A key ingredient to making a start up fly is putting in the effort right across your business, not simply focusing on production or sales. Knowing and understanding your business and the business environment around you will help you expand faster and more securely – and improve the lifestyle that you and the family want to enjoy more quickly as well.
SECRET 1: Learn on the job
When I started the first Cash Converters franchise in Parow in 1994, I moved back with my mom and dad so that I could put the equity – and contents – of my own flat into that first shop. I was lucky to be unmarried, with a roof over my head, a mother to feed me when I eventually got home at night and no kids or school fees to worry about.
That meant I could return home three hours after dinner, microwave the food my mom had left, fall into bed – and then start all over again the next day. It was tough but the hands-on knowledge gave me an unrivalled foundation for building our brand in Southern Africa over the decades since.
SECRET 2: Discover the oxygen of knowledge
During all those years, I have also learned that you cannot simply say, “I’m a hands-on kind of person – please don’t ask me to do any book learning!”
As an entrepreneur it is vital to learn about your business environment, the skills needed to navigate it and the strategies that have worked for great business people. That knowledge is as important to your survival as oxygen is to human beings. It will help you plan better and make wiser management decisions.
SECRET 3: Develop discipline
I was never a really diligent student – I spent a lot of time also learning to play bridge and golf quite well! Today, though, I am still reaping the rewards of my studies, which made a lot of key business disciplines second nature to me.
If you do not already have a B.Comm, you might not have time to study for one and start a business. But you can still supplement your knowledge with short courses, whether online or back in the classroom, as well as making the most of whatever training your franchise group offers.
SECRET 4: Make choices that work for you
None of us have a monopoly on business skills or information so use your practical and academic learning to help clarify your strengths and weaknesses. Then search out and appoint specialists who can help your business reach the destination that you have set.
Leading your business forward, you will use key generic not specialist skills – such as understanding how to manage time, people and costs. I recognise that I am terrible at marketing, for example. So I employ somebody really skilled in this area to run this aspect of our business.
My role is to ensure that the marketing plan fits our overall strategies and the environment in which we are operating.
SECRET 5: Keep your mentors close
Most of what I have learned about business has been from people who have trodden the path before me. As the leader of your business, you have to make judgement calls that are fundamental to its success. However well you prepare, there are likely to be times when you make the wrong call. Minimise this by networking with business leaders with several decades of experience who are open to sharing their successes and failures.