Starting a Business

Starting a business? Which start-up hat should you wear? Here are eight…

Starting a business? Be prepared to wear different hats and play various roles in the beginning of this beautiful journey, called entrepreneurship.

Then you can get out the starting blocks quicker, more confident and get through running your first lap while having all the basics covered. It is not as hard as you think, especially if you have help. Go through each start-up hat below and give yourself a head start.

We have listed the top eight hats, that with the help of my mentors/coaches and learning the very hard way, have been the best to cover and wear well, in your first year as a start-up.

1. The Bookkeeper start-up hat
Not everyone took maths or accounting at school or varsity but if you don’t know or understand your own numbers within the business, you are set up to fail. Although the reason you started a business might not be to purely make money, it has to be the end result, or you don’t have a business. So you have to:

  • learn how to quote and invoice quickly and correctly.
  • capture all your expenses and keep records of them.
  • keep up to date with who has paid you and who owes you money.
  • be diligent in paying your suppliers and communicating when you can’t.
  • create some form of monthly management accounts to know whether you are making a profit or loss.
  • and submit what is right to SARS.
  1. The Marketing Guru
    As a left-brainer, the best marketing design I produce is usually in black and white, involves a lot of squares, has way too much writing and me spending hours trying to Google a royalty-free high-res image. In the early days of trying to do it all, sticking to simple marketing works, but the point is, you have to include marketing. You really do need to know how to:
  • find the right words and images to sell your service or product.
  • select three platforms that you will focus on and start marketing with.
  • stay consistent with what you say and what you do.
  • cover your basics with a professional look even if your business is not a multi-million-rand company, including a
    logo that fits, a suited business name and a website.
  1. The Brand Manager start-up hat
    There is a difference between branding and marketing. As you start the business, you need to create an identity for yourself and your business. You are your own brand manager and your potential customers need to understand:
  • what you do,
  • who you are,
  • what you and your business stand for or
  • they will have no reason to buy from you other than necessity and the purchase will be based on price and service.

Unfortunately (or fortunately as I say) these are no longer the only deciding factors that customers will use to buy from you. Answer the above questions and you will give them more reason and often the right reason to buy. Your brand can be hard to put into words and so, many start-ups leave this out.

4. The Networker
When I see the word, “network”, for any event, I cringe, and usually skip right past the details, as to avoid myself going through the scenario of arriving somewhere, not knowing anyone and looking for the refreshments station as that should buy me a few minutes before hopefully having to find a seat so that the event can start.

In any start-up, mixing, socialising and getting other opinions are critical and it doesn’t have to be as daunting as our ideas about networking are. It can be a natural progression in the right environment, and for any start-up that right environment is where you belong. Take the time and find it.

5. The Personal Growth start-up hat
I read a powerful statement recently: “The gift of being alive, is the gift of growing.”  I love living in a world where I get to live on my strengths and believe in myself as much as own up when I am wrong and work on my weaknesses. It is so liberating. It’s very hard but oh… so fun and powerful.

When you start a business, there are so many things you realise about yourself. You find out what you are good at and very quickly what you are not so good at. Don’t make the mistake that so many start-ups make… Think you know everything. The day you think that, is the day you set up to fail as a person and as a business.

6. The Self-Motivator
If you don’t tell people about your start-up, how are they meant to know about it? In any start-up, the phrase that my business sells best through ‘word of mouth’ is very popular. Yet most start-up owners don’t have the confidence to go out themselves and tell people by ‘word of mouth’. I’ve come to believe, this is because telling people about your business means that:

  • you actually believe in what you do.
  • you’re not afraid to fail.
  • you actually want to succeed.

And these seem very logical statements that should be part of what you believe, right?

But when you are standing in front of that mirror and you ask yourself if you really believe… what are your answers? Until you have done some personal groundwork and gain some traction, very often:

  • you doubt if what you have to offer is good enough.
  • you remind yourself that you are afraid to fail.
  • and the illusion of wanting to succeed is sometimes just that. An illusion.

We are brought up in a society where being a brighter star than those around you is frowned upon. Where failing is not seen as a platform to grow from but rather seen as an embarrassment and a negative. Where believing in you and your product/service can be seen as arrogance.

It is this mindset that we have to get right. If you don’t motivate and believe in yourself, no one else will.

7. The Business Planner start-up hat
It is so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day running of a start-up that planning ahead besides daunting, seems impossible. There is this misconception that being busy is making progress, but this is a trap to fail. Not every start-up has a vision to be the next JSE-listed company, and nor should it.

Most start-ups just want to be in control of their own finances, future and free time. This usually means making a comfortable lifestyle with enough money to support your family, take leave often enough and spend time doing the things you love which should include work. But even this seemingly simple lifestyle of a start-up needs planning.

The must-haves to wear this start-up hat include:

  • a realistic plan for the various fields in a business for the first six to 12 months.
  • a middle-term plan for the next 12 to 24 months which will adjust as you go.
  • the long-term plan for where you see the big picture.

8. You need a Mentor/Business Coach

The scary reality for most start-ups is the fact that you have to do it all alone. Even if you start a business with one or two other people, there are still only a few of you that have to make all the decisions.

Although entrepreneurship has played a huge role in South Africa for many years, no mainstream or even private school or varsity taught any of us about what happens after studying and definitely not anything on how to start and run a business, therefore it is a very self-teaching, self-discovery road.  And unless you have the right people who can help, guide or just hear you out, it is a very long, lonely road.

Family and close friends are usually the natural go-to for the help and idea-bouncing sessions, but because there is a close relationship at play, the feedback is usually not what you need to hear, but rather what you want to hear.

It is critical to find someone who has been there, done that, has more experience and is willing to be honest and tough when you need it.  Advice isn’t advice unless it can help you or your business.

Now what? How do I learn to wear each start-up hat?

Send us an email to info@smefusion.co.za and we will gladly assist you with all your questions.