By Ambareen Musa
Ambareen Musa, the founder and chief executive of Souqalmal, a financial comparison website, is keen on sharing her reflections and advice from an inspiring entrepreneurial journey.
Starting a business is not glamorous, be prepared to work very hard
In a start-up you will find yourself wearing many hats and taking on various responsibilities. You would probably be running the show with limited resources, doing everything from human resources and admin to accounts. So brace yourself to step out of your comfort zone and learn about the various functions involved in running a business.
On top of that, you will also have to secure funding for your business, look for the right people to join your team, drive your business revenue and maintain a healthy cash flow.
Being an entrepreneur can also feel very lonely. Especially if you are alone without a partner or co-founder, the entire responsibility of managing the business and the stress that comes with the job is going to fall on your shoulders. Consider outsourcing some key business functions, but make sure you take your time and do your research when trying to find the right supplier or business partner.
You are the best spokesperson for your business
Whether it is convincing investors to invest in your business, convincing clients to work with you or convincing talents to join your company, you have to work very hard towards building your brand and credibility in the market.
Trying to pitch to a new client? This might be more difficult than you think, especially when you are just trying to get your foot in the door. You have to be patient and resilient when you are out in the market, trying to build a brand for your business. Remember that credibility cannot be built overnight.
You also should not underestimate the power of your personal brand. People will do business with you only when they see ‘you’ as a reliable partner to work with. As a CEO, you know your business inside out. There can be no better spokesperson for your business than yourself.
You need a great team willing to go the distance with you
Hiring a great team who share your vision about the business is the best thing you can do for your company. As a CEO of a start-up you will find yourself spending a lot of time hiring the right people. But great talent does not queue up, so you must be extra-careful when recruiting. Make sure you have a good understanding of the role you are hiring for.
What qualities should you look for when hiring? The right candidates for a start-up should definitely be flexible enough to take on responsibilities in different areas of the business, self-motivated and willing to take initiative without constantly being directed, and ready to put in the hard work even if it means stretching themselves thin during crunch times. And most importantly he or she must be hungry to learn and grow.
Once you have managed to get a great set of people on board, you have to keep them motivated and nurture them so they can grow in their roles and with the company. Make sure you convey your vision to your team so everyone is on the same page and working towards the same end goal.
You WILL make mistakes! Learn from them and move on
One of the most difficult things for me to admit is where I went wrong as an entrepreneur. It is a hard-hitting realisation that things could have been done differently. But the truth, whether you like it or not, is that mistakes are part of the journey. And the best way to deal with mistakes is to learn from them.
In my experience, I feel I should have hired earlier on in the business. Similarly, not firing early enough is an equally big mistake. Building a positive team environment and work culture is crucial for any business, and one wrong hire can completely ruin that aspect.
Another mistake, that first-time entrepreneurs can learn from include underestimating how challenging the funding process can be as well as how long it could take. I realised this when I planned my product launches based on how long ‘I’ thought it would take for the funds to come in, and when it took longer than I expected, things just fell off-schedule.
Stay nimble or else your business will just stagnate
What if your sales hit a plateau? What if the market conditions change or new regulations are introduced that completely change the ball game for your business? Keeping an open mind, and being prepared to adapt and willing to grow, are not just ‘good to have’ but necessary qualities that entrepreneurs must definitely possess.
We, at Souqalmal.com, are constantly looking for new ways to improve our product offering and how we can better help our users in making sound personal finance decisions, both big and small.
It is not going to be easy! Be prepared to make some sacrifices
If you are planning to leave your stable and well-paying job to set out on your own, be aware that it will be a challenge, especially at the beginning.
Forget the fat paychecks for a couple of years. Not only that, starting and running a business will take a toll on your personal life too.
Women entrepreneurs, ‘mompreneurs’ specifically, will find that it is not easy to achieve that elusive ‘work-life balance’. I know from personal experience that managing time between business and home will not be easy, especially when you are just starting off.
But once the business is up and running, you must learn to delegate and give more ownership to your team. This will take some of the stress off your plate and give you some breathing room, making it easier for you to take time-off to be with the family.