5 THINGS I WOULDN’T CHANGE WHEN STARTING A BUSINESS


Marketing & Business
piece written on the 12th November 2013 by  

Just before launching the new iMod.co.za I started to get excited about being able to write about my experiences starting a business. Hundreds of topics have crossed my mind and I wasn’t able to decide exactly where to start, until now. I’ve read a great deal of articles where authors have written about things they would do differently and so I decided to come at it from another able – things that I wouldn’t do differently. See, hindsight isn’t tested, it’s merely a thought that something would have happened better unless it was a Yes/No situation.

So, here are 5 things I did when I started and these 5 things have proven effective and successful for me.

ONE

business-owner

From the very moment that I quit my job and started my company I knew that one of the most important aspects would be actually running the company. That sounds obvious, but it actually isn’t. Most people have a skill that they’ve sharpened over the years and that’s what they want to do, but when you start a company your focus won’t be only on that,. In fact, ¬†you’ll have to divide your time carefully to handle client communication, book keeping and a long list of other duties that come packaged with being a business owner. Probably one of the most important is that of time management, because if you can’t get that right a ball is going to get dropped.

These new tasks that you’re going to have to focus on are going to take time because they’re all new. I think I was fortunate, I remember reading a blog post about running a business and where your time should go so from the moment I started I concentrated on streamlining the processes to create myself enough time to learn the new skills that I’d need to develop. Prior to starting the company I forced myself to read countless articles written by entrepreneurs that I appreciated and this definitely jump started the process for me.

TWO

accounting

I love math and statistics, I am a programmer by heart and I love analysing web traffic but when it comes to accounting I completely switch off. One of the biggest decisions I made was to hire an accountant from the get go. I cannot stress just how important this decision was and how grateful I am for making it. In my first year of operation I faced so many accounting related matters such as company tax, employee tax, VAT, BEE status, certifications, changes SARS made and so the list goes on. I didn’t have a clue about any of these things and when it comes to dividing your time, the idea isn’t to divide your time so you can spend hours on end trying to figure out one thing after another, especially when it comes to finances and your business! For every hour spent researching I was rather able to spend that looking after my clients and producing great work, which yielded enough money to pay for the accountant. For those who are interested, I use Galbraith Rushby and am very happy.

THREE

branding

I like to believe that I understand branding quite well, but I’m absolutely useless at design. Right from the start I quickly realised I was going to need somewhat of a brand guide for items such as: a logo, letter heads, proposals, contracts, business cards, reports and so forth. Humans are visual creatures, when you send out a proposal make sure it looks great and is on brand. I find that brand consistency is a vital part of landing any project that is sizeable. It doesn’t need to be the most cutting edge corporate identity, but choose your colours and inject them into everything that leaves your inbox. I am incredibly happy that this is something I tackled right from the beginning because I have a suite of documents all beautifully branded in iMod Digital colours and no matter who I’m talking to or what I’m delivering there’s a consistency and a structure behind it. This builds trust amongst other things.

FOUR

equipment

This one’s probably overlooked quite often, but don’t underestimate the equipment you will need. I don’t care what anyone says but you’re going to need to do a few things: fax, print and scan. Here in South Africa there are many systems that are still stuck in the past and you’ll be requested to fax papers, print documents to sign and scan documents to send. I think it only took about 2 weeks of running my company until I had to dash out and buy the tools to perform these tasks – in the beginning I was faxing, scanning and printing documents on an almost daily basis! The time it takes to go to a copy shop to do something is just too much when you’re trying to start a company. Think carefully about your business and get the equipment as early as possible, it’ll save you a great deal of time and the financial investment can at least be written off.

FIVE

Social Media Logotype Background

Prepare your canvas. When a painter starts his work, he chooses the canvas and positions it correctly (amongst other things). Then he begins. In the same regard, I didn’t just walk into a room, open my computer and decide to start a business. I spent years before that performing a number of tasks, but the most important one which I want to speak about is establishing your name. There are so many ways to do this: start a Twitter account and engage with others in your industry, comment on forums, offer advice to people and do whatever you can to get your name out there with the aim of building a following – word of mouth leads convert way higher than any other form of marketing. If you’re able to write, start a blog and write about your passion, establish yourself as a leader in the industry and get the first few strokes on your canvas. I leveraged this blog to build myself a name, if it wasn’t for this blog I have no idea what I would be doing today! We live in a world where social media is absolutely everywhere, getting your name out there has become easier, make use of this.

Funnily enough, after writing these 5 points down I can think of another 10 things that I could add to the list but I’m going to leave it at 5 and perhaps I can do a part two if enough people request it.

As a bonus I want to reflect on a few things that I would do sooner if I started again:

  1. Contract a lawyer. Get your customer relationship terms, privacy policies and so forth in place. These are incredibly important and can protect you from going bang in the early stages.
  2. Get office space. It took me just over 6 months to do this and going back I’d have done it right from the beginning. There are too many reasons to note down, for me it just changed everything in a positive way.
  3. Book holidays. I wish I had booked myself 2-3 holidays so that I was forced to break away. I don’t mean trips overseas, I just mean the odd weekend away somewhere local and away from WiFi and 3G.

Almost every decision I’ve made over the past few years has been somewhat of a trial and error, after all it’s the first time I’m doing this. These 5 things I believe assisted me in creating a foundation that has been responsible for a lot of success. They’re things that a lot of people overlook or simply don’t know to think about.

I’d love to hear of decisions that you made in the early stages of your company that you believe have rewarded you?

Part 2: Lessons 5 Years into Running a Business.

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