They built their business from the bottom up – and you can be just as successful if you follow their advice.
Your idea is great, you have financial backing and you’re ready to get this show on the road. But, before choosing that prime office space, hiring your first PA, or planning your first holiday as CEO, learn from what these five start-up founders found as hurdles to success, and how they overcame them to be the successes they are today.
Related: 4 Essential steps to start-up success
Vusi Thembekwayo’s business, Motiv8, has a turnover of R140 million, but he’ll never forget his first real start-up lesson: “However long you think it’s going to take to get going, triple it. And you still won’t be there.” This means that you shouldn’t assume that you’re going to become profitable in your first year of operation. It does take longer, sometimes, and you must be prepared to face this reality.
It’s said that knowledge is gained through experience, but if you take the following into consideration, you could save yourself from making the same mistakes:
1. Motiv8 founder Vusi Thembekwayo
“I had seed money from ring-fencing and selling the division I’d built-up and ran.
I used that money to get set up in fancy offices with a PA. I thought that was what you needed. And then it took eight months to get my first client,” he tells Entrepreneur magazine.
Don’t take initial success at face value. Spend your capital on getting your product into your consumers’ hands instead of trying to set yourself up for when you do have a booming list of clients. Throughout those eight long months, Thembekwayo had overheads and personal bills to pay, while his money was tied up in expensive office space and trivial trimmings.
2. Twitter founder and CEO of multiple start-ups Jack Dorsey
“The way I found that works for me is I theme my days. On Monday, at both companies, I focus on management and running the company. Tuesday is focused on product. Wednesday is focused on marketing and communications and growth.” In this way, says Dorsey, he’s able to give 100% of his energy to each theme on respective days.
According to research, this method increases productivity, as multitasking requires 40% of your time due to shifting focus (a vital tool to success).This adds up over days and eventually weeks, eating into your precious time as a start-up founder.
3. SaaS start-up consultant Lincoln Murphy
“Because entrepreneurship is so centred around urgency, we often over-focus on the next customer meeting or feature release or conference, failing to optimise around our most precious resource: Time,” says Murphy.
Tech.co says that successful start-up founders know how to automate, delegate and prioritise the tasks that create the highest impact: “Founders that spend all of their time reacting to crisis get burnt out fast and have less time to think and act in the long-term interest of their start-up.”
4. BodeTree founder Chris Myers
“Work/life balance is a joke, at least for entrepreneurs. There’s just life, and the business that you work so hard to create is a huge part of that,” he tells Forbes.
This doesn’t mean you should bring your bed to the office, but achieving a work-life balance in the early years will be difficult due to the fact that you need to live, eat and breath your product or brand in order to achieve the growth required in the planned time period.
Former CEO of Evernote Phil Libin adds that he believes in ‘life’s work’. “I don’t believe in life-work balance. I don’t think those are two things that you balance against each other.”
Related: RocoMama's 7 lessons to remain on top of your game with customers
5. RocoMamas founder Brian Altriche
“Failure is part of the equation of success. I call them my fabulous failures. You can’t achieve greatness without failures and risk,” Altriche says in an interview with Entrepreneur magazine.
By the time Altriche was in his early 30s, he had lost two brands he’d created, had a failed restaurant and sold the one business that was doing really well. Furthermore, the R240 000 he’d made from Ocean Basket and invested with a broker became R80 000 overnight after the 9/11 attacks in the US. He was running out of cash, fast.
“I realised I wanted to go back to running a restaurant, earning a decent wage, and being in control of my own business,” he says. Enter RocoMamas. Altriche’s resilience paid off because he accepted the powerful role failure plays in eventual success.
Making a success of your start-up requires more than just money and staff. It also requires the right mindset, which you cannot reach without looking to others before you.
- Use your capital wisely – don’t splurge on non-essentials before you grow big enough to need them.
- Prioritise your tasks and use time wisely because it’s precious, especially in the beginning.
- Understand that you may be working more than anticipated – and harder.
- Failures can be a detour to success.