South African entrepreneur talks about his road to the top

Is there any popular entrepreneur advice that you disagree with?

The one thing that I completely disagree with is when people say that the market is saturated. In almost any market I believe there is a way to do things smarter, better, more efficiently and with better service than whoever is currently in the market. We all admit to getting less than the best customer service in many spheres of the products that we consume. So why is there not space for another competitor? I believe there are huge opportunities for new entrants into almost every market in the country. So the one thing I would tell budding entrepreneurs to discount and ignore is when people say “no, you are mad entering that space, it’s totally saturated”.

If you could give one piece of advice to all potential entrepreneurs out there, what would it be?

Get the main focus right. Your core offering has to be spot on. Then you can start with bells and whistles and complementary products and partnerships and relationships. A lot of people get bored with the core product very quickly and they start diversifying or start adding stuff on because they think it’s critical to the success of the core product. Meanwhile you should stick to your bread and butter. If you are a pen supplier, make sure your pens are the best pens out there before you start with all the different product lines and fancy packaging.

What was the one thing you wish you knew before starting your business?

Had I known how much longer it would take to become just viable, never mind successful, I would have gone into this a lot more realistically. When I started this business I thought it would break even in like 12 months, meanwhile realistically it was closer to 36 months. It took three times longer than we planned. During that second and third year before we were profitable, when my expectations had been passed, I thought we were behind the clock. Whereas initially I think we were completely unrealistic about how long it would take. So I think entrepreneurs who start a business should take the worst case scenario on how long they think it will take to become viable, and then triple it, and they will have a more realistic picture of how long it will take to get to that point when they can start reaping the rewards. It also helps you manage those initial stresses. Thinking “I’m not meant to be there yet” is a much easier mind frame to operate with than “I’m behind, why is it taking so long”.