With all the negativity surrounding us due to the major impact COVID-19 has had on our economy, I want to believe that new businesses will emerge during and after the lockdown. South Africans are a resilient bunch and NOW may be the best time yet to start a business. The economy is in shambles. The currency is worth less than toilet paper. And companies are retrenching. So what else could go wrong? Why not create your own destiny. Create your own job in starting your very own business.
Opening your own business is often a learn-as-you-go process. But, the more smart decisions you make early on, the better chance your company has for success. If you have an entrepreneurial idea, try these 8 tips.
Countless people dream of becoming entrepreneurs, but they never do. They’re burdened with excuses and fears of failing. From money to time to responsibilities, you can make a million cases for not starting a business. Let’s face it, being your own boss is scary. In most cases, new business owners have a lot to lose with little insight into their chances of success. Worrying about the risks of business ownership is normal. But, excuses only slow you down from reaching your goals. If you really want to start a business, you need to address the reasons you think you can’t start a business and get rid of them. Find a solution to the issue rather than let it hold you back.
Stop thinking you know everything. You don’t. Stop being too proud. This won’t help one bit. Listen to what others have to say—friends, family, experts, even yourself. When it comes to things that have to do with your entrepreneurial goals, be a sponge. As you learn, start to work out the idea in your head. Write things down. Keep notes from all the resources you come across to develop a detailed plan. When you tell people about your startup, read their body language.
Do they like the idea? Or, are they just being nice and really think you’re going in the wrong direction? Encourage your listeners to be honest with you. The collective opinion you get from peers could be a reflection of how consumers will react. Don’t ignore the power of advice from experts and veteran business owners. These folks know first-hand what does and doesn’t work. Smart entrepreneurs learn from the mistakes other business owners have made.
Be a solution.
Rather than starting your idea with what to sell, think about what it will solve. It’s a lot easier to gain a solid customer base when your business is fixing a problem. Your startup should fill a hole in a certain market or niche. Home in on why you are opening your own business. Understanding your motives will help you create a brand and market your company. Know what problems your target customers face and how you can solve them.
Keep it simple. No really. Don’t be stupid.
If you’re like many entrepreneurs, you have a business idea and you’re ready to run with it. Be careful not to let your concept snowball into something overcomplicated. You could end up with an expensive, elaborate end-product that nobody wants to buy.
As a new business owner, try to start small and narrow your focus. Cut unnecessary features that water down your offerings and cost you money. As a small business, you don’t need all the bells and whistles of a giant corporation. It will be easier to add to your business as it grows.
Count the costs.
Once you start to develop your business idea, add up how much it will cost. You will need to factor in every business expense necessary to launch and operate. Some costs to keep in mind include your location, rent, supplies, marketing, and more. Come up with the most educated number you possibly can.
Then, take whatever you think that Rand amount is and quadruple it. Seriously, quadruple it. You’ll experience unexpected costs of running a business around every corner. It’s better to be over prepared than short on funds when bills start to roll in. When you’re thinking of the cost to start a business, don’t forget about your personal budget. Look at how much money you need to live, including rent, food, fuel, medical aid, etc. Lay these expenses out in order of which ones you must pay (e.g., rent/bond) to ones that can slide if the money runs out (e.g., entertainment).
Imagine yourself with zero money.
I mean zero. There is a high probability that this will happen. I’ve had several businesses not make it for the long haul. And, I’ve come close to bankruptcy. Launching an unsuccessful business idea is a reality for many entrepreneurs. Over half of new businesses fail within the first five years of opening. How would you handle having no incoming money? It’s a good idea to come up with a “just in case the worst outcome happens” plan.
You might need to get a job on-the-fly or temporarily live with your parents. You might have to go without comforts that you’re used to. Figure out how you would get by if your business plan went south. Look at your current sources of income. What do you earn from your current job? How long would your savings last if you quit? What unexpected things could mess up your plan (e.g., you wreck your car)? Prepare yourself for all the situations that could happen if the business idea doesn’t work out.
Earn while you build.
If you want to start a small business, don’t quit your day job—yet. Launching a successful startup is a process. Build your business in stages and gradually transition from employee to entrepreneur. As a new business owner, it will take some time to earn a steady income. Keep your nine-to-five and work on the business during off hours so you can earn during those tough, first stages. Once you have a healthy inflow of cash from your company, you can tackle business ownership full time.
Speak up about your business.
One challenge many business owners face is that they don’t know how to sell. It can be intimidating to share your business with the world, especially when you’re new. If you’re worried what people will think about your business, you need to get over it. If you can’t convince consumers to buy from you and support your company, it’s difficult to make money.
Not an outgoing person? Fake it ‘till you make it. If you really want business success, you can’t afford to be shy. In my early days in corporate, before embarking on my entrepreneurial journey, I had to do public speaking, at the age of 19, for the first time. Back then, I didn’t have any training or experience in talking to large groups of people, not to mention I wasn’t very keen on the idea of facing my worst fear. But, if I wanted to succeed, I had to get out of my comfort zone. This came in the form of undergoing a Train-the-Trainer programme and becoming qualified to train artisans, engineers, and managerial staff in soft skills like customer care, decision-making and problem solving techniques (applying mathematics), etc. I can’t begin to tell you how afraid I was. As it turned out, in time, I became a lot more comfortable in front of people.
You need to PUT YOURSELF OUT THERE for the sake of your business. Be ready to speak confidently about your business, even if it makes you uncomfortable. As a new business owner, you will need to market and network constantly. From networking with clients to negotiating supplier payment terms, you must be able to communicate.