Who is the CEO of your business?
15. Did you need capital to start your business, and if you did, do you mind telling me how much?
“As mentioned, by Gods grace I didn’t need a capital amount up front to start the business. I had no money of my own and I didn’t want to apply for a bank loan. We bought the business for about R240,000 and I made an arrangement to pay this off on a monthly basis as the cash flow came in.
At home, I had an amount of about R1,500.00 which I kept in my clothes cupboard. It was money that I used to pick up if I found it lying around the house or small change from other purchases. We used that money to buy some product for the first order we got and it grew from there! ”
16. How long did it take you to cover all your costs and become profitable?
“The way I planned the forecast was that we should be profitable from the start. It was only monthly running expenses that had to be paid at the end of the month. The business has shown a profit each year of trading to date. It has taken us about 6 years to get to a place where I can comfortably say the company makes an annual profit.”
17. Did you experience pressures in the beginning?
“Yes, it was mostly the doubt of the business succeeding. There were personal pressures and family pressures. There were also business deal pressures and added stress wondering if suppliers would produce what we needed on time and in full.”
18. Did you have a mentor, or someone who was able to guide and direct you?
“No, no particular person. There were quite a few people who gave me advice through the experience of working with them. I was able to witness first hand when situations went wrong and learn how not to do things! But, really at the end of the day, it’s my relationship with the Lord that is my guiding hand. There are answers for everything in God’s word and it is the best “How to…” manual ever!”
19. Were you able to develop successful networks and how did you achieve that?
“Yes, I’ve been able to achieve some very successful networks because of communication and mutual respect for others. I have learned that one of the most important things in life are relationships. Good solid, productive networks are formed by open, honest and respectful communications with those around us. This is not restricted to business but applies to marriage, family and friendships as well. As I spend time with people, I get to know and trust them and the reverse applies.
Once again, I take my example from the Lord. Relationship bridges are formed out of serving others, putting their needs before mine. When we have this attitude towards our relationships they will be meaningful and long lasting.”
20. Was your family negatively affected in the beginning?
“I think they were affected but I wouldn’t say negatively. Like myself, they were concerned about the future of the business. They could see that, at times, I was very worried. It was amazing to see how they encouraged me with words that I had spoken to them years before. Things the Lord had taught me to share with my wife and children, were coming back to help me. So, they were concerned, but also very supportive.”
21. What do you perceive your strengths to be?
“I think probably my best strength would be communicating with others. Based on my relationship with the Lord, I strive to deal with people in an open, transparent and honest way. This has helped our business to form long term, healthy relationships with our clients.”
22. What was your most exciting moment in the business?
“There have been a few exciting moments because of the growth the business has shown over the last 6 years. Now is one of those moments because we have just exceeded our best sales month since we started. The turnover is ten times bigger this month than it was in our first month of trading!”
23. What was your most challenging moment in the business?
“There have also been a few of those…mostly relating to concerns over cash flow. When the bank balance is low and I have commitments to make, that is always a challenging time for me. Our staff are No.1 in our business, followed by our suppliers and then our customers, so it is very important that our employees’ salaries are paid on time. It has only been in the last eight months or so that I’ve learned to have peace during these tough cash flow times.”
23. How difficult was it to find good staff?
“It was very difficult, and still is, to find good staff that are willing to work hard, to be loyal and honest. Finding the right person for the job takes time and skill. Great attention needs to be paid to the interviewing of prospective employees. It helps to have a guideline for interviewing candidates so that not too much emotion interferes with the selection process. When finding new staff, I pray hard to ask the Lord to put the right people across my path.”
24. Do you feel now that you take a more managerial role versus an entrepreneurial role?
“Yes. However, the entrepreneurial side is always there, it’s not something that I can just turn off. I find myself constantly coming up with ideas – the majority of which are absolutely disastrous! I have to be more managerial at this current time to lead the business. I believe it’s important to understand the difference between managing and entrepreneurship. Management is taking care of the seed born out of an inspired idea.”
25. Where did you set up your business?
“We operate from a business park in Johannesburg. We have a warehouse and a showroom with administration offices. Customers are able to visit us, browse the various bottles and products and then purchase what they need. We cater for the small entrepreneurial business and large companies who require us to deliver to their warehouses.
26. How did you choose this location?
“It was a branch of the previous company that I worked for. I was involved in the set-up of the branch originally. We selected that area because of its location to Johannesburg’s CBD and also the town of Soweto in the South West of Johannesburg.”
27. Have you faced many challenges since setting up the business, and how have you dealt with them?
“There have been a number of challenges relating to finding new customers and suppliers. We concentrated on our service to the small customers, making sure we served each one equally. This resulted in repeat business and once we were taking good care of the smaller clients, the bigger ones came.
In the beginning, starting the business with no capital was difficult. This has slowly been resolved by careful cash flow management and using profits to fund our growth.
Staff difficulties were and are resolved by applying Godly principles. Often we try to resolve situations with too much emotion, when, if we apply Godly principles, situations are resolved fairly. Applying God’s principles in our business means we have to trust God for the outcome – not something that comes easily!”
28. What is the most important piece of advice you can give any person thinking of becoming an entrepreneur?
“As human beings, we all enjoy attention. So being able to sell yourself is a first step. We all do this when we socialise so why not in business? As people grow to like you, they trust you more and then selling your product or service is the next natural step. If you can’t sell yourself, selling your product or service will always be an uphill battle. Your testimony is very important. How you treat others, how you present yourself and whether or not you conduct your business in a fair and honest way. Respect for others is critical. Your focus should always be on the needs of your customer and not your own gains. These all come back down to the Godly command of loving your neighbour.”
29. What do you find personally rewarding and satisfying in owning your own business?
“When I look back and see how far the business has come in six years, I feel excited and humbled at the achievement. It has been wonderful to see the Lord’s hand working in every aspect. The most rewarding thing for me is now that my sons are involved in the business, I have more time to do my ‘real’ job, which is sharing the Gospel with others, whether they be connected to the business or outside of it. That is my true passion.
Personally, it has been very rewarding to have been used by the Lord in this process.”
30. Has it all been worth it?
“Yes, very much so. I have learnt a lot about trusting God. You know, there is a difference between having faith in God and trusting in God. I have never had a problem believing that the Lord can do anything He wants to do at any time (faith in God). However, trusting Him in a given circumstance is sometimes very difficult, waiting on Him for His will to be done in that instance.
It has been amazing to see how the Lord has changed lives through the business. Not only those employed here, but others outside the business.”
31. What is the most important lesson you have learnt?
“Probably the most important lesson was to learn to be honest and open with people, whether employees, suppliers or customers. The relationships I have with each of these people are like bridges for communication. Clear communication with others in our lives is critically important. When situations fail, you can be sure somewhere along the line, there is miscommunication – one party’s expectation was different to another. As a manager, I have learned to issue a clear instruction and then ask the other person to repeat back the instruction to me so both our expectations are the same.”
32. How did your Christian faith help you with this experience?
“I found that when you own a business, it is easy to become lazy and take shortcuts. From the start of the business, I placed the Lord as our CEO. Therefore, in my heart, I was meeting with Him every day and reporting on what was happening in the business. I had placed His principles into the business and did everything within those boundaries. At times when I didn’t feel like doing things, my relationship with the Lord would help me push through. When I was humbled in relationships with others, the Lord helped me accept the error of my ways and put myself in the shoes of others.
Without the Lord’s relationship, I can categorically say that there would be no business.”
“…time with the Master”
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