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Start-up Advice

3 Ways To Take Your Business From Start-Up To Success

Clive Butkow, the CEO of GroTech, a South African venture capital firm that supports technology start-ups, provides his insights on how to take your idea or product and grow it into a sustainable, successful business.

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You hear more about how to start a business than how to grow it into an asset of value. Clive Butkow, the CEO of GroTech, a South African venture capital firm that supports technology start-ups, provides his insights on how to take your idea or product and grow it into a sustainable, successful business.

They say that eight out of ten new businesses fail in their first 18 months of operation. This is a sad story because it shows that people with big ideas and the guts to try and make a go of them are somehow losing their way not too long after they’ve got started. But the funny thing is that all the advice to entrepreneurs out there focuses on how to start a business.

It doesn’t support them in understanding how to grow a business, and how to go from concept to a fully fledged organisation.

Since I am in the position of having worked in and for successful and unsuccessful businesses and now funding tech businesses in their growth phase, I have learnt some hard lessons about what it takes to make things happen along the way.

There are many things that you should and should not do when growing a business.

Related: How To Launch Your Business Like You Mean It

There are however three key ingredients that every start-up requires to increase their probability of success:

1. You need the best team on the planet

Building a business is hard and trying to do it by yourself is tantamount to getting into a boxing ring with a professional boxer with one hand tied behind your back.

In my experience, successful startups understand that there is no I in “start-up”. They, at a minimum, need someone to build the stuff and someone to sell the stuff. They need ‘execution intelligence’ – which is at least one member of the team having been involved in building a business before.

They require professionals with expertise and experience in every aspect of their business. These could be advisors or board members, and not necessarily full-time employees when they start out. That team has to be in place to take care of product development, marketing, sales, finance, PR, customer relations and admin.

You can’t do it all yourself, or with your aunt who did a bookkeeping course once. At some point you’re going to have to start hiring, and when you do, don’t settle for second best; hire rockstars.

The one thing every entrepreneur has at their disposal is equity – they start out with 100% of their company. This equity is a valuable way to persuade the right people to come on board, even if you don’t have the cash to pay them initially. Remember 50% of a watermelon is better than 100% of a grape. Don’t just give equity away but make it vest over at least a four-year period.

2. You have to achieve product-market fit

Building a successful business isn’t about “if you build it, they will come”. Don’t believe that for a second as it only happens in the movies. Before you invest too much in your new product or service, you have to be sure that the market wants what you are selling and that they are willing to pay for it.

Get out of your building and go and speak to at least 100 customers to find out what problem your product or service is solving and if they would buy it.

Remember your product is not your product; your solution is your product. Customers buy solutions and benefits not products, services or features.

Do the initial research as it will cost you far less than building something that no-one wants. Once you have a few paying customers and some good reference-able sites, you most likely have achieved product market fit. You have built something that solves a customer problem or alleviates a customer pain. You are now ready to start scaling your business.

Related: 5 Ways To Market Your Business For Free (Or Nearly Free)

3. Make sure you have the right people who can sell your product

Remember sales solves everything as nothing happens until the cash register rings. It’s all well and good having a product and having a market, but you have to know how you are going to connect the two.

You need salespeople who really know how to sell your product or service. You need business development managers to compile a strategy on how you will go to market by leveraging other companies distribution channels for your product.

In my experience, the best salespeople initially are one or more of the founders of the business. They have the passion to act as your product’s brand ambassadors and persuade customers of your value proposition.

And remember that your satisfied clients will ultimately become your best salespeople, so don’t neglect the sales you’ve already made.

Take your customers and turn them into raving fan clients, and they’ll be out there getting the job done for you. It takes six times more effort to sell to a new client than a current client so remember the real work starts after the first sale.

Don’t forget about the cash!

While these are three of the key ingredients you have to get right when building a startup, they aren’t the whole recipe. Even if you’ve got these three things in place, don’t forget that you still need to collect the cash.

Most businesses fail from a lack of cashflow and not just a lack of customers. Make sure you’ve got these bases covered, and that the cash is coming to you, and you’ll be well on your way to growth.

Clive Butkow is the former Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Accenture South Africa and has 28 years management consulting experience. During his tenure at Accenture (formerly Arthur Anderson and Anderson Consulting), he played numerous leadership roles including Managing Director of Accenture South Africa’s Technology business as well as Managing Director of Accenture’s Resources and Utilities businesses. As the CEO of GroTech, he’s got some advice for future CEOs – below is an op-ed he’s written to give you some insight into his ideas.

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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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