Seven reasons to love being an entrepreneur
Choosing to follow your dreams and bring your small business idea to life takes guts, commitment, time and effort. Once the ball is rolling, it’s really easy to get caught up in the work and challenges that come with managing your own business.
That’s why we’ve decided to take this opportunity to remind you why you chose the entrepreneurial route in the first place and, more importantly, why you love what you do. Here are seven reasons why being an entrepreneur is the bee’s knees.
The obvious one: You’re your own boss
This has to be one of the most common reasons why entrepreneurs love being entrepreneurs. When you have your own business, you don’t have to answer to anyone but yourself. There may be challenges along the way, but there’s something fulfilling about leading the pack (egos aside, of course). You are the one in the driver’s seat and the direction in which your business is headed is really up to you, plus you have the flexibility you need to make decisions quickly. Decisions relating to your business are yours and there’s something liberating in that. Wave goodbye to be micromanaged.
You work your own schedule
As an entrepreneur you often get to bid farewell to the usual nine-to-five working hours. You have control of your calendar and ultimately, you’re the one dictating when you work and where. This gives you a freedom that you’re not able to experience when you’re not your own boss, and one of the many perks is that this can mean you spend more time with your family and less time doing things you don’t really enjoy.
You get to follow your passion
The catalyst for many entrepreneurs deciding to take the leap and go out on their own is very often passion. They are passionate about something, so much so, that they want to turn that passion into profit. Every day they get to develop, sell and promote products or services that they whole-heartedly believe in and love – something that is never guaranteed in a regular job when you’re working for others. Entrepreneurs get to follow their passions and that’s rewarding.
You handpick the people you work with
Entrepreneurs have the freedom to pick and choose not only who they hire, but also the people they do business with. This means that they give themselves the best chance of teaming up with the right people, both in the office and out. Who wouldn’t choose to work with people they like and who also share their vision, drive, passion and core values? This makes for an overall harmonious working environment as well as stronger and longer-lasting business relationships.
You take pride in growing something from the ground up
Sure, there will always be sacrifices you have to make as an entrepreneur, but at the end of the day, nothing is more rewarding than creating something from scratch, nurturing it and watching it grow. There’s no greater accomplishment in the world of business than seeing your idea being realised and then going from success to success – entrepreneurs take great pride in that. When it’s your own, you’re not just another cog in the wheel but rather the main reason behind your own success.
You get to leave a lasting legacy
Who wouldn’t want to leave something behind for people to remember them by? Many entrepreneurs are motivated by their desire to leave a personal legacy one day for their loved ones. The idea of a family business can be an exciting one and if it’s successful, it can get passed down from generation to generation.
You create your own destiny
When you’re running your own business you have the freedom to shape your own destiny and create your own opportunities. You have the power to decide what you get to do and if that, for example, comprises of networking and attending conferences, then so be it. Entrepreneurs control their futures and the independence that comes with owning their own business ventures allows them to make the important decisions and steer their businesses in the direction they choose.
There are endless reasons why entrepreneurs love being entrepreneurs and every so often, it’s worth taking a break and reflecting on a few of them. Especially when times get tough, it can be helpful to remember the reasons why you decided to become an entrepreneur in the first place – they may just be how you get through.
Featured image: http://www.businessnewsdaily.com
How to come up with a killer small business idea
For many of us, the idea of starting a small business is a daunting one. What if it fails? What if I’m not equipped enough to handle it? What if something goes wrong? All of these ‘what ifs’ are completely understandable, of course, but you shouldn’t let them stop you from reaching for your dream.
For many of us, the idea of starting a small business is a daunting one. What if it fails? What if I’m not equipped enough to handle it? What if something goes wrong? All of these ‘what ifs’ are completely understandable, of course, but you shouldn’t let them stop you from reaching for your dream. Somewhere out there, someone could be looking for the exact product or service you’re thinking of offering, and you’ll never know where that could lead unless you put yourself out there. So now that you have this idea, how do you put it into practice? How do you get that killer business idea down to a tee?
Establish the demand
Businesses succeed when there is a sufficent demand for the product or service they offer. As you’re coming up with your business idea, look at what’s out there: potential competitors, similar business models and whether or not there is a gap in the market. You will probably find that there is a demand for what you have to offer, but there are also a number of other businesses who are already attempting to meet that demand. You need to look at how you can package your idea differently so that when it comes down to it, customers would want to choose your product or service over that of anyone else’s.
Develop a network
Networking is an incredibly important part of developing a business. As a part of your business idea, you need to look at who you can form relationships with. This means everyone from suppliers to delivery services, depending on what you want your business to offer. Developing a business idea means that you will have a chance to establish a strong connection with other reliable businesses. It’s always smart to look around and see who may be able to help you along the line – mutually beneficial relationships can be an important part of a business’s ongoing success.
Don’t over think it
It’s often said that the best business ideas are the ones that just come to you. If you find yourself getting frustrated at not being able to fully think everything through, put it away for a while. Don’t rush into it – after all, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Sure, a successful business idea requires a lot of thought, but if you feel yourself complicating things unnecessarily, take a step back. Overthinking things, particularly a potential business idea, can affect your passion and drive so sometimes you just have to go with your gut and take the plunge.
Starting a small business is never easy, and coming up with a killer idea can often prove to be trickier than we’d like it to be. However, it’s important to remember to take your time with it, make smart decisions regarding who you align your business with and take note of what the market needs and where the demand lies. At the end of the day, your business needs to be something that you are incredibly proud of, as this is what will serve you well in the long run and ensure that you keep putting the required effort in.
Featured image: http://businessfirstfamily.com
Five resources every business can tap into
As a small business owner, you’re looking to take advantage of every opportunity available to make sure that your enterprise is a success. To help in this here’s a selection of some great free resources for South African businesses to help you on your way.
1. SME Toolkit
The SME toolkit is a small business resource site, set up by the International Finance Corporation, a member of the World Bank Group. The aim of the Toolkit is to provide a wealth of information to small and medium businesses. It has how-to articles, business forms, financial tools, online training courses, business information, and free software tailor-made for the small and medium sized enterprise. From this one website, you can track your expenses, calculate your financial fitness, build a great business plan, begin your market research, and much more. It’s among the most comprehensive free business resources out there.
The Small Business Forum (SMF) is a network of South African entrepreneurs and small business owners that works to provide support for its members through workshops, networking, resource-sharing and by providing cost-effective advertising opportunities directed towards the small business owner. Membership is free, and the potential benefits many. Networking especially is one of the most important aspects to success as a small business owner, and forums such as the SMF can bring in new business, new partnerships and new frontiers.
The tax man is popularly characterised as the businessperson’s mortal foe, but the South African Revenue Service’s website is an attempt to reduce the antagonism. You’ll find in-depth answers to any tax related enquiry you might have, from forms to FAQs. It’s here that you’ll discover whether your business is eligible for a rebate, and the latest trade statistics. It’s quite possible that you’re not getting the best you can out of the tax system, so boost your knowledge here.
Behind the Department of Trade and Industry’s clunky site design is invaluable information for businesses. From information on tenders and a suppliers database, to information on government subsidies for business. Depending on your field, you may find yourself eligible for government support to help your business grow, especially if you’re in an industry that the government is looking to expand nationally. There’s a wealth of information about South Africa’s trade agreements – a studied look may reveal an untapped export market for your goods or services. You may discover what you need to take your business to the next level.
5. Learn online
Whether it’s getting ahead in a new field, refining your business skills, or adding a new service, you don’t need to be kept from learning by limited monetary resources. The internet age has brought a new approach to advanced education with Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Among the more established sites where you can learn are Khan Academy, Coursera, EdX, and the South African GetSmarter and 42courses. New knowledge can bring new opportunities – so don’t stop learning.
How to handle retrenchments in your office with sensitivity
Retrenchments are an agonising process for any business. They can cause upheaval in the lives of all involved, with those who lose their jobs being most seriously affected.
Keep to the letter of the law
South African labour laws dictate that business owners and managers must follow a rigorous process prior to the decision to retrench, and following the decision, if retrenchment is deemed unavoidable.
As a business owner or manager faced with the unenviable task of having to let employees go for the sake of the business, it is critically important that these procedures are followed correctly to avoid legal censure; but it is also important that the manner in which retrenchments proceed are done sensitively. An improper approach to retrenchment can hurt the morale of remaining employees, leading to unplanned exits, stunted productivity, and increasing the hardships of an already troubled business.
When it seems as if retrenchments may become a necessity, but before the decision to retrench has been made, it is your duty, as an employer, to hold formal consultations with employees. A written memo should be distributed, detailing the factors that have made retrenchments seem unavoidable.
Help old employees find new beginnings
Once the consultation process has been completed, and retrenchments confirmed, it is important to reveal the details of retrenchment with care. Ensure that those who will face retrenchment have as much information as possible – make certain that their packages are clearly explained.
Provide references to help them find new employment. In the reference letters, make certain to talk about the retrenchment so that the termination of employment does not reflect poorly on the retrenched, as may happen in the case of an employee being fired.
Life after loss
A well-handled retrenchment process, in which discontent among those made to leave is kept to a minimum, is essential if you hope to prevent lingering unhappiness in the remaining workforce. Communicating properly – being thorough in providing the rationale behind the retrenchment decision – will allow those remaining employees to be more assured in knowing why they were kept on, and prevent ‘survivor’s guilt’ from affecting their productivity.
A new direction
Retrenchment periods are moments of change in an organisation. Having to downsize a workforce is an extreme measure. With this act, an organisation must seize the opportunity to change. Remaining employees shouldn’t be made to shoulder a vastly increased work burden because those that formerly performed those duties have left. This is not only a sure-fire way to foster discontent among the remaining employees and have valuable employees seek work elsewhere, but it is an inefficient use of remaining human resources.
Rather, management should devote thought to improved systems that can allow productivity to flourish, and to get the company back on a growth path.
Four things to keep in mind when starting your accounting practice
1. Have you got the experience?
You may be freshly qualified as an accountant, with a strong independent streak coursing through your veins, and eager to break into the working life as your own boss. But this may be an error. It is recommended to accrue a good deal of varied experience as an accountant if your dream is to start your own practice.
Working for a large firm (one of the so-called Big 4 of PricewaterhouseCoopers, EY, Deloitte and KPMG, for instance) provides you with knowledge of best practice and niche accounting. Transitioning from a role in one of these firms to a smaller accounting firm, specialising in local clients, will give you experience in the dynamics involved in smaller clients, and a good sense of the variety of tasks that you can expect to do when you decide to open your own firm. Collecting experience will serve you well, and the time spent in these kinds of firms can serve to fire up the passion needed to strike out on your own.
2. Have you got the passion?
As a freelance or small business accountant, your clients will typically be small business owners or private individuals. This means that, unlike working at a large firm in which clients can seem more like faceless entities than collections of human beings, one of your primary skills is going to be managing personal relationships. There must be a strong empathetic streak running through you. Your work is likely going to have a large effect on the successes of those for whom you work. Passion for this kind of work – intimate, specialised, with a view to long-term connection – is indispensable, and will be the difference between failure and flourishing.
3. Have you got the financial position?
You may have the know-how, and the desire, but if you cannot afford to eat when you’re starting out on your own, success will never come. Starting your own accounting practice will require planning and prudence. You need to be confident that you can have some time to secure your first clients, and that you can afford the outlays on the equipment that you will need to do your job – a laptop, internet, accounting software, stationery, and so on.
4. Have you got the time?
For many, a great benefit of being employed as an accountant is the regularity and stability of the demands on your time – work hours are set, and everything outside of this is your own. This won’t be the case as you start out on your own as an accountant. Working odd-hours, late into the evenings, is likely to characterise the first chapter of this phase in your life, as you work to establish a reputation as a reliable and hard-working accountant for your clients. For some, this irregularity will be opposed to the life that they want to live – but if it’s not, then starting your own accounting practice might be for you.
The advantages that make up for the risk of going out on your own
Starting your own business involves coming face-to-face with the prospect of failure. This possibility, and its attendant consequences – financial strain, pressure on personal relationships, blows to drive and confidence – can be enough to warn most people off beginning their own enterprise. But the benefits of starting your own business can trump the risks that are involved.
Knowledge of Self
Starting a business for the first time will bring new experiences every day. Facing up to these experiences will teach you about yourself – how you deal with disappointment, how you rise to challenges, how you use your smarts to get what you want, what you’re willing to sacrifice to make your dreams reality. Your success will be a result of your own doing, and with that, you will gain insight that others won’t have access to about what kind of person you are. “Know thyself” was the inscripted instruction that loomed at the entrance to the Temple of the Oracle at Delphi – and starting your own business is a certain route to doing just that.
Risk means reward
You’re putting your money where your mouth is when you begin your career as an entrepreneur. Your bet is on your abilities – and your reward if this bet pays off is being the one who can lay claim to the payoff from your labours. The willingness to risk lean periods of financial health in order to pull in profits at the end of the day is the hallmark of the entrepreneur. You get command of your profits, rather than having the product of your work managed and diverted through a corporate framework.
Variety spices life
Some people are suited to monotony. They like to see the same faces, streets, workloads every day. The entrepreneur is not such a person. The web of tasks for which the entrepreneur must take final responsibility is part of the attraction of being an entrepreneur. No day will be the same as you strive for continual improvement in the fortunes of your enterprise.
Freedom and flexibility
When you start your own business, you get to do what your heart desires, rather than what has been mandated by others. Because your success is derived from your own efforts, and because you can expend your efforts when you deem necessary, you won’t be locked into a conventional schedule as an entrepreneur. This may mean burning the midnight oil as you work to accomplish a project, or it may mean taking a 6-month vacation as a reward for your success. Being an entrepreneur means, at base, that you are doing what you want, and, doing what you need to in order to do what you want.
Pride, before and after a fall
Nobody but you is entitled to claim ownership of the success that comes from your own business. Being one of the few willing to face their fears, and the perils of a life without a safety net, will become a cornerstone of your identity, and a source of pride. You will not be among the multitudes who live with regret over what could have been – even in failure, you will emerge enriched.
Amazing statistics about local businesses
Almost a decade on from the start of the global financial crisis, South African businesses are still facing a number of challenges. Here are some astounding figures about the state of South African small and medium businesses.
South Africa’s failing to increase the number of small businesses
In 2008, South Africa was home to 2.18m small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs), with 666,500 formal SMMEs (meaning that they are registered with government and subject to company tax), 1.4m informal SMMEs, and 95,000 SMMEs in agriculture and households services (classified as ‘Other’), according to the Bureau for Economic Research’s 2016 SMME research note.
In 2016, the total number of SMMEs was 2.25m, only 3% more than were present in 2008. Formal SMMEs numbered 667,400, informal SMMEs numbered 1.49m, and there were 86,000 ‘Other’ SMMEs. Limpopo and Gauteng experienced the largest growth in SMMEs between 2008 and 2016, at 34% and 14%, while the Northern Cape and Free State experienced the largest declines in SMMEs, at -31% and -16% respectively.
But the importance of small businesses to the economy is increasing rapidly
Despite the difficult environment for small businesses, their operations have become even more crucial to the good health of South Africa’s economy. In 2010, SMME’s total contribution to the South African GDP was 33% of total; in 2015, this share had increased to 42% of South Africa’s GDP, according the Bureau for Economic Research.
South Africans think highly of entrepreneurs, but don’t want to be them
The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor’s 2016 report on South African entrepreneurial environment catalogues statistics on perceptions towards entrepreneurship. Drawing on a dataset going back to 2001, they show a remarkable increase of positive perceptions towards entrepreneurs. In 2001, only 19.7% of South African adults perceived good opportunities for entrepreneurial activity in their area, which rose to 40.9% of adults in 2015. In 2003, only 48% of South African adults perceived entrepreneurship as a good career choice, rising to 73.8% in 2015. The increase in status was not met with an increase in those wishing to achieve that status however. In 2003, 12.2% of South African adults had entrepreneurial intentions – that is, they planned to start their own enterprise within 3 years. In 2015, this share had decreased to 10.9%. These figures are in stark contrast to the African continent as a whole – 39.3% of adults in Africa, as a whole, had entrepreneurial intentions.
Most South African small businesses are feeling throttled by red tape
The Small Business Project’s SME Growth Index 2015 reported that South African firms face an extraordinary regulatory burden, inhibiting the ability of small businesses to grow and face the myriad challenges of entrepreneurship. In 2015, 75% of those surveyed reported that the burden of red tape had increased in the course of the year, with 40% of firms citing this as a top factor for impeding the growth of their business. There is a tragic irony here: government is looking to small business to drive economic growth, but it is government that is the greatest inhibitor of growth in small business.
Do you have what it takes to start your own business?
Can you support yourself?
There are many practicalities that may inhibit your ability to start your own business. If you’re planning making your endeavour a full-time job from the get-go, you will need to have enough savings to cover your living expenses.
Opinions vary on how much is enough – if you’re transitioning from a part-time business to a full-time business with your market already established, you’ll likely require only 6 months’ worth of savings to keep you afloat. If you’re building your business from scratch, having 18 months covered will give you a year to establish an income flow, and 6 months padding in case things don’t work out.
Being able to support yourself as you start your own business is more than having all financial bases covered. You have emotional needs that need to be taken care of. Many first-time entrepreneurs find it incredibly valuable to have a mentor that they can turn to for advice; an experienced voice can keep the drive going.
Do you have more than just an idea?
Ideas have no value by themselves; everybody can cite that one idea that “will make them millions”. By nature, you will believe in your ideas, but value is something that is determined between people. Getting another person to believe in your idea is a true test of your ability, and the idea itself. Moving an idea from your head into reality is no easy feat – you’ll have to negotiate moments in which your enthusiasm wanes and you consider abandoning things. It’s in these times that you’ll need the encouragement of others, as well as a reserve of resilience to push you through to success.
Moving an idea into fruition requires patience. The entrepreneur must be able to meticulously plan the development of their business. They will have to wear many hats – bookkeeper, project planner, sales – and will have their time spread thin. But they will know too that every moment that seems futile is in the service of the idea, and making their dreams reality.
Are you empowered by the idea of deciding for yourself?
You’re going to be making a lot of choices as an entrepreneur. Very often, you’ll be making decisions that have uncertain outcomes – hiring this person, trusting that supplier, chasing those leads. In many situations, it’ll pay off to know as much as you can. If you’re considering renting an office space, you should know whether you can afford it, and whether having the office will add something to your business. But to be an entrepreneur is a risk, and you’ll need to be ready to roll with an indefinite future.
The freedom that entrepreneurship brings comes at the cost of being the one at which the buck stops. Your success will, ultimately, be your own responsibility; and it takes a certain character to have that level of self-confidence.
Nominate an amazing small business for the 702/Cape Talk Small Business Awards with Sage One
If you know of a small business that manages to rise above the rest, a provider of an outstanding service or wonderful product, now is the time to nominate them as a potential recipient of the 702/CapeTalk Small Business Awards with Sage One.
Now in their 8th year, the Small Business Awards are a celebration of Gauteng and Western Cape entrepreneurial excellence, and Sage One has a long and proud association with the awards.
Sage, as the largest supplier of accounting and payroll software worldwide to SMEs, is deeply committed to growing small business. Ivan Epstein, President for Sage International (AAMEA) and Chairman of the Sage Foundation emphasises the importance of celebrating the efforts of South African SMEs, “South Africa’s entrepreneurs in small and medium businesses trust us as they power the country’s economy. It is these entrepreneurs who are the drivers of prosperity and it’s our privilege to celebrate their achievements. We know that it takes hard work and human sacrifice to turn a dream business idea into a way of life. That’s why we sponsor these Awards every year – to make the voices of the entrepreneurs heard.”
Much like the businesses that are nominated, Sage South Africa began as a start-up. Originally known as Softline, the business was borne from a vision to simplify the lives of business owners. Founded by Ivan Epstein and Alan Osrin, and joined soon after by Steven Cohen in 1988, Softline was established during the formative years of the software industry with a mere R1, 500 loan. It was listed on the JSE Securities Exchange South Africa in February 1997, and delisted in 2003 to be acquired by The Sage Group plc. Softline changed its name to Sage in February 2013.
Today, Sage has over 13,000 employees across 23 countries and we work with millions of business people in all types of industries around the world. So when we talk about grit, passion and vision, it’s a voice of experience – one that we and many other South Africans share.
The 702/CapeTalk Small Business Awards with Sage One are an opportunity to give something back to small businesses that have a core of excellence, and give small business a big boost.
Prizes this year for winners include an advertising airtime package on 702/CapeTalk worth R250 000, a laptop, free access to Sage One’s accounting and payroll software and a year’s worth of software support, and a Sage training course of the winner’s choice. Runners-up come away with advertising airtime worth R125 000, free access to Sage One’s accounting and payroll software and a year’s worth of software support, and a Sage training course of their choice.
Past winners have seen marked improvements in their businesses. Roof Rats, a roof and ceiling cleaning company that won the Gauteng award in 2013 reported that their business quadrupled in the year following their victory, growing their staff complement from 11 to 44. 2014 winners, Book Express, likewise experienced a 20% increase in telephone enquiries and walk-ins thanks to the exposure that their prize provided.
Sage looks to support the growth of small businesses in South Africa with their payroll and accounting software, and also, through association with the 702/CapeTalk Small Business Awards. If a little company born from little more than a vision and small loan can become a world-beater, so too can South African small businesses.
5 things people wish they knew when they started their business
You’re setting out on your own, business plan honed, brimming with ideas, and ready to conquer the market. Starting a new business is one the greatest adventures you’ll have, but excitement can quickly turn to disappointment. Here’s some advice to keep in mind as you contemplate a new venture.
1. Things never become easy in business
There’s no finish line in business. Completing one task gives way to the next immediately. If you’re growing your business, you’re also changing it all the time. There will always be challenges. Making sure your business succeeds means maintaining a standard of work across time. But work smart; focus trumps freneticism – doing one thing at a time well will keep you from spreading yourself too thin.
2. Don’t get too attached to your business
The idea might be perfect, but the timing might be wrong – a business is not a friend or family, so don’t be afraid to let it go if it doesn’t manage to work out. Rather, be aware of serious problems early on – awareness will let you change direction if the mission of the company no longer resonates. Set your mind what would cause you to give up on this particular business right at the very beginning – so that if the worst does transpire, you won’t go down with a sinking ship. Most entrepreneurs fail – those who get up afterwards are those who succeed.
3. Higher hiring
Be very rigorous when hiring new people. Do your due diligence – call references, check qualifications. But go beyond the pieces of paper – you want people who are passionate about what they do, who will help you bring your business goals to fruition. Hiring the right people will give you the confidence to let go of the tasks that aren’t to your strengths, and let you focus on what you do best. Hiring right is the key to solid business growth.
4. Look beyond the day-to-day
When starting out, the temptation is to focus on daily operations – securing new clients and increasing revenue. The risk is that you might not notice when your employees aren’t happy with their work, and aren’t getting the motivation that they need. Too narrow a focus, and you might fial to recognise new opportunities – avert these risks by investing processes directed at creating sustainable long-term growth.
5. Ask for help
While this might be your first experience in starting and running a business, it isn’t the first time that a business has been started. If you’re feeling lost, don’t be too proud to turn to those who might have gone through the similar issues. Find a great mentor, and pick their brains for advice, or join a local business network, and take advantage of the accumulated knowledge that might be on offer.