" Cape Town - Starting and running a business can be tough. A few business mentors from The Hope Factory share their advice on the top 10 things all business owners - and potential business owners - need to know.
1. Be passionate and love what you do
Your business is a reflection of you, and enthusiasm is catchy. Your customers will enjoy dealing with you, and this should end up having a positive impact on your sales.
2. Deliver on your promises
A business is built, grows and is sustained on its ability to meet its service promise. So, as an entrepreneur you need to ensure that your business is properly set up to enable you to provide a consistent level of quality and service delivery.
3. Use all your sources and senses
Entrepreneurs are so often wrapped up in growing and developing their own businesses that they neglect to open their eyes and ears to what is happening in the industry, environment, competitive arena or even the global market.
Use your senses as you scan the environment and seek new business opportunities for yourself. Discuss the market at every chance you get.
At the same time, it is important to understand more about the clients you want to serve and what their current experiences are in terms of your offering.
4. Technical knowledge or expertise is not enough
People often decide to go into business because they possess a specific skill; however, they will need more than technical knowledge to succeed.
We have some entrepreneurs who are very creative but lack the ability to think strategically in order to grow their business. They do not realise they will have to be responsible for debt collection, managing the business and planning besides actually doing what they are good at.
5. Record keeping systems are key
Proper record keeping processes not only give you an indication of how well your business is doing, but they are also an indication of the growth and sustainability of your company.
Accurate records will also make it easy for you to acquire finance and comply with the necessary legal requirements for your business. Ensure that you fully understand and comply with all the industry requirements that apply to your business.
6. Cash is king
It is very important to know what your cash flow is, and to be able to manage this process extremely well.
Most of our current entrepreneurs do not understand this concept, which results in very slow growth in their business or no growth at all. You should have sufficient cash flow coverage for at least one-and-a-half months to cater for inevitable collection delays.
7. Know your market
As an entrepreneur, it is important that you understand the possibilities of a market, and the affordability of your product for your target market.
Sometimes a targeted market can afford to use the services/goods you offer, but the environmental factors may not allow you to access that market. For example, you could own a supermarket like Spar in Daku Resort, Fiji and yet your clients may prefer to buy their cooked food from a container on the street.
It is important to understand these factors. Your small business is much more fragile than a big business, so you need to take your marketing very seriously from the start, and understand who your customers are and what they want.
8. Don't compromise on customer service
The most important tool you have in your business is quality customer service. Treat your customer as if he were your boss.
9. Company money is just that
It is very important to understand that the company has a life of its own separate from yours. The income made by the business is not your salary.
Your company must pay you a salary for the services and skills you provide, but do keep the business account separate from your personal account.
10. Take risks
You must be willing and able to take risks in business, but make sure that you take only calculated ones. Sometimes you will lose and sometimes you will win. Remember though, that any risk can be opportunity if calculated correctly."