By Koketso Mamabolo
Mona Murahwa’s inquisitive nature has been evident since her school days, and is part of what has driven her success. “I’ve always wanted to improve an existing process,” says Accurate Agent Group’s Chief Development Officer. At school, Mona was an average achiever, “However, this experience taught me different disciplines that are critical in entrepreneurship and mastering creativity.”
It was while working as a receptionist at a cast manufacturing company that she developed an interest in entrepreneurship. After completing her legal degree at UNISA, Mona studied Business Management at the Gordon Institute of Business. “Studying law was a good foundation for me because it gave me the opportunity to learn negotiation skills and legislation, especially those that govern business.”
Here Mona tells us about the keys to a successful startup, building a commercially-viable business, how entrepreneurs can adapt to the coming future, and more.
What are the keys to starting a successful startup?
One of the keys to starting a successful start-up is persistence and the hunger to constantly learn during the journey. Surrounding yourself with the right people is also one of the keys to starting a successful start-up. I must say there is no such thing as solitary success, I always attest it to people along the way who were willing to give me advice and show me the ropes.
How does one build a commercially-viable business?
One builds a commercially-viable business by:
- Understanding and defining your value proposition. Anyone can do what you are doing. The question is: what differentiates you from them?
- Who are you selling to and does your product address their needs?
- It’s important to know how you will reach your customers that defines the vehicle to the destination. The sales channels need to be specific and include marketing initiatives.
- Lastly, your business will not survive if you do not have the right revenue model. This includes the pricing and the revenue stream. It needs to address overheads, support and still be profitable.
What challenges are South African startups facing and how can they be overcome?
Challenges that South African startups are facing are the lack of support and lack of adaptability. Investor platforms for startups are limited therefore, businesses barely make it to the first stage on the investor cycle. We have seen business operations forced to change due to the technological and economic environment, startups are finding it hard to introduce new products to businesses in a B2B setting as they are used to the old ways of doing things.
How South African startups can overcome these challenges is through learning how to adapt. The pandemic taught us an important lesson about how anything could change overnight, and the only thing we have control over is how we react to these changes. So it’s important that startups are able to react quickly to refine or completely change their business model in order to adapt.
What does the future look like for entrepreneurs? – How can they adapt to what’s coming?
The future is bright for entrepreneurs, because of the pandemic, there have been quite a few new jobs and opportunities on the table. This has encouraged entrepreneurs to find new opportunities of diversifying their revenue and finding ways to increase their revenue streams. Entrepreneurs can begin by assessing their business structures and ensuring that they retain what processes and resources have been working for them and cutting whatever will anchor their transitioning period.
How did you go about identifying a gap in the market and how did you plug it?
I went on to start my own business because I wanted to offer business management services to other businesses. Whilst servicing clients within this space, I realised that there was a gap in the market. When we went in to assist with financing and financial management, issues linked to HR and payroll management were almost always a factor. This allowed me to have long discussions with my team and research on the HR market and understand how payroll issues were affecting the businesses’ ability to be well organised and compliant. We were able to plug it by approaching our current clients to give us feedback on their ideal payroll system. It’s all about solving a problem.
How have you applied the negotiation skills you learnt while studying law to your business?
I have applied negotiation skills when it comes to different aspects of the business such as sealing business deals with clients to ensure a win-win takeaway for the parties involved. The negotiation skills have also come in handy when it comes to sales where I’ve had to engage with customers to reach a point where they can understand why they need our product and pay that price for it. Law is interesting in that; it opens up your mind to the regulations and how you can manoeuvre in your chosen field or industry.
Customers tend to be creatures of habit even if it is to their detriment, my negotiation skills have allowed me to convince customers on having a different perspective on the way they do things and how we can better their current processes.
When it comes to laws and regulations governing the tech industry, what do businesses and entrepreneurs need to know before starting a business?
Formulating regulations is not a quick event. It takes time for legislation and regulations to be passed. There are thorough procedures, testing, and channels they need to go through. We have seen that the past 5 years have seen tremendous changes in technology and how they are affecting our societies. So, as a business and entrepreneur, it is very important to have a legal advisor during the process of starting your tech business. This would assist you in terms of legal matters and compliance.
Data protection is very important – if you’re a business or an entrepreneur who wants to start a business, particularly in the tech industry, it is important to familiarise yourself with data privacy laws to ensure that your customer’s privacy is protected. For us, data protection was very important and ensuring the policy document had most of the important adherences that the customer had to be aware of.
How do you see technology affecting HR practices in the future?
Technology will affect HR practices in a huge way. We have already seen the HR platforms that have taken the industry by storm. Staying compliant is one of the biggest challenges for HR professionals, so we can expect HR technology solutions that will help effectively navigate the constantly changing HR regulations.
We can also expect to see more advanced technological tools that will help simplify administrative tasks and improve efficiency for HR professionals. Before mobile apps, HR was defined by loads of paperwork and trying to keep up with the ever-changing laws. Technology has completely changed this and will continue to do so by moving the HR function to more than just an administrative function but to a more strategic department of an organisation.
I think technology is becoming advanced in such a way that it is becoming industry specific.