Down To Business
Fancy yourself an entrepreneur but not sure how to get your company off the ground? Helen Ueckermann has the answers
Starting a business is the dream of many. In fact, plenty of full-time employees wish, or are planning, to start their own ventures. However, turning a fantasy into a successful enterprise is no easy feat. Soon after starting, many new business owners realise they’re in over their heads and suffer from ‘buyer’s remorse’. There may be countless obstacles to overcome and much knowledge to be gained before you can become your own boss, but it is possible. It all starts with a little careful planning.
Know What You Want
If you answer ‘yes’ to most of the following questions, you have the potential to run a successful business.
- Are you a self-starter? You need to be able to develop and drive projects, manage your time and follow through on details.
- Are you willing to work long hours? As a business owner, you need to be committed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, particularly during the first few years.
- Are you good at making decisions? You will have to make decisions quickly, under pressure and, often, on your own.
- Do you plan well? Good organisation of finances, inventory, schedules and production is the oil that keeps any business engine running smoothly.
- Do you have the strength to stay motivated? Running a business can wear you down, especially when all the responsibility is on your shoulders alone.
- Are you willing to invest? A true entrepreneur puts their money where their mouth is. This may mean using personal savings or property.
- Would your family support you in your venture? The strain of having an unsup-portive spouse may be hard to balance against your new business demands. You may also experience financial difficulties until the company becomes profitable.
- Do you have a network to provide outside financing? Insufficient capital is a key cause of small business failure. If you are not able to obtain the funding you need, you may have to rely on friends and family; most start-up businesses are funded this way.
Leading By Example
Anna Phosa, owner of Dreamland farming project, a piggery in Gauteng, was chosen as Agripen’s Gauteng Farmer of the Year in 2011. Eight years ago, she bought a smallholding to grow cabbages and farm chickens. After attending a farmers’ meeting, she became interested in pig farming and bought four piglets. Anna recently moved on to a multimillion-rand farm after partnering with the small business unit of a large financial institution. She now farms with more than 2 000 pigs and has 35 people in her employ.
The perfect fitThe right business should be something:
- You know how to do and can do well.
- You like doing and wouldn’t mind doing daily.
- That has a broad enough appeal to sell on a steady basis.
- That can be sold at a price that will cover all of your expenses and overhead costs, plus return a profit.
- You have sufficient funds to get started and keep running until it becomes a profitable venture.
Time to get practical Business Partners’ SME (small and medium enterprises) Toolkit (www.southafrica.smetoolkit.org/sa/en) provides this advice:
- Do your market research. Are there competitors in your area, is your product or service unique, does it fill a special gap in the market?
- Draw up a business plan. This is a map showing you where you aim to go. Without it, you may struggle to reach your destination or get financing.
- Ensure that your financing is done by experts who understand the challenges of operating a small business and are familiar with the industry.
- Employ the right personnel. Not all start-ups employ workers from the beginning, but if you do, choose people who are experienced so they can provide a good support network.
- Market your business. Network, advertise in your local newspaper, distribute pamphlets and put up notices at shopping centres and schools.
- Get your financial systems in place. Even if you are not a financial expert yourself, there are great, user-friendly programmes you can use.
- Manage your money. Cash is the lifeblood of any business and should be managed carefully. Without cash, you cannot buy items or products for resale, or the materials needed for manufacturing your product, and your business will grind to a halt.
Word From A Pro
Clive Lotter has been a media freelancer for 15 years. His advice is to find or create a market niche in which you are the only – or one of very few – practitioner. ‘Markets are highly com-petitive, so try to get out of the mainstream. Find your niche by watching trends and then matching yourself to a strand that fits your strengths.’