One of our goals this year is to give our readers problem-solving content to assist with the daily challenges all business owners face. We all know too well that running a business is extremely hard: as such, we want to create some informative and appropriate problem solving content. This content will give you the opportunity to learn from others just like you, who have gone through exactly what you are going through now.
We are going to conduct a series of Q&A’s with successful entrepreneurs regarding the problems they face and how they solve them.
To begin, we interview business tech entrepreneur, Adii Pienaar, founder of WooThemes and Receiptful.
Dan: Give me your 60 seconds elevator pitch, Adii. Why should our readers listen to what you have to say?
Adii: There’s only one reason to listen to me: I don’t mind making mistakes and I don’t mind sharing my experience and learning from those. That approach to life and business has helped me co-found WooThemes before and is now fuelling my ambition for my new venture, Receiptful.
Dan: What is the biggest challenge you faced in business and how did you solve it?
Adii: My biggest challenge was a very personal one: before I exited WooThemes, I didn’t feel stimulated, challenged or that my rate of learning was sufficient. I knew I had to work on something new (to feel excited & challenged again), but there was no obvious way to do that and I’d have to leave a helluva lot behind me (at that point, WooThemes had been a 6-year journey for me).
But I ultimately made the decision to dive into the deep-end and started working on something new. The first attempt failed horribly and I became quite depressed. But a year on from exiting WooThemes, I’m now working on Receiptful, where we’ve built up quite a bit of momentum and most importantly: I’m loving the challenge of building something new.
Dan: That’s awesome, great to see how Receiptful has grown over the past few months. We will definitely keep an eye on this one!
Dan: Have you ever fired a client? Why? Any regrets?
Adii: Yes. And no regrets.
Every now and again, we’d get a really irate customer at WooThemes. The root cause of this was always a combination of factors, for which some of them we were definitely the guilty party. As such, our instinct was always to say sorry and to try fix a situation. But that unfortunately didn’t always work and some individuals would swear at us, insult us or call our integrity into question. In those situations, I would always issue a full refund and close the customer’s account, because any business relationship is about mutual respect. (In most instances, these individuals would then come back, apologize for their behaviour and would re-purchase the products I had previously refunded.)
Dan: I did some research before this interview: I asked a few small business owners what problems they faced. The first question that popped up was around cash flow. What advice do you have for small business owners when it comes to managing their cash flow?
Adii: Only spend money on things that generate revenue.
Dan: The next trend around small business problems is about hiring and firing. One comment I found particularly interesting was, “Finding good sales staff is impossible, unless you have huge salaries to offer, which as a startup we don’t” – What are your thoughts on this?
Adii: Finding any good people on a small budget is hard; the best people deservedly demand the best salaries. In attempt to find a workaround for this, I’ve always tried a balanced approach of youth & experience. I love working with relatively young & immature individuals whom I can help mould over time. This means that I favour their personality (they need to have a willingness to work hard & learn) over skills and experience (both which can be developed over time).
Whilst this results in a bit of a learning curve and a lag in having a positive net impact on the business, it’s a viable route on a smaller budget.
Dan: On that note, what are your thoughts around the likes of Zappos, Amazon and other big players paying employees to leave if they don’t work out?
Adii: I don’t have any real context, but I know that Zappos specifically is very focused on maintaining company culture. In that sense, I think one bad apple will spoil the culture for the rest and that team + company culture should always have priority regardless of what it takes.
Dan: Lastly, what advice do you have for small business owners heading into 2015?
Adii: Just do it: try new things and if they don’t work, learn from your mistakes and try again. There’s no silver bullet in business and no amount of best practice or knowledge in business books will make your business a success if you don’t try new things.
Some great tips from a truly successful entrepreneur, born and raised in South Africa. Let us know if this interview was helpful and please comment with any questions you have for Adii, he will respond on the post directly.
If you have any questions you would like answered in future interviews, post here and we’ll ensure they get covered.