Empty pockets never held anyone back. Only empty heads and empty hearts can do that. – Norman Vincent Peale
Volumes of start-up entrepreneurs claim to have wonderful ideas that will serve as a catalyst to attaining riches. Often once internally convinced of their own great idea they march into the offices of bank managers, venture capitalists, or angel investors and ‘blurt out’ their earth-shaking idea with a staggering amount of confidence only to regularly hear loud and repetitive echoes of that unpalatable word ‘NO’ .
Totally devastated and mesmerised by the behaviour of investors, self-pity often sets in and the prospective investors are blamed for their lack of vision and understanding. Holding oneself accountable and doing honest self-reflection often only comes with a great deal of experience and wisdom therefore inexperienced entrepreneurs often falter at the first serious hurdle that they face and go back to a day job blaming others for their failure.
There is one or more critical elements that a significant proportion of start-up entrepreneurs overlook when evaluating their own idea/s:
Within the grand scheme of things it really does not matter if you think you have a great idea that will transform into a ‘money maker’ in reality it only matters if the market believes your idea is great and am willing to pay for it. An untested idea can never be great an idea has to be actualised and proven to be great or not.
Wise investors are more interested in investing in you as opposed to investing in ‘your great idea’ because the idea will only have traction and sustainability if the person that conceived it is willing to overcome any and every obstacle in his/or her way and move towards success with urgency and a sense of unwavering commitment.
Related: 20 Quick Money-Making Business Ideas
Carefully considering the above it is a smart move to create a ‘minimum viable product’ , to test your product in the marketplace and to adjust according to the findings of your research until you have moulded your ‘great idea’ into and actualised ‘great product’.
Do not attempt to entice investors armed with only a ‘great idea’ instead announce a market tested product with a proven demand when you pitch. Speak to industry experts, hear what entrepreneurial peers have to say about your products or services, create focus groups and have a number of consumers test your product. Carefully listen to the cues prompting improvements within their feedback and adjust where and if appropriate.
Engaging consumers, peers, friends and family with a minimum viable product is taking great strides towards not only refining and improving your product or service but also at the same time assists in formulating your sales and marketing strategy.
The attempt to take an untested product or service to a marketplace where the ‘lukewarm’ are often gulped up can cause a great deal of pain to the start-up entrepreneur and can be a very costly exercise. It can be both emotionally and financially draining to such an extent that the entrepreneur gives up on his or her dream relatively quickly.
To what degree you factor in the testing of your product considering both your start-up budget and project timeline can have a great amount of positive impact on your success.
As a business coach I have never underestimated the value of having a wise mentor whom can give sound advice and support especially during the start-up phase of your venture. Consult with your mentor on how to thoroughly test your product or service and structure the testing phase of your project in such a way that it saves you money and a lot of pain in the future.
How To Apply Lean Principles To Your Start-up’s Productivity And Time Management
Focusing on one thing at a time is a very good start.
If you’ve recently launched a start-up, I’m sure that you’ve heard a lot about being “lean.” But I’m not here to discuss the methodology popularised by the likes of Eric Ries.
The lean principles from a Toyota exec
I’m actually writing about the term and concept of “lean” that was originally developed by Toyota executive Taiichi Ohno during the reconstruction period in Japan following World War II. The process was so successful that more and more organisations around the world began to embrace it. However, it didn’t hit the mainstream until James P. Womack and Daniel T. Jones released their book Lean Thinking, in 1996.
Applying “lean” to productivity in start-ups
Today, lean principles have been applied to almost every industry both large and small scale. For instance, lean principles in the healthcare industry have been able to reduce costs, while improving efficiency. On a smaller scale, employees have used these principles to organise their workspaces.
Here are four ways you can apply lean concepts to your startup to improve both productivity and quality.
1. Improve your workplace using the five principles of lean
According to the Lean Institute, which was established by Womack and Jones in 1997, there are five core principles of lean:
Value: Value means putting yourself in your customer’s shoes and knowing what their needs are. This helps you determine timelines, pricing and expectations instead of constant trial and error. For your team, letting them know how they fit into the bigger picture can keep them motivated.
Value stream: Value stream is where you create a “value stream” of all the steps and processes required in getting the final product or service to your customers. This could include design, production, delivery, HR and customer service. Knowing this information allows you to eliminate any wasteful steps.
Flow: After you’ve removed any unnecessary waste from the value stream, you want to make sure that everything runs smoothly. Flow means not having any interruptions or delays. The flow involves breaking down steps, leveling out workloads, creating cross-functional departments and training your team so they can develop multiple skills.
Pull: When flow improves, so does the time it takes to get your goods or services to customers. As a result, they can “pull” whenever needed so you’re not constantly under- or overproducing inventory, content, etc.
Perfection: Even after successfully completing the first steps, you still need to constantly keep working to improve processes so that you can eliminate waste. Perfection may be an exalted goal in whatever endeavour we are pursuing – but we still must always be moving forward toward being the best and achieving the best.
2. Use the concept of 5S to get yourself organised
5S stands for sort, set in order, shine, standardise and sustain. You can use this concept to organise your workspace so you and your team are more productive by doing the following:
- Remove any items that you no longer need (sort)
- Organise your remaining items so you’re more efficient (straighten)
- Keep your workspace clean and tidy so you can find items and identify problems more quickly (shine)
- Color-code and label files and calendars to make you more consistent (standardise)
- Develop repeatable behaviours and habits that will keep your workplace clean and organised, such as completing one task before moving onto the next (sustain).
You and your team – even if they’re virtual employees working from a home office – can get started by throwing away anything unneeded. Place files into cabinets – colour-code your calendars – and keep items you frequently use nearby.
But these principles aren’t just limited to physical items. Digitally, you can use a project management system to assign tasks, quickly see the progress of projects and share files and comments in one organised dashboard.
3. Standardise your work to become more efficient
In manufacturing, there’s a standard process for everything. The reason? By doing something the same way time and time again you will eliminate waste since you’re not constantly trying out new techniques. Standardising also prevents errors and forgetfulness because there’s a checklist for ever step of the journey. For example, when a car is on the assembly line, it can’t move forward if someone forgot a bolt or installed a faulty steering wheel.
4. Standardise what makes sense
Start by keeping a time log to see when you’re most productive and how you’re spending your time. You may notice that you’re most productive in the mornings. If so, that’s when you should work on your most important task.
If you discover that you’re checking your email and social accounts too often, schedule specific times throughout the day to check them. To prevent wasteful meetings, you can standardise meetings. Make sure these meetings are necessary and include only key people pertinent to the information. Keep all meetings as short and concise as possible.
Get into a good flow to optimise your and your team’s performance
Flow is simply how work can progress through a system. When your system is running smoothly, flow is good. When flow hits a snag, it slows down the process and waste occurs.
Manufacturing facilities make it a point to ensure that the flow is good. Unless it’s an emergency, production lines rarely stop running. Everyone has a specific job to do, and that’s all they’re focused on. That’s not the case at your start-up. You must wear multiple hats, as well as deal with constant interruptions. How many times have you been in “the zone” and gotten distracted by a phone call or have no choice but to go put out a fire?
One way you can improve flow in your start-up is by focusing on one thing at a time. That means no more multitasking. Give your 100 percent focus to what you’re working on at the moment and then move on to your next task. This may take some self-discipline. But you can start by turning off all push notifications, closing your door, block scheduling and setting boundaries.
You can also help your team improve their flow by setting “do not disturb” zones and time frames. Another tip is to schedule a “no meeting” day. This way you and your team can maintain focus without getting interrupted by a meeting.
Finally, you may want to consider outsourcing and delegating certain tasks. Instead of worrying about your inbox all day, hire a virtual assistant to manage your email. If you need to get your books in order, then bring in a bookkeeper. This frees you up to work solely on growing your startup.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Which eCommerce Platform Should You Build Your Store On?
This is an important decision to make and with so many options out there it can become a bit overwhelming and confusing to decide which platform is the best option for you. So which platforms are best suited for a South African eCommerce entrepreneur?
Having owned and run websites using XCart, Magento, Shopify and WordPress, I’ve made enough mistakes and learnt enough lessons along the way to be able to help guide you to make the right decision about which platform is right for you…
When looking for options you’ll come across platforms like Prestashop, WordPress, WIX, Shopify, Squarespace, OpenCart, Magento, Shopstar, OneCart, ShopOn, LiquidBox, BigCommerce and endless more. All of which are trying to convince you that their platform is the best for you to use.
Reading international blogger reviews is helpful but they don’t account for how these website platforms perform in South Africa. They don’t review what the support is like in SA and which local software services are compatible. You see, these points are often neglected until you need them further down the line and only then find out how important it is that the platform you’re running your store on is made to work in SA.
Having worked with all the major website platforms I understand the importance of website support and how the site integrates with the local services which will make your life easier and your website better. Services like this include integrations into Rand (ZAR) based payment gateways, integrations into local courier services, API connections into marketplaces like Takealot and Bid Or Buy, and API connections into price comparison sites too.
The final factor to consider is the reputability of the website platform itself. There are many new and upcoming website platforms which I would love to support but when it comes to choosing a platform on which I’ll be building my business I need to know that I am going to be selecting a world-leading service provider.
So with this in mind I can help to narrow down your options to two platforms being WordPress with WooCommerce and Shopify. Which of these two is right for you will depend on how much you value your time.
Shopify will cost you $29 per month but the ease-of-use is such that even a novice can get a site live within a week. Operating WooCommerce on WordPress is complex for beginners and it will take you much longer to figure it all out before you can take your site live but the plus side is that it is free to use.
So ultimately you need to consider which of these two is right for you and your business but the most important thing is that you don’t spend any more time researching, take action and get started sooner rather than later so you can start to grow your online empire.
6 Ways Starting A Business Is Like Raising A Child
Here are six ways that embarking on your own entrepreneurship journey is like raising a child.
While you may think work and parenting are worlds apart, when it comes to starting a business versus having a baby, the two have more in common than you think.
After all, both involve bringing something new into the world, preparing for the unexpected, and riding the storm when things don’t go as planned. Here are six ways that embarking on your own entrepreneurship journey is like raising a child:
1. It involves new expenses
From nappies and school fees to food and clothing, there are a whole lot of new expenses involved when it comes to kids. In the same way, starting a business also involves various costs – whether it’s paying accounting fees, setting up your website, buying stock or employing people. In both instances, having a good financial plan in place can go a long way to help you manage these expenses.
2. It’s an emotional rollercoaster
Parenting invariably means you’ll experience every emotion under the sun, from unmatched joy when they’re born, to frustration at toddler tantrums, to wonder at seeing their little personalities develop. The same goes for a new business: Expect a range of emotions, from the highs of getting your first customer, to the satisfaction of making a profit, to anxiety if the market doesn’t respond to your product as you envisioned.
3. Expect the unexpected
Few things are as unpredictable as babies: One minute they’re gurgling contentedly, the next minute they’re crying for reasons you may or may not know. Just like babies, businesses can be highly unpredictable too. Product prototypes can fail and cause delays, employees get sick, an unforeseen tax bill could arrive on your desk – you’ll need to get comfortable with expecting the unexpected. And, if you run your business full time, you’ll need to bid farewell to your predictable monthly paycheque too (at least in the beginning).
4. It requires stamina
Late night feeds, helping your child with homework, washing, cooking, cleaning, answering all their burning questions – there’s no parenting “off” switch. In the same way, being an entrepreneur means it’s hard to stop thinking about your business at the end of the day as you would with a regular 9 to 5. This constant call for attention means it’s crucial to schedule in some downtime for yourself so that you get time to decompress and refresh.
5. You’ll need safeguards in place
While their immune systems are immature, young children get sick, which typically involves trips to the doctor, medication and possibly even the odd hospital stay. Having a good medical aid means you’ll be financially prepared for these intermittent expenses. And, just as you should ensure your child has the right medical cover, your business and your employees should also be covered properly. Fedhealth is one example of a medical aid that specialises in providing medical cover for SMMEs.
6. Love will get you through
As hard as parenting can be, the enduring love most parents have for their children means they keep caring for them day after day, no matter how exhausting it is. Similarly, if you love the industry your business is in and the work you do, you’ll have the fortitude to keep at it over the long term.
Both parenting and starting a business are hard work, but they’re hugely rewarding too. With both of them, it’s true that what you put in, you get out. Seeing your child grow into a well-adjusted, caring adult can be as satisfying as watching your business mature into a something that’s profitable and self-sustaining. Upon reaching these milestones, most people will agree that the journey to get there is definitely worthwhile.
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