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Start-up Advice

16 Tips For Upcoming Self-Made Entrepreneurs

Whatever your hustle is, I salute you.

Andrew Medal

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If your dad gave you a loan of a million bucks, you went to a private school on mommy or daddy’s dime and are “building a business” now, or you grew your parent’s wine business from $3 million to 60 million (although you’re a smart dude, Gary Vaynerchuk, you don’t know what it’s like to be so broke that you save your Top Ramen seasoning packets “just in case”), do not read this column. Also, stop reading if you’ve written something about “Greatness,” unless, of course, you’re one of the Michaels (sleeping on a sister’s couch isn’t really that rough).

Alright, are my real entrepreneurs in the house now? Good.

I recently read that Top Ramen is the new currency in prison. Spoiler alert: It has been the currency since the beginning of prison, because they’re are hungry and broke. Top Ramen is cheap. Guess what? It’s not just currency in the joint, it’s currency on the streets – in the real entrepreneurial circles where that same hunger lives. I know, because I’ve lived it.

Building a business is hard.

Especially if you’re self-made. That means you either somehow figured out how to bootstrap your way to profits, held a job while building a business or created something valuable enough to bring on investors, all which are worthy and difficult feats.

So, anyone out there, staying up to 3 a.m. to get that website finished with your business partner, borrowing money from friends just to eat and pay rent or grinding every day just to get that next client, or whatever your hustle is, I salute you.

Related: The First Step In Creating A Successful Start-Up

Some thoughts:

1. Cash is king

Figure out how to preserve all cash flow, especially early on. Get payment extensions on bills if need be.

2. Keep company

Don’t go at it alone. Find a partner or two. Worst case, be around other entrepreneurs somehow.

3. Validate or invalidate

Test before you invest. Figure out how to validate, and even better, invalidate your idea before you sink a bunch of time and energy into it. Check out the Lean Startup for more on this. It’s still relevant.

Related: 11 Uniquely South African Business Ideas

4. Work hard, but disconnect

Whatever it is that you enjoy, from working out, painting, dance class to photography, get outside and do something new.

Don’t get sucked into constantly working.

famous-media

5. Forget the media BS

Three percent of companies get that high-level media hype. Don’t pay attention to it.

6. But get media

Look around. The big media outlets have all shifted models. Most of them have become contributor-driven outlets. Contribute to get the niche exposure you’re looking for (but don’t pitch me, unless it’s something real good).

7. Treat yourself

Did you get a new client? Finish a new project? Launch a new site? Go treat yourself. Get sushi. Buy a new pair of Chuck’s. Do something to treat yourself and you’ll create a craving in the habit cycle (habit → cue → craving → reward). You’ll then subconsciously want to earn more.

Related: 4 Types Of Business Models

8. Get organised

It’s 2016 and you can speak into your phone to set reminders, use AI to set your meetings online and have 10 billion apps and products to keep you organised. No excuses.

9. Create content

What do Snoop Dogg, The Fat Jewish, Martha Stewart and Jerry Seinfeld have in common? They create content. That content helps them get massive exposure. That massive exposure helps them achieve their continued success.

10. Help others and give back

Whatever that means to you, do it. It makes your journey more impactful. We need more selfless millionaires and multimillionaires.

One of my passions is volunteering with The Last Mile, where I teach inmates how to programme. Another is teaching underserved youth how to be entrepreneurs through my nonprofit.

11. Cold email everyone

The most influential people and opportunities in my life have come from reaching out to people. Do it. Use email hunter.

12. Trade money to learn

It’s the best investment you’ll ever make, and the end result will be more money. The moment you go for the money, you’ll plateau. Choosing learning will continue to increase you to new heights of earning. It’s an awesome formula.

13. Read every night

I don’t care if it’s the latest issue of Wired. Read. The act of reading makes you smarter, helps keep your mind sharp, spurs creativity and allows you to disconnect.

14. Leverage the compounding effect

Whatever you do will compound. It’s a simple law.

Related: 6 Of The Most Profitable Small Businesses In South Africa

15. Build your brand

Early on in my career, I was taught that your personal brand is the only constant you have as an entrepreneur. Build your website, show off your projects, link up your social media accounts, promote your content through Medium and LinkedIn and automate your posts to Twitter and Facebook.

Check out the new site I made for myself. Bonus: Unapologetically plug yourself whenever it makes sense.

16. Carry an idea book

The greatest minds, from Edison, Franklin, Einstein, Da Vinci to Gates, have done it. We have between 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts per day. An idea can escape as quickly as it surfaces. Carry your book everywhere. The world has endless inspiration.

Just remember: We are the future. Keep building. Focus on the vision, and circumstances won’t seem so hard, keep that hustle hydrated, and do cool shit. The money always comes if you put in the work. Do good, give back and keep evolving. You’re a self-made entrepreneur, and there’s no greater feat.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

Andrew Medal is the founder and CEO of creative agency Agent Beta, which fuses together clever and creative design with advanced technology to help companies and brands thrive. He recently published his first book, Hacking the Valley. Follow his personal blog at AndrewMedal.com where you'll find life advice, inspiration and entertainment.

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Start-up Advice

Put On Your Wellies: It’s Time To Wade Into Risk

Entrepreneurs aren’t all leaping into the unknown like lemmings off a cliff, but they do need to consider it…

Chris Ogden

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You’ve had a great idea. You’ve looked into its development. You’ve recognised that it has potential beyond just what Auntie Mabel and Mike From The Grocer think. And you’ve clearly nailed a pain point that can make money. Now it is time to take the risk of running with it.

Every big idea comes with risk. You can’t step out into the world of entrepreneurial thinking and business development without it. Your idea may fail. It will also be time consuming, demanding, hungry for money, and hard work. It is unrealistic to expect that your project will leap out into the world and be an unmitigated success.

It is also unrealistic to assume that it isn’t worth taking this risk.

There are steps that you can follow to ensure that your risk is managed so you aren’t blindly leaping off that cliff…

Step 01: Do your research

No, canvassing your neighbours, friends and family is not doing research. You need to know that your idea will appeal to a broad market and that it will have significant legs. This may sound like daft advice, but you would be surprised how many people think an idea will take off just because Susan in Accounting said so.

Step 02: Understand the costs

Projects are hungry for money and investment. Realistically work out your budgets and how much it will cost to take your project off the ground and then stick to it.

A calculated risk is a far better bet than one that shoots from the hip and hopes for the best. You can also use this as an opportunity to draw a clear line under where you will stop investing and end the project. If it keeps eating money and isn’t getting anywhere with results you need to be able to walk away.

Step 03: Know when to walk away

As mentioned before, this can be defined by a line you’ve drawn in the proverbial sand (and budget) but no matter where you draw this line, you have to stick to it. Often, when time, money and energy have been poured into a project it can be incredibly hard to walk away.

You think ‘but I have put so much into this, just one more’ and then it gets to a point where the ‘just one more’ has taken you so far down the line that walking away feels impossible. Leave. Learn the lessons. Apply them to your next project.

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Start-up Advice

Mind The Gap

The entrepreneur’s guide to finding the gaps and building the right solutions.

Chris Ogden

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Innovation may very well be the key to business success but finding the gap into which your innovative thinking can fit is often a lot harder than people realise. Some may be struck by inspiration in the shower, others by that moment of blinding insight in a meeting, however, for most people finding that big idea isn’t that simple. They want to be an entrepreneur and start their own high-growth business, but they need some ideas on how to find that big idea.

Here are five…

1. Network

It sounds trite but networking is actually an excellent way of picking up on patterns and trends in conversation and business problems. The trick is to note them down and pay attention. Soon, you will find patterns emerging and ideas forming.

2. Look for pain

Just as networking can reveal trends in the market, so can spending time reading. The latter will also help you find common business pain points. These are the touchpoints that frustrate people, annoy business owners, affect productivity, or impact employee engagement.

Be the Panado that fixes these pains.

3. Luck

luck

This is probably the most annoying of the ideas, but it is unfortunately (or fortunately) very true. Luck does play a role in helping you capture that big idea. However, luck isn’t just standing around and random people offering you opportunities. Luck is found at networking events, it is found in research and it is found in conversations with other entrepreneurs.

4. Luck needs courage

You may have found the big idea through your network, a pain point or pure blind luck, but if you don’t have the courage to take it and run with it, you will lose it to someone else.

Being bold in business is highly underrated because most people assume that everyone is bold and prepared to take big leaps into the unknown. However, not all brilliant entrepreneurs were ready to throw their family funds to the wind and leap into an idea – they were courageous enough to figure out a way of harnessing their ideas realistically.

5. Pay attention

This is probably one of the most vital ways of finding a gap in the market. Often, people are so busy that they don’t really pay attention to that niggling issue that always bothers them on a commute, or in a mall, or at a meeting. This niggling issue could very well be the next big business opportunity. Pay attention to it and find out if that issue can be solved with your innovative thinking.

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Start-up Advice

5 Things To Know About Your “Toddler” Business

As you navigate this new toddler phase of your business, here are five things to bear in mind.

Catherine Black

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Ah, toddlers. Those irresistible bundles of joy bring a huge amount of energy, curiosity and fun to any family – but there’s also frustration and worry that comes with their unpredictability, as they grow and start to become more independent. If you own a business and it’s successfully past its “infancy” of the first year or so, it’s likely it will also go through a toddler stage of its lifecycle.

Pete Hammond, founder of luxury safari company SafariScapes, agrees with this. “Our business is now three and a half years old, and we’ve found that we’re not yet big enough to justify employing a large team of people to handle the day-to-day admin tasks, yet we still need to grow the business as well,” he says. “As a result, our main challenge is finding the time to step back and see the bigger picture. Kind of like when you are raising a busy toddler and you spend most of your time running after them!”

As you navigate this new toddler phase of your business, here are five things to bear in mind:

1. This too shall pass

Everything in life is temporary – and that goes for both the good and the bad. It’s as helpful to remember this when you’re facing the might of a toddler temper tantrum, as it is when you’re facing throws of uncertainty in your business. If your new(ish) venture is going through a rough patch in its first few years, it can be easy to think about giving up – but don’t. As long as you have an overall big idea that you believe can add value to your customers, keep pushing through the rough parts until you come out the other side.

2. Appreciate what this phase brings

The toddler years mean that the initial newborn joy is officially behind you. But these small humans also bring their own kinds of joy, as you watch them learn new skills, say funny things, and give affection back to you. While your two-year-old business may not hold the same exhilaration for you as it did during those first few months, there are now different things to appreciate about it: Maybe you’re expanding your product range, or employing new people who can take the workload off you.

3. Establish boundaries

Toddlers thrive on boundary and routine – and your toddler business will too. As it grows into a new phase, try and establish limits in terms of the type of clients you want to work with and the type of work you’ll do. It’s also a good idea to make a decision about the hours you’ll work and when you’ll switch off, which will help you establish a good work-life balance.

4. Take a break

Every parent with a toddler needs a break every now and then, even if that means a walk around the block (on your own!), a dinner out with friends, or even a few days away. The same is true for a demanding small business: every so often, remember to take time out to rest properly, where you switch off your laptop and completely unplug. You’ll return much more inspired and resilient to deal with the everyday uncertainty that it brings.

5. Give it space to make mistakes

While the unpredictability of a young business can be stressful and tiring, it’s also a time for trying new things without the risk of huge consequences if they don’t quite work. After all, it’s much simpler to change your USP if you’re a small business employing a few people, rather than a big company where 50 people are relying on you for their salary, or where you’ve received a huge amount of investment capital. While you may fail in some of the things you try with your business (in fact, this is almost guaranteed), see it as a toddler that’s resilient enough to pick itself up, dust its knees and keep moving forward.

During this phase of business growth it’s also essential to have the right type of medical aid cover. There are medical schemes such as Fedhealth which has a number of medical aid options and value-added benefits to ensure that your health and wellness is taken care of too. After all, the healthier you and your staff are, the more productive your business will be – during the toddler (business) stage and beyond.

While this phase can be frustrating, it’s a sign that your business is growing and adapting, rather than remaining in its infancy, and that can only be a good thing! So embrace the difficulties, learn from them, and watch as your business strides forward confidently into the next exciting phase.

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