SMME/Entrepreneurship Issues – Lessons learnt from starting my own PR business

When I started my PR business in 2012, the only thing I knew very well was my profession: Public Relations (PR). I knew that what I had learnt in the 13 years that I spent working for big companies like the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA), Absa, MTN and Business Conneion (BCX); that I could use in my own company. My main goal was to run “my own show” and service ”my own clients”.

As a PR expert, I was confident that I could do my work in my sleep, little did I know that running my own business needed far more than that. The first mistake that I made is that I went into the business with debts that I had accumulated when I was working full-time not thinking about the fact that I did not have a monthly salary anymore to service those debts.

Secondly, I did not know that I had to worry about complicated business stuff such as Cashflow, Overheads, Company Financials and Administration, HR just to name a few. It all sounds very complicated neh? Yes, it was confusing for me too because I am a content person not into numbers or financials at all. These are important things I had to learn because now I was a ‘one man show’ running all parts of the business on my own. In big organisations that I worked for, there were different departments that were responsible for various functions like HR, Finance or Legal issues. Now, all of a sudden, I did not have that kind of support in my business.

I had to become a ’Jack of all Trades’ and ’Master of None’ very fast. Just to clear the confusion and for any of you who have started running your own businesses to learn a few of the lessons I learnt. Cashflow is money that comes into the business regularly that is paid by your clients for a service or a product. This money allows you as a business owner to pay for the debts that I was referring to earlier or to cover any other monthly expenses (business/personal). Please note though that for you to have ‘Cashflow’ – you need to have clients first that you provide a service or product to. And very importantly, these clients need to pay you regularly and on time – otherwise ‘kushubile’ for you and your business.

I then learnt about ‘overheads’ – this is basically your business expenses, and these could be rent for an office space, stationery, airtime and data, the computer/laptop that you use for work, car expenses like petrol – just to give you a few examples. I learnt that it was very important to keep monthly expenses low; if I wanted my business to survive. It did not help that I was told by everyone that most black-owned, small businesses normally failed in the first two years. Just imagine how scared I was because I was not only “u-darkie”, but also a young woman. So, here the lesson I learnt was that I needed to cut any unnecessary expenses so that my business could survive on very small amounts of money.

So, I did not get a fancy office to rent, I worked from my home – on my sofa or bed with a laptop on my thighs, I realised that the only thing I really needed to service my clients was a laptop, a 3G Card/WIFI Router, airtime/data and a bit of stationery. So not having an office meant that if a client called me wanting something urgently while driving; I would stop on the side of the road, open my laptop, connect and send the document to the client. What was important here was that work was moving – it did not matter if I worked from a boot of a car. This at the end meant that I could get paid and make some money. So, my advice to those who still want to start their own business – try to go into a business that does not need a lot of money for you to be able to start – because this is usually money that most of us do not have.

Lastly, I know that not all businesses are the same and our experiences might differ, so it is definitely not one size fits all. I am just merely telling my own story hoping that it will help a person or two.

NB: I would like to encourage all of you to start engaging on these important issues – constructively of course. You will find these kinds of columns on all Ekurhuleni News social media pages and on my pages every Thursday: FB, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram (IG) – my handles are all the same @MirandaLusiba. Each week, we will be tackling different topics that I am passionate about under the following themes:

• Week One: Basic Financial Literacy – based on the mistakes I made with money and how other people can learn from my mistakes.

• Week Two: Entrepreneurship/SMME issues – based on the mistakes I have made, and lessons learnt from running my own business over the last 10 years.

• Week Three: PR-Related issues – based on my 21-years’ experience working as a PR professional in big corporates. I hope that these columns will help groom the next generation of PR specialists.

 Week Four: Socio-economic Issues – these are very close to my heart. I would like to try and help tackle issues that affect our communities, these will range from education, poverty alleviation to youth-related issues.

Miranda Lusiba is the Founding Director of Strangé Consulting – a boutique PR Agency specialising in Communications, Freelance Writing, Media Relations, Reputation Management and Media Training.

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