In most business start-ups, there comes a time when the entrepreneur or founders need to consider engaging outside help.
This is often the case where the entrepreneur has no previous business experience or training, or in the case of inventors of new technology or innovations. The selection of outside professionals must be consistent.
Reasons why professional advisors are hired:
- To provide specialist knowledge that gives a business an accelerated knowledge acquisition.
- To provide a professional service that does not exist in the organisation, or that is needed for a specified period of time.
- To stimulate solutions to specific problems and scenarios.
- To confirm or give best advice to project plans or future direction of a business. Sometimes professionals are a “sound board” to test years of experience.
- To give constructive criticism, analysis and challenge thoughts.
- To facilitate the search for ideas and solutions with existing team members.
- To introduce and train on systems that may improve a business’s efficiency.
- To access a network of business or government contacts. Sometimes this can lead to contracts and opportunities.
- To bring in an experienced “outsiders” evaluation and point of view.
- To provide training on cutting edge technology and processes.
Where to find Professional Advisors
The internet offers a great place to start when looking for any professional service providers. Trade journals and magazines also offer great leads on experts. However, since most advisors consider themselves “experts”, personal referrals from your trusted network of business owners or family can be useful.
Most small business owners are also advised to have a “business mentor” and this is often a good place to start.
The first step to follow is that of a due diligence or reference checks on potential suppliers. This involves asking for past client references as well as professional accreditation bodies.
This will range from tax advisors, accountants, financial planners, legal, information technology, human resources, payroll, marketing experts and any other specialist skills required by a business. It is important to try engage professionals with a good track record and references.
Professionals should never solely be engaged purely on the basis of price. It may also be best to avoid professionals that work with direct competitors in competitive areas such as marketing and research.
It may harm your business to receive very similar advice to that which your direct competition may have equal access to.
Another major consideration is price. The price of a service must be within market related ranges. Sometimes, a small business will choose to select a premium service provider in order to try and engage the best experts and lessen the risk of business failure.
It is often the case in some specialist areas like marketing and financial planning where a business owner would pay a premium for the best advice or use professionals with small business specialisation.
Professional advisors must be accessible when needed. This may seem obvious but sometimes selecting very popular or overloaded professionals may actually harm your business. Where possible, an entrepreneur must choose a professional near a geographic location if their physical presence is required.
With improving communications and the internet, if physical location is not an issue, you can even find an international service provider. However, a thorough due diligence is an absolute must.
The African Perspective
It is important to try and always consider local market conditions and laws when using consultants which are bringing ideas from developed markets like The United States and The United Kingdom. Some tried and tested methods in these markets to not work or enjoy the same measure of success in South Africa.
It is therefore best to bear this in mind and ensure that where such professionals consult, they are able to adapt to local conditions or an African business perspective.
Contractor vs Consultant
One definition is that the Consultants role is evaluate a client’s needs and provide expert advice and opinion on what needs to be done, while the Contractors role is generally to evaluate the client’s needs and actually perform the work.
However, these terms, Contractor and Consultant, have become mixed up over the years and at times have been used interchangeably. Especially when the Consultant, after having given his or her professional opinion or advice on what has to be done, then enters into an agreement (contract) to provide the services required. At that point the Consultant may be said to become a Contractor.
No small business enjoys the advantage of having all the professionals it requires from start up. External professional advisors are an added and necessary addition to the staff of any business. Indeed, big business often relies and utilises such skills.
Entrepreneurs must therefore embrace these service providers to provide a mitigating factor to avoid every entrepreneur’s worst nightmare, that of business failure.
Start-ups: Creating A High Tech/High Touch Environment
Here are some practical tips for creating a ‘high tech/high touch environment’.
In this fast-paced tech orientated world things are changing at a frightening yet exciting rate. It is so easy and so quick to create a tech start-up from anywhere in the world and office space as a requirement to start up has become obsolete, your garage will do. Yet because it is so easy and so cost effective for so many to create a start-up it is so hard to stand out amongst this entanglement of serial tech entrepreneurs and innovative start-ups.
The millennial generations’ general paradigm of thinking, which is more open –minded and entrepreneurial is slowly but surely breaking through the barriers of traditional business operations, mechanisms and methods, imbalances are created, however, when tech is the sole focus and people are forgotten in the process. As is so evident throughout history eventually by some means balance is sought in order to create equilibrium.
This writing serves as advice to all tech start-ups to seek balance from the onset in creating a “high tech/high touch” environment. A “High tech/high touch” environment can be defined as a balanced approach where both tech solutions, and of equal importance, team empowerment and inspiring leadership form a potent combination of enduring success.
Technology by itself cannot solve everything but technology applied in unison with a strong people centred approach can be a powerful catalyst towards solving at least some of this worlds’ major challenges.
Although many factors such as for example fiscal discipline and other management controls play a vital role in your start-ups’ success do not forget to create an inspiring environment for your team within which they feel safe and united in purpose. Key to business growth is the individual growth of all team members and no stone should be left unturned in moving from a toxic and/or culture of complacency to a learning and growth culture.
Co-create an inspiring vision for your team and get their full buy-in. If you cannot do that you might have to put in more effort when it comes to your own leadership skills and/or “free up the future” of complacent and lethargic employees whom simply do not want to work hard to collectively actualise your business’ co-created vision.
Although very hard, it is worth the effort to only hire people that are passionate about and have integrity in what they do. If a sustainable and successful “high tech” environment is the aim ensure that it is underpinned by very smart hiring and training practises further enhanced by a good dose of inspirational servant leadership.
Generally speaking, everyone wants to feel part of something bigger, exciting, and inspiring. It is your responsibility as founder and leader to create a motivating and energetic business climate wherein every team member is empowered to execute at a rapid pace and with a “zero defect” mind-set. A team environment wherein everyone sincerely wants to be great at what they do and are energised by ‘small wins’ on the path to actualising the grand vision of the company is far more inspiring and sustainable as opposed to an environment where ‘subordinates’ are only managed and basically forced to do their jobs.
Related: The Anatomy Of Peak Performance
Sincerely care for your people yet maintain balance,as caring does not mean you treat them like children. Caring means taking great interest in both their career and personal development, and to be tough enough to eventually let those go that does not constructively contribute to a positive growth culture.
Here are some practical tips for creating a ‘high tech/high touch environment’:
- Have a balanced approach in hiring. Hire for technical and people skills and ensure that there is a clear development and training plan for all team members that is reasonable and attainable.
- Find your purpose as an entrepreneur and with great enthusiasm model that purpose at every juncture as to inspire others to find their purpose.
- As ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’ guard the positive and growth culture that you model as a leader with all your energy and remove anything and anyone from the aforesaid culture that is counter-productive to your business performance.
- Sincerely care about and show that you care about each individual team members’ personal and career development.
- Regularly put having fun and inspiration high on meeting agendas as we generally take ourselves too seriously.
Why You Shouldn’t Quit Your Job To Start A Business
Rather than taking the plunge, consider dipping your toe in first
As the world becomes more digitized and access to the internet is something we all enjoy, more and more of us want to quit our day jobs to start our own businesses. The word “entrepreneur” is thrown around a lot these days, with many people seeing it as a means to enjoy a whole new level of professional, financial and personal freedom.
It is not difficult to see why, either. Having the ability do what you love, when you want and on your own terms is certainly attractive, especially when you could potentially build it into a sizeable income. Don’t be too quick, however, to abandon your day job to pursue your entrepreneurial dreams. Many of today’s best-known entrepreneurs consider doing so to be reckless and unnecessary.
“Entrepreneurs” are rarely the modern-day maverick who suddenly decide one day to quit their jobs and pursue their dreams. After all, quitting a job to pursue business is risky, especially without having a safety net in place. In fact, the majority of people who decide to start an online business will fail within the first year.
Further, there is far more involved in transitioning from being an employee of others to becoming your own boss than you may realise. Changing your mind-set from that of an employee to an entrepreneur is a major key to successfully bridging that divide.
If you operate with the mind-set of an employee — a person who is used to working for others and being paid by them – you will almost certainly fail. When you work for others, you do what they tell you to do. As an entrepreneur, you decide what the next best step is, and you execute that step in your day-to-day actions. The latter requires both a significant mind-set shift and major discipline.
At the same time, in our rapidly changing economy, you would almost be doing yourself a disservice not to start a business. But, how can you do so while working full-time?
Take the “hybrid path” to entrepreneurship
If you’re willing to sacrifice much of your free time now to reap the rewards later, you have what it takes to become an entrepreneur. Often called the “hybrid path” to entrepreneurship, many successful entrepreneurs started their business while still being employed full-time.
Research has shown that those who kept their day jobs while starting their businesses were 33 percent more likely to be successful than their risk-taking counterparts.
Leveraging your full-time job in the early days of your business, allows you to build on firmer financial ground, increasing the likelihood that your enterprise will last and thrive through the initial stages.
In addition, being entrepreneurial within your existing job allows you to build the necessary skills and traits you will need as you transition from your employee to entrepreneurial role.
Being impatient and chasing short-term gratification by quitting your job and going all-in, is risky and often ill-advised. Building slowly and steadily for the long-term is often the wisest course of action.
Today, it’s more important than ever to start a business
Still, with all that being said, the time couldn’t be more right to start your own business and become self-sufficient. Unlike in years past, having a job no longer guarantees financial security.
Rapid developments in technology and the ever-increasing digitization of our world puts creative and business-building tools in the hands of everyone. Whether you have skills to market or a great idea for a product, you too could be the next Bill Gates or Elon Musk.
Even if you set your sights a little lower, consider what skills you have that others would gladly pay you for. Figure out what you can charge per client, and how many clients you would need to completely replace your income. Unless you’re already earning seven figures, you’ll soon realise that the numbers are not that daunting.
I was able to build my first business through affiliate marketing With affiliate marketing, you don’t have to create your own product. Rather, you earn a commission by promoting other people’s products.
Though the thought of running your own business, spending your days working on something you’re passionate about, and choosing how and where you spend your time is enticing, realise there are days if not years of sleepless nights, cash flow shortfalls and mind-set hurdles between you and your destination.
By building your business while working full- or part-time, you will have the cash flow in the short term to get your enterprise off the ground. Once your business begins bringing in an income which rivals that of your day job, then and only then should you consider whether to pursue it full-time.
Building a business is not for the faint of heart. But, if you’re willing to work crazy hours, delay gratification and learn from your failures, you can build both a business and life like few others. After all, “Life is too short to be living somebody else’s dream.”
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
How To Survive 150 Straight Rejections
And come away smarter, tougher, and more successful.
Sam Sisakhti had an idea for an e-commerce company called UsTrendy. It would sell clothing made by talented, unknown fashion designers from around the world — acting as a marketplace for great styles that could not be found anywhere else.
It didn’t matter that he had no experience in fashion or building a brand, or that he had just quit his ﬁrst job out of college after only four days. What mattered was that he believed that this idea could be huge. And to get it there, he ﬁgured, he needed to raise money. A lot of money.
Initially, it seemed easy. On their very ﬁrst pitch, Sam and his associate landed a $500 000 offer. “Crazy,” he says. But there was a catch: The VC required them to move to Silicon Valley to receive the money. Sam’s right-hand man didn’t want to move. Sam decided he’d just do it himself.
So he moved, failing to understand that investors buy into a team, not just an idea. He promptly lost the funding. No matter, he thought. He’d just get more money
Thus began Sam’s real journey. He started pitching to anyone and everyone, regard-less of their ﬁeld of expertise. It went badly. By his count, he was rejected around 150 times in a row over 18 months. Worse, he kept revising his business plan based on their feedback, reducing it to an ever-changing muddle that made it even harder to sell.
This beating culminated with a meeting with a VC who, humiliatingly, was a family friend. “He threw my business plan in the trash, right in front of me,” Sam says. “And I just remember thinking, Man, what am I doing?”
Entrepreneurs hear a lot of nos. In fact, it’s probably the word they hear more than any other, especially starting out. It can come in torrents. It can get crushing. The key, as Sisakhti learnt, is twofold: To survive it, and to learn from it.
And here’s what Sam realised: He needed to stop pitching. Not every business needs funding, nor is every business ready for funding.
“I was spending all my time pitching, and I wasn’t spending any time building the business,” he says. So he scaled back. “I went from wanting to create the next Amazon to just saying I wanted to grow a business organically,” he recalls. “I just wanted to pay for a modest, middle-class lifestyle.”
Freed from the ceaseless need to fundraise, Sam drew on his natural creativity and resourcefulness. He’d always thought he needed funding to help recruit young designers. But now he started to get creative. He recruited them right out of design school — using student brand ambassadors to get around rules about recruiting on campus. Soon he had a thousand. Then he linked up with London Fashion Week to do a show for emerging designers. He pitched a design competition, and that got him 3 000 more, along with a bunch of press coverage.
Now he had inventory, revenue, and exposure. He was feeling good. One night, over dinner, Sam sent a magazine piece to mega-investor Tim Draper, who had rejected him twice already. Fifteen minutes later, Draper responded, saying he wanted to talk. Eureka.
“I think the reason he was interested was that I’d shown I was going to do this with or without the money,” Sam says
He even got a little cocky. “I told him that it’s just a matter of time: ‘If I have your money, I’ll get there faster, but if I don’t, I’ll still get there. And then the valuation’s just gonna be that much higher to get in.’”
Draper invested $1 million in a ﬁrst round, then came back for a second round. In total, UsTrendy has raised more millions since, grown by 300% annually in its ﬁrst few years, and worked with more than 20 000 designers from more than 100 countries. It has attracted more than two million followers on social media and other digital media channels.
Now when Sam reﬂects on all those no’s, he thinks not of rejection — but of how it changed him. How it showed him the way. “It was awesome,” he says.
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