Do’s and Don’ts of Startup Entrepreneurs

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I’ve decided to do a blog post on those Spring chicken entrepreneurs out there, like myself.

So I’ve been running my own business, Tweek, (go check out our website! Tweek)  for a while now, and I’ve had successes and I’ve made mistakes. So I want to share a few pointers of do’s and don’ts so possible newbie entrepreneurs can avoid the mistakes I made, and catch a few tips perhaps.

When you start your own business, you have close to no idea what the hell you’re doing, you’re mostly just winging it, and making it up as you go. This has resulted in my business landing MAJOR projects, as well as making big, and very time consuming, expensive mistakes.

So firsts things first, the DON’TS:

Don’t forget WHY

There’s a reason why you chose to go into the industry you are. Don’t forget who you are. I’ve come across many young entrepreneurs that lie and cheat their way to the top, only to be bitten in the ass halfway up. It’s okey to be a beginner, that’s why we call it Startup! There’s no rules in the business world, and you have to know that. People will treat you harshly, and they’ll always be focused on self preservation. But never forget the importance of integrity in business. It’s absolutely essential to always be real!

DON’T think it’s about the money

If you’re a new business owner, forget about the money. Don’t focus on the bucks, focus on delivering an excellent service, and a perfect product. Here’s why: When you focus on the money you will lose focus on why you started, essentially losing service quality and passion, resulting in an unprofitable business. When you deliver an excellent service and product, word of mouth and great references will spread by itself, increasing business and essentially profitability too. When I quote a client I predetermine the amount of hours I estimate I’ll spend on the project. More than 70% of the time I will spend more than double that amount of time, to ensure that the client gets exactly what they want, without charging them for it. The result of this indescribable, with a 100% satisfaction rate, and new referenced clients streaming in.

DON’T pay yourself a hefty salary

The money the business makes, is for the business! Plow that money back into the business. Someone I know quite well started a business a while ago. At the top of her expenses list was her own salary of only R 8000 a month, which seemed fair as the amount wasn’t crazy, but multiply that by 12 and you have close to a R 100 000 extra expenses yearly. Which could easily make or break your business. In her case, it broke her business, the debt increased monthly, until she had to close her business.

If you’re single or living on your own, only take what you need from the business, and only if you HAVE to. Determine your monthly expenses, and ONLY extract that. Another solution might be to have a part time job as well. I know of quite a few people that work halfday for a small salary of around R 7000 and the rest of the day they spend on their business.

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Now for the DO’s

DO try to create a consistent stream of income

In my case it was hard to create consistent income as I mostly work on once off projects that generate a once-off sum amount. But the focus is to work smarter, not harder and to create greater income by doing so. In my case I advertised my marketing skills too, where businesses can pay a monthly fee for me to market their business on their behalf. This amount is small, much smaller than my graphic design fees, but I already have a few clients I do this for, creating a steady stream of income, which I’m building up. Always look for ways to do this, as this will create a safety net for your business and for you. It might take time to build this network, but it’s worth it, I can’t stress this enough.

DO choose quality over quantity

This counts for everything. But most importantly, this counts for your following base on social media and e-mail lists. My business is very small, so my social media base isn’t more than a 1000 people all together, over all my platforms. But every single one of them are real, interactive people. You’ll often be faced with the temptation of increasing your base with generic followers and likes, but you’ll often see on these pages that they have 1000 to 5000 followers per platform, but their interaction is minimal. This is a waste of time and money, and you’re simply fooling yourself. This is not success!

Another aspect where this tip counts is on our service delivery. Make sure that you rather have 3 very satisfied and happy clients, than taking on too much workload and delivering poor service. This is very tempting when you start your business at first, when the work comes streaming in and you have all this opportunity to deliver a service. But rather appoint more employees, or simply refer them to another business, but ALWAYS focus on quality over quantity. ALWAYS.

DO admit your limitations to YOURSELF

Many clients have approached me to do various work them, work I haven’t done before. But I know exactly where to draw the line on my capabilities, and where I can push myself to explore these new grounds. I’ve had requests I know myself or business couldn’t handle at this time, and I gave the client adequate references of other businesses that could help them. My graphic design department have expanded to a team of 5 graphic designers working for me, I was honest enough to admit that I could not manage the workload on my own anymore, so I had to incur new expenses to expand. But I didn’t point the work that came my why, in the other direction, or pile so much work on myself I couldn’t finish. I simply analysed, readjusted and implemented.

DO build relationships

This refers to networking with suppliers, employees, competitors and customers. I’ve built close knit relationships with my customers, giving them the confidence to speak freely about their needs for their businesses. I’ve also built relationships with fellow employees so they can talk openly about their limitations. When you build these relationships you create a safe zone for your business and all the stakeholders. Better communication eliminates misunderstandings and conflicts. Resulting in happy employees and happy clients all together.

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In essence, follow your gut, and keep going. You’ll have ups and downs, and you’ll make mistakes. But it’s almost always possible to recover from mistakes. Don’t see entrepreneurship as a ‘get rich quick’ scheme. You have to be in this for the long run. This is a commitment you need to make, a lifelong one. And there’s rarely chance to turn back from it. But enjoy every moment of it. It’s fun, and scary and exciting, and the learning curve is like a rollercoaster. But also be honest with yourself. Not everyone was born to be an entrepreneur, and that’s okey.

I’ll end this blog post for now, but I’ll do a followup post soon, where I’ll post a little more practical day-to-day tips.

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