15/12/2014

By Louis Venter, CEO, MediaVision


I founded MediaVision in late 2004 with Thomas Schonenberger. Initially, it was a web development and design agency. Looking back after 10 years of hard work, I thought it’s time to give something back. Starting out, there wasn’t a lot of advice around and I learned mainly through trial and error, so here are the things I wish I knew at the beginning. If you are considering starting your own business I hope you find it useful.

1) It’s going to take longer than you think
I see this in every start-up we work with. If you’re thinking of starting something new, take your projected numbers and halve them. Do you still make it? If so, great - get on with it. If not, then you need to tweak it some more. You may need more start-up capital or investment or work out how to fast track sales. Build in the lag, because when it hits you won’t be surprised and you won’t start to doubt the validity of your plan.

2) You are as strong as your people
Your people are your biggest investment so hire wisely. Look for people that have an uncompromising approach to self-improvement. It’s tough to spot initially but you quickly find out what traits you look for. Set a small task for all interviewees, the ones that are really keen will do it and the ones that aren’t won’t pitch up. The really good ones will use the opportunity to demonstrate their strategic problem solving skills. Hold on to them, they are gold.

Retention of great people is also really important. Share some of the profit with your staff and show them how their work has direct bearing on it. Ask them what work they do isn’t having a good effect on the business or what they feel is wasteful. Take the time to do proper reviews and be prepared to highlight the good and bad.

3) Run it by the numbers
Entrepreneurs have boundless optimism, numbers don’t. You need to run your financials monthly and sit with your accountant or financial team to get a view on where they think the business is. Before you increase the costs of the business, project what the increased revenues are likely to be. If there isn’t an impact on revenue, work out a way of doing it better instead of just adding more people to the problem. Volume very seldom fixes anything. An ineffective team doesn’t become effective if it doubles in size.

4) Take time to enjoy the journey
You need to keep passionate about what you do. If you feel that the joy is waning, take a long hard look at what you have put in place. Unfortunately most of the time, you have created a situation you now don’t enjoy. The great part is you can change that and get back to your happy place.

The business will also never be finished - it will always be a work in progress. Be okay with that and celebrate the little things. If you don’t, you will end up with all of the issues and none of the joy.

5) Keep a work life balance
When I started MediaVision I had a young family and unfortunately I didn’t always get it right. It is incredibly important to switch off from the business and take time to spend with your loved ones. Have clear boundaries - if you are at home, be at home and stop checking your phone and email. Tomorrow is another day and you will have ample time to fix all the things that need fixing. If you go too fast for too long you’ll simply burn out.

The most important bit of all these lessons is that you will keep on learning them. Just remember that you have to make the mistakes to learn from them, so don’t beat yourself up about it. If you fail, fail quickly, work out what to change and get back out there. Ultimately it’s well worth the effort.