Sunday, 19 October 2014

What does it take to get going

I love these stories on the web with titles like, "5 things you must know about starting a business" or "10 things every entrepreneur needs to know". I guess that they all have their place and I have certainly picked up a few tips from them, but the real truth is that you can spend your life researching what needs to be done to start something up and never actually start doing it! Been there ... almost done that!

My belief is that often some external factor or unplanned event leads to that final push - not always, but often... People spend hours in their offices with a great idea or a dream and never really get to test it for fear of taking the final leap and leaving the perceived safety of the "shore".
Yes, sound advice can be to keep your job and get something going on the side line, but that thought in itself is often enough for someone never to actually try. You hear warnings that the venture will fail if you don't commit 100% to it - for some this has certainly proved to be true.

Helena and I always wanted to start our own company and we investigated and planned the options, and actually once started a successful video editing business in Kathu. The irony of the whole situation is that we stopped doing that as it became too successful and demanded too much of Helena's time - something we had moved to Kathu to change. Looking back we should have set it up differently, but we see that as a learning to be applied somewhere in the future.

Having spent a year in Namibia, the final push for us came sooner than we had planned. In effect, while it was a great opportunity and a great place to stay, financially we were eating into our savings to stay there and moving further away from being able to start our own venture. So we had three choices;

1) Stay on and hope things got better;
2) Look for another job doing the same thing again;
3) Follow our dream and start our own venture.

Well since you have been reading this (yes, you have studied every sentence meticulously!) you will know that option 3 received the vote!

What have we learnt in the first month?
Here we go ....

"5 things that will help you to start!"

1) You need to take the step.
Read what you can, research what you can. But then stop and pray. You will need to know you are doing the right thing when times get tough, and they do quite early on (Month 1 !!). The internet won't push you. You will find information on the web to back up anything you want ... literally. If you want to stat your business up on the sideline - do it, a safety net can be a good thing. If you want to jump, plan your finances properly and make sure you can cope for a significant amount of time without income. Nobody can tell you how long, but I would guess 12 months plus - depends on what you plan to do. Some businesses will start generating income from day 1. Others will take time to build a name and a client base. The latter is the case for us.

2) Get your presence out there, sooner rather than later.
Once people know you are making a change, opportunities that you never even knew about can surface. Having handed in my resignation, I was amazed at how people opened up and took me into their confidence. Almost as if you become 'neutral' to them overnight. Keep in mind you still work for the company until your last day and take care to avoid potential conflict of interest scenarios.

The web is awash with advice on marketing. What we did was to sort out the branding first. I used an online service to do the logo design, business cards and letter heads for me and I was very happy with the results. Check them out:
This is the result:

Then set up a website, facebook page, twitter account and .....maybe even a blog if you enjoy writing and want to keep track of things. Who knows you may be the next Mark Shuttleworth and writing your autobiography may be easier this way!

3) Setting up the company
We decided to go with a contact that sets up your company, assists with taxes and general administrative requirements surrounding the statutory side of things. It has taken longer than expected but that is apparently due to issues with the CIPC site (
Visit their website, you can do all of it on your own if you want to save some money.

4) You don't need to be an accounting genius
This is where Google helped me. This was one of my "Best free accounting software" searches! I followed a few links, read a few reviews and came across Freshbooks more than once. I have been using it for 3 weeks now and it is awesome. A few features that I found lacking such as the ability to set up and track a budget - that would have been nice.  Otherwise, easy to use for almost anyone. Download the app on your mobile device and keep track of business expenses as they occur - I am sure this is going to save time later on.

5) Get on the phone
Emails and Linkedin messages are not very effective. Call people. Speak to them. You get results there and then. It may be a "No", but at least it is done. Emails and messages have a way of floating around, both in the 'digital atmosphere' as well as your head. You are going to need to have an uncluttered mind. Again ... call them.
Ok, so now I have reached the end of my list and I have another point to make, so see this as the "buy 5 get 1 free" tip!

6) Read "The seven habits of highly effective people" by Steven Covey.
If like me, reading is not something you think you always have time for, download the Audible app and buy the audio book. It is not your typical quick fix book so be prepared for a longer term investment in terms of your time. You will find some gems in this book, particularly in today's hurried, now world. The focus is on long term investments in terms of relationships and your own character.

Bear in mind, when reading the above, that we have been going for less than a month, so you are not reading advice from a business guru by any means! We have only just entered our first agreement that will lead to our first income, so see this more as a way of following our progress and seeing what works. (That's kind of like my disclaimer :) )

Mathew 6:34 ...
"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."


  1. Awesome read - thank you for sharing. Keep writing! All of the best with the new business.

  2. Thanks Herman. Glad you enjoyed reading it. I'm still pondering my next article!