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Start-up Advice

Starting Over

Moving a business to a new location can be like starting all over again.

Ed Hatton

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Start-up Challenge

An entrepreneur moved his event management and wedding planner business to a new province where no one knows his business. He needs to attract new clients, but isn’t sure where to begin. He has been distributing pamphlets, but so far no one has gotten back to him.

Start-up Solution

This entrepreneur had a thriving business doing wedding planning, parties and corporate event management and then he moved to a different province. When he started operations in his new location he realised just how much personal reputation and word of mouth had meant. In the new location he is unknown and potential clients are wary of entrusting important events to him. The business must be started again in the new location. As before, he has to build a client base and a solid reputation to provide a platform for growth. He has the advantage of experience, so he does not start quite as ‘cold’ as he did originally. Against this are a number of part-time wedding planners and event managers who are established and compete with him for business.

Strengths and resources

For all such challenges a good starting point is to identify strengths and resources compared to competitors, and examine how these can be used to advantage. For example, he runs a full-time business in competition with part-timers, so he has the advantage of being able to visit prospects and potential allies during working hours to canvass for opportunities. His company can bid for business meetings and training events run on weekdays — a big advantage over the part-timers.

Another strength is his experience in event management; this could be turned to an advantage by deliberately seeking out the most demanding clients and weddings where the family wants much more than others offer. By running these difficult events with confidence, the company will develop a reputation for excellence, while his part-time competitors are seen to be hesitant.

Generating sales leads

This entrepreneur discovered that broad- based advertising, like pamphlets in mailboxes does little to generate sales leads. To be effective, advertising must be focused where target customers are likely to see the adverts. Where could he find brides-to-be? Perhaps at colleges, sporting clubs, gyms or places of worship?  Posters or brochures at such venues could generate enquiries.

Forming alliances with interested parties is likely to be even more productive. For weddings these include photographers, wedding boutiques, florists, jewellers, wedding venues and similar service providers. For business events, conference centres, training providers and public relations practitioners are the targets. Alliances only work if they are mutually beneficial, so the entrepreneur needs to devise methods by which the ally gains an advantage if they introduce him to prospective clients.

A great way to develop a reputation would be to run free events for worthy causes like schools or charities. Their only cost would be materials. If the events are successful his company’s reputation will spread, and while running the event the entrepreneur will meet many businesspeople and families, and gain their goodwill. Building a network is a requirement for all entrepreneurs developing new businesses, so he could add to his charity work by networking via community forums, sports clubs and associations. All offer good opportunities to meet potential clients.

His target market for weddings and parties is a young group, and very much a part of the wired generation. This means an Internet presence is an absolute requirement – without this his company is invisible to large sections of this target market. An interesting website optimised for search engines and directories should be complemented by an effective presence in community and business networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn.

Being different

Like all entrepreneurs, our questioner should continually look for ways to add more value for his clients, to be different and make his services stand out. The difference does not have to be in gimmicks, it can be in the financial package, or little extras in the services offered. It could simply be absolute reliability and integrity, but to be a differentiator it needs to be more than the competitors offer. Entrepreneurship is too demanding and too much fun to allow the business to be just another ‘me too’ supplier.

Google invests in SA ideas

Google is giving South African IT entrepreneurs a jump-start with the launch of its Umbono technology incubator programme in Cape Town.

How it works

  • The programme lasts for six months, at the end of which entrepreneurs should be pitch-ready and have a business plan in place for the next round of funding.
  • Teams will receive between
    $25 000 and $50 000. The capital from angel investors will be exchanged for equity (10%).
  • Furnished office space and bandwidth is provided for the duration of the programme.
  • Umbono teams have access to Bandwidth Barn’s VeloCITI programmes covering all topics relevant to an emerging business.
  • Teams will have regular access to Google’s extensive network of business and technology experts. Each team is paired with a Google Power Mentor for weekly interactions.
  • Applications
  • While applications officially closed at the end of April, the process remains open year-round depending on quantity and quality of applicants.

More information

Email: umbonoza@gmail.com

Visit: www.google.co.za/intl/en/umbono

Ed Hatton is the owner of The Marketing Director and has consulted to and mentored SMBs in strategy, marketing and sales for almost 20 years. He co-authored an entrepreneurship textbook and is passionate about helping entrepreneurs to succeed.

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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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