Name: Cheryl Leather
Business Name: CATSS
Business Description: Certified Accounting Tax Services and Suppliers

1. How long have you been operating?
Ten years with the current occupation.

2. How did you start your business?
Slowly, as an independent with no staff and structured in the cheapest way as a Sole Prop.

3. How old were you when you started it?
This business – 45.

4. What can you tell us to show the scale of your business?
90 clients, 5 staff.

5. What are the best and worst parts of your job?
The service is a grudge purchase. It is difficult to value-add as value perception is a problem. Time value is not a connection that we make in South Africa.

6. What was the hardest lesson you had to learn in business?
Manage your client portfolio and have written contracts in place for retainers, including notice periods, to avoid absorbing the costs of downscaling.

7. Did you ever want to quit and, if so, what did you do to overcome it?
Yes. Closing down is very difficult, as I am unable to recommend a solution for clients. The prospect of being able to use the existing infrastructure to do something different is a compelling future option. Considering the needs of clients is perhaps the most motivating factor (not very rewarding).

8. What are you most grateful for while running your business?
The ability to make decisions to assist people, when in a more commercial space there is no place for them. The ability to associate with some awesome people.

9. What has the potential to keep you up at night?
SARS. The unreliability of the rule system and the ability to overcome the problems associated with the almighty SARS. The vulnerability of clients and propensity not to listen, and how better to encourage and rephrase to keep them out of trouble.

10. Do you have any advice for entrepreneurs starting out?

  • Pick something that you can duplicate (i.e. that is scalable).
  • Set up a system, based on a plan. Stick to the plan and manage your investment (even if that investment is your time and a model and not a machine). Switch space when you need to, and take action.
  • The Universe rewards action.
  • Pick something unique and service that choice of business activity well – be a centre of excellence (be exceptional).
  • Pick a prospect that is not time based and not a grudge purchase.
  • Capitalise your business adequately.
  • Be as compliant as you can be (and familiarise yourself with the complexity of requirements before you undertake anything on a massive scale).
  • Get advice with respect to your company structures and set up.
  • Find a guide to neutralise your emotions (and propensity to make emotional decisions).
  • Pay your tax, however galling that may be and keep up to date. Don’t deliver surprises to yourself in retrospect – they are the worst kind.