The journey of entrepreneurship is a mixture of anxiety, excitement, fun, stress, joy and fulfillment. Along the way it is so important to equip ourselves with knowledge and insights that we can always refer to when we get stuck or feel alone. Below are articles to give you insights, key information and we hope some inspiration to make this journey a fruitful learning experience.
Fear of Starting a Business
When people think about starting a business, a number of perceptions come to mind. Freedom to do my own thing, freedom of owning my time, no more crazy bosses, being broke, losing my assets, changing my lifestyle, failure and the list goes on and on. We have been fed by the media, people we know who ventured into business, people who know other people and it seems like this very overwhelming experience.
I have worked with numerous entrepreneurs. All these perceptions are true, entrepreneurs have experienced all of the above in one way or another. And yet they are still in it. They still do it, they still push forward. There is something so incredible about living your dreams and fulfilling your destiny.
Don’t get me wrong, not everyone is cut out for this. It isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea. However, if you have a burning desire to do something that you know could make a real change, could impact lives, change the way we do things, make things better and could transform you, then you definitely have something worth pursuing.
The challenge is, we know too many horror stories that make it really hard to take the plunge. It is really uncomfortable putting ourselves in these uncertain ventures. We start to create excuses for ourselves to justify our inability to act. If you are holding back on doing something for yourself, then these excuses will be very familiar to you.
- My idea isn’t good enough
We are always waiting for the next great thing! The next new innovation. That word, innovation has made us believe that innovation means a new product, a new invention.
That is a misconception. To innovate is to do things differently. You have to find a way to do something faster, better, cheaper, whatever it is, just do it differently and tell everyone that is why your product or service is better, you did it differently. Some of the most successful companies are based on refining earlier ideas and innovations.
- I’m too scared?
I’m sorry to tell you this, you will never stop being afraid. We are not psychopaths, of course we have fears. Fears guide us, but they can also cripple us and hold us back. Don’t try and kill your fears, they will just be replaced with other fears and you will be in a constant battle with yourself.
The point is to act in spite of our fears. Acknowledge your fears and act anyway because our actions are the only things we can control, not the what ifs.
- I’m not good enough – don’t have the right skills, contacts etc.
You don’t need a degree to become an entrepreneur, as evidenced by numerous and successful entrepreneurs such as Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Ray Kroc, Coco Chanel … etc.
Whatever we need is always within reach. To do your job well, you had to learn a skill. To run a household, you had to learn a skill. There is absolutely nothing that you do today that you didn’t have to learn to do at some point in your life. If you need to learn a skill, you can find someone who can teach you that skill. Read, intern, volunteer, do something! We learn by doing, so get up and start learning. The more you do it, the better you become and the better you become, the more attractive you become to other people and that is when you start building the right contacts to help you do more of it. Just do it!
- I need funding to start.
As an ex-financier, this was something I heard just too many times. “I can’t do anything without money first.”
I can assure you that you are unlikely to get funding if you have nothing to show for it. Money is attracted to money, to success. If you can’t show that you are willing to do whatever it takes to show a financier how great your product is or how great it can be, then you are not worth the investment.
To be an entrepreneur, you need to master the art of making the most of what you have. Start small to prove that your product or service can work, that will at least show the funder potential and then you will see the money come rolling in.
- I don’t have the time.
Really? The truth my friend is that you don’t know how to prioritise. You have made a choice as to how you want to spend your time. You choose to do the things you do with your time. If you want to find more time, then you are going to need to start prioritising.
- I don’t know what business to start
This is a big one for most people. Whenever I host workshops on starting a business, this questions seems to come up a lot. Which business should I start? Where am I likely to be most successful?
My advice, choose something you love, something you are committed to, something that you would do even if you weren’t paid to do it. That is always the best business because you will do it even when times are tough.
- It’s too risky.
As an entrepreneur, I can only say to you, if it weren’t risky, it would be boring and that just isn’t worth it. This is an uncertain journey, you just need to trust that you have the grit and the belief that you can recover from anything life throws at you.
- I need everything to be ready before I do it
One of my favourite lessons was given to me by T Harv Eker when he said “Sloppy success is better than perfect mediocrity.” I had my “aha” moment just then because I realised I was waiting for things to be perfect before I could make my move. Now I understand that perfection is only achieved by doing, because as you do more, you do better. You can never achieve perfection waiting to offer your product or service. The market determines that. So you need to have a version of your product or service that is good enough for the market to test and give you solid feedback and then you keep perfecting it. There is no successful entrepreneur that I know of that started out with absolute perfection, each one of them had to learn by doing and that is just the way it works. So don’t sit on it because it isn’t perfect. Remember, sloppy success!
- It will be too embarrassing if I fail.
Failure can be really embarrassing. I mean cringe worthy stuff. When you just want to jump into a hole and bury yourself because you can’t stop cringing whenever you relive that embarrassing moment.
From every failure though, I have learned great things about myself. For me, failure has become my greatest asset, because failure is feedback. I wouldn’t know as much as I do if it weren’t for all my failure. So keep failing, keep learning and keep growing, it only makes you more great.
I wish to leave you with this last thought:
We have to be willing to live the lives we wish to live. We have to be willing to fail, to succeed, to learn, and to grow. We have to be willing to make tough decisions and to step out of our comfort zones.
Ask yourself – could I live my entire life never knowing what could have been?
Take action and live!
Written by Palesa Mabidilala
CEO of EnziAfrica
Living With Purpose
How do you know if you have made the right career choice? If you should leave your current job and take the plunge and dare to go for your dreams? If you will succeed in your next role?
These are the questions I am asked very often. In fact these are the questions that people are waiting to get answers for before making any decision. These are the questions that make us see the glaring gap between where we are today and where we think we might want to be.
I have had many career changes in my short life. From doing the “corporate hustle” in the auditing firms to funding SMEs and finally developing entrepreneurs. My earlier studies had very little to do with my current profession. There were times when I couldn’t quite figure out where my career path was leading me. I spent a whole lot of time questioning, wondering what’s next and feeling out of place in the environments I was working in.
I basically was spending my life waiting to start living. Waiting for the new income bracket, the new title, for my boss to see the valuable contribution I bring, for my job to get more interesting, for someone to say I should do it, for SOMETHING!
It was during my early career life that a friend of mine suggested that we travel to Europe for a holiday. I had never travelled abroad before and I couldn’t quite figure out how I would raise the money to go. But nonetheless I was sold on the idea and as we know, once you decide you want to do something, the solution arises. We went away and had an awesome experience. I came back broke, so excited and with a new perspective on life. I realized just how much I have, just how good I really have it and decided that I would put more effort in being grateful for what I do have and to use it better.
Soon amazing things started to happen. You see gratitude has an incredible way of making what you have today as more than enough for where you need to go. You start to see opportunities that have been right in front of you all this time. I have been living a whole lot since then. Taking baby steps is now an adventure, and it is constantly leading me to more.
So here is my 2cents worth of advice for living fully:
Success isn’t a destination, a specific accomplishment or something that is out there that you need to reach or gain. Success is in living in the present moment and being completely grateful for all the experiences and the learning that we have from every stage of our lives and careers. As stated so eloquently by an insightful writer “As soon as you honor the present moment, all unhappiness and struggle dissolve, and life begins to flow with joy and ease. When you act out the present-moment awareness, whatever you do becomes imbued with a sense of quality, care, and love – even the most simple action.”― Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now
My best friend and I attended a seminar hosted by T Harv Eker and during the seminar he said “How you do one thing is how you do everything”. That was a big “aha” moment for us. Think about how much effort you put in some things and how little enthusiasm you have for other things. If we put as much energy, enthusiasm and love in all that we do, think just how incredible life can be. How rewarding every experience would be. So, whatever career you are in right now, take comfort in that it is preparing you for the next one. Treat it as the audition for your next big move. Do it with all that you have and be grateful for it and it might just surprise you by bringing you great reward and an opening to your next role.
Comfort zones are limiting beliefs
My favourite lesson has been in learning to embrace being uncomfortable. Picture a circle that represents your current life. All that you know, your home, the people in your life, your work etc. are in that circle. Now picture a spot just outside that circle; that is where your growth sits. See the illustration below:
Your growth is always just a small step away, take small actions and your world will grow.
Taking small steps is a lot easier said than done. But here is something I learned from T Harv Eker, “Sloppy success is better than perfect mediocrity”. Waiting for perfection before doing anything may just keep you in that same position for a very long time. So take the small step; it will be sloppy, it won’t look perfect and it may go completely wrong. You may FAIL! Yes that’s right, you may just fail this round. But failure is FEEDBACK. As long as you see failure as feedback then you gain the best gift of all, how not to do it next time.
Try it, learn from it, and then try it differently next time. Do it fully with enthusiasm and remember to say thank you!
10 Common Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make When Pitching For Business/Funding
Do you know why you struggle to get funding or business from corporates? Quick answer: Your business either isn’t attractive enough or you just don’t know how to pitch it.
I have been on the receiving end of many pitches from entrepreneurs. Be it for funding, collaborations, access to business, networks, partnerships… you name it. Entrepreneurs seem to keep making the same mistakes when pitching their businesses.
If you want to know what funders and corporates are looking for and where you keep going wrong when pitching for business, then you better read this!
Mistake #1: Not explaining your big WHY?
Funders want a clear and concise overview of what the company does and why it exists? Basically, what problem does your business solve? How does it go about solving it and how important is this problem that you are trying to solve? If your business just doesn’t seem to have potential then its not even worth looking at what funds you are looking for. They need to be sold on your business.
Mistake #2: Not articulating your knowledge of the market opportunity
The mistake entrepreneurs often make is assuming that the opportunity is obvious to the funder. Paint a clear picture that the market opportunity is meaningfully large and growing. The funder wants to understand the growth potential of the business. Explain very clearly who your market is and how you plan on growing your market share. And PLEASE explain your assumptions. Tell the funder how you got to your figures. Don’t thumb suck!
Mistake #3: Making it all about you
You might have been the rock star that put this whole thing together but trust me, you won’t be what makes it excel into a solid business. For your business to grow, you need a strong management team, and that is for many investors, the most important element in deciding whether or not to invest. Entrepreneurs are always so passionate about their business which is great and very important in impressing investors. But if they don’t show humility, ability to learn, strong leadership and the ability to attract the right core members of their teams then the passion they show won’t be enough to convince an investor that this isn’t a sinking ship. Your teams are your staying power and you need to show that you have invested in a strong core team with relevant skills for the job they will be required to carry out. If you bring your team to a pitching session, make sure not to do all the talking. They are there to support you so show them off too because that shows strong leadership and that you trust your teams abilities.
Mistake #4: Overselling your products and services features instead of its relevance to your market
You love your product and that is lovely. An investor might only like what your product will do in the market, how well it will perform out there. Prove to your investor that this nice shiny product or this amazing service actually works well in the market and that the market like it. So here is where it gets tricky. What if you haven’t started selling yet? What if you don’t have a prototype? Then I am sorry to tell you this but if you only have a concept and no idea if the market wants it or how your product/service would work then your chances of getting an investor are slim. Very slim.
Here me out. You need to prove that your product is great right? Then why not invest in a demo to show how it works and conduct a pilot to see how a sample of people who aren’t your parents, or favourite grannies have to say about the product. Or start offering your service to a sample audience and test your theory of how great your product is. See if people buy it. How much they want to spend on it. You might believe you are on to something great but if nobody is buying it then maybe it’s time to adapt your product/service until it is actually appealing to an audience.
If you have a great story about your product/service, what you learned from your market, the feedback you received, how you had to adapt it, add more features to it, remove some features, and used all this learning to understand what your market wants and how your product satisfies that need, then you have something solid to present to an investor even if it is in beta mode, because they now know what they are buying into.
Mistake #5 Underestimating the competition – “we don’t have any competitors”
Chances are there is a product similar to yours or a different product that satisfies the same need to your customers. Or your product is very easy to replicate. Now these aren’t necessarily limiting factors. But what may be limited is your plan. How do you plan to compete? Will it be price, features, performance, timing? How will you stay on top of your game? Investors want to see how innovative your team is in staying on top. Spend some time on this because getting in can be a lot easier than staying on top. You need to show the investor that you have understood and analysed the competition so they can be assured that although you can’t preempt everything that is coming but your team has the entrepreneurial abilities to innovate new solutions.
Mistake #6 Not having a clear marketing and sales strategy
Yes your product or service is great but you still got to sell it! There is a misconception that if my product rocks everyone will come knocking on my door. That may have been true at some point in history but today there is just too much out there and so many similar products that you really need to have a solid marketing and sales strategy to get sales. The investors want to get a sense of how the company plans to market itself, how it plans on getting new customers and to see that you have understood what it takes to acquire and retain a customer.
Often entrepreneurs will ask for funding without factoring just how much it costs to get a customer, how long it takes to sign them up and to keep marketing to them on an ongoing basis. It is never a once off strategy. How will you finance the continuous marketing of your business? Some customers can take up to 6 months to sign up! How is the business planning on surviving whilst trying to sign up their customers?
Lastly, how innovative is the marketing strategy? Investors want to see that you have understood the marketing strategies that are relevant for your specific business. For example, just because many people are on a particular social media platform, doesn’t mean that will be the best tool to market your product to your target audience. You need to invest in your marketing strategy and don’t assume anything. Try it and burn your fingers until you get it right.
Mistake #7 Inability to prove traction
You need to prove that you have the goods, show that your business has gotten early traction in some way. The investor wants to know that your product can sell, even if it means running a pilot to show interest in your product/service and motivate what your clients were drawn to.
Mistake #8 Misunderstanding the business risks
“This business is a sure case, no risks whatsoever” Now that is highly unlikely and usually it just means you haven’t investigated the risks well enough. There inevitably are risks in any business, be it legal, regulatory, product liability risks. There are bound to be some risks and the issue is not really the risks, the investor wants to see that you have understood them and have thought of possible mitigating plans to manage those risks.
Mistake #9 Not knowing your numbers
It is not an easy task being able to project the performance of your business especially at the early stages of the business growth. However, bear in mind, you are dealing with money here, somebody elses money so they can’t make any decision unless they have a good idea that there will be a return on their investment at some point in the near future. Having an idea of how the business could potentially perform in the future would be much easier after you have managed to gain some traction and can see the response to your product, then you can do an analysis and estimate how much you would likely make. I must stress, this stage is much easier when you have understood mistakes 1 – 8. Entrepreneurs often give ambitions projections based on their opinion and haven’t been able to show their knowledge of the business potential based on sound business analysis. If an investor can’t assess when you will be profitable and how much money you will lose initially before becoming profitable, then they aren’t likely to invest.
Mistake #10 Having a clear end-game
The investor is only interested in getting a return on investment. So there must be a clear end-game. They are going to be focusing on the exit, either getting listed or selling it off for a sweet profit. They want this sooner than later so you need to show that when this business gets to a certain point, there will be interested buyers.
The Art Of Leveraging
There is an old African Proverb that says to “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”
Having worked with numerous entrepreneurs, I am always amazed at how much pressure entrepreneurs put on themselves to do everything in their businesses. When I ask entrepreneurs, what do you need to grow your business? I am usually given a list of very urgent needs which are blocking their growth. When I ask about their networks and how well they have leveraged them, I am usually given the response “I don’t have any networks” or “I don’t want to bother them”. Or you find the other group of entrepreneurs that will tell you how they have asked for everything and have received nothing. Nobody wants to help them.
This my friend is a misconception.
Your business cannot grow without relationships. In business for successful relationships to be established, there are no losers, everyone wins. If you want to master leveraging, then you need to master the art of creating long lasting win-win relationships. It’s not about milking your network, or driving down costs. It’s actually about giving value and receiving a whole lot more in return.
There are many ways to leverage. You can leverage other people’s time, talents, technology, networks to name just a few. To get any of these, you need to understand how to build win-win relationships for every aspect of your business. The same goes for leveraging networks. If you are an honest credible individual who happens to have a great business, then people are eager to share their networks with you because they can trust you with them. Another example is your customers; these are the best people to market your products provided that they are happy with your products and services and find value in them.
My personal favourite is leveraging teams. I have seen too many leaders of businesses become anxious, overwhelmed and stressed because they couldn’t understand the importance of leveraging their team members. The very useless notion that “Nobody can do it better than I can” is what is keeping you from building true win-win relationships with your own teams. Your business is dependent on people to do their best in order for it to grow, so give your teams the value of trust and see them take ownership of the business and take it to new heights.
It becomes a lot easier to leverage when you have something of value. You would be amazed at just how much people would be willing to do business with you, provide services to you and share knowledge, resources and networks with you if they believe that you add value to them or their business.
An entrepreneur that can’t embrace the concept of leverage is one that will always be wondering why their business never grew to the size they envisioned. The journey of entrepreneurship is often associated with being lonely and tough. But it can also be quite a joyous and enriching experience when you let go of a little control and collaborate with the people who will take you a lot further then you could achieve alone.
Scaling & Commercialising
What You Need To Know About Scaling Your Business
To invent a new idea or product is fantastic and is essential in South Africa. We need inventors to design new products and services that can change the way we do things, improve our lifestyles and position us on a global scale. But inventing a product is just one part of the solution. We need entrepreneurs to take those products and to commercialise them. Inventors invent, entrepreneurs innovate by creating solutions to bring those products to market. Both of these elements are crucial in creating thriving, scaling businesses.
Having worked with numerous successful businesses, including small to large companies, there are a few insights that can be summarised to give a picture of what it takes to scale into thriving businesses, and things you need to know to make it happen.
- Define your value proposition:
- So you have a great product/idea. Who cares if nobody wants it? It is crucial to understand your value proposition. You should be asking yourself â€œIs this what my customers want? How do I make this product relevant to them?â€ You have to ensure relevance if you want to be successful. Once you know your customers and what they want, it is much easier to sell to them.
- Get out of your comfort zones – it’s time to think big
- Thinking big is not easy and it’s definitely not comfortable. For some people, it comes naturally and a little bit of guidance is all they need to get it going. For others, it requires a network of mentors, successful and failed entrepreneurs to help them to think differently and to allow them to venture out into new territories. Build your network with the right people if you want to learn how to think big.
- Know how to market your product and yourself
- This is one of the areas that business owners tend to neglect. You cannot grow your business if there is no awareness of your products/services. Secondly, people connect with other people so you have to know how to brand yourself. You are just as important as your business product. Having a marketing strategy for both the brand and your personal brand is important.
- Don’t get lost in your business, step out and look at where you are going
- Entrepreneurs get so caught up in the day to day running of the business, the admin, the staff issues, the orders etc. that they forget to step out of their business and assess where they are going. What is the strategy of the business and is your business headed in the right direction? You need to step out to get clarity and this requires skilled mentors to help you to get a “birds-eye view” of your business. Get the systems and processes in place so you can focus on working on your business, not in it.
- It’s all about who you know
- As much as we hate to admit it, you need a really strong network of the right people to get your business going. But don’t underestimate the art of networking, it is not about collecting business cards, it’s about establishing relationships and learning to create value for people. Don’t be leeches; add value to people and your network will grow.
- Understand the money game
- There are various forms of finance options that are relevant to your business and its stage of growth. Entrepreneurs are usually unprepared and have very little understanding of how to position themselves to financiers. You have to know what financiers are looking for in order to ensure you meet the requirements. To better your chances of an approval, do some proper research rather than sending an incomplete document that doesn’t have enough information to process the application. Investigate and feel free to shop around for the best deal.
- You cannot do it alone
- The team you walk this journey with makes all the difference. If you still believe that nobody can do it as good as you can and that you have to do it all, then you are not running a sustainable business. When you know what you bring to an organisation and have analysed what the business needs are; you will be in a better position to source the best people that can add value to your business in a way that you are unable to. Eat some humble pie and equip yourself with people that are smarter than you and those that bring skills and unique abilities that will make your business thrive.
- Take imperfect action
- I know it sounds strange and no it is not a mistake. Take imperfect action. I once heard a millionaire, T Harv Eker, say “Sloppy success is better than perfect mediocrity” I couldn’t agree more. You don’t have to wait for the perfect product, the perfect business plan, the perfect team etc. to get started. Just get going! Be willing to adapt and refine along the way. It’s okay to perfect your business as you go, just ensure that the basics are in place for a solid foundation. So take action, and don’t be afraid to leap.