By Louise Kruger, entrepreneur and owner of Fun Photos Photo Booth Rental
Business gurus always like to tell new business owners and entrepreneurs how to start their new businesses. The all-important how to’s of how to market, how to get finance, who to rub shoulders with to get the best possible exposure. That is all completely perfect and very necessary, but not everybody tells the new business owner about what not to do.
Those mistakes and bumps in the road usually come with trial and error and experience. Many of us would really rather not have to go through those uncomfortable circumstances which ultimately could make or break our business right from the start. New business owners usually are passionate, enthusiastic and believe in their product or service, or they would not be putting in so much of their lives and savings. Every new business owner has one thing in common… A Dream. Some are huge and some are modest, but either way, they are dreams.
Some do’s and do not’s to help you navigate your way:
I only found out the very hard way, when I was already flailing that I had not done the proverbial homework that one needs to do when starting a business. I was all pride and ego. I was young and full of my own self-importance, thinking that I could do all of it on my own. I apparently knew it all it seemed.
- I asked the wrong people for help. Corrupt building contractors for starters. Also, disinterested people and family who didn’t want me to succeed and poured negativity over my ideas and enthusiasm. You need people who believe in your vision and will stand by you no matter what.
- I did not ask for support from my spouse, family or friends. I was young and wanted to prove myself by saying I can do it all on my own. I think after the negativity I received from some parties, I felt I was alone anyway, but my pride wouldn’t allow me to seek out people who would actually stand beside me.
- I did not have a mentor. A mentor is someone who has been in your chosen industry for a while and knows the ropes, or somebody who is a successful business person who can offer advice and support. If you have bought a franchise, make use of every resource available to you.
- I chose the first contractors that came along to build my premises without doing due diligence and getting quotes from several other contractors. I did not check if they were registered with the builders association. This went for the plumbers and electricians and landscapers as well. They were all family members of each others’ companies and so they all recommended each other, and each was just as bad as the other.
- I allowed myself to be hoodwinked and stolen from because I trusted these builders and they obviously saw sucker written on my forehead. So, make sure that every supplier and service provider is registered with an association, comes with references and has a contract.
- I used my pension savings to start the business. Big mistake. Never ever do that.
- I did not have savings to live on while building my business, so when the builders stole and did not finish the job, I had no safety net and I did not receive clients quick enough to manage the monthly shortfall.
- I overspent on materials and items I thought were vital to the success of the business instead of starting small and building up.
- My marketing strategy was non-existent. I did not have a mission statement or vision of where I wanted to be in a year or 5 years down the line. It just helps to centre your thoughts and give you bite-size goals to work towards.
- I did not do a location search to see where my competitors were situated from me. I was literally surrounded by businesses with the same service and who had also been there for way longer than I and had established clients. The market for my services was saturated in that area.
- This was the days before Facebook and Google, so my marketing and advertising were limited to flyers and lamp posts boards.
- On moving in day, nobody came to help me. I literally did all of it myself. It was an incredibly lonely feeling. Should you be able to, encourage as many people and loved ones to show you their support, even if it is to carry a box inside or bring you a pot plant. An Opening Party or Open day will go a long way if your business allows for that.
- Get good financial advice from your bank. Get a personal banker or business banker to guide you.
- Make sure SARS knows about your business. Find out what you need from them in order to run a business and what they need from you.
- However I did persevere and gained a few clients regardless of all these monumental mistakes, but it was too little, too late and I had to sell my business. It was devastating.