HEARING how high-flying business owners battled to get their businesses off the ground can provide some comfort for local entrepreneurs.
The World Economic Forum, in conjunction with Stanford University and Endeavor, recently released a report on entrepreneurship, which included accounts of the initial challenges successful entrepreneurs faced.
Here are some of their responses:Vinny Lingham, Yola, South Africa
Major challenges faced were largely linked to building our offices in two countries – Cape Town, South Africa and San Francisco, US. Two issues dealt with time zone issues, and cross-functional reporting.
We deal with the time zone issues by using online collaboration tools such as Jira, Skype and Google Docs. We also created application ownership areas, which were geographically located to ensure that there were minimal interdependencies between the two offices.
Hiring the right people as we ramped up from 20 people to 70 people was a big issue for the company. We are hiring in both South Africa and Silicon Valley. We have a lot of our back office in Cape Town. Both our call centre and customer support are run there. One challenge there is the lack of depth in the South African labour market. In Silicon Valley, a high flyer can grow by hundreds of people every three months and still keep hiring quality people. In Cape Town, it is not yet possible to scale that quickly.Amjad Aryan, Pharmacy 1, Jordan
The first three years were very hard. Naysayers were all over the place, and negative remarks were an everyday occurrence. The law of chain retail pharmacy was there but not activated nor implemented. That burden fell on Pharmacy 1 to activate that law and set the precedent.
Going against the flow and facing set-in-stone mindsets caused probably some of the darkest times. There were times when people around me did not only doubt the success of the business but fought it, wholeheartedly driven by the fear of change. Some of these people were influential in our business, such as suppliers. We had to purchase products from them and conduct business, and we needed them to extend customary credit terms.
Today, these same people now shop in our outlets regularly and swear by our business model.Natalya Kaspersky, Kaspersky Lab, Russia
The early years were the real 'Dark Years' as we needed everything from an office to international business expertise. In addition to this, in 1998 Russia went through a major economic crisis. Most of our customers focused on covering their basic needs rather than spending on other goods.
In such a scenario there was nearly no demand for our product and nearly no chance for a small IT company to survive. The contract with a famous IT firm from Finland was a lucky strike for us. It gave us cash to keep the team up and to look for new business opportunities. Those years were also the time when today's corporate culture – one of fundamentals of our business – was established.
The full report can be downloaded at here