By Miranda Naiman, accidental entrepreneur, motivational speaker, organizational development practitioner, writer, and founder of Empower Limited, a Tanzanian human capital consultancy firm.
I officially took the plunge about nine years ago. I resigned from my beloved job and leaped into the unknown to launch my company, Empower. If I could fly back in time to Empower’s start-up phase and give my younger self advice, I would offer these six thoughts.
1. Keep your finger in every pie.
Your start-up needs your attention at every juncture. Make certain you understand how every aspect of your business. In practicality, this means you get involved in technical, administrative and financial tasks as well as marketing, business development and strategic planning. (Lest we forget that your business runs simultaneously with your family and personal commitments, balance your energy effectively.)
2. Stay on top of your paperwork, regulations and guidelines.
In the madness of launching your start-up, you may be tempted to overlook your filing system. You might skip your administrative obligations. You may not take the time to understand related laws and taxes. The least glamorous (and simultaneously the most important) part of running a business is compliance. As I painfully learned early on from the revenue authority: ignorance of the law excuses no one. Take heed. Make sure you are aware of the regulatory environment and that your business adheres to these guidelines. Consider hiring the right experts. This should include a dream team comprised of a lawyer, tax advisor, accountant and auditor.
3. Build your brand identity early.
It is never too soon to build a brand identity. This pays off in a multitude of ways farther down the line when it’s time to attract the best talent, reel in the big fish (clients) and build 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 into your brand identity. Also, harness the power of social media to promote your brand. Effectively featuring your business on multiple social media channels can funnel leads your way and result in increased brand awareness and revenue.
4. Stay patient and disciplined.
All your work is a building block toward 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.
5. Remember: Money and success won’t necessarily flow in.
Another key difference in life as an entrepreneur or founder? You’ll probably find yourself financially up one day and down the next. When starting out, you will need to get used to being thrifty.
Running a start-up 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 time off, you will find yourself taking advantage of the quiet time to focus on more strategic aspects of the business.
All your patience and discipline will pay off down the line, so your focus must be unwavering.
6. Be your best 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, you need to become your company’s biggest fan and most loyal customer. Perfect your elevator pitch so you can take advantage of strategic opportunities to talk about how your business adds value. New business owners can take the brand ambassador persona online and beyond, as they seek to create maximum impact for the company.
The Entrepreneurs’ Organization is the premier global network for founders, entrepreneurs and pioneers. Learn more about what it means to be an EO member.
Miranda Naiman has been an EO member since 1 July 2016. She is currently a Learning Chair in her chapter in Tanzania.