Here’s what the experts say about how to face your fears of leaving the corporate world, and when you’re really ready to launch your own business.
Step 1: Refine your idea
Here’s how to take the idea of owning your own business and turn it into a reality.
The question that halts most budding entrepreneurs in their tracks is, ‘when do I begin?’. The fact that you’re even thinking about starting a business means you’ve already begun. You’ve taken the first step by asking for help and searching for answers. There will always be challenges, no matter when you decide to start your business. To succeed, your goal is simple: Define your business concept to the best of your ability, test it out and adjust it as you discover what will work.
The greatest aspect of being an entrepreneur is that there are no rules to follow. You don’t need more experience or money to start; you can go for your dream right now. To help you get going, here are four tips.
- Define your passion in writing
If you keep an idea in your mind, that’s as far as it can develop. Writing down your concept helps you focus on how to make it a business. By clearly defining your idea, your imagination, heart and intellect can begin to work together to make it a reality.
- Keep an open mind and trust your instincts
This is not the time to judge your abilities or your experience. Tell yourself that you can and will discover how to make your dream business a reality. Find people who can help. SME owners usually enjoy sharing their experiences. Listen to them and get real-life direction, knowledge and tools that will move you forward faster.
- Buy yourself time
Pick a specific time each week when the only thing you do is work on developing your business. Don’t let anything distract you; this is your special time to go for your dream.
- Test out your idea and be willing to adjust it
You will be successful if you take action and make adjustments to your idea by analysing the information you receive. Allow your business concept to be shaped and moulded by your research, friendly suggestions and other information you gather along the way.
By simply having a dream, you have already taken the first step to achieving your goals; now, get ready for the ride of your life.
Drop all of the excuses, jump in with both feet and trust your instincts. You will uncover the resources, people and strategies you need to succeed.
Related: Steps for Testing Your Business Idea
Step 2: Get going
If you want to start a business but don’t know where to begin, don’t worry – you are not alone. Here are eight ways to take control.
- Take a stand for yourself
If you are dissatisfied with your current circumstances, admit that no one but you can fix them. It doesn’t do any good to blame the economy, your boss, your spouse or your family. Change can only occur when you make a conscious decision to make it happen.
- Identify the right business for you
Give yourself permission to explore. Be willing to look at different facets of yourself (your personality, social styles, age) and listen to your intuition. We tend to ignore intuition even though deep down we often know the truth. Ask yourself, ‘What gives me energy even when I’m tired?’ How do you know what business is ‘right’ for you? There are three common approaches to entrepreneurship:
- Do what you know. Look at work you have done for others in the past and think about how you could package those skills and offer them as your own services or products.
- Do what others do. Learn about other businesses that interest you. Once you have identified a business you like, emulate it.
- Solve a common problem. Is there a gap in the market? Is there a service or product you would like to bring to market? If you choose to do this, make sure that you become a student and gain knowledge first before you spend any money.
- Business planning improves your chances of success
Most people don’t plan, but it will help you get to market faster. A business plan will help you gain clarity, focus and confidence. A plan does not need to be more than one page. As you write down your goals, strategies and action steps, your business becomes real.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- What am I building?
- Who will I serve?
- What is the promise I am making to my customers/clients and to myself?
- What are my objectives, strategies and action plans (steps) to achieve my goals?
- Know your target audience
Before you spend money, find out if people will actually buy your products or services. This may be the most important thing you do. You can do this by validating your market. In other words, who, exactly, will buy your products or services other than your family or friends? What is the size of your target market? Who are your customers? Is your product or service relevant to their everyday life? Why do they need it?
There is industry research available that you can uncover for free. Read industry articles with data (Google the relevant industry associations) and read Census data to learn more. However, the most important way to get this information is to ask your target market/customers directly and then listen.
- Understand your personal finances and choose the right money you need for your business
As an entrepreneur, your personal life and business life are interconnected. You are likely to be your first – and possibly only – investor. Therefore, having a detailed understanding of your personal finances, and the ability to track them, is an essential first step before seeking outside funding for your business. As you are creating your business plan, you will need to consider what type of business you are building – a lifestyle business (smaller amount of start-up funds), a franchise (moderate investment depending on the franchise), or a high-tech business (will require significant capital investment). Depending on where you fall in the continuum, you will need a different amount of money to launch and grow your business, and it does matter what kind of money you accept.
- Build a support network
You’ve made the internal commitment to your business. Now you need to cultivate a network of supporters, advisors, partners, allies and vendors. If you believe in your business, others will, too. Network locally, nationally and via social networks. Here are some networking basics:
- When attending networking events, ask others what they do and think about how you can help them. The key is to listen more than tout yourself.
- No matter what group you join, be generous, help others and make introductions without charging them.
- By becoming a generous leader, you will be the first person who comes to mind when someone you’ve helped needs your service or hears of someone else who needs your service.
- Sell by creating value
Even though we purchase products and services every day, people don’t want to be ‘sold.’ Focus on serving others. The more people you serve, the more money you will make. When considering your customers or clients, ask yourself:
- What can I give them?
- How can I make them successful in their own pursuits?
- This approach can help lead you to new ways to hone your product or service and deliver more value, which your customers will appreciate.
- Get the word out
Be willing to say who you are and what you do with conviction and without apology. Embrace and use the most effective online tools (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn) available to broadcast your news. Even though social networks are essential today, don’t underestimate the power of other methods to get the word out: eg, word-of-mouth marketing, website and Internet marketing tools, public relations, blog posts, columns and articles, speeches, email, newsletters, and the old-fashioned but still essential telephone.
Step 3: Overcoming your fears
Call it what you like. Procrastination. Fear. Necessary preparation. The fact is that many new business owners fall into the trap of staying ‘busy’ without actually doing business.
Designing business cards and setting up spreadsheets are just some of the tasks that, though necessary, make it tempting to put off doing business. After all, it’s more fun to choose fonts than to make cold calls.
It’s true that starting a business requires a certain amount of preparation, or as Robert Spiegel, author of The Shoestring Entrepreneur’s Guide to the Best Home-Based Businesses, calls it, ‘pencil sharpening’. Here are ten ways to move past pencil sharpening and put those pencils to work.
- Make a list
Making lists is a common denominator in businesses that have moved forward during the start-up phase. “People take time-management classes and use various electronic tools, daily planners and software, but all these tools essentially help make lists,” says Spiegel. “Having a list is the most important way to keep procrastination away.” Keep the list in front of you so it’s always visible.
- Take baby steps
It can be overwhelming when your to-do list is changing and priorities seem to be wrestling each other, but starting with small, manageable jobs can help thwart fears and minimise anxiety. Focusing on what really matters often comes down to having discipline and a clear vision.
- Find a customer
If you don’t have customers or clients, you don’t have a business. Yet finding and committing to that first customer can be a difficult hurdle for many entrepreneurs.
- Forget perfection
It might seem ideal to have everything in place exactly as you envisioned, but perfection doesn’t pay the bills. The ideal situation would be to have high-tech office equipment, but rather than waiting, start working from a small office with little more than basic equipment – a desk and a telephone.
- Talk business
Believing in yourself and your business might sound like hokey advice, but if you don’t believe you’re truly in business, as opposed to ‘starting a business,’ how can you expect anyone else to believe it?
Change your choice of words when you’re out in the world. Talk about your company like it is a business, not like it’s about to be a business – “I’m trying to start a business” sounds noncommittal. Even if all you’ve done is print your own business cards, saying things like, “I own my own business,” or, “I have to get back to work,” will get the word out that you are serious.
- Reward yourself
On a weekly basis, ask yourself if you’ve really done anything worthy of a reward – something that will have a tangible impact on your business. Then choose your reward carefully and make it only as grand as the task completed.
- Be accountable
Find a partner, organisation or another business owner to hold you accountable. Whether you choose to buddy up with another business owner or be regularly accountable to a friend or family member, pick someone who won’t let you off the hook too easily.
- Predict the future
A sure way to determine if you are furthering your business is to look ahead. If you stay in the pencil-sharpening stage, where will your business be next week or next month? Chances are, you’ll be in debt. Guy Kawasaki, author of eight books, including The Art of the Start, Rules for Revolutionaries and How to Drive Your Competition Crazy, suggests that entrepreneurs use the following test to determine if what they are doing can be considered progress: “Would you call your spouse to tell him or her it’s done? For example, you wouldn’t call your spouse to [say] that you ordered stationery.” Do something today that makes you want to call home, and your odds of future business success increase dramatically. Or if negative motivation is more your style, picture your future if you don’t take some steps forward now.
- Remember your dream
When the going gets tough and it’s time to tackle those things outside your comfort zone, keeping your initial dream in mind might be the motivation you need. Changing goals and creating new dreams can keep your excitement as fresh as it was in the beginning.
- Do the hard stuff first
Emotion can kill a business before it even gets off the ground. Human nature dictates that we are first drawn to the things that bring us pleasure, and business tasks are no different. By getting distasteful responsibilities out of the way rather than avoiding them, we can more fully enjoy the other parts of business ownership.
Rapelang Rabana’s Innovation Formula – 3 Key Ingredients To Innovate
To be a success in today’s fast paced world, you need innovation at the heart of everything you do.
The innovation formula is simple: According to tech entrepreneur Rapelang Rabana, innovation is at its best and greatest when it’s sourced from your unique perspective and accumulated wisdom, combined with shared value and execution.
At this year’s BCX Disrupt Summit, Rapelang broke the process down into the three key ingredients that together shape innovation and success.
1. Prepare your mind
Your ability to innovate and be creative is based on the sum of all of your experiences. Great ideas do not take shape in our minds, they are the result of external stimulus hitting a prepared mind. We don’t think up ideas — we notice them. We connect the dots in new and creative ways. And our ability to do so is based on how prepared we are to notice what’s happening around us, and to tap into that information.
When asked what it takes to be great like Richard Branson, Steve Jobs and Elon Musk, Musk’s ex-wife, Justine Musk had this advice to offer:
“Shift your focus away from what you want (a billion dollars) and get deeply, intensely curious about what the world wants and needs. It helps to have an ego, but you must be in service to something bigger if you are to inspire the people you need to help you.”
So, ask yourself this: What do you have that is so deeply compelling and needed that no one can outsource you or replace you? Until you can answer this question, keep building your mind, your abilities and your knowledge. Work on your repository, and your ability to connect the dots.
2. Create shared value
Thato Kgatlhanye, founder of the Rethaka foundation, an organisation that creates school bags that are also solar panels, and can provide schoolgoers with energy in the evening so that they can do their homework, says that she is money-driven, business-driven, and empathetic towards her people. In other words, her business is created through shared value, and the desire to not only create money for her business, but within her communities as well.
Most successful organisations would never have been launched if their primary focus was for the business to win. People are hungry for things that are inclusive and show positive change.
Consider Airbnb — the founders had the audacity to put a blow-up mattress in their livingroom, and believe that other people would find value in their offering. And they were right, mainly because the business model is all inclusive. The business wins, the hosts win and the customers win.
According to Nielsen, 40% more social entrepreneurs are growing compared to other SMEs, and they’re showing greater profit. In addition, people say they are more likely to purchase from ethical and sustainable businesses. The cynics might say this is what people say, not how they buy. This may be true, but it’s also a leading indicator of how we will behave in the future. We’re trying to get there, and our behaviour will catch up to the sentiment.
Always be cognisant of how responsive the market is. Learn to leverage public sentiment and get attention through the ideal of shared value. Winning with others is the fastest way to create value today.
3. Get stuff done
When we start a project or idea, we try to project into the future. We want to draw a linear picture between now and then. The problem is that creation is far more chaotic.
Instead, minute variations over time create profound changes. It’s a journey. There are no defining moments of success or failure; just a series of events strung together over time. To make the necessary minute variations though, you need data points and you need to take action. Often this starts with just beginning. If you start, you can move forward, slowly but surely. Progress is far more evolutionary than simply trying to imagine the end.
The problem is that the mind blocks us. We essentially block ourselves from success. How? Building anything and trying to be innovative requires a series of many, many decisions made over years and years. Many of those decisions are made — or not made — from a place of fear. Our instincts tell us to do something, and then our minds stop us. The most incredible things can happen if we learn to follow our instincts though.
In her book, The Five Second Rule, Mel Robbins unpacks the skill of acting on your instincts. In essence, the space between your instinct and the moment of hesitation that stops you from acting is five seconds. This means you have five seconds to make things happen, and the way to utilise that time and to make things happen is to count down from five: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. At one, move. Get up, take action, call the client, speak to your boss — don’t let fear come in and crush the instinct.
Why a countdown? A countdown suspends — for a moment — the self-doubt that gives you space to move before the brain kills it. I started using the rule for small stuff at first. A countdown in the morning to get out of bed and go to gym. Then I started using it for the harder stuff, like not losing my temper. If you can be aware enough to make the countdown, you can change your behaviour.
The ability to execute and turn innovation into profit comes down to a series of five-second moments over years. Push yourself. Get past your mental blocks and act on your instinct.
Combine this with building on your knowledge, connecting the dots around you, and understanding that value is not given or taken, but is created through shared value, and you have the recipe for innovation and success.
IN YOUR TOOLKIT
Focus on learning new stuff
FACT: The super-successful focus heavily on learning new skills, reading practical books and listening or watching podcasts, interviews and informational courses.
Take best-selling author and leadership coach Simon Sinek, who said:
“My work is never complete, we wake up with a hunger to learn, and no one is ever truly an expert. Anyone who says, ‘I’m an expert at anything’ has closed their mind to the idea that they might not know everything. There’s always more to learn. I’ve never considered myself an expert. I’m always a student of leadership. All the work is imperfect and all the learning is continuous.”
Action Step: If you can read 20 full pages a day, or even listen to an hour-long audio/podcast, you will accumulate more than 36+ books a year of new knowledge.
Start here: If you’re not sure where to start, download the audible app (audible.com) and browse the business books available, or subscribe to podcasts. Three great places to begin are:
- Trailblazers with Walter Isaacson, a show focused on disruption and hosted by the biographer of Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein and Benjamin Franklin amongst others.
- The Tim Ferriss Show, hosted by Tim Ferriss and one of the biggest podcasts on the planet.
- Masters of Scale, hosted by LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, who chats to some of the worlds biggest and most successful entrepreneurs.
From Buffy To Business: Sarah Michelle Gellar Opens Up About How Hollywood Helped Prepare Her for Launching A Company
Sarah Michelle Gellar and her co-founders share lessons learned and how acting helped her deal with rejection and how being a celebrity in the startup world can have its drawbacks.
Everyone wants to be an entrepreneur. With a turbulent economy, companies cutting jobs and employees fearful they’ll be replaced by robots, people of all backgrounds are looking to take control of their financial future and pursue their passion, including celebrities.
Jessica Alba, Gwyneth Paltrow, George Clooney and Victoria Beckham are just some of the stars who decided to transition from La La land to entrepreneurial land.
And now Sarah Michelle Gellar, best known as the star of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, is also part of the startup world. The actress-turned-entrepreneur joined forces with friends who are also parents, Galit Laibow and Greg Fleishman, to launch Foodstirs in 2015. The DIY baking company, which sells kits and mixes, wants to provide parents fun, yet simple desserts for their children, with a focus on organic, ethically and sustainably-sourced ingredients.
“We’re determined to help bakers around the world take pride in their pantries, joy in their treats, and time together in the heart of the home,” is part of their mission.
After raising a reported $5 million, the company has expanded beyond just ecommerce; Foodstirs is now in approximately 7,500 stores, including Whole Foods.
We caught up with her before the event to chat about finding success, her journey and lessons she learned.
Before you got into the world of entrepreneurship, you were best known for your acting. Why did you decide to jump into this world?
I always knew I wanted to do more than just be an actor for hire. I thought producing might be enough, but I realised I still desired more. That’s when I realised I could utilise my great existing platform and actually be a part of creating something tangible. It’s been such an interesting process, learning how much of my existing skill set is applicable to being an entrepreneur.
Why did you decide to have a focus on food?
Food has always been an important part of my life, as it should be for everyone, but that magnified once I had children. Our kids were so interested in baking, yet there was no readily available brand that had the attributes we would want and expect – organic, ethically sourced, easy and affordable that also tasted amazing.
What has been the mantra that has helped you find success as an entrepreneur?
The one thing being an actor prepares you for is rejection. I spent the better part of my life facing and dealing with rejection, and I have never let it stop me from achieving something I was passionate about. When it comes to business, for me the word “no” is just the first step to yes. That rejection inspires me to work harder, and prove those no’s to be a mistake.
What is something that would surprise people about your entrepreneurial journey?
I think people assume that being a celebrity makes it easier to raise money and achieve mass distribution and that is not the case. Maybe it gets you in a door, as a novelty, but then you have so much more to prove.
What is one piece of advice you will share ?
This piece of advice came from Galit Laibow – one of my two amazing partners along with Greg Fleishman. Always surround yourself with people who are smarter and know more than you do. We have such an incredible group of advisors with vast experience in all areas of business that we can call on at all times. Their knowledge is invaluable.
What is on the horizon for you?
We just achieved wide retail distribution (in over 7,500 stores) so our main focus at the moment is supporting our stores through quarter four and at the same time dialing in our innovation pipeline for 2018.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Farah Fortune Of African Star Communications On Choosing The Right Clients
Publicist extraordinaire Farah Fortune of African Star Communications built her business not by courting big clients, but by backing young up-and-comers, and growing her brand right alongside theirs.
- Player: Farah Fortune
- Company: African Star Communications
- Established: 2008
- Contact: +27 (0)79 826 1955, firstname.lastname@example.org
The 36-year-old publicist launched her celebrity PR business in 2008, with R1 000 in her pocket — she spent R589 of that on registering a CC and the rest on business cards.
From working on her bedroom floor and sharing two-minute noodles with her daughter as she struggled to survive, today African Star Communications represents high-profile rappers such as K.O and Solo, and stand-up comedians Loyiso Gola and Jason Goliath.
She has an office in Nigeria and plans to open two new offices in Botswana and Ghana.
You pulled yourself up by your bootstraps. How did you overcome the hurdles?
I lost my first business to a crooked partner in 2006. I was determined to try again and I went in search of funding, but no-one would give me money.
When the last thing I had to feed my child was a mouldy piece of cheese, I went back to work for a PR company, earning R12 000 a month, managing accounts worth millions. I hated every minute of it. In June 2008, when my CC registration came through, I walked out the door.
My first pitch was for a small charity day that AIG hosted for Manchester United in Johannesburg. I was the only woman in the reception area, but my offer to do the job for R10 000 was irresistible and I signed my first client. That was just the beginning of a long struggle. I was broke for the next three years.
Friends bought my groceries, and I would feed my daughter and have her leftovers for dinner.
I couldn’t afford petrol so I walked from my house in Randburg to do pitches in Sandton in my takkies, and then changed my shoes at the client’s office. The only thing that kept me going was the belief that I could somehow make it work.
What was your big break?
In year three rapper AKA was about to release his first album. He pursued me for four months. Initially, I didn’t want to work with him, but his ambition won me over.
I’ve never regretted the decision. We signed a contract, and shortly after that more clients came my way, mostly for small events.
Working with AKA made me realise that my passion was for music and I decided to channel my energies into promoting South Africa hip-hop stars. That’s how I ended up specialising and finding my own niche in the crowded PR sector.
Our team convinced 8ta/Telkom to look at AKA for their ads and it worked. I branched into corporate PR after the celebrity side took off.
What made your business stand out from other PR companies?
First was affordability. Publicists do not come cheap. I signed up many young artists who had not yet hit the big time, and charged them as little as R4 000 a month to manage their publicity and help make them famous.
Taking on lots of small clients meant that I could spread the risk. We still structure our packages according to what clients can afford and I’ve kept the overheads low. To this day, I’ve never advertised.
Second was my focus on hip-hop. Before 2011, corporates were not interested in rappers and the scene was very much underground. I convinced Vodacom to sponsor a big hip-hop party with AKA as the star attraction.
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After that, many other corporates woke up and took advantage of the popularity of the local rap scene. I like to think I played a part in mainstreaming South African hip-hop.
How have you stayed relevant in a fickle industry?
Once the business was pumping, I built my own brand. I never planned to be in the spotlight, but the more I appeared in the media, the more I was able to build my clients’ profiles, and get bigger accounts.
I focused only on doing business-related interviews and people started to take me more seriously. I could not believe how many corporate contracts I did not win because I refused to sleep with the client.
It’s a disappointing reality of this business when you are young and female. Developing my own brand helped me to build a career based on respect and professionalism.
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