Most entrepreneurs start businesses out of necessity. They do what they have to. They don’t think far ahead. They fight fires every day. They are the foundation of every economy all over the world. Some succeed, some fail, few shoot the lights out. Some are happy, some are not.
For me, there’s nothing more thrilling than building a business. Seeing your ideas turn into reality. Seeing your team exceed your expectations every day. Seeing your customers’ lives improved by your products.
But, entrepreneurship is not for the faint-hearted. You pour blood and sweat and tears into your business. You get more than your fair share of punches in the nose. It’s hard, but if you’re lucky and you persevere, the rewards are great.
So, how do you maximise your chances of getting into the ‘happy and shooting the lights out’ club?
Picking the right lane – figuring out what you’re going to do – is probably the most important decision you’ll make. Once you’ve figured that out, you can get down to the nitty gritty of picking your team and building your business.
But, how do you choose? What do you prioritise? What’s right for me is almost certainly not right for you.
The Sweet Spot Model, which has been drifting around the web for years, provides great guidance. If you do what you love, the hard yards won’t feel like work. If you do what you’re good at, you’ll beat or (even better) outstrip the competition. If you provide something the world needs, you’ll feel a sense of purpose. If someone will pay for it, you have a business.
When I co-founded Simply, I wanted to tick all 4 boxes AND work from Cape Town AND be extremely flexible (so I could prioritise family health).
I worked on three different ideas: A GIS-platform for solar and other utilities; a transaction platform for stokvels; and a cheeky online life insurance play.
The life insurance play quickly emerged as my best choice (it helped that my partners are top actuaries J):
- What I’m good at – doing start-ups, connecting people and teams, and using technology and data to solve business problems.
- What I love – working with people I like and trust to build businesses that solve hard problems and make the world a better place.
- What the world needs – most adult South Africans have one or more funeral policies. Few have life or disability cover and policies are often very expensive. There’s a clear need for simple, convenient, well-priced life, disability and funeral cover.
- What someone will pay for – the market we’re targeting is huge – nearly R7.5Bn of new premium is written annually.
With the stars lining up, we pressed the go button in early 2016. It’s now twelve months since we launched to market and early signs are good:
- Our innovative, online products – Family Cover, Domestic Cover and Group Cover – have been well received and are improving all the time.
- We have an amazing, engaged team – inspired by the purpose of protecting vulnerable people.
- We’ve sold more than 4 500 policies to date, providing more than R2.5Bn of cover to more than 20,000 people.
- We’re based in Cape Town, working hard and having fun, and I seldom miss a swimming gala, netball game or opportunity to go mountain biking.
While picking the right lane is no guarantee of success, it definitely helps stack the odds in your favour. You’re going to need all the help you can get. So, take the time to pick your lane. I bet it’ll be worth the effort.