Approximately nine years ago, I officially took the plunge. I resigned from my beloved job, and leapt into the chasm of ‘the unknown’. On reflection; if I could whiz back in time to Empower’s startup phase to give myself some advice; these would be my top 5 growth hacks:
Keep your finger in every pie – Your startup needs your attention at every juncture, ensure you understand how every aspect of your business functions. In practicality, this will mean you getting involved in technical, administrative and financial tasks as well as marketing, business development, and strategic planning to ensure your long-term survival.
Lest we forget that your business will naturally run in succession with your family and personal commitments – balance your energy effectively and you will be on to a winner.
Keep your paperwork organized – In the madness of launching your startup, you may be tempted to overlook your filing system and avoid thinking about not-so-minor administrative details. The least glamourous (and simultaneously the most important) part of running a business is compliance.
As I painfully learnt early-on from the revenue authority: ignorance of the law excuses no one. Get the right experts on board; this should include a dream team comprised of a solid lawyer, tax advisor, accountant and auditor.
Take heed, sometimes going-it-alone can be pricey – ensure you are aware of the regulatory environment and that your business adheres to these guidelines.
Build your brand identity early – It is never too soon to build a brand identity; this will pay off in a multitude of ways further down the line when it comes to attracting the best talent; reeling in the big fish (clients) and building loyalty.
Your brand is the lifeblood and personality of your business –Why are you in existence? What do you represent? How do you do things? What values do you and your people live and breathe? All of this should be translated in you brand identity – harness the power of social media early-on.
Effectively featuring your business across multiple social media channels can funnel leads your way that result in increased brand awareness and revenue generation.
Patience & discipline - All your work is a building block towards your empire – you won’t mind putting in the extra work because you know it will pay back down the road. You make the rules and you set the pace. Having complete autonomy as an entrepreneur will mean all decisions and responsibilities rest with you. While this can be incredibly empowering, you will also experience several sleepless nights.
Another key point difference is that you may find yourself financially up one day & down the next – when starting out, you will need to get used to being thrifty. Money won’t necessarily flow in consistently.
Running a startup will fast-track you through the School of hard knocks – you will learn some tough lessons when you’re self-employed; you will need to be thick-skinned and able to bounce back to survive. You never fully switch off; work never stops, and you will find yourself constantly thinking about your company.
Public holidays rob you of productivity – while your employees celebrate the time off, you will find yourself taking advantage of quiet time to focus on more strategic aspects of the business.
All your patience and discipline will pay off down the line; your focus must be unwavering.
YOU are a Company Ambassador – The success of a business depends on its founders and management – as we all know, investors invest in people not companies. Successful entrepreneurs can take a bad idea and make a good business out of it; just as an unsuccessful entrepreneur can take a good idea and create nothing out of it.
As such, new Business-owners will often take on the ‘Brand Ambassador’ persona on online and beyond, as they seek to create maximum impact for the company.
You need to become your company’s biggest fan, most loyal customer and perfect your elevator pitch so you can take advantage of strategic opportunities to talk about how you can add value.