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Start-up Advice

What is The Lean Start-Up Movement?

The new movement that could save you from going through several failures before reaching your business success.

Daniel Marcus




I’ve gained a wealth of knowledge over the years from starting, building, failing and succeeding in a number of businesses; but had I read this one book when I started my first venture over 12 years ago, I would have definitely succeeded in more of my earlier failures.

This book I refer to is The Lean Startup by American Silicon Valley entrepreneur Eric Ries.

What’s the lean start-up movement?

The Lean Start-up movement is a business strategy whose core goal is getting your product to market as fast, and direct as possible while keeping costs low.

The key focus is to get your Minimum Viable Product (MVP) into the hands of the early adopters, meaning identifying when to stop developing your product ‘and just launch it already’.

Related: Turning a Perfect Formula on its Head: The Lean Start-Up



The second element is knowing when to ‘pivot’. Pivoting refers to the moment at which you need to listen to your early adopters and tailor your product in line with the feedback they’ve given you.

According to conventional entrepreneurship wisdom, the first thing every entrepreneur must do is create a business plan that describes the size of their business opportunity, the problem their potential consumers or clients face and the solution that the new venture will offer.

However, in the digital economy, where new opportunities are cropping up at every twist and turn of the digital landscape, the lean startup methodology is becoming increasingly popular. When a kid with the most rudimentary of computer skills (and an internet connection), can cotton on to the same idea as you with all your experience, then time is of the essence.

Why it’s become so popular

As I see it, the breakneck speed of technological advancements is what is driving this trend. One unnecessary day spent trying to perfect your product, rather than just putting it out there, can be the difference between failure and success and time wasting cannot be tolerated.

There’s yet another way tech trends are driving the Lean Start-up movement. Using major tech, corporations are helping to acclimatise consumers to the idea of a Beta Release, which essentially confesses that the released product isn’t perfect. Entrepreneurs however, are more comfortable with the idea of pivoting.

Nevertheless, as much as the Lean Startup business strategy has been popularised in the technology sector, it is by all means applicable to entrepreneurs in other sectors.

Don’t wait for perfect weather

Too many aspiring businesspeople wait for their plan to be perfect and then wait for the conditions in which to implement their plan to also be perfect before launching.

This is despite the realities of life being that conditions are rarely perfect and even if they are, the reality is that the perfect conditions could change at any moment.

While you shouldn’t pour your lifesavings into a pipe dream, there’s a strong argument to be made for just taking your product to market and then adapting it as and when you get feedback.

Never forget that adapting your product to suit your target market is a damn sight easier than adapting your target market to your product.

In the South African context, where even the government concedes that SMMEs have to be the key drivers to growth and jobs, you’d think that more of our entrepreneurs would ascribe to this concept.

Related: Xola Ndziba: Lean Start-up Approach to Limu


That said, there is, however, one element which is a major stumbling block to the Lean Startup becoming more prevalent in South Africa.

The lean start-up and traditional funding

With South Africa being an emerging market where dreams of Silicon Valley’s deep-pocketed venture capitalists seem forever out of reach, we remain highly reliant on traditional funding methods.

Those methods, with their requirements of reams of documentation to dissect your business idea as well as your life (from every angle!) are the very antithesis of the Lean Startup.

I doubt a bank would have funded the guy who, with no formal background in tech, quit his job to work on his great idea for an app. You might have heard of what he was working on – Instagram.

Be that as it may, should you be able to secure alternative means of funding, the advantages of the Lean Startup movement make implementing it worthwhile.

As an aspirant businessperson looking to finally own a financially viable and profitable company, the number one benefit of the Lean Startup is that it gives you the freedom to minimise wasteful expenditure prior to launch.

In trusting that the MVP you launch with will generate enough feedback for you to pivot, you allow yourself the freedom to actually make a go at it and actually generate revenue, which is the first step to your future success.


Daniel Marcus is the director at Magnetic, a cloud-based small business management app that streamlines the day-to-day administrative functions needed to maintain steady growth in small businesses. For more information visit Magnetic.

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




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




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


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




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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