I think the best way to learn about business is from other experts. Below is an interview with entrepreneur Kurt Won.
1. Did you come from an entrepreneurial background?
Yes. My grandparents opened the first Chinese restaurant in Pretoria, South Africa and my father has owned a very successful dental laboratory for over 35 years. So owning my own business was in my blood. Even though I started my working career as a graduate in the fund management industry as a strategist and portfolio manager, I was fascinated with owning my own business so I could create positive change and wealth-on my terms.
2. How did you first start in business?
I used to work for one of the largest fund managers in the industry Barclays Global Investors (now called BlackRock) and although the company and people were great to work with, I felt I wanted more growth, to make more money and do something I was more passionate about. Oh, and also have more time for myself and not be tied up to a 8am-6pm job, feeling I was doing the job of two people.
One of my mentors, Robert Kiyosaki also inspired me through his Rich Dad Poor Dad book series, where he enlightened me about creating a position of financial independence for myself instead of relying on someone else for my paycheques. So after a few months of research and studying, I nervously handed in my letter of resignation and the rest is history.
3. What made you decide to take the leap from employee to business owner?
What made me decide to take the leap of faith was a culmination of different things but the main thing was a change of mindset and the build up of frustration of working for somebody else.
After reading books centred around success and entrepreneurs; and re-discovering my dream of owning my own successful business I decided (albeit nervously) handed in my letter of resignation
to start the journey of building wealth through business.
Picture Credit: Kurt Won
4. What was your first business venture?
My first business venture was a venture into building a property business. So when I left BGI in 2007 to start this property business, I looked into buying residential rental properties, and you obviously know what happened in late 2007! I knew something wasn't quite right with the financial markets, having worked in it but I didn't know the financing would dry up as quickly as it did, so it took me by surprise and so mortgages were harder to come by and the business didn't go anywhere significant.
Having gone through a few other business failures in a short period of time, having bought into 2 franchises, and having learnt from my mistakes, I finally found a franchise model in SalesPartners that provided me with a proven framework that allowed my business partner and I to build an award winning business. In my first 5 weeks of starting the SalesPartners business, we made more than £25,000 which was more than my net annual salary at BGI - my gross salary was around £50,000. The result helped validate my original decision to leave my job even after many years of business failures and confirmed I was on the right path.
5. Were you ever worried about the risks?
Great question. I think the biggest worry I had before I started my businesses was the risk of what other people were going to think of me if I failed, particularly in the first instance when I quit my "secure" job. That worry soon evaporated as I learnt that it doesn't matter what other people think of me - I had to do what I had to do! But as I entered each business, one risk that did keep me awake the most was the risk of not being able to close enough deals to pay the bills and the money I owed to my family.
However, I've learnt that worrying about something doesn't get you anywhere either and you just have to do whatever it takes to get the job done.
6. What do you believe are the keys are to growing a business?
I strongly believe that the #1 skill you need to have in life and business is the ability to "sell." - sell yourself, sell your ideas and to sell your products or services. If you can sell and communicate at high levels you'll go far in business. To grow a business, you also need the ability to lead and put together a championship business team otherwise you'll get stuck doing everything on your own and the business won't grow.
Put great systems in place that are documented with instructions that anyone can follow.
Instil high standards into your business environment by holding yourself and your team highly accountable to what they are supposed to do. As a business owner, hold yourself accountable to monitoring and improving your profitability, cash flow and your sales figures on a weekly basis. I also strongly believe in personal development, working on myself and helping my team work on themselves too. Running a business requires a lot of energy so you have to ensure you work on your physical, mental and emotional states to be successful. This is something most business owners miss out on and they burn out or give up.
7. What advice would you give to people wanting to leave their jobs and set up a business?
Firstly, I'd say that it's awesome that you want to set up your own business. But you don't have to quit your job to start a business. If you don't have the savings to maintain your lifestyle for 6-months or more, I would recommend starting your business part-time, so you don't have the additional worry of having to make enough money to cover both your personal and business expenses. Starting a business and being your own boss is exciting, but don't be delusional and quit your job if that's the only source of your income. Secondly, do your research - Know your market, know who you're getting into business with, and know your numbers. Next, find a mentor or coach that has experience in the field and one that can help hold you accountable to doing what you need to.
If you don't want the hassle of starting everything from scratch like creating products, marketing, creating the systems etc, look to perhaps buy an existing business or buy into a franchise that has a proven business model. I'm not going to tell you that you need to quit your job to start your business, that's your decision to make, but just because you're in a job doesn't mean you can't get started. Don't sit around. Get into action!
8. What advice would you give to struggling business owners?
Get some help! Find a coach or mentor to help you understand where you are at right now in your business. Don't wait until you're a week away from closing your doors before seeking help - it's not too late, but you make it more difficult for yourself to turn your business around. Be willing to confront the issue and take responsibility for the success of your business and don't deny there's a problem. A lot of times it's us, as the business owner, who get in our own way, so you have to keep working on yourself too. If you're struggling to make sales, ask yourself if you're generating enough sales activity to convert into the amount of sales you need. If you are, then look at how well each point of the sales process is converting for you
To find out more about Kurt, visit www.SalesPartnersUK.com