“Do you want to work or study?” That was the only question BB Moloi’s supervisor had for him. He worked the 12-hour night shift as a security guard, squeezed in two hours of college before his shift started, and managed a few hours of sleep, before waking up, doing his assignments, going to class and taking his shift. Day in and day out.
Instead of support and encouragement, he faced challenges. “I didn’t want to be a security guard my whole life, but I also couldn’t afford to study without that job, so I ignored everyone’s opinions, put my head down and worked.” Finding entrepreneurship
Moloi’s hard-won degree was not the end of his challenges however. “For the first time I realised that simply having a qualification does not solve all your problems,” he says.
“I struggled to find work. I’d studied accounting, but all I could find was work as a prison visitor for the Judicial Inspectorate of Prisons, taking prisoner complaints. It was not what I wanted out of life. I resigned and was fortunate to find a work programme for unemployed accounting graduates in Kyalami, run by Guarantee Trust. Guarantee Trust managed to place me at Delicado & Kie/Co Accountants in Carltonville. It was a three year experiential training programme that amounted to articles.”
The three years came to an end and Moloi found himself back where he began: Jobless. A brief stint with Southern Sun Hotel Group as a finance intern was frustrating because Moloi was overqualified for the job.
And then he stumbled across a position that would start to define his career: He landed a job as a teacher at an ABET centre. Just like that, he had a plan. “I could teach in the evenings, and start building my business during the day. I had realised that the only way I was going to find the job that I wanted was if I created it for myself.” BB Moloi the entrepreneur was born. Formulating a plan
“I worked for almost three years while I got the business off the ground. The teaching business gave me the time to save some capital and become creditworthy, so that I could take out a bank loan for a computer, accounting software and a car.” That side of things was easy. The real challenge was finding clients.
“I thought about what I knew, and realised that was Diepsloot. I understood how the businesses operated, what their challenges were, and most of all, I was from Diepsloot, so I knew I’d be trusted.”
Even so, Moloi printed and handed out hundreds of fliers, and received exactly zero phone calls. “Being local isn’t enough,” he says. “People trust referrals. I needed to be even more targeted in my approach.”
Moloi turned his attention to schools, creches, preschools and home-based caregivers: Anyone who received funds from the Department of Social Development or the Department of Health.
“These were businesses who had to be audited statutorily, but thought they couldn’t afford accounting firms and so they did their books themselves, even though they didn’t know what they were doing. I needed just one client and I knew I’d have my foot in the door.”
This is precisely what happened. Moloi convinced the owner of a crèche to give him a chance. He was affordable, and able to show her where she could unlock cash in her business. Word of mouth did its work, and soon Moloi had a strong client book. Building the business
Of course, he still needed to be smart about how he grew the business. “I started out in a 4m x 3m space that was my office, bedroom and kitchen. Hiring an employee was impossible. As soon as I moved into a garage I split the space in two, and hired an employee.
“I was a teacher, so I knew that anyone was teachable. I focused on attitude instead. I knew I couldn’t afford someone with a lot of experience, so I looked for a positive individual who was willing to learn and work hard. My second hire was a great student from the school, and I’ve grown from there.
“That’s my niche, with clients and employees. I teach clients who are new to accounting and tax practices the ins and outs of their books, and where they’re wasting money. I do the same with my employees. The result is that we all grow together.” Lessons learnt
Like all start-ups, Moloi has also had to learn some hard lessons. “I interview all of my clients before I agree to do business with them. Obviously I need clients and I want to grow the business, but you get good and bad clients.
“If someone is disgruntled with their previous firm, I’m wary. It might be because of a problem with the firm, but in my experience it’s more likely a difficult, demanding client who is also a bad payer, or who wants big discounts. That’s not a client worth having — they cost you more in time and energy than they bring in.
“Spending 60% of your time on 10% of your turnover happens faster than you think. I need to be careful, manage my time, and also manage the expectations of my clients. I’ve found that being upfront from the beginning is the best strategy. That way everyone knows exactly what is expected of them, and what will be offered in return.”
Unsurprisingly, Moloi’s real growth strategy is centred on training. He’s in the process of becoming an approved training centre with SAIPA, and is working on a funding proposal. He wants to build Moloi & Co Accountants, but also add value to his community, and give youngsters the opportunities that he had to fight so hard to achieve. Do This
For every challenge there is a solution. Focus on what and who you know. Where are their pain points? And what can you do to alleviate those challenges for them?