A GIS-platform for solar and other utilities; a transaction platform for stokvels; and a cheeky online life insurance play.
The life insurance play quickly emerged as my best choice (it helped that my partners are top actuaries J):
- What I’m good at – doing start-ups, connecting people and teams, and using technology and data to solve business problems.
- What I love – working with people I like and trust to build businesses that solve hard problems and make the world a better place.
- What the world needs – most adult South Africans have one or more funeral policies. Few have life or disability cover and policies are often very expensive. There’s a clear need for simple, convenient, well-priced life, disability and funeral cover.
- What someone will pay for – the market we’re targeting is huge – nearly R7.5Bn of new premium is written annually.
With the stars lining up, we pressed the go button in early 2016. It’s now twelve months since we launched to market and early signs are good:
- Our innovative, online products – Family Cover, Domestic Cover and Group Cover – have been well received and are improving all the time.
- We have an amazing, engaged team – inspired by the purpose of protecting vulnerable people.
- We’ve sold more than 4 500 policies to date, providing more than R2.5Bn of cover to more than 20,000 people.
- We’re based in Cape Town, working hard and having fun, and I seldom miss a swimming gala, netball game or opportunity to go mountain biking.
While picking the right lane is no guarantee of success, it definitely helps stack the odds in your favour. You’re going to need all the help you can get. So, take the time to pick your lane. I bet it’ll be worth the effort.
9 Quotes Every Entrepreneur Should Live By
Entrepreneurship takes great perseverance. Failure is common. In fact, it is expected. Over 75% of venture-backed start-ups fail.
Entrepreneurship takes great perseverance. Failure is common. In fact, it is expected. Over 75% of venture-backed start-ups fail.
There are great learning opportunities that present themselves when we fail, but we must be willing to continue on and try again in order to learn anything at all.
It can be quite an arduous task to strive for your own means, to create your own vision and to rally the support within yourself that starting and running your own business requires.
Thankfully, we’re not in it alone. The wisdom of others can greatly ameliorate the process learning from our missteps and hiccups.
Taking from sagacious investors, inventors and thinkers can help you pick yourself up and make something meaningful out of your quest to become a successful entrepreneur.
By studying the thought processes of other entrepreneurs, we can become more enriched and more aware of how to approach the challenges we face in business and in life.
Here are 9 quotes every entrepreneur should live by:
- 3 Internet-Based Businesses You Can Start In 2018
- Founder of Five-Star Wes Boshoff Weighs In On Becoming An Entrepreneur
- 5 Thoughts To Give You The Courage To Make Change
- Develop Digital Marketing Competency In 3 Simple Steps
- How To Build Organisational Wealth Through Increased Efficiency
- The Workspace And MiWay Announce Entrepreneur Competition
- Successful People Always Chase the Impossible – Here’s Why
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