The journey from growing a start-up into a successful business is often a long one, requiring hard work and dedication. With a clear vision and a determined entrepreneur at the helm, start-ups can grow from a one-person operation into a globally recognised brand name, as companies like Tesla have proven.
According to South African entrepreneur Mark Ahjam, honesty, adaptability and determination to succeed are just some of the mental attributes an entrepreneur needs to turn their start-up into a success.
“I believe the main factors behind my success are treating both my employees and customers with integrity, and adjusting to conditions when things don’t go as planned. Treat any failures as lessons, learn from them and don’t let the challenges make you give up,” Ahjam says.
In 2009 he established Bilionetworks with a vision of providing a complete cabling solution and support service. Upon being appointed by Octotel, a provider of fibre optic internet services, Bilionetworks were proactive in installing their fibre network rollout with a success rate of more than 40Km of fibre optic infrastructure in the Atlantic Sea Board and 350 FTTH (Fibre to the Home) installations.
The company has since grown, employing 124 staff members and also offers a range of ICT products and services – from plant construction to audio visual and CCTV options. Furthermore, they will be working in the Atlantic Sea Board until May 2017 and then moving into other areas of Cape Town.
Ahjam, a beneficiary of the Innovator Trust enterprise development programme, provides the following tips for entrepreneurs who want to grow their start-up into a successful business.
Ahjam says it is crucial for entrepreneurs to stay focused on their core offerings, especially during the start-up phase of their business.
“Diverting from core offerings is one of the most common errors entrepreneurs make early in their business journey. Staying focused on what you do best will help your business grow organically while maintaining a high standard of work quality that not only meets but exceeds your customers’ expectations,” he says.
Take control of your finances
Start-ups sometimes lack the capital needed to establish the business, which Ahjam says can be overcome.
“Make connections and learn about the various finance options that are out there for SMMEs. At the same time, you must always keep an eye on your bottom line and make sure you keep track of daily income and expenses,” says Ahjam.
He also urges entrepreneurs to maintain a strong credit rating.
“Avoid taking on unnecessary debt, and pay your creditors on time. If you can’t pay on time due to unforeseen circumstances, make a plan and keep your creditors informed because they are your partners too.”
Running a start-up is often a hands-on job and requires a significant amount of immediate focus from the entrepreneur. However, Ahjam says medium- and long-term goals need attention too in order to budget, strategise and plan for the future.
Ahjam concludes, “It is also vital to lead a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Business owners should scrutinise their day and max it out every hour, minute and second to focus on the most important outputs that drive the overall goals of the business.
About the Innovator Trust
The Innovator Trust was formed to grow small black-owned businesses in the information and communications technology (ICT) sector and to help develop competent SMME’s through training, skills sharing and infrastructure support. As such, the company has partnered with other incubators who have experience and knowledge in this field, to help grow SMME entrepreneurship and make a real impact in the ICT SMME sector over the next 5 years.
The Innovator Trust’s mission is to provide a tailored development programme for selected, established small businesses in the ICT sector. Through training, mentorship, networking and infrastructure support the Innovator Trust is helping to create ICT leaders of the future.
By Mark Ahjam, founder and MD at Bilionetworks