As 2013 draws to a close, and people are winding down for the festive season; many are chalking up new-year resolutions. As I am sure you will believe, ‘make money’ is one of the top priorities in the lives of many folks (And probably you too if you are reading this).
I would love to tell you I am a multi-billionaire and writing this article from my yacht in Monaco, but alas, I am not. I would however, love to share with you how I started a nationwide company in a matter of a few days, and now (9 months later), have established offices in every major city in South Africa, and how you can do it too. While the country I live in has played a role in the relative ease of the operation, the principle can be applied to anywhere in the world.
It can be chalked up to what I like to call ‘the entrepreneurial eye’. I am sure smarter men than me have a better name for it, but it basically comes down to looking at almost anything, and asking ‘how can I make a few bucks off of that?’ In my case, the answer was plumbing. Now let me reiterate that I hardly knew the first thing about it (Still don’t to be fair). I just know that the day I paid my plumber almost every last penny I had to get my burst geyser (Water Boiler in the USA) fixed was the day I decided to start a plumbing business (http://www.plumber-bros.co.za).
Now before I let you in on the secret (I will get there, you don’t have to answer a survey, don’t worry), I just want to let you know 3 quick things:
- The business you want to start can be whatever you want it to be, whether you know anything about the industry or not is irrelevant. The whole concept is also founded on existing business, so there is absolutely no reason to spend months trying to come up with something that is unique and overly niche. You can’t reinvent the wheel with this one.
- You need to find some passion in it. I know it is regurgitated millions of times, but it is true. The thing many people don’t tell you is; sometimes you can find passion in it after you have started the business. There are few things I love more in this world than my business, and yet I don’t know plumbing from a bar of soap.
- You don’t need fancy degrees, massive investment or 93 years work experience. I am 23 years old, no tertiary education and started it all with a laptop, phone and a friend who supplied me copious amounts of caffeine.
Your thought pattern may be along these lines: “what do I need to know then? If the shmuck who wrote this can’t fix a sink and has work experience limited to waiting tables, then how does he have a nationwide plumbing company?”
The answer is simple. You need to know how to get people to want to use a service / product over that of someone else. The wonderful thing too, is right up until the second you decide to start; you are a consumer of what will be your future service / product. Sit down and calculate exactly what you are spending your money on, and ask your friends and family the same. Sit and think why you spend your money on certain products and not others? Where did you hear about these products and why do they stand out from competitors? Did you meet the owner? Write all of this down. From this information, it should be also be pretty clear where you should start. Some ideas could include:
- Plumbing (Duh)
- Web design (I am also involved at http://www.infiltratemedia.co.za, which are an existing business and are starting to adapt the model)
- Electrical contracting
- Basically anything
- Accounting services
Now please feel free to go ape over this, and start asking questions along the lines of “How the monkey ‘nads do I make a national company in less than a week from this? What about all the paperwork and registration and insurances and the other stupid obstacles I am going to throw in my own way?” The answer lies in 2 very simple words. ‘Lead generation’. Let me explain further…
Most people out there, if you asked them how business is going, they will tell you it could be better. Now what most people aren’t doing, is trying to make business better. If you were to turn around to almost anyone, and say to them you have a way to bring them in loads of work, but you want to be rewarded with a 35% profit share on each job / sale you bring in, what do you think they are going to say?
Now as I am sure you can imagine, there are countless people who are rubbish at advertising but are good at what they do. These are the people you offer it to. An easy place to find them would be the Yellow Pages. If people are still using it, it is safe to say they are desperate for the work and don’t have an effing clue what they are doing. Note their details and move on to phase 2.
Now remember that list that you compiled? Put yourself down over the company you so unabashedly put down as the people you normally use for that particular service. Replace their name with yours. You now have your list of what you need to do. Replicate and improve on what the market leaders are doing, and believe that soon, that will be you. It can actually be done with a lot less money and human resources than you think. While the business was still new, I operated the phones, books, advertising, clients and banking by myself, with very few overheads. It is funny how you learn skills in a heartbeat when you really have to. The wonderful thing is, all these aspects tie into a very over used saying of ‘working on the business rather than in the business’. This is awesome, as it frees you from the tasks of actually worrying about manufacturing or direct service to the client (Which most of your competitors are doing). The other thing is, when it is your own business (And not a business you are handling the advertising of), you tend to give it just that extra push that others don’t.
Now if you sit back and actually think about what you have just done (hopefully in a couple of days), you will click on to the fact that this doesn’t need to be a local gig. There are people in the Yellow Pages all over the place. With communication instantaneous, why are you limiting yourself to the area code? You can be coordinating a large multinational company from your bedroom if you need to.
The last step, and I hate to point out the painfully obvious one here, is to internalize. Once you are an established brand, there is no reason you cannot go to a bank / investor / franchisee and ask for the money to internalize operations in order to increase profits. If you can show a high turnover and low margins, but a cash flow injection will change that, there is hardly a financial institution on Earth that won’t back you.
From there, the sky is the limit. What you do after that is up to you, and I can’t speak on it as I haven’t done it. If you do make it, please let me know. It would mean a great deal to know I paid the help I received forward. Good luck and have a great festive season.
About the Author
This article was written by business contributor Kevin James.