MBOMBELA - Doing business can be hard. If it was easy, everybody would be doing it, and making a success of it, says Mr Hendrik Pretorius, managing director of SA Capital Partners Group of Companies.

Being an entrepreneur is challenging, and your strategy will either make or break your business. Having good people in your corner can make all the difference, he recently told Ms Phephsile Maseko, winner of the Bring Change Lowveld mentorship programme. It aims to empower not only Maseko as she embarks on launching a new skincare range, but also other promising entrepreneurs. Everyone seems to agree that a measure of mentorship is crucial in teaching people with good ideas how to make them viable.

Pretorius is mainly involved in real-estate development and construction, but he is branching out with his partner and brother, Bring Change Lowveld founder Mr Ettiene Pretorius, into hospitality. They are developing a lodge in the Timbavati which would cater to both the local and international market. Construction is different, and perhaps even more stressful. "There are tighter time constraints. The pressure is high from deadlines and clients who need things to get done. "All industries have pros and cons. Nothing is easy."

This week Pretorius shares the 10 points which has helped him to grow as an entrepreneur with Lowvelder readers.

1. Be candid and honest
Being truthful and straightforward is important in the business world. "People appreciate honesty," Pretorius says.
"Honesty wins 99 per cent of the time. Business is hard and when you negotiate it is always better to tell the whole truth. Being straightforward in how you carry yourself and about what you want will get you far in life. "Be plain-spoken. Learn to bring your message across simply and effectively. When you are easily understood, you are halfway there."

2. Specialise in your industry
Put in the 10 000 hours to become an expert. If you are not a specialist, you are a jack of all trades and master of none. "Being specialised gives you a product and service to offer in exchange for money, which buys not only a way of life, but helps you to grow your business, influence more people and help you to expand. "Coupled with practice, it is crucial to know your strengths and weaknesses, your personality type and skills set. "Make peace with your weaknesses," he advises. "Build in ways to compensate therefore in your business strategy. "Knowledge about product or services gives you a hold on it, and also builds your confidence, which people feel and respond to."

3. Be thorough with your administration
You could be so busy with marketing and getting in new business, that you may neglect areas such as accounting, statutory aspects, paperwork, and even basic things such as correct invoicing. Your paperwork, accounting, filing, your computer-system need to be in order, and you need to be on top of it. "You have to know what is going on in all areas of your business, also on a micro-level, otherwise things can go wrong. You can grow too fast or there may be theft in organisation. Never be in a position where you have to say, 'I didn't see that coming!'" Also keep an eye on your productivity. Don't have 14 busy hours - rather focus on productivity in fewer hours.

4. Appoint the best accountants you can afford
"A lot of businesses, especially start-ups, don't have the cash to afford good accountants. It can feel like you are paying grudge money, paying a lot of money and not seeing an immediate return." However, Pretorius says that as you grow their professional assistance will prove very important. "Bigger accounting firms offer a large package with tax and legal advice, auditing services and accounting, which makes them very effective. "It is also important to stick with one so they have a record of your transaction history and get to know you and your company well. In 10 years' time they will know you, what your business is about."

5. Build good relationships with lawyers
Having good lawyers on call helps in many ways. Yes they can be expensive, but you will need them, Pretorius says. "It is not nice, but it does happen in this world where you need to take legal action. It can be anything from something small like a tenant not paying you and having to send a letter of demand, or bigger things like someone owing you a lot of money and having to fight for that money." Different lawyers will assist you with different legal issues: Have one to transfer your properties, one for arbitration, one specialising in registering intellectual property and any other legal issues that may arise in the course of your doing business.

6. Focus on developing strategic partnerships
Who are the people who are like-minded and who can help you develop your product further and create new platforms for it? It is something you should be aware of fairly constantly, Pretorius says. "Without them you are just another entrepreneur with a good idea. It is sad but there are wonderful people with wonderful ideas who don't get to the market." But be careful: You can't take hands with just anyone. "Their expectations may be different. Someone who sees the potential in your company and would be willing to invest to get you started or growing is ideal. If he just wants his money back, it can kill your business. "Take hands with a partner who can open new avenues for you, be it suppliers, sellers, partnerships, financiers or intellectuals with ideas." He would want something in return, but as long as it makes sense for you both, find the balance. Sometimes it is better to rather agree to split profits than not get your product to the market. "Don't overcomplicate it - remember being open and candid. A lawyer or accountant can help you with the details."

7. Manage your cash flow
It is very important that you manage your cash flow, the lifeblood of your company.
"Keep it in check or after a few months the overheads are there and they stay and it sucks the life from your company."
He advises having enough cash in reserve to service your monthly expenses like rent, staff and telephone bills for three months, just in case.
"Budgeting helps. Do it a few times a year to see where you are and help you keep your overheads in check. It would also show you what you need to generate to expand."

8. Continually develop your own skills set
"You have to be growing and developing all the time and never stop. "Develop your strengths and build it into your business strategy. Learn to position yourself in the market. It means being on top of things all the time, in terms of what is happening in your market and in your company. Make sure you are getting as much as possible data in from all sources you possibly can, all the time."

9. Use technology to your advantage
"There are a myriad social media platforms out there. It helps you to be visible, tell little stories about your product and company to clients and suppliers. It enables people to get hold of you. Use it to be accessible," he advises. "Look after the image you portray out there. Make sure you communicate well through those platforms. Use it to market yourself and educate yourself."

10. Develop your leadership skills
There are kinds of leaders. As with finding your strength, there is a certain leader hiding inside you. "Leaders empower others, they change the world around them. Look into yourself and develop what kind of leader you are." Use technology to educate yourself. "You will create other leaders, and followers. It will make the people in your organisation look up to you. It would make others, outsiders, buy into your vision and persuade them to support it." It goes back to confidence. "Developing good quality skills will be crucial in your business development," Pretorius concludes.

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