- Company: Tigerfight
- Players: Fabian Sing and Garth Barnes
- Est: 2012
- Visit: www.tigerfight.co.za
It started, as it so often does, over late-night drinks. “We’d often sit around after gigs promising ourselves that we’d start our own thing one day,” says Tigerfight co-founder Garth Barnes, who is the frontman for South African band CrashCarBurn.
“And for a long time, nothing really came of it. It was a ‘someday’ thing,” adds Barnes’ business partner and former bandmate Fabian Sing. But then, in 2012, they decided to get serious. It was time to quit the idle talk and give it a real go.
Barnes was working at an accounting firm, and the experience was leaving him cold. Music was his real passion, and his day job was not providing him with the time to pursue what he truly loved. Sing was already working in the music industry and had received several awards for his compositions.
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The time seemed right to launch their own company. With Barnes’s business acumen and Sing’s technical expertise, they had what they needed to strike out on their own.
Typical of any start-up, the first three years of Tigerfight was a tumultuous period, filled with ups and downs. Here are their lessons.
Taking the plunge is never easy
“Music production and composition isn’t a cheap industry to get into,” says Sing.
“Sure, modern technology allows just about anyone to record music at home on their laptop, but professional-level equipment is very expensive. And if you want to provide a top-level product, you need good equipment.”
“Getting Tigerfight off the ground required a huge capital investment,” says Barnes.
“We had to build a studio, which took a year to complete. In order to get the money needed, I decided to apply for finance while I still had a full-time job. Quitting my job and securing a loan for the business was a scary move.”
Barnes now had debt that needed to be repaid, but still the entrepreneurs needed to be patient – launching a business will always take longer than anticipated.
Know your numbers
Barnes left the accounting firm to lecture in accounting at the University of Johannesburg. “My background in numbers gave our start-up a distinct advantage. Fabian is the creative force behind Tigerfight. He’s the one with the amazing musical talent and technical expertise. I’m the one who crunches the numbers and makes sure that we manage our money properly.”
Keeping careful track of the money coming in and going out is critical, yet many start-ups neglect this, burning through their capital far quicker than anticipated.
That’s why it’s important to involve someone with a head for numbers. While everyone else is looking to the future, they can keep an eye on the runway and ensure there’s enough money in the bank to get the business off the ground.
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Branding is very important
“We were very careful about how we positioned our company. We even hired an agency to assist us in the branding of the business. It turned out to be a bit of a disaster. We weren’t on the same page, so what they created didn’t align with what Fabian and I had in mind. We had already spent quite a bit of money but decided to walk away from what the agency had created. We didn’t want to compromise our vision,” says Barnes.
“The name Tigerfight was also an extension of the brand image we wanted to create around the business. We wanted an evocative image – something that suggested passion, excitement and tenacity. The visual of two tigers fighting is anything but boring,” adds Sing.
Chase the right business
“Right from the get-go, we were very selective in the jobs we pursued. We went for projects that were exciting, and that we thought would have a nice buzz around them.
“We also quickly scratched out a specific niche for ourselves. We did work for the local Comic’s Choice Awards, for example, and this led to comedians approaching us to create unique walk-on music for them. It was a market that wasn’t being serviced at all,” says Sing. As a start-up, Sing and Barnes quickly learnt the value of mining their contacts. Everyone has contacts, it’s just a matter of using them.
Everyone’s an expert
“Proving your worth within a creative industry can be difficult. Modern technology allows anyone to create music on a PC, so companies can sometimes be reluctant to spend a significant amount on music composition. It’s your job to show them how superior your product is,” says Barnes, highlighting the importance of proving value, particularly when it’s associated with a higher cost.
“Some companies can also be reluctant to change. They stick with what they know and remain loyal to existing suppliers, so you need to bring something truly fresh and unique to the table. Don’t leave them with a choice but to sit up and take notice.”
Develop a thick skin
“Creatives have a reputation for being sensitive and insecure when it comes to their creations. If you want to turn your creative pursuits into a commercial endeavour, though, you need to let go of your insecurities and develop a thick skin,” says Sing.
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“You need to be receptive to your client’s opinions and criticisms. You can’t take it personally. You need to be able to sit at a boardroom table and listen as eight people pick your creation apart.”
While this is true of creatives, it’s equally true of all start-ups. Ultimately your business needs to deliver on client needs, which means you can’t take things personally.
Hire slow, fire fast
“A lot of start-ups hire extra help too quickly when they start to expand. They hire fast and fire slow. We took the opposite approach. It took us about a year to hire our first employee.
“The work was rolling in and we were being swamped, so the temptation was big to hire as quickly as possible. But we wanted an individual who could offer the same level of service we were providing clients. When we did eventually hire someone, we were confident that we had found the right person, and he was worth the wait,” says Barnes.
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1. Nick D’Aloisio Wrote a Million Dollar App At Age 15
At the age of 15, Nick D’Aloisio wrote an app while sitting in his parent’s bedroom in the UK. At the age of 17, D’Aloisio sold his app Summly – a mobile news summarisation app to Yahoo for a staggering USD 30 million.
As one of the youngest millionaires, D’Aloisio is also the world’s youngest entrepreneur to be backed by venture capitalists – having secured seed funding from Sir Li Ka-Shing, Hong Kong’s billionaire, as well as raising USD 1.23 million from celebrity investors, including Yoko Ono and Ashton Kutcher.
“The number one thing I did that I think was wise was to get, through some of my advisers, was a Chairman; basically someone who was a very experienced business person, an industry veteran — Bart Swanson, who had been at Amazon and then Badoo. Then, myself and Bart really started finding people and growing the team.”
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1. Brendan Kennedy
- Company: Tilray
- Website: https://www.tilray.com/
Brendan Kennedy worked on job sites as a carpenter to pay his way through university, with his eyes set firmly on becoming an architect, until the allure of Silicon Valley changed the course of his direction. While working at technology start-ups Kennedy began thinking about the possibilities that medical marijuana provided.
“I was really sceptical of medical cannabis,” he says. “It took a year of having conversations with patients and physicians and hearing the same story, repackaged but essentially the same, over and over and over again, where my scepticism eroded and I became a believer.”
In 2013, Kennedy and his partners applied for a licence from Health Canada and launched Lafitte Ventures, which was later renamed Tilray. Today, the company is a global leader in medical cannabis research, cultivation, processing and distribution.
Scaleup Learnings From Our Top Clients – What The Most Successful Entrepreneurs Do Right
So, how do our successful clients move through these constraints to scaling up? We see four key drivers of success, and they are: people, strategy, flawless execution and finance.
You’re out of your start-up boots, staff is increasing, your client base is growing, revenue is up and you’ve proven your case to the market. Now it’s time to scale up. The challenges of this vital growth phase are different and it’s a time that demands different mindsets and different actions. In a world littered with small business failures, it helps to be well-prepared for scaling up using a proven methodology. At Outsourced CFO, we get an inside look at the success factors of our clients who are mastering the transition.
On the one hand, scaling up is a really exciting phase; this is what moves you into real job creation and making an impactful contribution to economic growth. On the other hand, it is really hard to scale up successfully. We see three major constraints that limit companies’ transition from start-up to scale-up:
The business has to have the leadership that can take it to the next level. When you start scaling up, especially rapidly, the founders can no longer do everything themselves. The team must grow and include new leadership talent that can take charge and execute so that the founders are working on the business instead of in the business.
The processes, procedures, networks, systems and workflows of the business all need to be scalable. This is imperative when it comes to your infrastructure for the financial management of your business. You’re only ready for growth when your infrastructure can seamlessly keep pace.
Scaling up demands more innovative marketing and storytelling so that you can more easily connect and engage with the new employees, clients, network partners, investors and mentors that need to come along with you on your scale-up journey.
Businesses that build a market conversation and a compelling brand narrative during their start-up phase are better positioned to have this kind of market access when they need to scale up.
It is critical to have the right people on your team. Our successful entrepreneurs have what it takes to attract, inspire and retain top talent. A strong team of smart, ambitious and purpose-driven people who love the company and want to see it succeed contribute greatly to a world class company culture. They are adept at communicating a compelling vision and establishing core values that people can take on. These entrepreneurs are tuned into the aspirations of their people and focus on developing leaders in their teams who can in turn develop more leaders.
It is planning that ensures that the right things are happening at the right times. At successful scale-ups strategies and action plans are devised to ensure that the most important thing always remains the most important thing.
Strategy includes input from all team members and setting of good priorities for the short, medium and long term. Goals are clear and everyone always knows what they are working towards. The needle is continuously moved because 90-day action plans are implemented each quarter to achieve targets and goals that are over and above people doing their daily jobs.
Top entrepreneurs are not just focused on what operations need to achieve, but how the business operates. They have the right procedures, processes and tools in place so that everyone can deliver along the line on the company’s brand promise. Frequent, quick successive meetings ensure the rapid flow of effective communication. Problems are solved without drama. There is no chaos in the office environment. Everyone is empowered to execute flawlessly to an array of consistently happy clients.
Everyone knows that growth burns cash. A rapidly scaling business faces the challenge of needing a scalable financial infrastructure to keep the company healthy. Our successful entrepreneurs pay close attention to finance as the heartbeat of the business, ensuring that everything else functions. They look at the tech they are using for financial management and for the ways that their financial systems can be automated so that they can be brought rapidly to scale. The capital to grow is another vital finance issue.
The best way to finance a business is through paying clients on the shortest possible cash flow cycle. However, when you are scaling up and making heavier investments in the resources you need for growth, it is likely that you will need a workable plan for raising capital. Our scale-up clients know the value of accessing innovative financial management that provides high level services to drive their business growth.
Navigating the scale-up journey of a growing private company is one of the hardest but most rewarding of careers to pursue. Having people in your corner who have been through this journey before helps take a lot of pain out of the process. No growth journey looks the same, but there are tried and tested methods that will – if applied diligently – lead to definite success. Happy scaling!
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