By Marnus Broodryk, Shark Tank SA Investor and CEO of The Beancounter, a Xero Gold Partner
Starting a business can be a daunting prospect for many would-be entrepreneurs. If you look for reasons not to, you’ll find hundreds. Why sacrifice the stability of a job for the uncertainty of entrepreneurship? How do you juggle the demands of a business with the demands of your personal life? How can you reasonably afford the start up costs?
But while these are valid concerns, they’ve never been valid excuses. Being an entrepreneur is always about two things: having the idea and wanting it enough. And where work-life balance, buy-in costs, and time-consuming processes were once enough to put off prospective business leaders, technology has either smoothed over these problems, or eliminated them entirely.
In South Africa today, we have millennials starting businesses alongside their 9-5 jobs and retirement-aged baby boomers launching new ventures in their twilight years. Enhanced flexibility is encouraging superior innovation and empowering newbie entrepreneurs to take risks.
In short, starting a business has never been easier. Here are three reasons why.
1. Lower initial costs
Starting a business used to be an expensive process involving courting investors and saving enough cash to secure equipment, personnel, and an office to put them in. Rather than growing your new business, you would have to spend your time developing a compelling pitch to attract the necessary finance.
However, the idea that you need investors to launch a business in 2017 is a myth that can distract entrepreneurs from their end goal. Today, if you want to start a retail business, you can set up an ecommerce website for a lot less than the cost of a brick-and-mortar shop. You can even take pre-orders for stock so that most of it is paid for before it arrives. Starting lean not only allows you to get off the ground straight away, it gives you greater control over the future direction of your company. I’ve never had an investor in my company, and I’ve never regretted that; my business isn’t beholden to milestones, obligations, or anything but my own vision.
2. Cloudy with a chance of success
As revolutionary as technology has been for businesses, in some respects, it has become something of a crutch. When you tether too many systems to the office server, it can leave you without access to vital information and applications on the move.
But the advent of mobile technology has changed the way we work. Cloud platforms have made it possible to maintain multiple systems without physical servers. This means that entrepreneurs can access their information from anywhere in the country (or indeed the world) and on any device.
With 37% of South African adults between 35 and 53 owning a smartphone with 4G coverage, the flexibility this adds for you and your business shouldn’t be understated. Real-time access to information, such as your business’ financial data, can give you deeper insight into your business’ health and enable you to make more informed strategic decisions.
3. Streamlining processes
Starting a business puts a lot of responsibility on an entrepreneur. You have to wear many hats and keep a lot of balls in the air. Your expertise and passion might lie in product development, but you’re effectively in charge of finance, sales, HR, customer service, and everything else. Time consuming admin and manual data entry could weigh you down and prevent you from looking at the bigger picture.
Fortunately, cloud technology once again comes to the rescue. Using certain software tools, it’s possible to fully automate all or part of your HR, payroll, and accounting functions. When you talk to an accountant in 2017, it should be for expert financial advice — not low-level administrative work.
Being an entrepreneur requires a considerable investment of time and energy, and it’s never going to be easy. That said, it’s easier than it’s ever been. If you want to start a business, the best advice is to simply do it — and make full use of the tools at your disposal.