What entrepreneurs wish they’d known when they started out

Online since 5.09.2017 • Filed under Entrepreneurs • From Issue 6 - September 2017 - February 2018 page(s) 30-31
What entrepreneurs wish they’d known when they started out

2016 Entrepreneur of the Year® winners discuss advice they would share with their younger selves.

Entrepreneurs in the small and medium enterprise (SME) sector have long regarded business mentorship as one of the fundamental factors required for developing this space in the South African economy.

Gugu Mjadu, spokesperson for the 2017 Entrepreneur of the Year® competition, sponsored by Sanlam and BUSINESS/PARTNERS, points to the results of the first quarter 2017 Business Partners Limited SME Index that reported an 82% level of importance for business mentorship in the development of a business. This is the highest level ever recorded since the survey’s inception in 2012.

Mjadu says that in the absence of concrete guidance and mentorship, the path to becoming a successful entrepreneur can be lonely and too often forged solely by way of trial and error – frequently involving costly mistakes and countless sacrifices along the way. ‘Entrepreneurs are desperate for mentorship to guide their businesses in the right direction in the current economic climate,’ she notes.

Some of the past winners of the 2016 Entrepreneur of the Year® competition offer their advice to younger aspiring entrepreneurs starting their journey: Vanessa Jacobs of Sow Delicious® and 2016 Emerging Business Entrepreneur of the Year® says that she would remind her younger self to never trade passion for money. ‘If you follow the money it will seem to elude you and leave your life empty.

 But, if you work for the love of it, then the money will follow you instead. It is also important to always remain teachable and view every set-back as a gift because at its very core lies a solution of how to use it to excel to greater heights,’ she adds. This sentiment of remaining teachable is echoed in the advice offered by Michael Roberts, owner and founder of Khonology, and 2016 Job Creator of the Year®.

‘Understand economics and how the world works but be open to views, ideas and take advice. Look for inspiration in other people’s success stories and surround yourself with positive and focused people.’

Overall 2016 Entrepreneur of the Year®, Johan Eksteen of Agricon, urges young entrepreneurs to realise that they are loose cannons – something that he says is both a good and a bad thing. ‘Young entrepreneurs have untapped potential as they have not yet been corrupted by the harsh realities of the economy. They dream without limits and are therefore creative and original. ‘Many ideas are potentially great, but the key is to implement these in real life. If they listen too much or too often to people with experience, they may be discouraged, and their great innovation may go undeveloped. However, if they do not heed some mentorship and advice, they may have no clue as to how they should turn the idea into a business.’ He adds that choosing the right mentor is crucial. ‘The last thing a young driven entrepreneur needs is a passion killer.’

Carl Pretorius, managing director of Just Trees and 2016 Medium Business Entrepreneur of the Year®, says that he found having an older mentor to bounce ideas off and get advice from was very helpful. ‘I would encourage young entrepreneurs to be honest with themselves about what they do and do not know, and then get help with what they don’t know.’ He adds that young entrepreneurs should realise that it can take up to five years to put a solid business concept together and to start making serious money. ‘In this time, entrepreneurs must remember that they are not managing a readymade concept – it requires constant change and sharp entrepreneurial tenacity to succeed. Most entrepreneurs look down at the road they are on and forget to check the direction in which they’re going. Keep one eye on the potholes and the other on the road.’

Issue 6 - September 2017 - February 2018

Issue 6 - September 2017 - February 2018

This article was featured on page 30-31 of SABI Magazine Issue 6 - September 2017 - February 2018 .

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