Ben Bierman is a managing director at Business Partners Limited.
Ben Bierman is a managing director at Business Partners Limited.

OPINION: Top tips for business success from SA's best business executives

By Ben Bierman Time of article published Jun 15, 2020

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JOHANNESBURG - In celebration of Youth Day, some of the country's top executives shared top tips for business success with matriculants and young entrepreneurs: 

1.Invest in understanding your market and customer. In order to stand out from competitors, ensure that the potential customer the business is targeting has been identified and that your team understands this customer and the market in which the business operates. Do research and spend time studying the sector in order to understand the competitors that the business will be going up against. In this case, knowledge really is power and the closer a business is to its audience, the better it can respond to their changing needs. 

2.Invest in building your brand. Beyond being merely a symbol, a brand is the sum of the experiences that a customer may have with a business. This means that communication, customer service, product quality and everyday operations all need to be perfectly aligned to successfully broadcast one clear message about the company. Social media and affordable web hosting have made it possible to communicate a business’s message to customers affordably. 

3.Invest own capital, as much as possible. Waiting for financial investment is often one of the first reasons that entrepreneurial ventures fail, so it’s usually better for business owners to invest their own capital first. This is, however, easier said than done, considering the many challenges that young people face. Saving money towards a future business requires a frugal mentality and the ability to stay within a budget while still employed, which can be challenging. Once deciding to seek an external financier, do research and make sure they are reputable and their products are aligned to your business needs. 

4.Never stop learning. The most accomplished entrepreneurs are those who never stop reading and learning. Entrepreneurs who make a determined effort to continually develop their skills are better resources or assets to their businesses. Especially in the face of global challenges such as the Covid-19 pandemic, entrepreneurs need to remain agile and continuously up-skill in order to increase resilience. Securing the right mentor could enhance the learning experience. 

5.Develop an elevator pitch. The ability to network is a skill that every business owner needs to acquire as potential clients or financiers may be present at social events, conferences, or even in an actual elevator. Being able to describe the business and its purpose as simply and as clearly as possible to potential clients and investors is central to getting the most out of networking opportunities, which is where an elevator pitch comes in. Write your business description until it is no longer than 50 to 100 words and be ready to explain the business to anyone at any time within 30-seconds or less.

Fuel and Retail Associations chief executive Reggie Sibiya:

Focus: I believe many young entrepreneurs become over ambitious at an early stage. They are inspired by seasoned entrepreneurs who have many business interests, forgetting that they too started by focusing on one business until it was stable enough and then started spreading their wings.

Learn: Do not limit learning to the traditional school system, empower yourself with knowledge in an area where you want to develop yourself. Follow entrepreneurs in your field of business, watch YouTube videos, social media and read books. No one is born knowing. Everyone who knows something today had to make an effort to learn.

Premature celebrations: Someone once said "seeds of failure are often sown at the height of celebrations". There is nothing wrong about celebrating your business achievements, but always keep watch over premature celebrations which may lead to complacency.

Past achievements: Past achievements/successes are necessary fuel to keep us going, but never dwell on your past. Many people who over-celebrate past achievements become complacent, and before you know it, they become irrelevant to today's market. I know of a friend who used to top our class in matric, 30 years later he still brags about the fact that he was top in class and yet he is totally misplaced in today’s economy.

Make monetary rewards not an objective: If your only reason to be in business is to make money, you are missing a great part of inner satisfaction that comes with delivering a product/service exceeding customers expectations. There is something absolutely fulfilling in doing something that you are passionate about, and getting paid for it. When your focus is in perfecting your service/product, money will follow.

Value your people: The greatest asset any business would have is its employees. Sadly, many entrepreneurs see this as an expense and not an asset, hence they are often paid last, underpaid, mistreated etc. If you are to thrive as an entrepreneur, invest in your people, they in turn will be loyal to you and will give their best towards the growth of your company.

Ben Bierman, the managing director at Business Partners. 


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