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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

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

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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

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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

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

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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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