Every entrepreneur is unique and every story is different, but there is a common factor that unites them – they all take risks, follow their dreams and pursue their passions.
That’s according to Steven Cohen, head of Sage One International (Africa, Australia, Middle East and Asia), who says he can still relate to the obstacles and victories of a small business owner.
Here are 10 things he believes are essential to stand out as a small business owner.
There’s a reason the term ‘wantrepreneur’ has come to describe so many people, as action and execution are much harder than talk, Cohen says.
“Success is the result of your actions. It’s not always laziness that impedes action, sometimes over-thinking things, doubting yourself, or striving for ‘perfect’ can prevent us from getting on with things. It’s key to find a balance between planning and execution, in any line of business.”
Believe that you can do it – and you will
Cohen says emotions dictate decisions, as well as how we respond to failure and challenges.
Sometimes emotions are at the heart of our success, or failure. While the idea of ‘believing in yourself’ has become clichéd, it’s for good reason – the most successful people in business are not necessarily the smartest, but they are good at maintaining a positive attitude and an unwavering belief in their ability to be successful.”
Hire good people
Sounds simple, but Cohen says the first employees you hire will set the pace for your startup’s growth and lay the groundwork for the company culture.
“This is why you shouldn’t settle for secondbest when hiring for the first time. One of the questions other entrepreneurs often ask me is what I would change if I could go back in time and restart my business,” he says. “My answer, without hesitation, is always that I would invest heavily in hiring the best talent and do everything in my power to bring the greatest people on board right from the start.”
Treat your people well
Before you even start to create job descriptions and advertise positions, you should start thinking about what sort of people you’d like to have working for your company. The type of people who work with you will determine how much you can trust them, which is important because without trust, a business is set for failure,” Cohen says.
“I always hear people saying “If I don’t do it myself then it doesn’t get done” – to me, this just means that you have failed as a business owner because you haven’t spent time getting to know your team and building trust. I also believe that one of the causes of those long, unbearable meetings that are so common to many businesses, is lack of trust. When people don’t trust each other, you end up going around in circles as everyone tries to stamp their authority on the topic.”
Live your values
An important question any entrepreneur needs to ask themselves, according to Cohen, is: what are your values and priorities, and how do you apply these in your business?
“Knowing the answer to this and being proud about it will show through everything you do, and your customers will take notice,” he says.
“Some find it hard to believe but modern customers buy into values as much as they do into the product itself – and are often prepared to pay more for a product that shares their values.”
Focus on a plan
“Plan well – if you don’t plan, you are planning to fail. Set goals, identify your priorities, outsource activities that may not fall in your area of expertise and be disciplined in sticking to them,” Cohen says.
He also advises to remain flexible – just because you have a plan, doesn’t necessarily mean you need to stick to it no matter what.
“Circumstances change, and being in business requires an adaptable mindset. When planning, remember to think about your entire business, not just your product or service offering – consider things like your infrastructure setup, your people, and ‘what if’ scenarios,” Cohen says.
Keep your finances in order
It is vital to always have a clear view of your finances and the overall health of your business, as it allows informed business decisions to be made.
Having a bigger picture overview of your business performance will also indicate if there are any red flags you need to be aware of,” Cohen says.
Make the bad times work for you
All startups face challenging times, with things not going as planned, deals falling through or a late payment putting a strain on finances.
“Don’t dwell on the negative, learn from the situation, move on and use it as a reason to better your business,” Cohen says.
He advises entrepreneurs to surround themselves with encouraging people, who believe in them and can provide support during challenging times.
“Seek out a mentor who can guide, assist and share their experiences with you. Even better, find several mentors that can teach you about different aspects of business,” he says.
Don’t ever give up
For Cohen, persistence leads to success
“As entrepreneurship becomes trendier, it’s important to remember the stark reality of owning your own business. It is about putting in the hours every single day,” he says.