Monday, 11 April 2016

entrepreneur's learning curve



It has been a long time since I have written something and it is not because I did not do anything, I was busy learning and if you working on a dream/idea, you always learn.

So what have I learned so far? 

As I said before, I believe in my idea (my dream) and I know it will work but I have learned that you need to know why you believe in your dream? It sounds like a stupid question but it is really very important because as you go along, there will be patches where you feel all the hard work and long hours is not worth it and then the ‘why’ means everything.  What is my ‘why’? I need to make a difference, I need to create genuine equal opportunities for everybody who believes, like me, in honesty, integrity and old fashioned values and I refuse to follow a path just because everyone else does. It might have been the better path a while back, but it certainly is not anymore.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”  by Edmund Burke 

 I believe we CAN make a difference, we CAN put competition back in business, WE CAN take control of our lives and stop falling in with big business ideas of how it should work. It is our time, our money, it is our choice. My dream makes that possible as everyone competes for the same request equally and anonymously. The client makes his/her decision purely on facts, so big or small, all have the same chance.
As I said, I believe in old fashioned values so nobody pays anything if nothing can be provided and then the choice is still yours. If a client has a request and you decide you want to tender for the request, then you pay a fee of around 1% of the client budget with a fair cap amount.  

I also still believe the client is the most important party in any transaction so I also made provision for the client to be able to rate the supplier/service provider on the service provided.

I believe in fairness so I allowed the supplier/service provider to ask questions about a client request and the answers will also be visible for all the other suppliers/service providers.

I believe in learning from your actions so I made provision to forward the tender layouts of successful suppliers/service providers to the unsuccessful suppliers/service providers to allow them the see where they need to adapt in future tenders.

I believe we should support our community first because that grows our own community which in turn improve community monetary value because the money spent by a client will mostly stay in the area it was spent.  

Most of all, I believe that, if big business and government can ask for tenders for their requests to get the best price for a service, why can’t we.

I think I have learned a lot but I also know there is a lot more to learn and a lot more obstacles to overcome but as long as I know that and I know why, I will overcome it. 

If you have a dream, find the why and go for it, do not give up. I was also lucky enough to find an entrepreneurship coach and the more I see him, the more I believe we all need someone like him to guide us and make us aware of our shortcomings and where we need to change our entrenched ‘cannot’ thoughts.  Read the book ‘Succeed with nothing’ by Dr Bahadur and you will see which limitations our minds put on us.       

Thursday, 8 October 2015

I want to change the way we do business



Most of us know our past and we are either proud of it or not, nobody knows the future but we are all trying to create a tomorrow we are comfortable with and which will result in a past we are proud off, after all, actions have consequences. Think before you do and before you speak, will your action result in a proud or unhappy memory?

At the same time we are also trying to make life easier by inventing better and faster ways to do things.

If you think back in your life, how many times have you needed someone to complete a certain job for you and how difficult was it to get hold of someone to complete this task for you? You went through you regional and national newspaper adds, you pulled your hair out because you through away all the ‘junk’ mail where there were adds in which you could now probably use. You search the internet, you ask friends and family and anybody you can think off. You post on Facebook and you tweet hoping someone will respond. You do get some numbers or E-Mail addresses and you make contact, or in some cases, you try to make contact because nobody responds and those who do make promises and nothing happen. How much time (and money) has been spent searching alone? How high did your stress level go and how frustrated were you?

I have seen a lot of people go through this frustration and every time I cannot help but think, how is that possible? I am sure there are a lot of people out there willing and able to provide these services so how are it possible that you cannot find any? How is it that those you do find cannot help you now because they are just too busy with another job? And most of all, how many times did you have to repeat your request?

If you think about it, service providers know there is a need because they place ads in all the available media at a high cost to them and there are a lot of options available to them for this (online and paper based – free and at a premium). I am also sure there are other possible providers out there that just cannot afford to place ads and they rely on word of mouth and other free options. I am certain that clients do not find all these ads when they are looking for a provider. 

I have decided the solution to this is there should be a website where both the supplier and client can register and so I went forth and created one. My idea is very simple, I create a database with suppliers, the area they work in and the specialities (tasks/jobs) they can provide. When a client then register a request, the system can link them to one another based an area and speciality. This means the client put down his/her need once and all the registered providers will be notified and will then come back to the client if they are available and willing. I have always asked myself, why, if I have a need, can I not ask suppliers to Tender For Me? Why is it only government and big business that can ask for tenders? 

Will this not result in a lot less stress and frustration? Will it not result in a more competitive market out there (better competition)? Will it not create more opportunities (real equal opportunities) for all? 
On top of this great idea of mine (and I believe it is) I am old-fashioned, I believe in honesty and integrity. I cannot get myself to ask anyone to pay something if I do not know I am giving something in return, the person need to get value for payment. The system therefore allows both client and supplier to register for free with limited personal information (only the area and E-Mail address) on a secure site. The supplier also registers for all the specialities and areas separately in which he/she can provide a service. This is important as the system need the information be able to link supplier with client. 

When a client register a request and the system find registered suppliers falling in the client request criteria, the system will notify the supplier/s via E-Mail. The supplier will then have the option to tender (quote) for the request or not. If the client budget exceeds R1000.00 the supplier will pay a fee of around 1% of the client budget for the right to tender. Requests with a client budget below R1000.00 will be free to tender for as well. 

The client is still in charge so the client will go through all the tenders received and will then mark the tender/s he/she prefer to proceed with. Only then will the system provide both the client and supplier/s of the other sides E-Mail contact information to finalise discussions and arrangements. At this stage the system is not involved anymore. The client can, after the task was completed, come back and rate the supplier and this rating will be available on the system for other clients to see and they will use that as information when they make their choices. Will this not ensure that suppliers provide the best service they can?      

If a supplier do decide to tender for a request but the tender is not accepted by the client (marked as short-listed) the system will provide the supplier/s with the layout of the short-listed tenders to allow the supplier to adjust his/her tender procedure/layout in future (remember I still need to provide the supplier with value).

I do accept, for this to work everybody need to register.

Remember, together, we can change the world to something we can be proud of tomorow

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Entrepreneurial difficulties – part 2



After my previous ‘article’ I have acquired a partner and for that I am thankful. It is not easy going at something alone as you tend to spend time on one thing and some of the important stuff does not get any attention and you need someone to bounce ideas off. This time around I will tell you more about solutions we came up with together to help motivate other entrepreneurs to stay positive and not to give up. If you believe in your idea it will make it easier. 

As I said before, our business is in an area where there is no real competition in the market and that is what creates the biggest problem. You now need to sell something that people do not know and that is really difficult. Just think back to the days before Facebook, people did not think they need that either. 

Just as a reminder of my idea in short: it is a website aimed at service providers for the home owner and small business to register (for free) their specialities and areas where they are able and willing to work. If a client then registers a need which correspond with the suppliers registered information the system will notify the supplier and the supplier then has the choice to tender/quote for the task at a small fee. The fee serves as an indication of commitment to the client and if the supplier is not successful the system will supply him/her with the layout of the successful tender/quotes to allow adjustment in future tender/quotes. It creates a genuine equal opportunity for all, even the new start-up and it will ensure that competition comes back into business. 

Having a partner changed this idea a little bit, we will not charge a quote/tender fee for tasks where the client budget are less than R1000.00. This means an opportunity is created for the service providers out there who operate in the lower cost area (dress making, carpet cleaning etc.) to also partake in the idea. This also serve as some kind of marketing strategy which costs nothing (start-ups struggle with money) and it gets people to use the system and understand the benefits.
I must be honest, before I found a partner, I sometimes thought I am wasting my time and money and I considered giving up. The only thing that kept me going was that I seriously believe in my idea and I believe it will make a difference. 

Do your homework (Google is your friend), talk to people and be prepared to listen and adapt. Nothing happens overnight, so be patient as most new business takes years to grow. Above all, keep working at it as no input means no result. When I started out I thought I have such a great idea, financiers will stand in line to help me but I was sorely mistaken. You need to prove your plan first and accept that it will not be easy. I try and attend all the expo's I can because you get solutions for problems which you did not even know off and information that you have not even though off. 

The most important thing, as far as I am concerned, prioritise and start with something because if you do not, you never will and your idea is wasted. Remember, nobody starts as an adult, you need to grow to get there. Knowledge comes with experience and you will fail with a lot of things but learn to recognise your successes (knowing why things fail is also a success – remember that).

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Entrepreneurial difficulties

I have seen and read a number of posts and articles in the recent past describing South African entrepreneurial difficulties and it is clear that there are as many difficulties as there are entrepreneurs. For every type of business you try to start there are different challenges. The educated people tell that you start a business in one of two fields, the red sea or the blue sea.
The red sea
Their definition of the red sea is that you are starting a business in an area where there is current proven businesses (franchises, shops and so on). In other words there is competition for the customer.  This area is generally easier to start a business and produce a business plan because the challenges are known and can be addressed.  The only real challenge in this area is to make your product/service unique to draw the clients to you and usually that is the reason you have decided to start the business. In this area support is also easier to obtain as other people have walked the plank and there are history to draw on.  Banks and other financial providers will usually guide you in the right direction because they also need you to make a success of your business.
The blue sea
The blue sea on the other hand implies there are no current businesses in the market providing the same service (the absence of blood (competition) means it is not red). This also means there are no history to draw on to make accurate predictions which makes a business plan very difficult to produce and that naturally mean obtaining financial assistance is that more difficult. This is where I find myself since starting my business just a few months ago and to make it worse, I have no previous experience in starting a business.
My unique experience and my idea
My idea in short is a website aimed at service providers for the home owner and small business to register their specialities and areas where they are able and willing to work for free.  If a client then registers a need which correspond with the suppliers registered information the system will notify the supplier and the supplier then has the choice to tender/quote for the task at a fee.  The fee serves as an indication of commitment to the client and if the supplier is not successful the system will supply him/her with the layout of the successful tender/quotes to allow adjustment in future tender/quotes. It creates a genuine equal opportunity for all, even the new start-up and it will ensure that competition comes back into this line of business.    
I am sharing this because other people might be in the same situation and they do not have the answers. I am not indicating that I know all the answers, I can only put forth my experience and what I have learned so far.
Getting the word out is my biggest problem.  I know I need to advertise but to do that you need money so find other ways and be patient.  I am using Facebook, LinkedIn, twitter and Google+ ant to be honest, the effect is limited but without funds that is my option.
I have tried to put out press releases but with little or no effect.  My experience here is that there are a lot of people online that advertise that they will get results by writing and publishing a press release. I have spent some money here and had no results as they cannot really promise you that the main media outlets will publish the release. Remember, the media companies also need to make money so unless you have a contact, and I do not, you will not be published and the moment you name your business it becomes advertising.
Taking part in community events where you can personally hand out flyers and discuss your idea with other people has the best results but remember it takes time and your time is limited so plan everything well.
Most of all, try and get people who are willing to join you as co-founders in your venture as this is important to financial institutions and mentor groups and to be honest I am still struggling to find suitable committed people as they will obviously also have to believe in the idea and be willing to put time and money in until the business generates enough income.   
Know your limitations and know where you are trying to go to because then you will be able to identify what you need to get there. For instance, I know one of my limitations is effective communication which is the main reason why I am not able to really pitch my idea and why I am struggling to find co-founders.
In short my biggest problem is marketing and for that I need financial assistance which I cannot ask for because I cannot produce and accurate business plan.  Yes I could probably find someone who can create a good business plan for me but for that I also need money.
Sometimes I think my old fashioned values also count against me because I am not willing to ask money if I cannot provide the user with something of value in return as that are what some people (with business experience) tell me I should do.  They tell me, because my business is online, I must ask people to pay a monthly membership fee and I am not sure it is the right thing to do.
To start this kind of business my research tell me that I should not quit my day job as it takes time and this I agree with.  You have to prove the idea first which means a lot of work, time and most of all believing in your idea. There are expenses which need to be covered and no income from the business to cover that so you need to keep your day job.

To end this I can only say believe in your idea, do not give up and ask questions and ask for help and again, do not give up. 

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Your assistance would be highly appreciated



I am asking you to please forward this (E-Mai)l to all your friends, family and contacts.  The reason for my request is that I am financially challenged and cannot follow the normal marketing route. I do believe this system will benefit everyone and this is the only other way I can think of to get the word out which costs none of us anything. After all, this will benefit the man on the street the most.

Just to be clear, if you don’t share this, nothing will happen.

This is my story.

I have developed a website (and just revamped it for a more modern look) mainly for the home and small business owner, https:www.tenderforme.com (Tender For Me/Quote For Me/Emergency Repair: Quotes and Contacts), which are a platform to connect clients with suppliers based on registration criteria.  This site will remove most of the repetitive actions clients and suppliers have to go through plus add a few benefits which they did not previously have like (listing just a few):

  • ·        Real equal opportunity business – big or small

  • ·        Promote healthy competition among suppliers

  • ·        Registration is FREE. Suppliers only pay if they CHOOSE to tender/quote for a client request

  • ·        You register on a secure site with minimum personal information which guarantees your privacy. 

  • ·        The site (Tender For Me/Quote For Me/Emergency Repair: Quotes and Contacts) will only share E-Mail information with suppliers chosen by clients (in both directions).

  • ·        Clients can rate suppliers which will be available for view for new prospective clients.

On top of this, the site can work world-wide (currently only in English), so do not be scared to send the mail there too.

Please also visit the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/tenderforme (I would be really be happy if you LIKE it while there)

Just as a note: the Tender For Me and Emergency Repair: Quotes and Contacts parts of the site is still under construction so please keep an eye open and PLEASE inform me at tenderforme@tenderforme.com should you have suggestions or queries.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

New idea - not giving up

It seems my plan is not working, mainly because it is not coming together as I thought it would.  I thought the right thing to do is to allow clients and suppliers to register for free with the minimum personal information as to protect their privacy.  I thought the suppliers would not mind paying a minimum fee to allow them to tender for jobs as they will be saving a lot on advertising fees.  I thought this will allow the new start-up suppliers an equal opportunity to enter the market and I thought it will bring back competition in business.  I thought suppliers and clients will take to this like ducks to water because no other system brings them together based on registration criteria like this.  All suppliers will be notified as soon as a request is registered falling in their criteria and it is their decision to tender or not.

It is not working as I thought it would but I am not giving up.  I met a person with many years’ experience starting and running businesses and he gave me some ideas which I am currently working on so there will be a new site coming, with a new name, which will be working differently but still achieve what I originally set out to do, so be on the lookout. I am not switching off the current site (https://www.tenderforme.com) for now and the people registered will be notified in time to move their registrations to the new site when it becomes available.


We will also then change the current site to rather do what the name say so be on the lookout for announcements in this regard as well.         

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

My understanding of starting a business



The people who know tell us there are two main areas of business and they compare it to the sea.

The first area is the red sea and in this area, they say, all existing business types compete for the pray (client).  It defines existing business types as business which is known to the client like hardware shops, take-away foods, chain stores, builders and so on.  These businesses compete with one another for the client’s attention by supplying something unique which the other supplier does not.  The normal perception of businesses in the red sea is that it is easier to start such a business because the client is known and you just need to attract that client. You have a lot of history to plan ahead, you know what the clients are looking for and using that information you can draw up a business plan which you can explain to the financiers. So although it still takes a lot of hard work and dedication there are information which you can depend on going ahead. 

The second area they call the blue sea and this is where businesses start-up which is new to the market. They have though out a plan to attract clients for which there is currently little or no competition but this also means there are very little information available to plan ahead and draw up a business plan.  The information you can get your hands on will take a lot of explaining to financiers before they will understand and be willing to take the chance. Even if you believe in the idea, there is no proof that you will be able to sell the idea to the prospective client.  And therein lays the risk for the financiers, after all they are in the business of making money.  These kinds of businesses that fail the most but when they make it, they usually make it big. Think Microsoft, Facebook and so on.
My business idea falls in the blue sea, I believe in the idea and I know it will work but proving it is a whole new story. The ultimate goal of my idea is to assist in creating a more equal opportunity for some of the businesses competing in the red sea. The specific businesses I have in mind are the suppliers of services to the home and small business owners. I know what is needed to make the difference but I also know I am not the person to make that happen.  I just do not have the knowledge and experience in that particular field, web design, copy writing, SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and marketing. 

I have written the basic system, complete with database, and it is live.  I am doing my best to make changes to adjust for SEO and I am marketing as well as I can using channels available to me with the little resources (read money and time) I have.  I must also admit, when I started the site (https://www.tenderforme.com) 16 months ago, I knew nothing of web programming and databases and design and SEO.  I had the idea and I believed in it.  I had to first figure out which platform to use and I quickly figured out that I needed to use an open source (free for all) platform because I knew I did not have the money to buy anything for that.  Then I had to figure out which language and database I will be using and again it needed to be open source.  Then I taught myself how to do it so I know the system is not perfect. 

What I am therefore saying is, I know it will take time and I know I am to currently equipped to do all that need to be done but I also know I can learn and I know I will find others who understand and are willing to join as co-founders, so look out, I am coming and everyone will know about tenderforme.com.