|Deon Kruger, human.kind advertising|
Deon Kruger knows entrepreneurship – and the lessons that come with it – incredibly well. He’s opened, (and closed) a number of ventures in his career. His most recent business, human.kind advertising, launched in 2003 from the back of his bakkie (and later his current ops director’s lounge), is a socially and environmentally conscious creative agency. Now, nine years on, the agency is a recognised force in the industry.
Have you always been entrepreneurial?
I’ve always liked to be my own boss – as the youngest of four brothers, I learnt from an early age to fend for myself. Both my parents worked so I was left to entertain myself. I think this may have helped me become an independent thinker.
What were you doing before starting your business?
I worked in our family business as national key accounts manager in the FMCG industry. The business was sold to a large organisation and, after being employed by the new owners, I soon realised that the environment would be the death of me. Desperation is often the best incentive to step out and take the risk – you have nothing to lose anyway.
What kind of planning went into starting the venture?
When starting any new busines today you have to have done your homework well. There are many resources available to any new entrepreneur who has a good idea. The flipside is also true: desperation to make it work can also drive you to succeed. What you need is lots of guts, determination and to immerse yourself completely in the business for the first couple of years until it can manage without you. Most entrepreneurs forget that at some stage they need to be able to hand over to competent staff to manage the daily operations. I don’t think an elaborate business plan is always necessary when you have a very clear idea of what needs to happen, especially when you don’t need to raise money from a financial institute to start your business.
What was your big dream for this venture?
This was going to be my last advertising agency, which meant we were going to have to do everything better than before – I’d just lost my previous agency of seven years; I let success go to my head, thought we were invincible, and we made a very weak empowerment deal that ultimately sank our business. This time around, I wanted to create a highly successful agency that delivered exceptional creative solutions to clients without compromising on integrity and quality of life.
How does a new entrepreneur find business leads and profit from them?
This still remains my biggest challenge as most of our business is gerenated through word of mouth and referrals.
What are the two biggest/most common mistakes that new entrepreneurs make?
They give up too quickly when things don’t go exactly as they have dreamt they would, and they drain cash from the company too soon; usually when they need the cashflow most.
How do you keep yourself motivated to continue?
Your passion and belief in your vision for the business keeps you going. It’s always good to find yourself a mentor that will keep you motivated and remind you why you initially started the business; they will keep you accountable too.
Is it ever alright to give up on a dream?
Yes, if the dream can’t be turned into reality, give it up.
What’s your life motto?
Die happy and content.
Which three character traits do all entrepreneurs possess?
They’re constantly restless, they get bored quickly and have a short concentration span, and are never satisfied.
Do you believe in internships for your business?
We often have interns and ecourage it. It’s great exposure for youngsters hoping to break into the industry and we often employ them.
If you could give yourself any advice back then, what are your top 5 wisdoms?
* Never take your eyes off the finances of the business.
* Stay ahead of your competitors and continuously improve your offering.
* Make sure you employ the best people you can afford.
* Find out what consumers/clients want.
* Spend lots of time training, encouraging and mentoring your staff.