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Start-up Advice

5 Reasons to Start Your Business Today

Lessons from a start-up on taking the plunge.

Chemory Gunko

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When I first announced that I was starting my own business, I had to face all the naysayers and haters; it seems like everyone has a reason for you to not start your own business.

Having survived a year in the ring, I offer you five reasons to ignore the haters and just go for it anyway.

1. The sense of achievement rocks

As humans, we’re all born with a certain set of instincts – an innate understanding of what is true in the world, for example the idea that we’re entitled to our freedom and even that we’re entitled to freedom of choice. One of these built-in instincts is that we feel a sense of satisfaction for a job well done.

You know it’s true, because somewhere in your life, you’ve had a day where you worked really hard at something – maybe you spring cleaned your house, top to bottom, or had a hectic workout at the gym or court. Do you remember sitting down afterwards, tired, but good tired?

Well, multiply that by a million, and you aren’t close to how cool it feels to look back on a business that’s still around a year later. Something you built from nothing.

Yes, you may be mostly tired, but you sleep really well at night.

2. Success is the best revenge

You know all those moments with that bad boss, or bosses? That catty co-worker who seemed bent on making your life a living nightmare and that so-called friend who just never felt quite right to you?

You know how you planned to lord it over them and show them? Well, actually you won’t – largely because you won’t care anymore.

The sense of achievement and success will be so overwhelming and so awesome, and you’ll so completely own it, that there will only be space for good in your life.  That petty, negative stuff just starts to fall away of its own accord because the good stuff is taking up all the space in your life.

3. The younger you are, the more energy you have physically

So start early. Aim to earn your stripes as quickly as possible when you work for a boss, and gain as much experience as you can.

You see, while 30-something isn’t actually old by today’s standards, there is a difference between 20 and 30 and 30 and 40. Your energy levels are different, your priorities are different, and your life is different with every day that goes by. You cannot reclaim that lost energy, not ever.

It also takes a huge amount of work, on an ongoing basis, to get and keep a business running: People let you down; situations arise that are beyond your control; clients get mad at you for the strangest things, and you just have to keep going.

It doesn’t matter how tired you are, or how busy you are, or even if you’re lying in hospital – the buck stops with you, and you can only get off when the merry-go-round comes to a halt.

And then there’s sleep. Possibly I’m repeating myself, but sleep is a luxury you seldom get round to when working for yourself.  The younger you are, the easier it will be to maintain your momentum physically.

If you wait until you’re too old, the transition will be too difficult, too far outside your comfort zone, and you probably will fail simply because you struggle to maintain the constant physical demands of long working days with no clear end in sight.

4. It’s only scary to do something the first time

There’s a saying, and I’m possibly paraphrasing, that goes: The only thing you need, that you don’t have, is experience. And what experience teaches you the first time you do something is that it won’t kill you to do the thing you’re doing.

So whatever it is you want to do, just try it once, in a small way. A bookkeeper could, for example, offer to do a friend’s books for her new business venture in exchange for a written reference, or payment to begin on a deferred date.

Whatever your step, just do something so that your body can get over the initial fear, and can get out of the way enough for you to actually really consider the move you want to make.

You’ll also come to realise that bravery is not about not being afraid; it’s about doing the thing that scares you, even though you are afraid.

5. You’ll get over your fear of sales really quickly

I’m not sure why it is that most of us are so very scared of sales. Sales are actually pretty easy to close – if you’re well versed in your product or discipline.

Luckily, chances are exactly that you’ve branched off because you are a specialist in your area of expertise, so you do actually already have the product and service knowledge you need to blow anyone’s socks off, in practically any meeting.

And if you have a few bad sales experiences or calls in the beginning, well, chalk it up to school fees. Eventually, the law of averages dictates that you will crack something, and somebody will give you a chance.

At least your sales pitch is improving with every call.

Chemory Gunko is the managing director and creative director of Dsignhaus, a B2B marketing services agency with in-depth and specialist knowledge in the field of digital marketing. Visit at www.dsignhaus.co.za for more information.

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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