Fear of failure is one of the key reasons less than 10% of South Africa’s adult population has started a new business.

This is according to the results of the most recent Global Entrepreneurship Monitor* (GEM), which showed just 7% of South Africans aged 18-64 were starting or running new businesses, while 25% indicated that fear of failure prevented them from pursuing entrepreneurial interests.

“Entrepreneurship can offer the most exciting career path for those who are passionate about doing what they love. But entrepreneurs are often put off by the thought their businesses will crash and burn. And without the correct support and business mentoring, they often do; it’s estimated 50% of all new South African businesses fail within the first two years,” says Bradley Porter, founder and CEO of Flexible Workspace, a company dedicated to minimising the costs associated with starting and running own-businesses through the provision of cost-effective virtual and serviced office spaces.

As an entrepreneur himself, Porter knows only too well the challenges facing new and existing start-ups. But, he says, by bearing in mind 10 simple business guidelines, entrepreneurs can actively grow their businesses, without that looming fear of failure:

  1. Be passionate about what you do (and if you’re not, start a business built around a sector, product or service that really resonates with you): loving your job is infectious, produces better results and will have a multiplier effect
  2. Ask your satisfied clients for referrals: personal referrals from happy customers are excellent adverts for new business; take advantage of your (and your partners’) networks to ask for positive referrals
  3. Pursue strategic partnerships: in the land of the entrepreneur, no man is an island. Building relationships with the right companies can increase your visibility, credibility, customer base and ultimately, profitability
  4. Be willing to experiment: doing things differently not only ensures you stand out from the crowd and get noticed, but ensures different business outcomes, which means new learning opportunities, enhanced experience and positive business growth
  5. Remember, people do business with people: it’s an old adage but it still rings true, especially in our digital age where it’s easy to hide behind technology. Clients don’t do business with companies, they do business with people they like, know and trust. Be that person
  6. Be adaptable: be flexible in your business approach, and be ready to quickly respond to market needs
  7. Invest in yourself: ensure your industry knowledge is current and relevant by attending regular training, reading trade journals, or following maverick thinkers from your industry online and through social media
  8. Keep costs to a minimum: preserve your cash flow by looking for credible, cost-effective methods to undertake critical business functions, and don’t commit to any long-term contracts unless the very existence of your business depends on it
  9. Outsource, outsource, outsource: when it comes to running an efficient, profitable business, you cannot be a jack of all trades. Outsource core functions where possible
  10. Take advantage of technology: the advent of mobile and virtual work spaces means you no longer have to be tied down to a traditional office. Use cost-efficient digitally-enabled serviced offices for working, networking and collaborating for long-term success

*The 2014 GEM survey was conducted among more than 200 000 individuals and nearly 4000 national experts on entrepreneurship across 73 global economies, including South Africa.