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How to get from zero to hero

Oct 05 2014 08:00

Cape Town - Life won’t get any easier and responsibilities won’t get any lighter, say Dinesh Patel (CEO) and Heini Booysen (COO) of OrderIn in this informative Q&A.

Before you embark on your career as an entrepreneur (and quit your job) – what should you put into place personally?

We don’t think there’s a formula for this. Everyone has a different risk profile. What we can say is that when you find that thing you feel so compelled to do, then there’s no better time than now. Life won’t get any easier, responsibilities won’t get any lighter.

Make a decision to follow your dream and then put in place a practical plan that gets you to your goal. The first step is to emotionally and psychologically commit to the investment. Remember, to do that, you must have done your homework – without that – you’re gambling.

The following MUST be embarked on in the following order:

- Market research on what already exists in the market you wish to enter.
- Understanding of the weaknesses and strengths of existing offerings.
- Understanding of the weaknesses and strengths of your offering.
- Research into your target audience – what they need versus what they currently have and what the gap is that your offering will fill.
- A business plan outlining goals and milestones for the next year.
- In the context of technology – your development team. Who they are, what the retainer basis will look like versus return and their background and availability for the first year.
- An overheads budget versus income (runway) – what can you afford to spend against limited income and for how long?

What advice do you have when it comes to having a partner?

You need to try your best to find a business partner where your strengths complement one another. If you both have the same strengths and weaknesses, there is potential for conflict and failure, but if you each bring something different to the table you essentially become a single entity with all the strengths you need to succeed.

This goes for the entire founding team – surround yourself with people who are smarter than you and care about solving problems – those are entrepreneurs.

What is essential to get right in terms of technology?

You need to keep focusing on minimum viable product. That is making sure you do not add features just for the sake of it. This is especially important when introducing a new service or product. Your product/service will evolve over time and customers will help shape that evolution – so be open to change and spend a lot of time speaking to customers.

Should you self-finance, take out a loan, explore the VC (venture capital) option or take on shareholders? What are the questions you should ask?

You can explore all these options – the key question you need to ask yourself if you approach investors is to make sure they do not just bring funds to the table,but also additional value in terms of relevant background (give advice) or strong network (opening doors).

Great thing about investors who can bring relevant skills in addition to money, is that they will also likely understand the value in your business, and be more willing to invest. It's a lot harder to convince a mining magnet to invest in a highly technical SEM company.

How important is BBEE?

In the local context, it’s a growing consideration from a hiring and organisational structure point of view. Ultimately though, when you’re a small start-up, you want to hire the best people, no matter what their skin colour is.

How do you plan for expansion?

In a start-up there is a danger to try to plan and analyse too much before you make decisions.  Instead, focus on being nimble and making smart decisions on limited information. But, to do that you must be informed/educated, which is a continous process of learning and reading.

In terms of practical planning for growth, It’s important to put systems and processes in place that are scalable and stand up well to stress, but that doesn’t mean you need those processes in place on day one. What's important is that your current processes allow you to grow materially, without falling apart. When they don’t, it’s time to enhance the process.

What do you need to put into place personally to ensure that you are prepared for the first year?

The first thing you need is to be prepared to dedicate your life to this business. You must be willing to endure massive amounts of pain, sacrifice and rejection. You must let go of your ego and your social life. Changing customer behaviour, introducing a new way of doing things and changing the status quo is not for the fainthearted.

And while you’re on that journey, you’re going to need a support system in place – be it family, friends or colleagues - who will support you through the ups and downs of start-up life.

What do you need to put into place professionally to ensure that you are prepared for the first year?

You need to be an expert in your industry before day one. There is no excuse for not knowing everything that is happening in your industry, globally. Starting the business will give you operational insight and experience that you can’t read or learn. But everything else you need to be armed with.

What are the characteristics that are required for entrepreneurs?

Tenacity, confidence, resilience, the ability to sell your idea, the ability to convince people, the ability to motivate and get the best out of your team. And humility. Tonnes and tonnes of humility.

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start-up  |  entrepreneur  |  tips


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