The Entrepreneur of the Year #EOY2019 awards is an annual competition which celebrates the achievements of entrepreneurs in South Africa. In celebration of this competition, I am sharing some of my thoughts and experiences with you.
We seem to think that life would be so easy if we never failed. Have you ever thought what would happen if you never failed, were never criticised and things were just easy? It sounds wonderful, but we would never learn anything. Think about it… When you fail you learn how to succeed. When you are criticised, you learn how to toughen up, and if you use this criticism to your advantage you will grow quicker than if you were never criticised.
Facing these challenges is easy if there is little at stake, we bounce back quickly and learn how to handle these uncomplicated challenges. However, if the stakes are higher, the challenges may be a great deal bigger, and it may not be quite as simple to avoid struggles and potential failure. This is where the real learning begins.
When you are an entrepreneur and you have borrowed money to start and you fail, things are definitely far more challenging. When I started my first business my plan was to manufacture wooden Wendy houses, so I went out and hired a small factory and purchased the machinery I would need – this was all done with the help of a bank loan and my own capital.
Within six months I was not selling enough Wendy houses and the business had run into major problems. I was behind on my rent and was struggling to service the bank loan. My business idea had failed and I needed to realise that quickly. As I said earlier in this article we do learn from failures, but we also need to be practical and find alternative solutions.
I needed to find a solution quickly before I lost everything. I decided to negotiate with my landlord and he found another person to take over the factory. I then sold some of the more dedicated machinery and kept the basic machinery, and I was able to settle 50% of my loan at the bank.
At this stage, I had a huge stockpile of offcuts that needed to be moved somewhere. I found a yard behind my friend’s workshop which was big enough for my needs, and he agreed to rent the land to me. The rent was much less than I had been paying previously.
While we were moving the stockpile a lady stopped us and asked if we did wooden fencing, and I said ‘yes’ – I always believed in the lesson of Richard Branson which is to always say ‘yes’ and figure the rest out later.
The new idea of the wooden fencing was born, and within no time my turnover was four times that of the turnover I had whilst I was renting the factory. My rental overhead was a fifth of what it was previously, the bank repayment had been halved and I was making a healthy profit.
If the Wendy house business had not failed I would’ve never found the wooden fencing business. Solutions can be found after you have failed, but you must be prepared to listen and start thinking outside your normal terms of reference.
Let us work towards even more success as entrepreneurs. I know you have stories about your journey as an entrepreneur, your experience may even be significant enough to win you an award in the Entrepreneur of the Year Awards. Winning an award will surely help you achieve the recognition you seek and deserve, and will catapult you and your project higher than you imagined was possible.
I encourage you to share your experiences using the #CelebrateEntrepreneurship so that we can all learn and become successful entrepreneurs. As they say, ‘The rising tide lifts all ships’.