HomeBusinessSME'sChat: Getting hands dirty essential for business succcess

SME'sChat: Getting hands dirty essential for business succcess

According to a report published in Businessweek.com, many young entrepreneurs who have entered business plan competitions did so for the entrepreneurial experience, to get their hands dirty with real experience.


The Zimbabwe Entrepreneurs Business Plan Competition was launched at the beginning of July and entrepreneurs who have brilliant business ideas can win seed capital to kick-start their businesses. In addition, there will be lots of learning and experience to be gained just by taking part in the contest.

One thing that competition contestants learn is how to write a good business plan, an essential skill for entrepreneurs who wish to succeed in the highly competitive business world. They also acquire the skills of presenting their ideas before potential investors, financiers or business partners.


The process of preparing a business plan teaches potential entrepreneurs how to research their markets and develop products and services that customers really want and need. It  equips them with the knowledge and skills necessary for building a good team, setting up business systems and marketing and selling their products. All these skills are essential in setting up and running a successful and sustainable business. Entrepreneurs who acquire them have vastly improved chances of success in business, especially considering the very high failure rate of new businesses.

Judges at business plan competitions look for outstanding entrepreneurs with unique and extraordinary ideas. Ordinary ideas produce ordinary businesses, which don’t make a difference in people’s lives. One more ordinary chicken farmer or airtime seller is unlikely to make an impact in people’s lives, nor to an economy for that matter. What makes a difference are really brilliant and innovative ideas. Think of something that solves problems, brings convenience, comfort or happiness, makes life or business easier, helps people make or save money. If your idea achieves none of these, then think again, or you will be just another soon forgotten failure.

Proof of your idea as a good business concept is essential, even before you launch. No one is going to come to you and say, “Hey, here is some cash, go follow your dreams and build the next Econet.” Investors, financiers or business partners want to see a product or service that customers want to buy, or at least some proof that there are people who want your product. The only way to prove the worth of your idea is to implement it.
Ideas that cannot get off the ground in someway without someone else’s resources are difficult to sell to investors or financiers. It’s much better to spend time and resources finding potential customers.

Learn to start small. Most contest prizes are small. So they will teach you to start on a small budget. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day, neither was Google. Both were built brick by brick, scaled and then, and only then, did they diversify. Keep your business plan simple, because if it’s not simple, you’re dead. (Scott Gerber, Inc Magazine).

Jonathan Goodspeed, winner of a business plan contest in 2005, says the connections and the hands-on experience are what got him to where he went on to become —a nanotechnology and advanced materials entrepreneur. He kept in touch with a lot of the people he met and they helped him create a successful business.

Young people might want to learn these important skills before starting  a real business. A business plan contest is a useful place to start.


One of the key factors to entrepreneurial success is connecting with useful people. If you watched the Be Your Own Boss contest on television last year, you would have noticed how the contestants had to seek out the help and co-operation of people from various organisations in order to execute their projects.

Learning to make and maintain contacts is an important skill that will help you throughout your business life. If you don’t make enough useful contacts you will always struggle in business. Acquire that skill now and start networking with other entrepreneurs and people who are useful in business.

The good thing about having many useful connections is that it opens up many avenues of solutions when you face problems in your business life. I learned the importance of contacts recently when a client approached me seeking to dispose of some property to settle a very urgent matter.


He had approached half a dozen agents but they didn’t seem to take his issue urgently enough. His deadline fast approaching, the gentleman began to panic.

All it took was a phone call to an agent I had met at a networking event and had regularly kept in touch with. Within a week he was able to find a buyer. The lesson: people like to do business with people they know.

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