There are so many potential entrepreneurs in Zimbabwe. But not enough of them make the move from dreaming of an idea to implementing it. Some are waiting for the right time. Or to raise the funds. Or to get the premises. Or to finish their masters degree. But, the truth is there is never a right time. If you really want to start something, like the Nike advert, “Just do it!”
GET YOUR FIRST CUSTOMERS
The biggest challenge in starting a business, in my experience, is getting your first customers. No matter how brilliant your idea is, nor how good your product or service is, if no one wants to buy it, you are not in business. The first skill you need to learn in business is to market and sell your product. Take the time to learn and acquire marketing skills. Without them your business faces a high risk of failure or just being ordinary with no growth.
When you get your first few customers, use them to generate more business. You can offer them an incentive; a reward for any new business they refer to you. But the best marketing incentive is to give them exceptional service. Excellent service leaves them with no choice but to tell others about it.
TELL YOUR FRIENDS
The surest way to nudge you into starting the business is to tell people who respect you about it. Once you tell your friends and relatives, they will expect to see some action on your part. And you will have to act to avoid the embarrassment of continuously making-up stories and excuses. Your friends will haunt you if you don’t act on your idea.
The other good reason why you should tell your friends is that they could support you. Apart from being your first customers or referring their friends to you, they could offer some of the resources you need to get the business moving. I remember when I started my first business, a friend offered me a printer which he had been given at work but had no use for. People like to help, just give them the chance.
SET YOUR DOLLAR GOALS
Set the amount you wish to earn in your business each month. Your target can be a net income, after deducting costs of making or procuring the product. Say you want to make a net income of US$500 per month, and your product generates US$2 net income or margin per unit. You need to sell 250 units in order to meet the US$500 target. With a target in mind you will think of all sorts of ways to get your products selling: advertising, attending exhibitions, networking, promotions and so on. Because you have a clear goal to meet, you will work to ensure you reach it.
When setting your sales goals, you need to consider the size of the market. How many people can I reach who will be willing to buy the product? Who else is selling a similar product and how can I get ahead of them? Never under-estimate the competition. Any good product or service will attract competition. Create unique features that will make yours difficult to imitate.
The major hold back for new entrepreneurs is the lack of resources. You could have a good idea but may lack the means to deliver it. You may need cash for premises or raw materials. Why not enter into a joint venture with someone who already has the things you need. The secret is to have something that the other party also needs. Do you have potential customers or contacts that the other guy may be interesed in? Work to build something of value that you can also put on the table when negotiating the joint venture agreement. As long as you are not offering competing products or services, people who are already in business will want to work with you for mutual benefit.
lPhillip Chichoni is a business planning and financial management consultant who works with SMEs and entrepreneurs. He may be contacted on email:email@example.com.