So you’ve decided to start out on your own or you’ve actually started on this journey. It is somewhat a journey to the unknown – with a beginning, middle and a continuously changing end-point. It is a marathon journey and more.
Taking that first step is sometimes the most difficult and oftentimes the easiest. But it does not stop there.
Starting a business is oftentimes viewed with rose-tinted spectacles; somewhat like the start of a new relationship. We look at established and successful businesses the same way we view happy couples on the cover of glossy magazines and aspire to be like them.
For many start-ups, it is the glamour of having the freedom to do what you want, whenever you want; being the boss and not taking orders from someone else. Of course, the opportunity to make a lot of money is also a strong lure. We’ve seen people start with nothing and become millionaires and think we can do the same.
But before you leap “heart first” into the decision, PAUSE, don't go just yet.
We do not know the full story of these people on the face of glossy magazines or in business conferences. We need to be aware of some of the struggles they went through, the personal and financial sacrifices they’ve had to make and some of the failures they’ve had along their journey and more challenges they continue to endure.
Many people look at the likes of Richard Branson (founder of the Virgin Group) or Aliko Dangote, the billionaire founder of Dangote group. Do you know that as a young boy, Dangote bought cartons of sweets and sold them to make money, because he was interested in business from a very young age? Although he was from a rich family, he worked for his uncle and took out a loan to start his business. He is quoted as saying “ I built a conglomerate and emerged the richest black man in Africa in 2008, but it did not happen overnight, it took me 30 years to get to where I am today”. Yes 30 years… are you really prepared for that journey?
Anyone who has started a new business will tell you the same. Starting out a business is not an easy task and the romance is quickly out of the window when the income does not stream in as one expects.
The aim of this article is to prepare you physically, mentally and psychologically, so that your business will be built on the right foundation and last the test of time. Starting a new business is certainly rewarding and is very exciting, but it also has its challenges. The success of your business will depend on the resources you have – be it intellectual, financial, human or physical resources. It will also depend on your attitude and skills and most important the foundation on which the business is laid.
Whether you are just starting out on the journey or have already taken the first steps, here are a few basics to help you set the foundation:
1 – WHY
We need to be clear about why we want to start a business. What is the real reason? To make lots of money, is not the real reason. Make sure it is much more than this, because your motives will be tested. There will be days that you work for hours that you did not think were possible and yet have no income to show at the end of a long day. Remembering the real reason would keep you persevering in those hard times.
The reasons can be rational or emotional. For example, “amid high unemployment, I want to create my own employment” or “I have a skill I want to use” or "I want to spend more time with my family and invest more time in the development of my children".
One of the main reasons for starting Xeed Business is to channel ideas that are constantly going through my mind. Secondly, is to pass on some of my knowledge and experience to the next generation.
I recommend that each person understands why he or she has decided to start out on this journey. Write it down and always keep this in mind.
2 – WHO
Who are those people closest to you that will tell you the truth and nothing but the truth; people who will be there to lend you a hand, to pull you up when you are down. Make sure you have the support of those closest to you – friends, family and associates. This will go a long way towards transforming your business idea into reality and will be especially important during the early days of your business.
I generally do not share my ideas with just anyone. Some people are very negative and have a way of killing the seed of any idea. Keep your business ideas away from such people. But have one or two people who are close to you and who believe in YOU. Even if they are not 100% believers in your idea, they will stick with you through the rough and the smooth. They will tell you the truth and work with you to find solutions.
Speak to them and ask for their on-going moral support as you start on this venture.
3 - WHAT
Be honest about your capabilities as well as your limitations - knowledge, financial status, the personal qualities that you can bring to your new business and the time that you have to spend on this venture.
Being honest about the available resources means you can address them and and find ways to fill the gaps before they become an issue for your budding business. For instance, if you are not good in networking and this is critical to your business success, you will need to either learn the skill very quickly or find a business associate that can take on this role.
4 – WHEN
My final point is not to jump before you can leap. I gave the example of Dangote, he sold sweets as a young lad, he worked for his uncle. Do you have the basics to help you in your business? If not, take some time to learn. This will set you on a strong footing for the rest of your business life. Don’t borrow hundreds of thousands of dollars to open a food factory when you cannot even boil an egg. Start by learning the basics, maybe start by cooking in your small kitchen, make your mistakes on a small scale, learn from them and build on the learnings.
You are the only person that truly knows the WHY, WHO, WHAT AND WHEN. Have a “round-table-conference” with yourself and answer these questions. These will help you set a strong foundation on which your business can be established to the long term.
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