Magda Wierzycka's 10 tips to run your own business

Magda Wierzycka, CEO at Sygnia asset management. (Pic: Supplied)
Magda Wierzycka, CEO at Sygnia asset management. (Pic: Supplied)

Most people who say they want to run their own business don’t necessarily end up doing it, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing said CEO of Sygnia Asset Management Magda Wierzycka.

Wierzycka was speaking at the UCT Graduate School of Business’s annual Women in Business conference held in Cape Town on Friday.

“Running your own business does not necessarily mean you got to set up your own corner shop or your own company. You can think of running your own business – as running your own business within a large corporate.

“If you consider the work you are doing currently as running a business and taking responsibility on that level and change your mindset, you will start to achieve even greater things,” said Wierzycka.

Wierzycka went on to share lessons she learnt in her career.

1. You have to follow your passion

If you find that your purpose to work is just to get a paycheck at the end of the month, and if you are deadly bored, then you need to change your situation, even if it means you have to get a salary cut.

Wierzycka recalled leaving her first job to join a start-up. She earned only a third of what she had been earning in her previous job.

“Follow your passion. Whatever you do you must be passionate about it, you must love what you do.”

She encouraged those in corporates to use the “limitless” opportunities to move into a department that speaks to their passion. “That makes going to work everyday a completely different experience.”

2. Consider your purpose in life

When she started Sygnia, Wierzycka said she had to consider what the business was supposed to achieve – apart from making profit. The business had two objectives: to improve financial literacy among South Africans and to provide products at lower cost than competitors.

Having identified these objectives, every decision they made for the business was in line with these principles.

3. Innovate, never imitate

“When you imitate you will only at best be second in line. There will always be someone who is bigger, who has a bigger budget, who has done it first.”

She encouraged delegates to come up with “crazy, creative” ideas. “Don’t be scared to put crazy ideas on the table.”

Wierzycka added that those working in corporates should use their time to learn the basics of running a business. Those basics cut across every business, whether it’s a bakery or a large corporate. The knowledge will help inform better ideas, with substance.

4. Women have to work twice as hard

Wierzycka shared that as a woman she had 60 seconds to make an impression when she presented to clients. The situation was different for male counterparts. Women need to work twice as hard, this means putting in longer hours.

Whining about it is not necessarily productive. She encouraged women to use their talent in multi-tasking and work ethic as that is valued in firms, especially start-ups.

“It’s actually better to start a business with women than men. When you start a business you need people who multi-task. Women can do 10 different things.”

5. Use technology wisely

Technology can help you, Wierzycka said. Technology can help with efficiencies and cutting costs, like those associated with marketing.

6. Speak up

“Women tend to sit back in meetings and not speak up,” said Wierzycka. She encourages women to develop their self-confidence and attend public speaking classes so that they can learn how to share their ideas. “It’s easier to express your ideas if you can articulate or project it.”

Public speaking and debate classes for girls are non-negotiables for the new world, she said.

7. Find a social cause

“When you do anything, associate it with a good social cause,” Wierzycka said. Instead of just being driven by profit, try and do something which is a force for good, she explained.

“It does not mean you must not make money. Profits are important.”

8. Hire culture not just skills

“I have learnt over time skills can be taught, a cultural mindset cannot (be taught),” Wierzycka said.

It’s important to hire like-minded people who fit your culture. Wierzycka said she has not been scared to fire people if she found she made a mistake in hiring them because they did not share the same vision. “I don’t apologise for it, I never have.”

9. No one has money to fund a clever idea

Wierzycka said she often gets asked if there are money for start-ups, to which she said there really isn’t.

Funders want to see proof of a concept. “No one will give money to anyone just because they have a clever idea. There are lots of people with clever ideas. My inbox is flooded with clever ideas.

“A clever idea is not a business. A clever idea is no indication that the person behind the idea can turn it into a business that makes money.”

Funders want something tangible, whether it is a client or a product.

The idea of venture capitalists works in Silicon Valley, right now it is not practical in South Africa.

She added that crowd-sourcing is an option, but is no guarantee of success.

10. You have to take risks

“Life is about risk and reward. Few people will stand up and give you money. You will have to recognise that you have to take risks,” she said.

Wierzycka said if you want a start a business while you’re working in a corporate, try to start saving money as early as possible.

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