In South Africa, despite common challenges to get off the ground, entrepreneurship is well supported. A major enabler of this sector is the internet. Take FlightSiteAgent for instance. Circumventing the need for GDS – the Global Distribution System that travel agents have traditionally needed to make reservations – it allows anyone with an interest in travel and business to set up and grow their own shop. It currently has 5700 members.
“As more and more people seek flexi-hours, and have access to the business world via the internet, the traditional office and career path is no longer the only option,” says FlightSiteAgent founder, Rian Bornman. But he says that entrepreneurship is not necessarily the easy path, although it certainly can be among the most rewarding.
Here he rounds-up what it takes to make it as a successful #travelpreneur:
Belief: Going solo will not always be a breeze; there will be times when you’ll only have yourself to turn to and money may be too tight to mention in the start-up days. Being an entrepreneur demands that you cultivate a strong sense of self – without being cocky. If you don’t buy into your product or service, no one else will either. If you show any weaknesses, customers will be quick to find fault and look for ways to negotiate on price; the more trust you have in your abilities the better.
Discipline: Unlike a job, entrepreneurship is 24/7. Weekends, evenings and holidays may no longer be for relaxation; they become ‘quiet times’ to catch up on your business, to work on new products or market yourself. If you work alone it can become lonely too; keep yourself focused on the task at hand and ensure that you applaud yourself for the big and little wins that will happen along the way. With no boss to pat you on the back, you’ll need to become your own cheerleader.
Service: An online business does not mean a faceless business. In an increasingly digital world, creating trust among your clients by delivering on time, going the extra mile and picking up the phone once in a while will go a long way. People prefer to work with people they like; don’t rely on email to create that bond for you. It’s also imperative you do what you say you will. There is tons of competition out there from fellow travelpreneurs as well as from the internet itself. Being human and going out of your way to assist a client will create a lasting impression; something that can be built on over time, potentially cementing you long-term business and a sustainable income.
Live on less: In the early days, don’t try and take home the biggest salary you can. Save it, reinvest in your business or invest as future capital. Quiet times will come and you’ll need a stash of cash to carry you through. Don’t underestimate the costs of running your own gig either: besides your computer and mobile phone, you’ll incur costs for marketing, IT, accounting services, data, staff and HR (if applicable) and an office, parking, water and electricity. Even if you work from home, you’ll need basic business services such as Wi-Fi and a phone, not to mention stationery and general office tools. Get a grip on your finances early on so you know what your monthly fixed costs are; only then pay yourself a salary.
The internet: Without a doubt the most important business tool there is. As a travelpreneur you will be online several times a day making bookings or looking for good deals. Make sure that your internet signal is strong and research different options of data and phone contracts to ensure you’re getting the best price. Also make use of free tools and information available online. There is a global repository of advice that can help you grow your business while you’ll also find useful content on B2B blogs and social networks. It’s imperative to arm yourself with knowledge by keeping up to date on trends and following competitors and suppliers. In an always-on world there is no shortage of information, it just takes time and commitment to keep up with it all.
“Entrepreneurship has been made more accessible to millions of South Africans thanks to the internet,” says Bornman. “But, while access has improved, the fundamentals of running a business – service, relevance and value – remain, no matter how connected you are.”