1. Relationships don’t always last
I was young when I got involved in municipalities and government and I relied on the people I met. I learnt the hard way that if your business is based on a relationship with one person, you’re setting yourself up for failure. The relationship needs to be with the organisation, not an individual.
2. Go out of your way for your clients
It’s tough to get into business, but easy to stay in business — provided you always look after your clients. Many businesses lose sight of this when they start growing. As your clients grow, you grow with them. Your clients are your business. Never forget that.
3. You will make mistakes
I’ve made mistakes, negotiated badly and had dumb ideas that cost me money along the way. That’s the reality. I know I’m not a great businessman; I’m an okay businessman. But I don’t give up, and because of that, I’ve made more than I’ve lost and I’ve learnt a lot.
As long as I don’t make the same mistakes twice, I’m moving in the right direction.
4. Hire the right people
Invest in the network around you. My first hire was a bookkeeper because I knew I needed one. Since then, I’ve surrounded myself with experts in their fields. I’m a visionary and I can sell, but to make this business work, I need great implementers.
5. Grow and develop people
This is one of the key reasons why I run my own business. We promote internally as much as possible and focus on internal development. This means that mistakes will be made. That’s okay. It’s the cost of taking a chance on your people, and as long as they learn and don’t make the same mistake twice, what you achieve is an incredible, focused, dedicated and loyal team. In six years we’ve had only two resignations.
6. Invest in your future partners
I’ve adopted 15 youngsters in my old neighbourhood whom I’m mentoring. Most kids in South Africa can’t afford tertiary education. They need opportunities and support. Some of them will start their own businesses, but I’m hoping most of them will become future partners of mine, running their own divisions and taking GOG into Africa.
7. Make sure you always get paid
First, make sure you offer a product or service that people want and need. Second, make sure you get your money. Government always paid me on time because I had a product they wanted and I wouldn’t deliver the next site until I’d been paid. Don’t carry on doing work if your clients don’t pay, and chase your invoices.
Without cash flow, your business won’t survive and you won’t achieve your long-term vision and goals.
8. Find your niche
Great businesses are built on unique offerings and good service, but you have to find your niche. First identify your industry, and then find your niche in that industry. We’ve diversified, but we’ve done so within our niche. We’re specialists. In a competitive landscape, that’s critical. Everyone is diversifying. Indoor gym equipment manufacturers are moving into our space. Our competitive advantage is that this is our niche.
9. Foster your creativity
Poverty can be a good thing, because growing up poor makes you creative, and that’s an incredible power if you know how to use it. Anyone can be creative. Keep your eyes open, pay attention, and think out of the box. Nothing is impossible.