South African Entrepreneurs Share What They Wish They Had Known Before Starting a Business

Updated on 18 February 2019

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South African Entrepreneurs Share What They Wish They Had Known Starting a Business
Top row:  Tanya Haffern, Hezron Louw, Lizelle McDermott Bottom row: Jacques du Bruyn, Nompumelelo Taukobong, Munene Khoza.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you started your business?

In an interview with SME South Africa, six entrepreneurs share what they wish they had known starting out, from costly mistakes and strategies to tips and tricks and tools.

Here are the entrepreneurs:

  • Hezron Louw is the co-owner of Sumting Fresh, a corporate and private catering company.
  • Munene Khoza is founder of MINT Language Consultancy, a company that specialises in services like copy writing and proofreading.
  • Jacques du Bruyn is the co-founder and managing director at Flume, a digital marketing agency.
  • Lizelle McDermott is the managing director of McD Squared, a public relations agency.
  • Nompumelelo Taukobong is the founder and CEO of ZinTisa Holdings (Pty)Ltd, a company that specialises in tutoring, events management and church administration.
  • Tanya Haffern is an author, trainer and wealth coach and international property investor.

We launched using Google Apps which has been the best decision we’ve ever made for ourselves

Here’s what these entrepreneurs wish they knew about sooner:

Business tools I wish I had known about

“You need a basic accounting system (I use the apps Wave and 22seven) and registering a company allows you to claim business related expenses.” – Tanya Haffern

“You need to make use of project management tools that are affordable like Monday which tracks sales leads, projects, and what your staff is doing. If I had access to this from the start my business would not have struggled in the past.” – Hezron Louw

“When I started, I was doing things manually using Excel-based invoicing and so forth. Someone then recommended Sage One, and from there I was able to do invoicing, pull reports, track sales and even do our payroll. So, it’s a fantastic integrated solution that saves the business owner a lot of time.” – Munene Khoza

“When Flume started, we launched using Google Apps which has been the best decision we’ve ever made for ourselves. The collaboration, integration and timeliness of using these apps has definitely aided our agile methodology. We deployed Slack about two years ago which has also greatly increased our productivity.” – Jacques du Bruyn

“I wish I had known about the importance and costs involved in marketing and branding of the business, also on how  [social media] reach and mentions can boost your business.” – Nompumelelo Taukobong

“When I originally started the business most of my accounting was done manually, using Excel to create invoices and cost estimates. First National Bank then released their Easy Accounting solution, which made life a lot easier as you could do those things via the online banking site, and it automatically created management accounts, cashflows, etc. for you. Since then, we have however grown enough to warrant having an accountant to do our financials and have migrated to Palladium Accounting, so that both the accountants and I have access to the financials.” – Lizelle McDermott

One of the biggest mistakes an entrepreneur can make is to try and be everything to everyone

Strategies I wish I had known about

“It is important to take a product or service to the market before launching – test the idea, test the demand before you put too much time and effort into it. It is a lot easier going about it the other way, check the demand first and then if there is demand, go ahead and create the product or service.” – Tanya Haffern

“Understand that creating a competitive advantage early on is important, and also, let go of staff that hold you back. It’s tough but there are times when parting ways is easier and can save you a lot of money.” – Hezron Louw

“Initially I under-priced a lot of services based on what I learned freelancers were charging for similar work. When I revisited it and spoke to some of my mentors, I discovered that there is a lot more you need to consider such as your overhead costs, your payroll, and so on. So, you can’t look at pricing as if you are a freelancer.” – Munene Khoza

“I wish I knew to hire the right people first, even if it means lowering your salary to afford them. They will free you up in the long run to focus on what matters. Learning soft skills earlier on was also important.” – Jacques du Bruyn

“I wish I’d known more on how to execute your plans into action effectively, especially making use of planning according to special dates or specific months, like in February to plan around Valentine’s Day or in June, to plan around Youth Month, and to be relevant.” – Nompumelelo Taukobong

Have a clear vision for your company – one of the biggest mistakes an entrepreneur can make is to try and be everything to everyone. Know what your Unique Selling Proposition is and where you want to see your company in the future.” – Lizelle McDermott

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