Challenges that EOY winners overcame on the path to success

We chatted to the 2012 EOY winners about the various challenges they have experienced in their careers thus far:

William Duk, owner of Plantation Shutters and the overall winner of the 2012 Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® competition shares some of his challenges:

The biggest initial challenge that we faced was getting the momentum going again in a business that was going into liquidation. When the rescue plan was put in place there was a significant monthly cost base that needed to be covered so it was a very slow start. A key learning personally was not to get ahead of oneself and keep trying from a marketing perspective in order to measure what works and what doesn’t.

There was definitely no one big tipping point during the growth period, but rather an accumulation of small incremental steps which definitely stretches one’s patience at times, as well as one’s cash flow!

At the end of the day, whatever the challenge is, the definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome, so one cannot be scared of trying different things or being innovative to get around whatever the challenge is.

Tabisa Nomnganga, owner of Bravo Promotions and winner of the 2012 Sanlam / Business Partners Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year® Award on her most challenging moments as an entrepreneur:

My family and friends thought that I was crazy leaving permanent employment – everyone in my circle thought it was too risky and they believed that working for a reputable company and earning a decent salary was the only way to go. For this reason, they were unable to offer me the support I needed, especially in the beginning when the business wasn’t doing so well.

Another challenge I faced was after I had recruited qualified personnel to work with me, I still couldn’t delegate tasks appropriately as I didn’t have enough confidence in them. At that stage I wanted to handle all tasks myself and therefore had to learn to trust people.

Trevor Davids, owner of Trevor Davids Plumbing and winner of the 2012 Sanlam / Business Partners Medium Entrepreneur of the Year® Award, discusses some of the challenges he has wrestled with:

One of the biggest challenges we have faced over the past three years, since the beginning of the economic downturn, has been the cash flow restraints which the business was subjected to due to the various late and short payments that we received from clients who in the past had excellent payment records.

To overcome this challenge we had to adopt a more vigorous process regarding credit control and kept a tighter rein on expenditure within the company.

Currently, we also experience issues in the building industry when it comes to on-site theft. This problem is escalating due to the current economic climate and high unemployment rate in South Africa. To overcome this challenge we have had to tighten the control of on-site material storage areas and have employed a security company to patrol building sites as an additional security measure.

Warren Graver of EnviroDeck and winner of the 2012 Sanlam / Business Partners Small Entrepreneur of the Year® Award, discusses how EnviroDeck has not always been a successful business and how he has overcome various challenges throughout the years:

Although I noticed a considerable gap in the market for sustainable green decking products (versus traditional timber products) I was very unsure about how to present the product to an existing market that I had no experience in.

The market and various market players were very reluctant to change and therefore proved extremely tough to influence as no one had ever seen or heard of such innovative products in the past.

I found myself in another challenging situation as a result of not doing sufficient supplier research. After landing the first shipment of the product, the supplier closed its doors and I was left with stock that I could not sell into our market. This error in judgement on my behalf meant that the initial start-up capital was quickly absorbed into obsolete inventory that would never be sold – even at discounted rates.

To combat these challenges I have since managed to become a business ‘all-rounder’ with the necessary entrepreneurial skills to understand the specific market that I operate in.

Stuart Forrest of Triggerfish and the winner of the 2012 Sanlam / Business Partners Innovator of the Year® Award shares some of the challenges that he has been through:

One of the biggest challenges we faced was raising money for a long-term project that hadn’t been tested before. It took years of work to raise all the money we needed for our first animated feature film, and then nearly a year to get all the legal work together.

It was an immensely complicated process as we had partners in Cape Town, Johannesburg, London, Amsterdam, San Francisco and Los Angeles, and the process of coming to agreement on any single point took weeks. While this was happening we had to support around 10 staff who were on retainer, so we were raising money for that at the same time.

Then when we suddenly got the money, we had to ramp up to 80 people within a few months, which was a huge learning curve for our small studio. When you have 80 people who need to be constructively working every day, it is logistically an enormous job and mistakes are very costly.

We essentially had to manufacture 1,500 “shots”, or short three second clips that are together to tell a coherent, funny and entertaining story. Thankfully, we had the most amazing team on the planet and it turned out perfectly.



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