Opinionista Sukasha Singh 15 July 2019

Small Biz Bites: Life’s a pitch, get used to it

Small Biz Bites is an occasional column by a small business owner that tracks some of the issues involved in starting and sustaining a new business. In this article... pitching, and pitching up.

It’s 4.37am and I’m at Lanseria International Airport. My flight is at 6am, but there’s a probability of a strike and kulula.com advised travellers to be at the airport two hours before departure, even for domestic flights.

I contemplated not sleeping at all so that I could shower at 2.30am and get to the airport at 4am, but I threw caution to the wind and figured that checking in online and having only hand luggage meant I could arrive 90 minutes before my flight, and that would give me enough time to make my way through toyi-toying crowds, if needs be.

I’m not sure who would want to protest in the middle of the night during winter in Joburg, but you never know.

A morning such as this is one of the reasons I get a tad offended when people assume that owning a small business is the equivalent of a life of leisure. I don’t think I’ve ever come across an SMME owner, who isn’t working 24/7 or isn’t at least thinking of work 24/7.

As an entrepreneur, in the space of a day, you will routinely spend four hours on a plane, almost four hours at the airport and two hours in taxis for a 30-minute meeting that may or may not result in much-needed business. That’s just the way it goes, regardless of how big, or small your business is and for some bizarre reason, most of your meetings will be in Cape Town.

If you’re a professional hustler, which is what we all are, you better get used to the idea of pitching, of working long hours on PowerPoint decks and practising so much that your “talk-track” eventually feels almost foreign, like the phrases you might learn in an unfamiliar language before travelling to another country.

If you’re a nervous presenter, you should consider joining a Toastmasters’ class because you will be judged on the content of your presentation as well as your presentation skills.

Also, and it pains me to say this because it should be obvious, but it isn’t, ensure your personal grooming and hygiene are of a high standard. When you’re pitching for business, it’s like interviewing for a new job and you’ll be judged on your appearance too.

That doesn’t mean you need to wear the finest threads, or a face full of make-up to impress people, but that you need to be neat and clean. And if you’re interviewing for a corporate job, or pitching for corporate business, cover up those tattoos, particularly if they’re political, or controversial in any way.

Last, be nice at all times. I know, it sounds mawkish, but it’s crucial because if you’re not trying to be a nice person all the time, you might just find yourself being rude to the one person who may decide whether or not to give your business a chance.

On a recent flight to Cape Town, I observed a real twerp on the plane. You know that guy, don’t you? He sits near the window and as soon as the plane lands, he shoves his way past the seated passengers next to him, without so much as an “excuse me”, so that he can get his bags out and stand in the aisle like a free-range chop.

I sensed a few people wanting to tell him off, but South Africans can teach varsity courses on how to be passive-aggressive, so nothing happened. As it turns out, he works at the company where I was having a meeting that morning. Thankfully, I didn’t have to liaise with him at all, but I do wonder what would’ve happened if he caught me glaring at him on the plane and I then had to pitch my business to him. In the words of my teenage niece, it would’ve been “super awks”. BM


In other news...

South Africa is in a very real battle. A political fight where terms such as truth and democracy can seem more of a suggestion as opposed to a necessity.

On one side of the battle are those openly willing to undermine the sovereignty of a democratic society, completely disregarding the weight and power of the oaths declared when they took office. If their mission was to decrease society’s trust in government - mission accomplished.

And on the other side are those who believe in the ethos of a country whose constitution was once declared the most progressive in the world. The hope that truth, justice and accountability in politics, business and society is not simply fairy tale dust sprinkled in great electoral speeches; but rather a cause that needs to be intentionally acted upon every day.

However, it would be an offensive oversight not to acknowledge that right there on the front lines, alongside whistleblowers and civil society, stand the journalists. Armed with only their determination to inform society and defend the truth, caught in the crossfire of shots fired from both sides.

If you believe in supporting the cause and the work of Daily Maverick then take your position on the battleground and sign up to Maverick Insider today.

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