THE 4 THINGS NO-ONE TELLS YOU ABOUT BEING A SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS OWNER
Making It Happen Series Part 1: The Critical Role of the BUSINESS OWNER
Staggering unemployment rates and slow economic growth in South Africa make entrepreneurship an economic imperative – if this is the case why do so many businesses fail and what can we learn from those that have succeeded?
This 3 part series will delve into the details around what successful entrepreneurs should be considering as they set up their business success that could help start-ups and small businesses be set up for success.
The first in the series relates to the critical role of the business owner in setting up the success of their entrepreneurial endeavours
While it may seem like common sense that the business owner plays a critical role in the success of any business, we delved into what this means in real terms and what success as a business owner looks like and what this success requires.
- The Changeable Role of the Business Owner
As a business owner you will move through stages as you grow your business. You will start out more engaged in the daily running of the business – working IN the business – and as you grow your business, it is critical to your success that you move to working ON your business.
Israel talked to us about the owner having the role of the CEO and “selling the business” at a strategic level to ensure that the pipeline remains healthy.
Without a healthy pipeline of opportunities, and without someone driving the visibility of the business, you will likely struggle to get your business going and keep it moving forward.
A key challenge faced by many business owners is making the shift from working IN to working ON the business. Many entrepreneurs are technically expert in the market, industry, and business and as the business grows, they are challenged and bogged down by the practicalities of running the business from the front and not from the trenches. This is where many smaller businesses start to flounder as there is no-one taking up the reins to drive the business forward and is a key risk for business growth.
- The Hidden Responsibilities of the Business Owner
While working on the business may seem like a sensible action for a business owner to take towards success, there were 3 other responsibilities that each business owner has that are not as often mentioned:
- Networking: ensuring that you remain connected within the industry is key to your own success as a business owner and to your business.
“Networking allows you to connect with industry leaders, innovators, forward-thinkers, peers, industry veterans and the like. This builds a pool of invaluable knowledge and wisdom that you can tap into.” – Tumelo
This networking has been made more challenging by the global COVID pandemic, however, successful business owners find the time and the platforms to remain engaged with key people within their industries and markets. Not only are these important forums to identify business opportunities but can provide a support system for you as the business owner.
- Financial literacy: we have referenced this before, but a good idea does not always make a good business. To set up and successfully run your business, you must be financially literate.
You must know how your business makes money and how you spend your money on running your business. Understanding these 2 basic concepts and keeping an eye on how they are balancing out will help you identify potential issues before they become life threatening for your business.
We have called this balancing the input / output ratio and this is critical for every business’ long-term success.
- Working with a zero-budget mindset:
Having a zero-budget mindset will force you to do your homework to ensure that your business idea is indeed a great one and will force critical analysis of the set up and running requirements.
“.. this proves the profitability of your product and/or service and its value in the market” – Tumelo
The zero-budget mindset will ensure that you have the most profitable business set up possible and can enable you to attract investors more easily as the value that your business delivers is more easily evident
- Lifelong learning: as a business owner, you must be committed to life-long learning and to your own training and development.
“With the lockdowns that took place we spent a lot of time understanding the era we are in and what it takes to thrive in this new era. Development (mentally and emotionally) has carried us through these tumultuous times” – Tumelo
Your success as a business owner and a leader demand that you constantly work on yourself and as Israel out it “as a business owner, you have to know yourself”. You want to create a business where your employees are constantly striving to do better and be better to support the busines, and if you as the owner do not lead by example, you may be creating future issues that impact your ability to succeed.
- Critical Support Structures for Success
Interestingly, this is another topic that we have written about before and the importance of having support structures bears repeating.
While it may be tempting to “go it alone”, you will make your role as business owner significantly more challenging if you do not setup and maintain support structures.
“But from my view, I think the companies that fail are the ones with no support structure” – Tumelo
Whatever your support structures look like, you must have these in place so that you can deliver on your business goals and dreams. These could be ex- or current colleagues, ex- or current managers, other people you have worked with or anyone else. The 2 support categories that were called out during our interviews were:
- Mentors & coaches
“I don’t know it all; I surround myself with mentors and coaches; more than 1” – Israel
It is this access to support system that Israel feels has significantly attributed to his ability to build up his businesses and remain successful for all these years.
The outside perspective allows you to have an effective sounding board as you navigate the complexities of setting up and running your business.
Generally, mentors and coaches are viewed as very similar roles, however, mentors will help you with their own experiences and may provide recommendations or solutions and coaches will help you define your own path forward where you create your own solutions.
- Other entrepreneurs
The world of a business owner can be a lonely one, so having platforms to connect with people who are in a similar situation can be the impetus that gets you over some tough hurdles.
Engaging with other entrepreneurs and business owners is another way to provide you with support as well as insights into what other businesses and industries are facing. These other business owners are likely experiencing similar challenges and the approaches you take in your business can be positively influenced by learning from others and you can help other entrepreneurs ensure their own success.
- Your Vision is Your Success
As the business owner your vision is what starts the business, and your passion and energy is what will sustain it.
To be successful you must know why you want to start the business, and making money is not a purpose but an outcome of executing your purpose. Referring to the changeable role of the business owner, how your vision and passion show up will likely differ on your path to growth,
When you are starting out it is unlikely that you will presenting your vision on a huge stage to a packed auditorium, but it is the impetus to getting up every day to work harder towards your goals. As you move along your growth journey, you will need to be able to articulate this vison to your employees and teams to enrol them and ensure everyone is pulling in the same direction.
These are important elements of being a successful business owner that cannot be ignored or taken lightly, so set your purpose and course correct as needed.
In conclusion, starting your own successful business is not as simple as having a great idea, you need to have a clear, structured approach to how you will start, build, and grow your business that goes beyond having a brilliant business plan.
In the second part of this 3-part series, we will look at elements of the growth fundamentals that entrepreneurs should consider.
Our sincere thanks to Tumelo and Israel for giving their time to us as we consider entrepreneurship and the opportunities facing the SME sector in South Africa.