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Start-up Advice

Avoid Start-Up Pitfalls

Seven common start-up mistakes and how to avoid them.

Paul Galvão




Starting a new company is often a challenging and lonely path and there are many ways in which a prospect can fail. In today’s economy, most businesses fail within five years, even when run by highly qualified and experienced individuals. In the fast-paced world of business, entrepreneurs need to learn to adapt in order to ensure their short- and long-term growth and success.

Here are some of the most common drawbacks that entrepreneurs experience, and how you can avoid them when starting a new business venture:

  • Mistake #1: Marketing

Starting a business without knowing your target market and how to communicate with them wastes time and money. Less is always more and if you can’t say what you need to say about your product in one minute, then you don’t know your market or your industry well enough.

Fix: You need to be prepared to sell yourself and your business. State the products/services that are available in a clear and concise manner. You have less than 60 seconds to make an impression whether you experience a chance encounter with an investor or meet with a curious customer.

  • Mistake #2: Competition

Selecting the incorrect business venture where there is already market saturation, high competition and inadequate demand can result in failure to differentiate your offering for competitor products and penetrate the marketplace. Entrepreneurs need to investigate their industry carefully and select a market segment with higher demand than supply.

Fix: A business that is built on your strengths and talents will guarantee a greater chance of success. It is also imperative that you’re managing the day-to-day operations and building and developing your company, keeping abreast of industry trends and developments and being aware of the competition behaviour and how they work.

  • Mistake #3: Free Internet programmes

Internet scams in the form of a ‘free’ business set-up programmes will not make you money. Hard work and dedication is required in order for your business to be successful.

Fix: If you require large sums of capital to launch your company, go back to the drawing board. Scale down expensive plans and simplify the idea until it becomes more manageable.

  •  Mistake #4: Fragmented business opportunities

By starting one business venture, failing after a month and then embarking on the next prospect is how many beginners lose large sums of money and valuable time. Create your own business opportunity and corner your own market.

Fix: Avoid being side-tracked by attempting to juggle various ventures at the same time. This will cause you to spread yourself thin at work and limit both your effectiveness and productivity. If you feel the need to jump into another project, you might want to relook your original concept and work on refining your ideas.

  •  Mistake #5: Quick and easy money

Another pitfall that first-time entrepreneurs can fall into when starting up a business is thinking that money can be generated over a short period of time without putting in long hours and hard work.

Fix: Only make purchases which are necessary and keep all costs in check by maintaining low overheads and managing your cash flow effectively. Your money is the lifeblood of your company and its ultimate survival will depend on your ability to budget effectively.

  • Mistake #6: Procrastinating

Entrepreneurs must not wait too long to launch their product. Procrastination could result in a competitor launching first. Don’t spend months or years waiting for the right time to execute
your plans.

Fix: Develop a strategy and timeline and then focus on achieving the goals and objectives by scheduling tasks on a day-to-day basis so that they are executed by the intended deadline. Once you have launched your enterprise, you will learn to make decisions under pressure and not to repeat mistakes.

  • Mistake #7: Expenditure

Starting out small, but efficient, is the way to go. Hire only the employees you need and consider a home office until your business starts to grow. Forget about elaborate offices, fancy cars and extravagant expense accounts.

Fix: Capital should only be injected into items that will yield a return on investment in the long run, such as the correct equipment and technologies for your business to run efficiently, administrative and professional costs (accounting and legal fees), and sales and marketing costs such as training and networking events.

Setting specific goals

All entrepreneurs have to contend with tough competition and therefore must remain proactive in their efforts to stay ahead and learn new things. In order to avoid failure it is advisable to hire an expert who can guide you through the formative stages of the business and help develop it into a mature and successful operation. Business coaching is one of many highly effective business tools for assisting start-ups, increasing productivity and building and sustaining growth.

In my experience, entrepreneurs who undergo coaching before launching a new business are more likely to set specific and manageable goals, which are structured and formal, than their counterparts who do not seek the necessary advice. Coaches are also equipped to measure and evaluate their accomplishments over a specific period of time.

Paul Galvão is a certified professional business and life coach and successful entrepreneur. He founded Turning Point Coaching in 2005, and during the past eight years, the consultancy has established a credible portfolio of corporate and individual clients. With over 25 years of training and development, consulting and coaching experience, Galvão draws on a wealth of private and public sector expertise. He has an MBA from Oxford Brookes University (UK) and is a member of a number of recognised professional bodies, including Coaches and Mentors of South Africa (COMENSA), the International Association of Coaches (IAC) and the Christian Coaches Network (CCN). For further information, visit

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




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




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


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




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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