All the answers to your unique business lifestage questions
Duma Travel founder and CEO, Themba Mthombeni started his company with one employee in 2002.
This year he celebrates a decade in the highly competitive travel industry. His company has expanded to encompass 150 staff, five offices countrywide and two divisions.
Mthombeni says, “We started out with zero turnover. Ten years down the line, we’re looking at over R500 million in turnover.
And yet the highlight for me was standing in the village in which I was born, Glencoe in KZN, handing out scholarships to 20 secondary school learners and realising that I could actually make a difference in these children’s lives.”
Always give back
Giving back is a very important aspect in running a successful business, according to Mthombeni. He explains, “It keeps you grounded, reminds you of where you came from and ensures there will be an educated and capable generation to follow in your footsteps one day.”
“It is one thing to satisfy your ego, ambition and bank balance by building a company from nothing. But taking this success a step further and making a real difference in other people’s lives, was for me a crowning moment.”
Duma Travel is in the process of launching a vegetable planting project in Nelspruit, Mpumalanga, where Themba’s wife and the MD of Duma Travel, Nomvula, was born.
6 character traits of successful entrepreneurs
- Focus. If you embark on this journey you must be very focussed and simply stick to the knitting. Entrepreneurs tend to get bored quickly and move from one idea to the next. I would discourage that. You need to focus on one key thing that you’re passionate about and make it work well.
- Discipline. When you are your own boss, you decide when to wake up. It takes motivation to wake up early and go home late. This can be a difficult concept to grasp when you’re starting out, especially if you’re used to a corporate environment with the accompanying rules and regulations.
- Stay calm. The entrepreneurial environment can be unpredictable. You sometimes have to take big risks and put money into a venture that may or not work. You can’t afford to become hysterical, it will upset the people around you and create a feeling of instability in the business.
- Attention to detail. Do a quality check on each and everything that goes out of your company. It must adequately reflect you and your company.
- Risk tolerance. You must know how to manage and live with risk.
- Balance. Strike a balance between work, family and play. Entrepreneurs tend to burn out by working non-stop, and often neglect other areas of their life. By nature, an entrepreneur is a hard worker, but that balance is essential for sustainability.
6 ways to grow a business
- Be customer centric. Ensure that whatever you do, you do it exceptionally well. You want your customers to vouch for you, to provide testimonials that will attract more business.
- Balance costs. Most companies operate in a highly volatile marketplace, so you need to make sure your cost base is flexible and variable so it can respond to unpredictable occurrences.
- Diversify. Along the way you may get lucky and net a big client. Be wary of putting all of your eggs in one basket though, and ensure you have several smaller customers to fall back on.
- Manage cash flow. When your business starts doing well, don’t be tempted to splash out on expensive cars, private schools or a new house. The money that’s coming in belongs to the business and its suppliers. You need to manage your cash properly. This must be accompanied by strong accounting practices.
- Marketing. Ensure that your business is an identifiable brand with a unique selling point. Stand apart from the competition.
- Competitive edge. Entrepreneurs tend to get so bogged down in operational matters that they lose track of their vision for the company. You need to polish and develop your competitive edge on an ongoing basis, keeping pace with changing times and trends. Maintain a global perspective of where you want to take your business.
Proof of the pudding
Clearly Mthombeni’s recipe works. Duma Travel has since 2002 grown to encompass Duma ICE, a company that handles travel incentives, events and the like, and Duma Academy, established to train staff in skills necessary to the travel industry.