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‘Lessons I learned in the past 5 years of running my business’

  • Entrepreneur Busi Raphekwane's business reached the five-year mark in June 2022.
  • After great victories, disappointment and failures, Busi has gained wisdom from her entrepreneurial journey.
  • She says personal development, saving, hiring the right staff and building your business for longevity contribute to its success.

Starting my own business was one of the best decisions I have ever made, and for me, this is because I’ve had the opportunity to learn, develop and grow in the past five years.

There have been many great moments, celebrations and victories, however, this did not come without equally as many tears, heartbreaking moments and disappointments.

It’s all part of it; building a successful business comes with its fair share of disappointments and failures. These failures ultimately contribute to our growth and success because they leave us with lessons that we can use as future tools as we continue the journey of building our business.

I have certainly had my fair share of hardships and asked myself multiple times whether it was all worth it or if I should just quit while ahead. Every time I get consumed by the hardships and feel I have no strength to continue; I always remember why I started in the first place and tell myself that I will not quit because my business has not achieved its ultimate vision.

The other thing I always think about is that building a legacy-driven business that will outlive me as a founder is a long-term commitment and generally doesn’t happen overnight.

My company turned five in June 2022. I decided to reflect on my journey as an entrepreneur because of what this milestone represents. I’ve come across some information where it mentions that the fifth year anniversary represents long-lasting strength, wisdom and forgiveness.

I certainly agree with that because I’ve become wiser and more resilient as an entrepreneur in the past few years. Running my business has given me great joy and satisfaction because the work I do is aligned to my purpose, however, this journey has also presented many lessons that I will cherish forever.

Lesson 1: Invest in yourself

As an entrepreneur, you are the engine and the most valuable asset in the business. The success of your business depends on your capabilities and capacity as an entrepreneur. Therefore you are either an enabler of growth or the barrier to growth in your business.

In the first few months of running my business, I quickly realised that as much as I had strengths and skills that enabled me to build the business, I also had barriers that could stand in the way of the success of the business.

For me, some of the personal barriers were imposter syndrome, perfectionism, people-pleasing and self-doubt. I knew I would struggle to achieve the vision of my business with some of these barriers holding me back from achieving my full potential.

I had to be intentional about working on myself, so I appointed a Life Coach to help me work through my barriers and also assist me in discovering aspects of my inherent strengths that could help me build the business.

I decided that I am going to invest in myself so that my business could reap the long-term benefits of my growth and reach a level of personal mastery that would enable me to master my business.

So for every entrepreneur on the journey of building a successful business, I would recommend the following:

I certainly agree with that because I’ve become wiser and more resilient as an entrepreneur in the past few years. Running my business has given me great joy and satisfaction because the work I do is aligned to my purpose, however, this journey has also presented many lessons that I will cherish forever.

Become self-aware: Self-awareness is the foundation of your personal growth. For you to gain knowledge of who you are, you need to go through some reflection on who you are and what you need to enable you to grow.

Identify your limitations and areas of development that could potentially hamper the development and growth of your business. You can do this by completing a personal SWOT analysis, where you write down your strengths, weaknesses, threats that create barriers to your growth and lastly, opportunities that you can leverage.

There are also various online assessments you can take to gain a better understanding of your inherent strengths, values, how you think and make decisions.

Be intentional about your growth: Once you know what your areas of development are, start working on them immediately. You can either get a Life Coach, which is what I did. This helped me tremendously in actively understanding the core of who I am and how I can best leverage my full potential.

There are also courses and programmes available that focus on personal development and mastery, so find one that will work for you.

Your mind-set is a catalyst to your success: Your success and growth will always be limited by the capacity of your mind. What you believe about yourself and what you believe about your business and the market you operate in is what will drive the results you achieve.

If you want to build a successful business, you have to believe that success is absolutely possible for you. You need to think positive thoughts about your business, your customers, your industry and the market you operate with.

Expand the potential of your business by being conscious of your thoughts and ask yourself this question frequently: “Are my thoughts contributing to the growth of my business or are they taking away the positive beliefs I have about my business?”

I certainly agree with that because I’ve become wiser and more resilient as an entrepreneur in the past few years. Running my business has given me great joy and satisfaction because the work I do is aligned to my purpose, however, this journey has also presented many lessons that I will cherish forever.

Lesson 2: Cash is Queen

Build the habit of saving from the onset. Don’t wait until you make a certain amount of money to start saving; start immediately with as little as you can afford. This will help you get into the habit of saving so that when your business starts performing well, you have already built the consistency and the discipline to save.

When I started the business, I made a commitment to myself to start saving immediately. The first amount I saved came from the very first invoice, which was not much, was R150.00 it was 10 percent of the R1500.00 that was paid. And since then, I have developed the habit of saving no matter how small the amount is.

This habit served us well during the Covid-19 pandemic period, particularly in 2020 when most clients were placing work on hold and some cancelling contracts. The business was able to continue operating because of the savings we had in place.

This is by far one of the best decisions I have ever made. I knew this was critical because I learned this lesson from my very first business, which I closed down in 2011 due to cash flow challenges. So, I knew I had to do things differently this time around.

Lesson 3: Hire your tribe

The most important asset in your business besides you as the entrepreneur is the people who form part of your team. This is one thing that can make or break your business, especially as a small business that is still trying to find its feet in the market.

I started off by hiring based on my lack of capacity and just bringing people on to do what I didn’t have time for anymore and people who could fulfil the role. As time went by, I learned the importance of hiring in line with your company vision, culture and strategy.

The process I apply now when I hire is as follows:

Vision Alignment: The people that you hire should have a personal vision that aligns to the vision of the company. If there is misalignment, it causes discontentment and a lack of drive in fulfilling the work.

Culture Alignment: from the time you start your business, think about the environment and culture you want to build. You have to be intentional about your company culture so that when you hire, you find people who share similar values to the company and are a good fit.

Strategy Alignment: Your strategy determines the type of people you should bring into your company. In the case of my business; we work with entrepreneurs to help them build legacy business; so it was important to bring on people who are entrepreneurial, passionate about entrepreneurs and possess a longevity mind-set.

Expand the potential of your business by being conscious of your thoughts and ask yourself this question frequently: “Are my thoughts contributing to the growth of my business or are they taking away the positive beliefs I have about my business?”

I certainly agree with that because I’ve become wiser and more resilient as an entrepreneur in the past few years. Running my business has given me great joy and satisfaction because the work I do is aligned to my purpose, however, this journey has also presented many lessons that I will cherish forever.

Lesson 4: It’s not about you

As much as you are the founder and leader of your business. The business serves a bigger purpose that goes beyond you. It can be hard to accept especially thinking of all the blood, sweat and tears that go into you building your business. But it really is not about you at all. The customers you serve are the reason you exist and if you are not adding value to them, your existence is at stake. For you to understand how you best serve your customers you need to first ask yourself:

  • Why does my business exist
  • What is my ultimate vision
  • What needs do I fulfil for my customers

By constantly asking yourself these questions, you can better serve your customers and expand your relevance in the market.

This evolving business environment requires agility and flexibility; this has become the new competitive advantage. I learned the importance of being flexible by adjusting your strategy in line with what the market needs as opposed to sticking it through even when it’s evident that the market has changed. Therefore focus on your vision and adjust the strategy whenever needed to align with customer needs.

Lesson 5: Build your business for longevity

When you build your business for longevity and not just for short-term gains, you think differently about the challenges you face and the opportunities you come across. The mindset of longevity allows you to make decisions that lead to the sustainability of your business. I am usually not fazed by challenges because I know the long-term gains that will come from me overcoming those setbacks.

Building a business is an exciting process. For you to immerse yourself in the process, it is important to see every challenge as an opportunity to learn, develop and grow. The only way you can build your resilience and wisdom as an entrepreneur is through the disappointments and challenges you face in the business. I would not trade any of my challenges for anything because they have contributed to the successful business I’ve built today.

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