A number of Swazis have big dreams about starting their own businesses and in most cases have put up the lack of capital as the number one business limitation.
It is very true that you need capital to start a business but I have met too many people who’ve taken loans for business start-up only to find themselves broke in a matter of weeks and in huge financial debt. Below are quick tips on how you can start a business without a major financial investment. Please do share your comments below after reading.
- Partnership: find a trustworthy partner who can put in the money while you put in your expertise. When selecting a business partner look for someone who complements your effort and not in competition with your skill set. Based on my experience, a few years down the line lines get blurred and you find yourselves stepping into each other territories and this can be a source for major conflict. As well, don’t choose a partner because he/she is your friend or relative – doing this is a recipe for disaster.
The founder of Alibaba.com and now the Alibaba Group, Jack Ma started with about 20 partners. As you can see partnership is all about getting talent into the business without any obligation to pay them a salary – because they are Directors/Partners in the business. Do you think Google was cooked up by the two gurus? Of course not, someone thought about the idea and roped in the other and then they started working together churning even more ideas that would make Google the superpower it is today.
- Get Clients first: Facebook offers an opportunity to make get clients before you launch your business. Simply set up a page and promote it to get as many LIKEs as possible. Those who become your fans may become your customers when you launch. I have taught on social media marketing in workshops and mastermind groups but people still fail to notice the inherent power of Facebook in helping you start, grow and run your business.
I have a perfect case study for this; I started a facebook page called “Khangisa” and in a year I took that audience and turned them into customers for the print version of the classifieds site. We found the customer first and then created the product second. With effective technology available to every business person there has never been an easier time to get clients first. A few years later I flipped that business and turned it into an online shopping mall and as of updating this article we’ve delivered 1,000+ orders to customers country wide.
- Pay your staff on commission: there are a number of people who need jobs in Eswatini and will gladly sell your products at a commission. This way you don’t have to pay them any monthly salary.
- Enter business competitions: Join a competition like the one offered by Technoserve and work hard to be amongst the top winners. A number of people have seen success with this one. You can also use the internet to find other SME competitions you can join.
- Keep your day job while you are building a market for your business. Set aside a percentage of your monthly earnings to help fund basic business, costs such as business cards, website hosting or business registration.
- Leverage Relationships: Don’t serve companies, serve individuals. If there is one thing I am not very good at it maintaining relationships or networking. I even skip that chapter in all business books I read. However, just because I have a challenge with this does not mean it does not work; in fact, it works like a charm. Put yourself out there – create and maintain good relationships. As well be careful once you get the client to recognize that your true client is not the company but the individual who influences things inside the business in your favor. The day I discovered this insight was the day I kept one of my clients for more than 5 years after 3 years of turmoil and nearly losing the account.
- Become a thought leader: People i.e. customers, staff and investors need to know that you are really passionate about your business and your industry. If you take time to showcase that passion by sharing thoughts, insight and putting yourself out there as the go to person in your product category or industry then you will gain a thought leadership status. This will draw attention to your business and possibly start attracting the right talent, investors and even appeal to your end customers better than your competitors.
- Create experiments not products/services: I used to think I was the one who coined the ideology “fail and fail fast” until I read a lot of business books and found the concept in most of them. In my career I have come up with hundreds of product and services ideas, launched a dozen of them but 99% of them have crashed and burnt.
One weakness most of us entrepreneurs have is falling deeply in love with the products and brands we created yet if we could only be able to see them as means to an end then it would be easier to quickly move on to the next if the one does not work. So find product ideas, launch them with as little fanfare as possible in order to avoid spending too much resources on them and then observe uptake or potential. Be quick to pull off the plug if it’s not working and move on.
- Hire university interns: The hardest working group I have ever hired are interns. They come in with so much fire – a point to prove really. They don’t expect much compensation because they get paid in experience. 90% of my full time staff came in as interns and I have since applied the same principle across all the businesses I have started. It works like a charm. You just need to be ready to spend a bit of time hand holding them as they try to adapt from school to work environment.
- Do everything yourself; at least until you start seeing some trickles of revenue coming in and order book starting to bulge. Most start-up owners make the mistake of being the “boss’ from day one. Sitting in their office dishing orders and if they are delayed, hire more “help” to sustain your living like a King status. People often say, if you want something to be done correctly or according to your specification, you must do it yourself. This adage holds true in business as well.
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