Having grown his business from a seedling of an idea to a multi-million-rand operation, Innovative Solutions Group™ CEO, Arnoux Maré, is proof that entrepreneurial success can be achieved with the right amount of guts and determination. It also qualifies him, more than most, to offer advice to aspiring entrepreneursStart with a solid foundation

Maré says before starting their own businesses, aspiring entrepreneurs need to work out exactly which direction they intend to take and how they envisage growing their businesses. “I believe some of the greatest successes are achieved by those who do what they know. In other words, they build a business that harnesses their own skills and expertise, allowing them to focus on what they are best at without diluting their efforts.

He adds that research is key. “The viability of a proposed operation needs to be tested to ensure the venture is sustainable. Research should explore the competition, capital requirements, possible risk factors, expertise required and your own service or product’s unique selling points.  Once this has been done, short-, medium and long-term plans for the development and roll-out of the business venture need to be developed.  It is important to remember that the mid- and long-term plans will be in a state of flux, especially when short-term plans change,” advises Maré.

Avoid excessive financial focus

Maré believes that aspiring entrepreneurs should not spend most of their time focusing on the financial aspects of starting a business. “Too many would-be business people spend hours and hours on financial planning instead of focusing on the operational aspects of the business. Our ethos at Innovative Solutions Group™ is: operations lead the way and the rest follows. Operational concerns need to remain at the forefront of any start-up venture to ensure operational planning achieves the desired results.

“To illustrate my point, the growth of one of the Group’s subsidiaries’, Innovative Staffing Solutions, outstripped its operational capabilities. This meant we had to pull back on accepting new contracts.  As a key learning, the Group always ensures that its operations’ divisions are equipped to handle at least twice the capacity required before accepting new business,” he explains.

The ABC’s of sales

Thirdly, Maré stresses the importance of sales techniques. “An acronym that sums it up for me is the ‘ABC’ of Sales: Always BClosing.  A business owner needs to be driven to successfully conclude new business sales.”

When a new business venture is still in its infancy, it may not be possible to establish what the company’s unique selling points are, or what they are going to be.  As the operation develops, so too do the distinctive traits that set the organisation apart and make its products and service desirable.

Maré underlines the importance of being able to sell. “If you are not able to convince a potential client to make use of your product or service, ask that prospect to explain to you why they are not buying. A sale must be concluded at every sales meeting.”

Nothing new

Maré believes there are no truly unique organisations, no matter what types of businesses entrepreneurs decide to embark on. “It is more likely that there are many similar contenders in any given market segment.  Entrepreneurs need to steer clear of what I term the ‘Name, Rank, Serial Number’ methods of marketing their businesses as this is simply an exercise in futility.  They need to create the niche markets they want their companies to occupy.”

Make your money work as hard as you do

Capital needs to be carefully managed. Maré says keeping money in a bank account and left to grow to ensure six months’ running capital, is exceptionally ill-advised.  He suggests that business owners open an interest-bearing account or engage the services of a financial planner to advise on where to invest, as it is vital not to leave the growth of money to chance.

“I believe in investing wisely and have short-, medium and long-term investments that, admittedly, require a strong cash flow. Entrepreneurs should always be able to access their funds quickly to deal with any unforeseen circumstances.”

Always, always challenge the norm

For instance, someone who wants to start a bookkeeping firm needs to research what other bookkeepers are doing. A good entrepreneur will find something that makes his proposed business stand out from other bookkeeping firms. For example, developing a new way of doing things that makes his offering the best, fastest or most efficient bookkeeping solution that money can buy,” explains Maré.

New businesses need to implement systems that make them the most efficient and productive vendors of a product or service. “This has been fundamental to the success of Innovative Solutions GroupTM and it’s something I cannot stress more strongly,” he says.

Maré concludes by saying that entrepreneurs need to concentrate on the core functions of their businesses. “Business owners do not have to be great at every aspect of their businesses. They need to remain focused on what they do best and consider outsourcing their non-core functionality to experts. In addition, when the business is small, it may be hard to retain non-essential staff members – so outsourcing some of these functions makes sense.”

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