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Start-up Advice

5 Types Of Support You Need As You Embark On Your Entrepreneurial Journey

Every start-up needs a support network.

Allon Raiz

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We all know the disastrous success rate of start-ups. I’ve spent the past 20 years working with thousands of entrepreneurs trying to understand the key factors that determine whether a business will be one of the 4% that succeed or one of the 96% that fail.

One of my observations has been that most successful entrepreneurs deliberately surround themselves with a support ecosystem during their early growth years. US research firm, Dun & Bradstreet discovered that only 10% of all businesses that fail close down involuntarily. In other words, 90% of entrepreneurs who close their businesses simply give up.

Anyone who has been on the entrepreneurial journey knows how many times we wake up in the morning wondering if it’s worthwhile continuing. It’s particularly difficult when we’ve lost a major client or a key staff member, or we’ve had a quarrel with our partner, not to mention the stresses of managing that all-too-elusive cash flow.

Many entrepreneurs interpret having a support system as simply having a mentor. Although this is part of a support ecosystem, it is by no means the entire thing. Below are five types of support that I believe every entrepreneur should deliberately build into their journey.

1. Strategic support

As entrepreneurs, especially in the early years, we find ourselves deep in the operational aspects of the business and spend far too little time in the strategic mind-set. Surround yourself with at least two strategic thinkers who can give you perspective and ask the hard questions around the why, the how, the where and the what of your business. This will give you a more holistic approach on how to think through your strategy; you can borrow from both to finesse your own.

Related: 5 Lame Excuses That Unsuccessful People Always Make

2. Operational support

It’s important to find two — or preferably three — people who have either direct or similar experience in your industry. They can give you practical insights into the pitfalls to avoid, the opportunities to look out for or even just the lay of the land. I use my operational-support advisors to help me think through scaling my business, since all of them have created their own scaled ventures. I trust their experience, their intellect and their advice.

3. Emotional support

Positive friends and family are critical to a successful entrepreneurial journey. To be in a position where you can be vulnerable and honest and feel emotionally supported is priceless. Had my wife doubted me once during the start-up years, my knees would have buckled and I’m not sure I would have had the strength to stand up again.

An important nuance to emotional support is to ensure that you remove all the negative people from your inner circle. Stay away from the naysayers, the jealous and the know-it-alls. They erode your confidence and defocus you from your mission.

4. ‘Spiritual’ support

In the humdrum or chaos of the daily fight and the monotony of the paperwork, you can very easily forget your why, your purpose and the reason you got into the business in the first place. I’ve found that by having a ‘spiritual’ mentor, I can reconnect to my why and the purpose of my business. As clichéd as it may sound, one of the most important contributions such a mentor can make is to remind you to enjoy the journey, and to observe its gifts, its challenges and its teachings.

Related: How To Control What You Can And Influence What You Can’t In Your Life

5. Fun

Surviving month-end is a serious matter. Not being able to pay salaries is a serious matter. Making promises to clients and not knowing how to deliver is a serious matter. As a result, too many entrepreneurs become serious themselves, the fun slowly squeezed out of them over time. Their smiley faces of the past become the grimaces of the present.

I have what I call my ‘fun mentor’ — someone I can spend time with who gives me space to be childlike, immature and sometimes even naughty. The release when spending time with such people, and the consequential balance it provides, is extremely important in ensuring that we maintain our sanity during the long and arduous process of starting a business.

Being deliberate about creating your support ecosystem should be one of your early aspirations when starting up a business — but it’s never too late! In my experience, it’s relatively easy to set up a support circle. The people you need exist within your direct or indirect networks, and I find that most people are very happy to help a young entrepreneur on his or her journey to success. Who wouldn’t want the kudos of saying, “I was Mark Zuckerberg’s mentor”?

Allon Raiz is the CEO of Raizcorp, the only privately-owned small business ‘prosperator’ in Allon Raiz is the CEO of Raizcorp. In 2008, Raiz was selected as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum, and in 2011 he was appointed for the first time as a member of the Global Agenda Council on Fostering Entrepreneurship. Following a series of entrepreneurship master classes delivered at Oxford University in April 2014, Raiz has been recognised as the Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School. Follow Allon on Twitter.

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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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