Madoda Khuzwayo is the founder and CEO of South Africa-based jobs and employment portal Hiringly. He is also the founder of web hosting provider Hostriver; and Opentenders, a platform that connects entrepreneurs with public and private sector procurement opportunities.
1. Tell us about one of the toughest situations you’ve found yourself in as a business owner, and how you overcame this challenge.
This one time our entire mail server cluster crashed, almost wiping out close to five years’ worth of clients email communication. At the time, we were using a data centre in London for our hosting. I had to get on the plane to London that night and spent the next three days rebuilding the system from the archive and backups. It was a nightmare but we survived. Clear communication with our clients and ability to stay calm is what got us through. After that incident, we had to slowly rebuild trust with our clients as some wanted to migrate. We did lose a few though.
2. What entrepreneurial / business achievement are you most proud of?
I am mostly proud of the first business, Hostriver, that I started in my garage 12 years ago with one server and one employee. He later left me because I couldn’t afford to pay him on time. I recently sold most of my stake in it to focus on my new startup, Hiringly. Most of my entrepreneurial mistakes and lessons came from Hostriver. Seeing it grow to be what it is now, with the team that has came on board, is fulfilling.
3. Tell us about your greatest weakness as an entrepreneur, and how you’ve prevented this from negatively impacting your company?
I am a perfectionist, and I used to struggle with micromanaging and fixing things I shouldn’t be fixing. To overcome this, I now only work with people who are better than me in most [things]. My job is just to guide them and have faith in their ability to deliver.
4. What popular entrepreneurial advice or conventional business wisdom do you disagree with?
“You need a business plan and have it all figured out before you to start.”
I have no idea who came up with this. The truth is nothing can fully prepare you for the life as an entrepreneur, even if you have built a successful company. In fact, most entrepreneurs don’t know exactly what company they are building until they start. You can do all the research and planning in the world, but unexpected challenges will always crop up. The important thing is to deal with them as you go along, learn from them – and keep building.
5. Is there anything you wish you knew about entrepreneurship before you started?
I wish I knew how long it would take to make this work. Entrepreneurship is not all glossy like the covers of the magazines we appear on. It is instead a long, lonely journey that makes you question your sanity at times. If you are not mentally prepared and in it for the long haul, it can break you. If I knew this from the beginning, I would have done so many things differently.
‘The journey so far’ series is edited by Wilhelmina Maboja, with copy editing by Xolisa Phillip, and content production by Justin Probyn and Nelly Murungi.