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Start-up Advice

3 Tips For Starting A Company In An Unfamiliar Industry

Launching a company within an industry you know nothing about? (Like Elon Musk did). No, you’re not crazy.

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Launching a company within an industry you know nothing about isn’t impossible; nor is it necessarily an unwise move. In fact, your ignorance can be a blessing as well as a burden.

Just look at Elon Musk, who has started an array of companies in disparate industries – beginning with PayPal and continuing with SpaceX, Tesla and other ventures. With a background in fintech, economics and physics, Musk is thriving in the space exploration industry.

So, if a big name like Musk as well as countless other, lesser-known entrepreneurs have been able to successfully take on a new industry with only an idea and a lot of determination, why couldn’t I? I reasoned back when I first entered the video production industry. In actuality, I encountered obstacles as soon as I started.

Yet I’d still argue that market illiteracy can be beneficial. It sounds ironic, perhaps, but existing in blissful but enthusiastic ignorance can help you approach problems because you have no preconceived notions about their solutions. Instead, you’re coming from a fresh perspective and are likely unfamiliar with the giant challenges looming ahead

When that happens, those challenges can’t (and don’t) scare you.

Today’s struggles help you develop tomorrow’s strengths

When I entered the video production industry, I encountered plenty of naysayers who seemed to be stuck in the late 1990s, when film equipment was more expensive and less accessible, making video content harder to create.

My dream was to help companies meet consumers’ insatiable demand for video by making the production process cheaper and more efficient.

Starting a business, even in an industry you know well, is never easy. If you’re jumping into a brand-new market, things can seem downright impossible. What’s worse, I had to look past industry veterans who felt threatened by my approach and told me I didn’t know what I was doing.

Look – I’m not Elon Musk, and neither are you, but as my experience proves, you don’t have to be. While I didn’t know much about producing video content, I knew my vision was achievable. Today, Lemonlight is the company I dreamed it could be.

So, based on my experience, if you too are ready to leap into a new industry, here are three ways to set yourself up for success:

Ignorance can be bliss

1Ignorance can be bliss, but be careful with those assumptions

Before I launched Lemonlight, I conducted research to understand the market. And I probably spent more time at this task than many of my more established competitors.

Nonetheless, I still made poor assumptions. For example, I assumed it would be easy to hire freelancers to shoot video all around the country. Right? Wrong. I quickly learned that freelancers have their own styles and agendas and that it takes a lot of work to find the great ones. Thus, many of those we worked with early on were, frankly, unqualified.

I also ran into unforeseen expenses, such as a $40,000 server or payroll for media managers to move footage around internally. These costs added up fast. To compound that, I struggled with pricing early on since I really didn’t know how much it would cost to make the product.

My experience mirrors that of Raaja Nemani and Aaron Firestein, founders of the shoe company Bucketfeet. Firestein knew how to decorate sneakers, but neither had any experience in shoe manufacturing or managing inventory.

Failing to think things through properly led to a few big missteps for Nemani and Firestein early on: They once had a huge shipment of sneakers delivered not to a warehouse loading dock, but to their own house. They had mistakenly assumed it would be no big deal to unload 2,600 pairs into their garage. With a little (paid) help from the delivery man and a few friends, however, they made it work; today, Bucketfeet has sold nearly 500,000 pairs of sneakers.

2Balance your fresh perspective with expert experience

While it’s important to maintain your can-do rookie outlook, it’s also critical to bolster it with the advice of industry insiders who have domain experience.

Like me – and all entrepreneurs – you’ll inevitably be forced to learn some tough lessons quickly. Don’t let that discourage you. When CAN Capital’s Small Business Health Index surveyed small business owners about their expectations for the upcoming year, 64 percent of those surveyed anticipated growth.

When I started Lemonlight, I often took solace in the fact that, with no customers, growth was the only option. You, too, should have a growth mindset.

If you don’t have the capacity to stay optimistic, observe others who do and reach out to them. You’ll often find them running other businesses.

After bringing on a co-founder with a background in film, I needed a while to reconcile his expectations about high-quality video content with my dream of providing it at unprecedented low prices. I wanted to sell all of our videos for $500, for example, and we managed to do that for a while!

Still, my co-founder would constantly remind me that we couldn’t hire the right teams for so little money. Without them, our business would go under. So, working in tandem, we two slowly raised our prices until we found a price point that made sense for us and for our customers.

3Resist and persist: Be open without conforming

You’ll definitely need expert advice, but that doesn’t mean you should always act on it.

Jeff Kear, the founder of Planning Pod, said the worst business advice he ever received came from another start-up founder: That founder told Kear that he must secure outside angel or venture capitalist funding if he ever hoped to be taken seriously and get off the ground.

Deciding to go it alone and bootstrap his business instead of heeding that advice, Kear ultimately built a company that serves more than 1 200 customers and upwards of 20 000 users. Planning Pod has been in the black since its fourth month.

It’s important to consider the feedback and ideas of people who have been in your industry for a long time; however, you don’t always have to agree with them. Typically, those who possess the mindset that created an industry aren’t going to disrupt that industry. Be gracious when having tough conversations with industry veterans, but remember that it’s okay to challenge anyone and everyone around you if it’s going to move you forward.

As an entrepreneur in a new industry or one you’re deeply familiar with, you’re going to run into challenges, setbacks and failures. Don’t let them stop you.

By staying your own unique course, you can learn your own lessons, turn your vision into a reality, achieve your goals and live your wildest dreams – just like Elon and me.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

Hope Horner is CEO and founder of Lemonlight, a video production company that produces and distributes branded video content at scale. Horner is a three-time entrepreneur who has been featured in Inc. magazine, on KABC and Extra and in other publications highlighting her successes in the Silicon Beach community over the past decade.

Company Posts

Register A Company In South Africa

With over 120 Start-up Services, Company Partners is the perfect Partner for Company, Tender and Contract compliance.

Company Partners

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Company Partners is the leading Company Registration Service Provider in South Africa, offering a One-Stop-Shop for all the Company Registration and Tender Compliance Documents.

With over 120 Start-up Services, Company Partners is the perfect Partner for Company, Tender and Contract compliance.

Established in 2006, Company Partners guarantees that the services they offer meet the standards of the best in the industry. Over 30 full-time Consultants offer services and standards of the highest quality.

Company Registration Benefits

Your Company Structure is the first consideration you need to make when you want to register a new Company at the CIPC. The preferred choice of a legal entity for most Businesses is a Pty Company.

Related: Business Model Design – Picking The Business Model That Works For You

Here’s why:

  1. You protect your personal life and assets from your business when you register a company. If one runs a business, it is necessary to operate in a safe legal structure where your business assets and risks are separated from your personal ones.
  2. You look more professional when you operate under a registered company name. If you want to obtain a large contract or a tender, it appears more professional to trade in a Pty Company capacity than in your own name.
  3. Most Suppliers and Government Departments require businesses to be registered as a Company to apply for their Tenders and Contracts.

How to Register a Company

Step 1: Complete and submit the easy online sign-up form here.

Step 2: Your dedicated Consultant will call you to assist you with any questions you may have.

Step 3: Email your ID and easy supported documents – which your Consultant will explain.

Step 4: Within a few days you will receive your brand new Company ready to use for Tenders and Contracts, via email. You can contact your Consultant at any time on a toll-free number.

Related: New Fund For Small Businesses To Be Developed

Need a Company fast? Perhaps consider a Shelf Company

Company Partners offer a variety of Shelf Company Options to suit your needs, including 2016- year Registration Number Shelf Companies. Within 24 hours after purchase, you will receive the registered Shelf Company.

You can start using your Company Registration Number and Bank Account (for income) immediately.

Each Shelf Company includes a 2016 Year Registration Number, Free Share Certificates, a Free ‘Tax Number’ and a Free ‘Official BEE Affidavit’.

You can also make use of a Nedbank Business Bank Account that’s active for your Shelf Company.

Luckily, getting your own Shelf Company is easy in terms of compliance. All that’s required is that you are at least 18 years of age, an ID document / Passport and a South African Business Address.

Why use Company Partners to Register a Company?

Fast timeframes: Your Company will be registered fast and effectively online. Your documentation is set-up in less than 24 hours, after which CIPC will process it.

Simple requirements: The only requirement for Company Registration is an ID / Passport. Everything gets done online, so you can be based anywhere in South Africa or the World.

Dedicated Consultant: Your own dedicated professional Consultant takes care of the entire process – he or she is available on his / her email and also on a toll-free number.

Professional Service: With years of experience of representing our Clients in Government, the entire process runs smoothly over the Internet. No lost documents and no frustration.

Company Partners completes all necessary applications correctly and reviews all the paperwork for you. You simply have to wait for your company documents via e-mail, confirming when you may start trading using your registration detail.

Related: Beauty Of Failure: The Art Of Embracing Rejection

After Company Registration

Any new Business needs guidance to prepare for Tenders and Contracts. After Company Partners gets you registered for your Company, Company Partners can assist you through the entire Company start-up process (optional).

That means they will ensure you have everything you need for a Tender or Contract application like a new PTY Company, BEE, Tax Clearance, VAT Registration, Logo Design, Website, Business Plan, COID, Letter of Good Standing, NHBRC, Accounting, Payroll and more.

Get Started

To start, just complete and submit the easy application form here and a friendly Consultant will contact you. Alternatively contact Company Partners toll-free on 0800 007 269 (toll-free from landlines and cell phones).

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Start-up Advice

Alan Knott-Craig Answers Your Questions On Money And Partners

From starting the right business, to managing business partners and finding your magic number, there is a secret to happiness.

Alan Knott-Craig

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If I get rich will I be happy? — JC Lately

Does money equal happiness? Mostly, yes. Research in the US shows that your happiness is proportionate to your earnings up until you earn $80 000 per annum. Thereafter, incremental income gains have a negligible effect on your happiness.

In other words: More money will make you happy as long as you’re poor. Once you break out of poverty and enter a comfortable middle-class existence, more money will not make you happier.

These are the top three for old folks:

  • I wish I’d spent more time with family.
  • I wish I’d taken more risks.
  • I wish I’d travelled more.

Therein lies the secret to happiness. Spend time with your family. Take risks. Travel.

But first, make money. Don’t do any of the above until you’re making enough money not be stressed about money.

Related: Your Questions Answered With Alan Knott-Craig

What is the magic number? — Mushti

The magic number is the amount of money you need to not worry about money ever again. If you don’t need toys like Ferraris, yachts and jets, the magic number is R130 million. Here’s the math: R130 million will earn R9,1 million in interest annually (assuming 7% interest). After tax that is R5,46 million.

Assuming you need 50% to maintain a good lifestyle, that leaves approximately R2,7 million for reinvestment, which is enough to keep your capital amount in touch with inflation for 50 years. The balance of R2,7 million (after tax) is for your living costs. In South Africa, R2,7 million will afford you a lifestyle that allows you to send your kids to a great school and university, to travel overseas a couple of times a year, and to live in a comfortable house.

Over time your living costs (and inflation) will eat into your capital amount. After 50 years you should be down to nil, assuming you earn zero other income in that time.

In 50 years, you will probably be dead. If you’re not dead, your kids will be able to support you (because they love you and they have a great university education).

I am the sole director of a company (the others still have full-time jobs and don’t want to be conflicted) and there is pro-rata shareholding based on our initial shareholder loans. However, I am putting in most of the hard work, together with one of the other actuaries. How best do I manage the director/shareholder dynamic? I obviously want to make as much progress as possible but there are times when I need the input from the others (and their responses aren’t always as quick as I would like). — Mike

If you have any perception of unfairness regarding effort/risk vs reward, deal with it NOW! You can’t do so later. The best approach is honesty. Call your partners together. Explain your thinking. Perhaps argue for 25% ‘sweat equity’ for yourself. Everyone dilutes accordingly. Ideally cut a deal whereby you have an option to pay back all their loans, plus interest, within six months, and you get 100% of equity (unless they quit their jobs and join full-time).

Equity dissent must be resolved long before the business makes money, otherwise it will never be resolved.

Related: Alan Knott-Craig’s Answers On Selling Internationally And Researching Your Idea

What do you think of WiFi in taxis?— Ntembeko

It’s a good idea, but not original. Before embarking on a start-up, you should survey the landscape for competitors. Just because there are none doesn’t mean no one has tried your idea.

It just means that everyone that tried has failed. You need to be 100% sure that you have some ‘edge’ that makes you different from everyone who came before you (and failed). Otherwise you will fail. What is your advantage that is different to everyone who came before?


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Start-up Advice

What You Need To Know About The Lean Start-up Model

The Lean Start-up philosophy was developed by Eric Ries, a Silicon Valley-based entrepreneur who also sat on venture capital advisory boards. He published The Lean Startup in 2011, igniting a movement around a new way of doing business.

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The model follows key precepts that include:

Taking untested products to market

The fact that too many start-ups begin with an idea for a product that they think people want, spending months (or even years) perfecting that product without ever testing it in the market with prospective customers.

When they fail to reach broad uptake from customers, it’s often because they never spoke to prospective customers and determined whether or not the product was interesting. The earlier you can determine customer feedback, the quicker you can adjust your model to suit market needs.

The ‘build-measure-learn’ feedback loop is a core component of lean start-up methodology

The first step is figuring out the problem that needs to be solved and then developing a minimum viable product (MVP) to begin the process of learning as quickly as possible. Once the MVP is established, a start-up can work on tuning the engine. This will involve measurement and learning and must include actionable metrics that can demonstrate cause and effect.

Utilising an investigative development method called the ‘Five Whys’

This involves asking simple questions to study and solve problems across the business journey. When this process of measuring and learning is done correctly, it will be clear that a company is either moving the drivers of the business model or not. If not, it is a sign that it is time to pivot or make a structural course correction to test a new fundamental hypothesis about the product, strategy and engine of growth.

Lean isn’t only about spending less money

It’s also not only about failing fast and as cheaply as possible. It’s about putting a process in place, and following a methodology around product development that allows the business to course correct.

Progress in manufacturing is measured by the production of high quality goods

The unit of progress for lean start-ups is validated learning. This is a rigorous method for demonstrating progress when an entrepreneur is embedded in the soil of extreme uncertainty. Once entrepreneurs embrace validated learning, the development process can shrink substantially. When you focus on figuring the right thing to build — the thing customers want and will pay for, rather than an idea you think is good — you need not spend months waiting for a product beta launch to change the company’s direction. Instead, entrepreneurs can adapt their plans incrementally, inch by inch, minute by minute.

Source: theleanstartup.com

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