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Start-up Advice

5 Steps That Helped Innovative Marketing Take The Leap

Launching a business is all about recognising a gap in the market — and then capitalising on it.

Nadine Todd

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Vital Stats

When husband and wife team Judd and Claudia Sherrin moved from Joburg to the South Coast, their plan was to maintain their full time jobs and work remotely. They were both working for a media house in Joburg, with Claudia involved in the editorial, design and eventing side, and Judd running advertising sales. Instead, the move launched them into entrepreneurship. Here’s how they capitalised on a niche, and what you can learn from their start-up journey.

1Find a niche

The most successful start-ups solve a problem. It’s entrepreneurship 101. If there’s a problem that you need a solution to (and would pay for), chances are there are others like you looking for that same solution. It’s a simple yet elegant way to develop a business idea. For Claudia and Judd, it became apparent that South Coast-based businesses did not have a strong online presence.

“It was 2015. The way I primarily found advertising leads in Joburg was through Google and business directory searches. That wasn’t working in KZN. The businesses I was looking for existed, but they had no online presence,” says Judd.

There was definitely a gap in the market, and Judd and Claudia knew they had the skills to fill it. They understood marketing, the digital space and content and eventing. They started putting a business plan together.

2Create a runway and bootstrap the business

Judd resigned from his position, but Claudia maintained her full-time position for another year. This gave the couple the runway they needed to launch their business without worrying about bills needing to be paid.

Related: 4 Vital Ingredients To Create Your Business’ Secret Sauce

It’s always tough to maintain a full-time job and launch a business, but if you have a goal in mind, and use your funds wisely, it’s an excellent way to bootstrap your business. It also means that any funds generated early can be reinvested into the company, instead of being used to pay personal bills.

One year into the business, Judd and Claudia’s first client invested in their business and became a silent partner. The cash injection allowed them to accelerate their growth, but they wouldn’t have attracted an investment partner if they weren’t already operational and proving their business model.

Bootstrapping your business is the best way to do that, because you’re in the market, finessing and tweaking your model.

3Create a compelling value proposition

“The incredible thing about digital is that you can track it,” says Claudia. “This means we have the data to prove any claims we make about digital marketing and the online space.”

The trick is to use that data. “People respond to data,” agrees Judd. “We don’t go into a meeting without firm numbers to prove our case. We show return on investment, how traffic is generated, who is viewing and responding to digital marketing, geographical locations and demographics.”

This information doesn’t just prove Judd and Claudia’s sales case, it’s critical to fine-tuning campaigns once they are launched, ensuring more successful marketing spend.

Related: 5 Startup Lessons That Could Have Saved Me 5 Years

4Educate your market

“We recognised there was a gap in the market,” says Judd. “This meant they either didn’t understand why they needed to be online, or they were fearful of change. Either way, before we could sell our services, we’ve needed to educate the market on why having an online presence is so critical in today’s competitive business environment.”

“You can’t sell your service if your market doesn’t buy in to what you do,” agrees Claudia, “so that was our first challenge. We needed to break the online world and digital marketing down into their base elements.

“You can’t expect a business owner to invest in your services if they don’t believe you can help them, which means before you can pitch your business, you need to lay the foundations of why your industry is such an important marketing and business tool, and how it will benefit your client.”

“Change is fearful,” adds Judd. “The more you educate, the more people understand the benefits of what you’re offering, and the less they fear doing something new.”

There is always the danger that a competitor swoops in with a sales pitch after you’ve put in the ground work, but it’s a risk worth taking. Without an educated market you won’t make meaningful sales anyway.

Position yourself as an expert in your field

As market educators, Claudia and Judd are also setting themselves up as the local experts in the field. They’ve even taken on pro bono work to cement this position.

“We work closely with the South Coast Tourism Board. This gives us credibility with local businesses, particularly as most of our clients are in the hospitality industry,” says Claudia. “The pro bono work allows us to build up our stock profile, generate original content, and network at their events. Our work with South Coast Tourism provides a case study to prove what we can do with a client whose referrals the local community trusts. It’s a win-win relationship.”

Referrals have worked well. “Our silent partner is a respected business owner in this community, and so his word and what we achieved for him carried a lot of weight,” says Judd.

“While you’re educating your clients, make sure you’re listening to them as well,” adds Claudia. “Telling people what they should be thinking is a poor strategy. Educate your market, but listen to their needs and concerns, and tweak your offering accordingly. You need to work together, and all business plans should constantly evolve to suit market needs.”

Related: 3 Crucial Questions To ‘Fail Proof’ Your New Business Idea

5Have a growth plan

Judd and Claudia might have started a niche regional agency, but their growth path is focused on a national footprint. “We already have clients in Joburg and Pretoria,” says Judd.

“Our first goal was to assist our local market. By driving tourism we’re also helping to grow our local economy. All businesses belong to the same ecosystem, and we’re very conscious of this fact.”

Working at a local level provided a platform and experience to target other markets. “Our focus now is to build an online business that can cater to international markets,” explains Claudia.

Nadine Todd is the Managing Editor of Entrepreneur Magazine, the How-To guide for growing businesses. Find her on Google+.

Start-up Advice

Entrepreneurship Is All About Overcoming Obstacles

Confronting your own doubts and fears is the essence of being an entrepreneur.

Kimanzi Constable

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Entrepreneurship is not a destination; it’s a journey. On this journey, successful entrepreneurs don’t have an expectation of “arriving” to some finish line. If you do have that expectation, you won’t continue to push yourself to step outside of your comfort and grow. You won’t seek out the things that truly help your business experience explosive results because all those things require you stretching yourself.

On any journey, you have times of joy and more than a few setbacks. During the times of joy, you feel like you can accomplish anything. It gives you the strength and motivation to continue to put in the work that helps your business.

During the hard times, negative feelings and emotions can easily take over. Before you know it, you’re feeling sorry for yourself and you turn to your familiar coping mechanism.

That coping mechanism could be food, alcohol, binge-watching TV or any other thing that takes your focus away from what you want to accomplish in your business. Since you don’t have a boss or company dictating your day and what you accomplish, that time “coping” could turn into weeks of your doing no work at all.

Related: Why You Shouldn’t Quit Your Job To Start A Business

Becoming a successful entrepreneur means understanding hard times are when you need to push. When there are obstacles, here’s what you need to do.

Acknowledge, then process your thoughts

The only way to get through obstacles is to start with acknowledging that they’re there. The gateway to your feelings and emotions is your thoughts. What you think about and focus on is what you’ll attract more of into your life.

When you’re dealing with obstacles, your thoughts focus on what you can’t control and why that situation is happening to you. That can be a dark place.

When you feel your thoughts spiraling, give yourself two minutes to fully feel what is going on in your head. Don’t try to suppress those thoughts – let them out. When you try to suppress them, they grow stronger and threaten to get control.

Related: How To Survive 150 Straight Rejections

Once you have given yourself two minutes, take control of your thoughts. Focus on what brings you joy and what you’re grateful for in your life. It’s hard to be down when you’re expressing gratitude.

Focus on what you can control

Life is messy. Change is hard. Growing a business is not easy and it feels like everything can go wrong at once. There are always going to be things you can’t and shouldn’t try to control.

Related: 3 Key Law Areas To Know When You Launch That Start-up

There are, however, things you can do something about. If your marketing plan is off, you can readjust. If your sales are lacking, you can go back what you know works. If a team member is causing more trouble than is worth helping them, you can let them go.

The point being, there are tangible things you can fix in your business no matter what is happening. Identify what the things are that you can do something about.

Create a plan that will help you get on the path to recovery. Make it practical and actionable. Fill up your to-do list and calendar with the tasks that lead to results.

Ask for help, then take action

Some obstacles feel like more than you can handle. Seeking counsel and support can be the difference between you getting through it or failing.

Don’t try to be Wonder Woman or Superman. Seek help. One of the best things you can do is make decisions that help you recover. Talking and planning with someone who understands and is trained in dealing with a crisis is valuable.

Then, make decisions that are action-based. If a decision pushes you toward the action that helps your business, make it. One of the best ways to recover from difficult situations is to take massive action. Taking action on the things you can control will give you progress. As you consistently take action, you’ll be closer to your goal before you even realise.

Related: What You Need To Know About The Lean Start-up Model

Obstacles don’t have to be business breakers in your life. You can learn from them and use them to make you a stronger and wiser entrepreneur. The most successful entrepreneurs understand that it’s not the crisis – it’s your response that determines how successful you’ll be. Stay strong, process your thoughts, create a plan and then take action.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Start-up Advice

Start-ups: Creating A High Tech/High Touch Environment

Here are some practical tips for creating a ‘high tech/high touch environment’.

Dirk Coetsee

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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.

Related: What Is Limiting Your Entrepreneurial Mindset

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.

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Start-up Advice

Why You Shouldn’t Quit Your Job To Start A Business

Rather than taking the plunge, consider dipping your toe in first

Yannick van den Bos

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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.

Related: 3 Key Law Areas To Know When You Launch That Start-up

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.

Related: What You Need To Know About The Lean Start-up Model

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.

Related: 6 Resources For Start-ups Looking For Funding

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.

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