“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower” – Steve Jobs
While the current South African economy may present challenging times for local businesses, this period also presents opportunities for entrepreneurs to explore new business ventures or to investigate new ways of taking a business to the next level.
This is according to Christo Botes, spokesperson for the Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® competition, who says that during unpredictable market environments, entrepreneurs should focus on their business’ key competencies, relevance in the market and competitive advantages. “Analysing these areas could lead to innovation as to how the business is run or the introduction of new services and products.”
Given the many changing trends shaping society and consumer needs, as well as improved technology, now is the time for businesses to innovate and shape their business according to these many developing needs, says Botes.
“Many entrepreneurs have started businesses in challenging times with great success due to the business filling a gap in the market. There are many business opportunities currently available in South Africa, and it is vital that entrepreneurs are aware of these opportunities and that they know how to capitalise on them.”
He says one such gap in the market currently is the need for private schooling and education. “It is well documented that the quality of public education has become a concern for parents. Private school Curro saw a gap in the market for affordable private schooling in the market and due to the roaring success of the business have established various primary and high schools all around the country.”
Curro Holdings CEO, Chris van der Merwe, recently said the affordable private schooling market was much larger than initially envisaged, noting that by the end of this financial year the company would already have beaten its 2010 prelisting forecast of 40 schools by 2020.
Other sectors currently offering opportunities include alternative energy sources, the shortage in student accommodation and the African markets which are expanding rapidly, says Botes.
He also points to the most recent Global Entrepreneurship Monitor which revealed that in 2013, 37.9% of South African respondents believe that there are opportunities to start a business in the country, up slightly from 35% in the 2012 report. Botes says that this highlights the opportunities that are increasingly presenting themselves to entrepreneurs. “Many examples, Curro being one of these, display the value and potential available to entrepreneurs who simply analyse the marketplace around them for opportunities and then capitalise on these gaps with smart business solutions.
“As the local economy continues to grow, so will the number of opportunities begin to grow. This provides opportunities for those entrepreneurs wishing to start a business, as well as opportunities for those entrepreneurs with established businesses to relook at their business and analyse how they are able to improve or expand product lines,” says Botes.
Successful entrepreneurs have a craving, a desire and a need to constantly know more, says Botes. “It is those entrepreneurs that ask industry specialists about the latest trends, those that know which individuals are operating within their sector and those that research new technology that are able to identify the gaps currently in the market.”
He adds that often entrepreneurs think they have to reinvent products or services to have success, but this isn’t always the case. “Entrepreneurs should look at the small things that may have been overlooked or ignored by others, or look for good ideas that were poorly executed. With the right expertise and experience, an entrepreneur may be able to improve on an otherwise failed product or service.
“Entrepreneurs should also research international products and services that may not be known to the local market which could provide opportunities locally.”
Botes says that another secret to success is securing the maximum reward, for the lowest risk possible. “While this often isn’t the reality, if an entrepreneur knows all the risks associated to an investment decision for a new business, a successful entrepreneur should have the ability to consider the risk and commit themselves to a particular business decision,” concludes Botes.