Starting a new business is daunting. But when starting a new business in the IT and Telecommunications field, things can get exponentially hairier, but done correctly, having a business in this industry can be extremely rewarding, both personally and financially.
One of the most exciting aspects of the technology industry is the rate of change we see. This allows for the creation of brand new, successful businesses on a daily basis. Although starting any new business is always a challenging undertaking, it also has the potential of being one of the most fulfilling experiences. If you see the potential to create a business, and you can make a compelling argument that the business model has longevity, I would encourage you to go for it.
I would like to share some of the important lessons I learned first-hand with those who are just starting out or thinking about creating their own business. These are by no means the only things you should consider, as there is by far a long list of things an entrepreneur should know before starting a business, and thankfully we have Entrepreneur Magazine for that, but these are some of the things I have learned that you should definitely consider and contemplate more than once.
1. Formalise your business agreements
One of the most important consideration for a new business is to ensure that there is a strict, formal, well-written agreement between you and your business partners.
Do not only plan the way the business is going to work, but also how it will fail, and what each party is liable for if it does. I have always insisted on putting such agreements in place and it has saved my relationships with friends in the past.
2. Cash flow is king
In addition, cash flow management remains a critical task for any business at any stage. Any business, particularly one that has just opened, is at serious risk of failure if cash flow becomes compromised.
Watch your cash flow like a hawk, which means planning and accounting for every little cent you’re going to spend. The margin between making it and failing can sometimes be as small as purchasing something for the business this month, when it could have waited another month.
3. Work towards the best, but plan for the worst
What happens when the business goes bust is a difficult thing to talk about, because when you are starting out, you are hopeful and idealistic, and you do not really want to talk about the downside. But you have to talk about it, and plan for a situation where the business goes under.
4. Beware the financing trap
To return to financial management, I would discourage new business owners from acquiring too much finance and being over-indebted from the first day, unless it is absolutely necessary.
Finance needs to be repaid, placing strain on that all-important cash flow, when often an innovative solution will reduced the reliance or even the necessity of finance.
5. Learn to walk before you try the 100m Olympic sprit
Nine out of ten times, I find that budding entrepreneurs have completely overestimated what they are going to need to spend to get started. New businesses often want to splash out on marketing, without asking whether they have a product to sell and whether people would want to buy it.
If you know that people will buy your product, go out and sell it first. Just get your first order. If someone is willing to pay you for something if you deliver it to them, you have your first order, and all you need is the cash to produce the product or service. This may mean starting smaller than planned, or maybe lower margins from the start, but it reduces the risk profile of the venture drastically.
What I have seen a few times before is someone leaving their job with enough money to pay themselves a salary for a few months, and then spending all that money on setting up a marketing plan, doing a little advertising, and on other operational expenses, without having sold anything yet, and then go bust due to a lack of revenue.
6. You are either all in, or all out
Something that always amazes me is people saying that they would like to get involved in a part-time business. I always draw parallels between having a business and having a baby. It is going to be kicking and screaming and be very fragile in the first few years.
If it is not, you are doing it wrong. If the business makes it past the first few years, it has a better chance of surviving.
Like a baby, the older it gets, the more it is able to look after itself. However, it needs your involvement at the outset. If you can only devote some of your time to the business, you might be absent during a crisis, and that could prove disastrous.
7. Be future first
Finally, it is important to plan well into the future. Basic business plans with a long-term outlook are one of the cornerstones of a successful operation. You should have a vision of where you want the business to be in 50 years, and how you want it to get there.
Chances are that the business will almost definitely not end up where you thought it would as it will evolve over time, but thinking into the future helps you to anticipate eventualities, and plan for how to deal with them.
With the best intention, a business may go bust due to market conditions that are completely out of your control. A fluctuating exchange rate may cripple you slowly, or a revolutionary development within your industry may render your product or service obsolete overnight.
These can impact everyone, so rather focus on what you can control; focus on the things that you can have a direct and tangible impact on the outcome. The 7 point I have listed are those that I found to be the most important in my journey, however your journey may present others that impact on you even more.
Keep a list of the challenges you face and the lessons you learn, and always refer back to them to help you to keep developing.
Business Opportunities In Printing And Signage
The event is taking place from 12-14 September at Gallagher Convention Centre.
In an entrepreneurial environment, people are seeking innovative ways to make extra money. The signage and printing industry offers opportunities for small start-ups or those looking to grow their businesses.
These opportunities will be showcased at the upcoming Sign Africa and FESPA Africa expo, which is co-located with Africa Print for commercial print solutions and Africa LED for professional LED lighting. The event is taking place from 12-14 September at Gallagher Convention Centre.
T-Shirt and Bag Printing
Embellishments and glitter help transform a simple shirt into a unique garment, and depending on the specific shirt and techniques used, it could become a high priced item. Shirts and bags can be customised, a key aspect to targeting millennials, who require unique products, want to stand out and want items that are Instagram-worthy. You can target this market with personalised bags and unique T-shirts, which do not require large and expensive equipment to produce.
Mugs and Promotional Gifting
While others may see public holidays as opportunities to relax, entrepreneurs can see them as money-making opportunities. Capitalise on trendy markets and popular holidays such as Valentine’s Day, Mother’s and Father’s Day by producing themed and personalised gifts. Other profitable options include: shopping bags, decor and invites, promotional, corporate and safety wear, wood, vinyl, paper, plastics, metals, flat substrates like clipboards, binders, notebooks, mouse pads, coasters, business cards, stickers and corrugated signs or posters, smart phones and tablet cases.
Business owners are constantly seeking ways to get their brands noticed. And with all the gigantic billboards, street pole advertisements and other media vying for consumers’ attention, it’s difficult to stand out. Enter vehicle wrapping, which is an effective promotional tool as it’s cost-effective, impactful and long-lasting. Besides cost-effective general wraps for corporate fleets, custom vehicle wrapping offers special effects that create Instagram-worthy wraps that get brands noticed.
Of course, these business opportunities require training and some research. Luckily, industry experts will be available at the Sign Africa and FESPA Africa expo to answer visitors’ questions. There are also free educational features such as a T-Shirt and Bag printing workshop featuring demonstrations by local experts on T-shirts and bags with speciality printing techniques as well as the Textile Experience, which shows how to screen print onto T-shirts.
Opportunities for small start-ups or those looking to grow their businesses will be showcased in daily 30 minute Business Opportunity sessions. For more information about the event, and to register online, please visit: http://bit.ly/EntrepreneurSignAfrica.
10 Businesses You Can Start Part-Time
Find your perfect match for a successful part-time start-up.
Launching a company – even if it’s operated part-time – is all about drawing on your skills, talents and interests to create a viable business.
What you know and what you’re good at form a good basis for a part-time business because these companies either become an extension of what you enjoy doing most or they are based on your strengths.
Working part-time while still maintaining a permanent job is time consuming and often exhausting, so choosing what you take pleasure in or are good at can keep you focused and motivated. The right fit is important when it comes to launching a part-time business. Selling a service rather than a product does not require large start-up costs, which means you can grow your business without financing until it becomes self-sustaining.
Corporate Communications & Promotions
Corporate communications covers a host of areas, mainly because this is the sector that takes care of how companies look to the outside world – something that is very definitely a service, but also that is not often taken care of in-house. If you can write, edit, have a knack for advertising, can take photographs or create promotional and corporate videos, you can offer your services part-time to companies both large and small that are in need of these services.
A 7-Step Guide To Starting Your Own Trade Business
With that sorted, it is time to get on with the more exciting operational stuff.
Skilled tradesmen are always in demand. Whether you are a plumber, electrician, cabinetmaker, refrigeration expert, tiler or builder, there is a ton of work out there. For many, the best way to make the most of the opportunity is to open your own business.
Where do you start? The first step is to register your business with the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC). Look for a catchy name that is easy to spell and memorable – you do not want customers to struggle. The CIPC will tell you which names are taken. It is also a good idea to do a trademark search before deciding on a name. Register with SARS and make sure that all your tax affairs are in order.
It is a very good idea to get a good accountant right at the early stages of the game. They can also help you set up the legislative requirements for running a business. The National Small Business Chamber is a non-profit organisation that offers a range of services to its members that aim to help them grow faster, save money and receive the support they need.
With that sorted, it is time to get on with the more exciting operational stuff.
1. Finding customers
You want to find customers in order to grow your business beyond the ones you already have. These days, that means a website and some smart online marketing.
This can be as simple as setting up a Facebook page and any one of several other social media sites (like Instagram and LinkedIn). These services are at no-cost to you and allow you to quickly build up a following of loyal customers. You can share ‘jobs well done’, so prospective customers can see what you are capable of, while your contact details are easily accessible. In due course, consider some paid averts on relevant social media platforms and perhaps a website of your own. It is a good way to get potential customers on board.
At the same time, list your services in community newspapers, noticeboards and newsletters so everyone in the area can easily see that you are available and what it is you do. Also, keep your eye on social media community groups – and ask family, friends and existing clients to refer and/or recommend your services when an opportunity arises.
Finally, there are many government initiatives and non-profit organisations whose aim is to help small businesses succeed – with a particular emphasis on black-owned businesses. This help could range from facilitating access to finance, all the way to mentorship. Spend some time finding out what help is on offer. The SME Movement site also has this kind of information.
2. Stay focused
For those just starting out, there might be a temptation to take any job that crosses your path. Rather stick to your area of expertise to build a reputation based on proven skills. If you are an electrician with a little plumbing experience, for example, tackling a piping job could cause more trouble than it is worth. Every trade is different and you are an expert for a reason.
Leave the other work for experts in those fields – but build up relationships with them so that you can refer work to each other.
3. Ride on your qualifications and references
You have spent a lot of time getting certified. Let your customers know about your qualifications and experience by putting it on your Facebook page, your invoices, e-mails and other communications. The same goes for references; these are valuable and provide evidence of your ability to get the job done. Ask for a reference when the job is complete and then on to social media it goes. The good news with social media, by the way, is that these references do not ever go away.
4. Stay on top of the paperwork
The good old days of doing business on a handshake may be behind us. Providing quotes, contracts, invoices and records of payments electronically makes paperwork a whole lot easier by creating a digital archive where physical copies aren’t needed, but it serves the same purpose, when it is formally recorded, it is far easier to see what has been agreed to, done and paid for. Do not skimp here, even the best customer service provider relationships can go awry if verbal agreements are all you have to go on.
5. Register with your trade association (and invest in CPD)
Being a member of a trade association (like Master Builders, the Institute of Plumbing or other professional bodies) lends credibility to what you are doing. It also provides access to new customers should larger contractors need to sub-contract. Your trade association also formalises training and continuous professional development (CPD).
6. Get business insurance
All too often, this crucial coverage is ignored by those starting out on their own. You want to protect tools and equipment on the one hand and you also want broadform public liability to safeguard yourself, your employees and your business against third party claims should something go wrong on the job. It provides cover in connection with your normal business activities and also your liability if any employees are injured in the course of work.
Putting the right insurance in place can mean the difference between staying in business for the long term or folding the minute the tools grow legs and disappear.
7. Deliver good service
Do not forget that every job is a potential reference and, at the very least, is your entry into that client’s network of friends or business associates. Concentrate on giving good service and actively request feedback so you can remedy any shortfalls. A take-it-or-leave it attitude may be relaxing, but it will prevent your business from growing to what it potentially can be.
MiWay is an Authorised Financial Services Provider (Licence no: 33970)
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