Tips and Advice on How To Make It As An Entrepreneur

Many of us don’t have uncles who own companies that make R100 million profit or companies that are listed on the JSE, so the idea of entrepreneurship is different because we always associate being an entrepreneur with a small business in the township or village. This generation is building companies that will be here for over 100 years, similar to brands all over the world, yet there aren’t that many companies that are truly South African that have survived the 100 year mark.

I don’t have a 100 year old company yet, however, this is what I am building towards and so I thought I should give tips on how to help you, as an entrepreneur. This is especially for people leaving their jobs to pursue their dreams and also those who followed my previous post about The Startupper of The Year Challenger

  1. If you are in corporate and you tell people that you want to pursue your dreams on your own – they will not support you with this dream, they will support you with their words, but not with their actions. This is usually the hardest blow, especially when you think you have found a family that will carry you with this dream. This takes me back to when I bought my first car, everyone was willing to give me advice until I told them that the first car that I was about to buy was my dream car.
  2. You need to save for at least 6 months. Oh actually before you save, you will need to cut down on a lot of luxuries such as medical aid and insurance and live on the grace of God (hopefully nothing happens to you during this period). You will get back to survival mode such as rent, food, cellphone and internet and you will realize that you need less money to survive every month, it gets hard at first, but you get used to it until you can get back into these luxuries. You will not make money in the first six months of starting a new business or maybe the first year – maybe even cash in your provident fund as well.
  3. Hard work is the easiest part of running your own business, keeping your business afloat is the hardest thing you can do for yourself and your business. It takes time for people to do business with you and you need to convince them that you are worthy of their money and their relationships and show them that you mean business and you are reliable. Even that is not enough, people need to like you as a person because relationships are everything during entrepreneurship.
  4. Have a plan, focus on your plan, know what your competitor is doing but don’t do what they are doing because then it means you have no vision or plan. Have targets and how to get to those targets and this might not necessarily be about getting sales – mostly it’s about positioning your company with certain people and clients. If you position yourself as premium don’t even entertain brands that don’t fit within that because you are new, brands might want to take advantage of the association. Have people around you that are better than you within the business – a lawyer and someone who is good with numbers are always good people to have around before you can afford to pay them.
  5. Don’t choose the same business partner as yourself, if you are creative get a numbers guy as a business partner, or someone who does something that you hate doing, just better. It’s pointless to have two people who are doing one thing. Within the business know your position and don’t try to do everything yourself, learn how to delegate or know what you are capable of as well. As much as this is your dream, learn in the second or third year to let go of certain things and trust your team with those tasks.
  6. Since you are a new business you need to invest in your business in such a way that it positions your business in an interesting way. As an online magazine, people didn’t expect us to have billboards on the highway, but that positioned us in such a way where corporate took us seriously. Also, try to invest in an office space, people will not take your business seriously if it doesn’t have office space – its a reliability thing. Coffee shops work but only up to a certain point. When you say to a client “come to my office”,  it holds more weight even if they never come to see your office.
  7. No one will get your vision more than you do, no one is going to put in more effort into your dream more than you. You will have to be the face of your business, therefore, everything you say online, you become liable for it and who you associate yourself with – I think it gets hard to separate yourself from your business in the first five years. You are the business, so look like you are a progressive business.
  8. If you have investors coming in, make sure that you do research about them and spend as much time with them as possible because this is a pending marriage, therefore you need to at least get along with the person putting in the money. You will make mistakes in business and as soon as you have made it, take them in and apologize, forgive yourself and move on – don’t let the failures consume you. You learn more from failures than you do from success.
  9. You will lose friends and family because we are all at different stages of our lives and its ok. Others are building families, others are furthering their studies and traveling – find your tribe and grow with them, other people that you have lost on the way you will connect with later as you grow.
  10. Dream as big as possible, work towards those dreams, know when to let young people run your company and when to guide them with regards to company culture. Not everything is about you, but try to make everyone part of the process because if they are valued they will stay. Re-invest in yourself and your company as much as possible. Lastly, have fun and travel the world and tell the world that you are coming for everything.