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Start-up Advice

Seven Life Lessons for Start-Up Success

Make your own light at the end of the tunnel.

Andrew Bahlmann

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The journey is hard, really hard. Over time it gets even harder. You keep telling yourself that ‘if it was easy, everyone would do it!’ This is what separates the big dogs from the puppies.

The journey as an entrepreneur starting up your own business is one of the toughest processes that I have ever experienced and I know that I am not alone. As if the process isn’t hard enough on its own, throw in a deteriorating economy, rising inflation, living costs rising through the roof and a market that is trying its hardest to merely keep its head above water and you have got your very own Mount Everest to overcome.

I’ve always loved the view that ‘hope’ isn’t a strategy and the biggest lesson that I’ve learnt, and continue to learn, is that we need to make our own success.

All of the not-so-inspirational points that I have raised above are negated with the first ounce of success that you create and experience. Your first ‘win’ if you like.

Often we dilute those wins because we were hoping (there you go again…. Hope!) that we would land the big one. I started out with illusions of grandeur that we had created the next big thing and you know what, we didn’t. But that’s actually okay. In fact, it’s awesome.

The process of making the decision to start your own business and getting it off the ground to the point where you earn your first Rand of revenue is huge, and never forget that.  We often dilute how far we have come by the challenges that lie ahead. Don’t let this happen, separate the positive from the challenges that lie ahead.

Related: (Slideshow) Movies Every Entrepreneur Should Watch

There will always be challenges

A very good friend of mine always said to me that ‘Life Happens’. It’s so true. There will always be challenges in your business; it is the nature of the beast. Every time something goes wrong, deal with it. It’s not personal.

Learn from your mistakes

There are going to be many mistakes. We all make them again and again. Learn from them. Learn from what went wrong and don’t make the same mistake again. Rather make mistakes from trying something than to not do anything at all.

Replicate what is going right

If something is working, do more of it. Not blindly of course, but leverage that momentum to fuel you and your business.

Celebrate the good stuff

We don’t celebrate enough. We take the successes and wins in our stride and focus on the challenges. One win supports you in dealing with multiple challenges. It is simple ratios that there will be more challenges than wins but that means that you are ‘doing’. That in itself should be celebrated.

You cannot control what happens, but you can control how you react to it

This is always easier said than done, but you cannot control what is going to happen. Economies will shrink and grow, currencies will collapse and new markets will open up. Don’t expend your energy and focus on what has happened or went wrong.

It has happened. Accept it. Now, how will you react or deal with it? Does it create a new opportunity? Do you have to scale back? Put reality on the table and move. Be it forward or sideways or even backwards, do something pro-active.

Upgrade your candle at the end of the tunnel to a spotlight

Success is relative. What is a massive win to one person could seem very arbitrary to someone else. It doesn’t matter. Only you will know what success means to you and you know what? Make it a big thing. It is in our nature to down play progress.

Celebrate moving forward. Celebrate that you are still in business 6 months later. Pat yourself on the back. You will need to in order to fire yourself up for the next summit.

Believe in yourself no matter what

You can and will do it. Never doubt that. Back yourself over and over and it will become a habit!

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12 Common Reasons Start-Ups Fail…And How to Avoid Them. Click Here

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Andrew has had the benefit of gaining experience as both an entrepreneur and a corporate Chartered Accountant. With personal experience of building, buying and selling businesses, he has built up significant experience in working with the owners of privately owned businesses in assisting them to grow and/or exit their businesses at maximum value. As the founder and Managing Director of Deal Leaders Africa he has built a team that resonates with his clients and delivers the results they need.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Tshepo Thlaku

    Apr 19, 2013 at 08:26

    This is a nice piece to motivate start entrepreneurs. I think one other essential thing is “Just get things done” and if your efforts dont pay off just learn from the process and soldier on.

    You learn from mistake if you dont have fear to fail!

  2. Tshepo Tshepile Mokwana

    Apr 22, 2013 at 11:56

    WHAT A LOVELY MOTIVE, now the good part about this is you must not fear to take challenge as they are part of the Business.

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Start-up Advice

(Infographic)The Do’s And Don’ts Of Naming Your Business

There’s a lot that goes into a company’s name.

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Finding the right name for your business can be crucial to its success. If you’ve got a boring, vague name, then you might repel potential customers.

When it comes down to it, there are some major do’s and don’ts that go along with naming your company. For starters, keep things simple and short – a long name can confuse potential customers and won’t make a lasting impression on them.

Your name should also tell your story. Not only will this help people recognise your company but you’ll build the brand’s character.

Something a lot of people don’t think about is how their company’s name will sound in another language. Even if you’re in the early stages of building your company, who knows what could happen in the future. So create a name that sounds good and has a positive translation in any country. Next, always test your ideas before setting them in stone.

Ask potential customers to take a survey and compare your name with other companies in the same industry. Of course, you also must ensure that the name you came up is even available.

To learn how you can create the best name for your business, check out Business Backer‘s infographic below.

do-donts-naming-business-infographic

Related: Your New Business Name Should Be Memorable, Spell-able And Available

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.


Read next: How to Name (Or In Some Cases, Rename) Your Company

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Start-up Advice

Fuel Your Hustle

These two practical goal posts will keep your start-up on track, even when things get tough and you start to lose traction.

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Make sure you have a clear vision and a plan — something to chase and celebrate when targets are achieved.

When you start a new business, everything is exciting. You have a dream, something to work for. Once the business takes off, it’s easy to fall into a rat race of just going to work and reacting to challenges as they happen. Many established business owners get to a place where they wonder if it’s all worth the effort. Whenever I talk to entrepreneurs feeling this way, I always ask them what they are working towards.

Most times, they don’t have an answer.

No, I’m not going to give a motivational talk on how important goals are, but I do believe it’s important to work towards something. To chase something worthwhile. Is it a vision and mission statement? Maybe that fuels your energy, but there are two practical things that I can suggest to any entrepreneur to keep you on track, and keep you motivated with a reason to wake up in the morning.

1. A one-page business plan

The logic behind a business plan is great. It’s a plotted journey, with marked goals and targets. It gives you something to work on, and work towards. And you’ll definitely need one if you’re looking for financing. But very seldom does it actually become a real working document for the small business owner; business plans are too long-winded and rigid and don’t allow for the fast changes and flexibility you’re going to need when you’re running a business.

So, gut instinct is how most survive, and the plan goes into the middle drawer.

That doesn’t mean you don’t need a plan. It just means you need a different kind of plan — one that works for you at the stage you’re at. A one-pager plan that acts as a dynamic working document is where it’s at. The keyword here is dynamic.

Try to compile a one-pager of what you aim to achieve in the next year. Break it down per month and list the small steps that you will be taking to reach your bigger vision at the end of the year. This plan could include anything, but you should know that it will be your guide to what is important and what isn’t.

Work on it weekly, review it monthly and ensure that you are moving in the right direction. At the start of every month, review your plan and list your priorities for the month. If you hit a snag, stop, re-evaluate your plan, make changes and move on. It is not set in concrete. It is dynamic.

Too many entrepreneurs go to work each day and solve issues as they arise without planning proactively for what they want. Others view their business plan — all 100 pages of it — like it’s the Bible. Neither approach will get you very far.

The one-pager will be your plan, your guide. Keep it with you at all times so it can be as flexible as you need to be.

Related: Keep It Simple: How To Write A One Page Business Plan

2. Your break-even figure

For most entrepreneurs, numbers are one of those complicated matters best left to others, although it needn’t be that way. And when it comes to one particular number, it cannot be that way: That number is the break-even figure. It’s the one number every entrepreneur must know. If you don’t have a break-even figure, how will you know if you’re succeeding or failing?

A break-even figure is the amount of sales you need to make in a month to cover all expenses and to make a target profit. If you can calculate this, then you have a number that you can chase every day — something that is measurable and understandable for the entrepreneur.

The break-even figure is calculated by using three figures:

  1. Gross Profit Percentage: Your gross profit percentage is calculated by taking your gross profit (sales minus cost of sales) divided by your sales. Let’s say you sell a product for R200 and the cost of that product is R150, then your gross profit will be R50. Your gross profit percentage therefore is 25% (gross profit (R50) divided by sales (R200).
  2. Overheads: Overheads are the total of all your fixed expenses each month. Examples include rent, salaries, Internet, fuel and all other costs that you need to pay, e.g. R100 000.
  3. Profit Target: This is the profit you would like to achieve in a month, e.g. R20 000.

Related: Self-Made Millionaire At 24 Marnus Broodryk On How To Build A R1 Billion Business

Now that we have these three figures, we can calculate our break-even amount:

Break-even = (overheads + profit target) divided by gross profit percentage.

So, continuing the above example:

Break-even = (R100 000 + R20 000) / 25% = R480 000

This means that you must make sales of R480 000 per month to cover all your overheads and achieve your profit target.

If you have this figure you can now plan how to achieve this target and go out every day chasing a goal, rather than just crossing your fingers. One can take this number and divide it by the number of working days in a month to get to a daily target of sales. Also, make sure it’s on your one-page dynamic plan.

Sometimes, we just need basic things to give our journey meaning again. Something to chase and something to celebrate once we’ve achieved it (yes, make sure you celebrate). To have goals, a clear vision and a one-pager plan might sound like petty things when you run a business — but you might soon realise that you need these things to keep you going.

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Start-up Advice

Insurances To Consider If You Are Starting Your Own Business

Below are just some of the insurances you need to consider if you are starting your own business.

Amy Galbraith

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Starting your own business is a brave and bold step. You will be joining many others in the journey of becoming your own boss, and this can be a stressful time. You will need to have a sound business plan in place, as well as other aspects that will secure both your business and your financial future. These include certain insurances that are geared toward insuring your salary, your investments and yourself.

All small business owners should look into taking out funeral insurance so that their family is not burdened and can pay for their funeral, investment insurance so that their money is protected and commercial insurance to protect your business and your property.

Below are just some of the insurances you need to consider if you are starting your own business.

General liability insurance

General liability insurance is important because it will protect you and your business from any possible legal action taken by customers. This insurance protects you in case of any injury to or damage to a customer which happened on your property.

It is also important if you manufacture products, but this would fall under product liability insurance. If a product harms a consumer, then you are legally responsible for expenses which means that having liability insurance will help immensely with costs. If you sell homemade cakes, toys for children or even clothing, liability insurance should be at the top of your list.

Related: I would like to start an insurance business. What are the basic guidelines?

Funeral insurance

Now, you might not think that funeral plans are that important but, in fact, they are. Not only for you but for the employees you might have. Funeral cover pays your family a lump sum within 48 hours of your death so that they can pay for your funeral without having to worry about expenses.

As a small business owner, funeral plans make sense. You will likely be the sole breadwinner, which means that your family will be under considerable strain if you die. The same can be said of your employees. Their families will need to be able to pay for their funerals, and it will also ensure that employees stay loyal to your business.

Funeral cover is a benefit that many companies offer their employees to ensure they’re happy and satisfied in their roles.

Property insurance

If you own property or are leasing a building, property insurance is vital. This insurance covers your office equipment, the signage both inside and outside the building, all office furniture as well as your inventory. These will all be covered for disasters such as fire or a storm as well as in case of theft or damage.

However, it is important to note that if your business is based in your home, your homeowner’s insurance will not cover any business equipment. This means that you will have to take out additional insurance for your business equipment. You will also need to speak to your insurer about disaster coverage, especially if your business is based in an area that is prone to fires and floods. Property insurance is important because it will protect your business from incurring costs it cannot afford.

Commercial auto insurance

If you use a company car or have bought a car specifically for your business, you will need to take out commercial auto insurance. Just as homeowner’s insurance will not cover your business inventory, personal auto insurance will not cover a commercial or business vehicle. This is why commercial auto insurance is so important.

If your employees drive their own vehicles to and from work, you should try to ensure that they have personal auto insurance. And if they use their own vehicles for business reasons, you could ask your insurance provider about covering the risk as part of your general liability insurance. This will keep them safe in case of any accidents that might occur during their trip.

It is a good idea to purchase or hire a company car for your employees to use for any business trips so that your employees are safe and correctly insured.

Related: Insurance For Small Businesses: What Should Be Covered?

Look after your staff and business

Along with funeral insurance, workers compensation insurance is important for ensuring your staff is covered for any eventuality. And it will show them that you value them as employees, which will keep them happy and content in their roles.

This insurance will cover medical bills, death and disability benefits if an employee is injured on the job or on your property as well as salary protection. If you offer these as separate packages, you will not have to worry about worker’s compensation insurance but you will need to speak to an insurance broker about this. Protecting your employees is the mark of a true company leader, and happy workers are also more productive.

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