Countless entrepreneurs who have started off as one-man businesses face the same challenge – how to expand the business beyond their own input so that it can grow into an entity on its own. The answer is seldom easily found.
Real business growth requires structures that free up the managing director from the day-to-day operational running of the business, but that in turn requires solidly accountable, and therefore commensurately remunerated, staff.
If you’re in the services industry, there’s the question of how to ‘wean‘ clients who’ve come to expect the hands-on involvement of the business‘s founder in every aspect of the work. These are challenges with which Keri-Anne Clarke, founder of Kezi Communications, is very familiar. But they are also ones to which she has devised an innovative solution which is becoming a trendsetter in the world of communications.
Growing into the vision
“When I started Kezi Communications, we were chiefly a writing and publicity business, but the vision was always to grow into a full communications consultancy,” says Clarke, describing how the business initially grew slowly and organically, increasing the scope of its services as clients’ needs dictated. “But having said that,” she adds, “one of our key differentiators is the fact that we are small and personal. It’s something our clients value and we never wanted to lose it by becoming a really large consultancy.”
Having started the business alone, Clarke has always been an integral part of the face of the company and long-term clients have come to rely on and trust her input. “I was concerned about how they would react if the business suddenly changed and I was no longer interfacing with them.”
For these reasons, and because being cash liquid has always been a key driver, Clarke’s approach to growth has historically been conservative. But it’s a strategy that’s worked well for Kezi. In the five years since its inception, the company has three times been voted by FinWeek’s Ad Review as a Top 20 PR Company in South Africa in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
The challenge then was how to grow without being subsumed into a large existing business, without having to employ an expensive management team and without giving clients the jitters that too much change was on the way.
Taking the leap
“But in spite of my concerns and fears, I also knew that the business had so much potential and I really wanted to see it realise that,” Clarke adds.
Her solution lay in a business model that leveraged the strength of her existing team to expand the business’s offering. Dividing the company into four business units that would afford it growth opportunities in four key areas, Clarke offered staff members the opportunity to head these up.
This meant that all staff, barring an administrative core of four people, would swap their permanent positions for remuneration based on a percentage of the client’s retainer. The pool of writers and designers would continue to be outsourced to keep overheads down.
It’s an entrepreneurial and highly incentivised model. “Each account manager is wholly responsible for the clients and budget in their business unit. If they lose a client, they lose money personally, but if they work hard and grow their portfolio, their earnings will increase,” Clarke explains.
In spite of the risks associated with the change, Kezi staff jumped at the opportunity for greater responsibility and greater potential earning power, providing Clarke with an almost risk-free model for expansion.
“I think what people found attractive is the fact that they get to build their own small business, within the Kezi business. Some staff have already hired their own assistants to help them expand their unit. That’s not to say this kind of model works for everyone, but when people take to it, it does help the business to retain staff because it gives people flexibility, freedom and autonomy,” she says.
Managing the change
The growth shift has involved hard work; Clarke has invested heavily in change management, both for staff and for clients. “I undertook a road show towards the end of last year to explain to clients the change in how the business is structured.
There were some really positive spin-offs because long-standing clients hadn’t realised how many offerings we had, so what started out as a communication exercise ended in us signing on new business in some instances,” she says.
While the account managers are the key point of contact for clients, Clarke attended all meetings and ensured she was copied on all correspondence for the first three months following
A quarterly meeting with clients provides an important opportunity to assess how the model is working for them, while staff meet every Friday at a workshop to catch up. For Clarke herself, the biggest challenge has been letting go and learning to trust that things will run smoothly.
For a self-confessed A-type personality, she’s managing remarkably well. And as she points out, “The pay-off is that I can concentrate on bringing in new business. That’s when we’ll really start to see growth and take things up a level.”
Player: Keri-Anne Clarke
Contact: +27 11 616 1860, www.kezi.co.za
Nhlanhla Dlamini Not Only Has Guts, But Grit – In Spades
An alumnus of WBS and Harvard Business School, Nhlanhla Dlamini did some soul searching when he was doing his MBA at Harvard, and knew that the corporate ladder, although tempting, was simply not going to be enough.
It takes guts to venture into entrepreneurship. And when you’re in a ‘cushy’ job with a top global auditing firm who are grooming you for partnership, it takes even more guts.
Nhlanhla Dlamini not only has guts, but grit – in spades.
An alumnus of WBS and Harvard Business School, Nhlanhla did some soul searching when he was doing his MBA at Harvard, and knew that the corporate ladder, although tempting, was simply not going to be enough.
“I started thinking, ‘what is the best thing I can do with my life?’”, recalls Nhlanhla. “I always felt a pressing need to get involved in lowering the unemployment rate in South Africa. It’s a notoriously difficult space, but entrepreneurship is the real engine of job creation and I felt compelled to rise to the challenge.”
When he left his job at McKinsey in March 2015, Nhlanhla decided to explore the agricultural sector – having no idea what product or what part of the value chain he would end up in. He spent until December that year exploring the agri-food sector, gaining as much understanding as he could about the entire industry by talking to famers, co-ops, agricultural associations and various other stakeholders.
“I wanted to export products to the US and I looked at tree nuts, blueberries, dairy products or meat. Because of stringent FDA regulations, meat wasn’t an option – but a friend of mine from WBS days suggested meat in the form of pet food.”
And so Maneli Pets was born, and Nhlanhla moved his fledgling business into a factory, which he re-purposed for meat processing, in October 2016. By June 2017, he had started operations with 30 employees on board, and by September he had 50 employees.
What makes Maneli different from other US-bound pet food products in an already saturated market? The answer is high protein meat from animals that are unique to South Africa.
“I discovered a market for the off-cuts of meat from specialist butcheries – so crocodile, warthog, ostrich etc,” Nhlanhla explains. “The result is a very high quality, high protein pet snack with a difference – and US pet owners are willing to pay for the best they can get.”
Under the brand name ‘Roam’, Maneli Pets products are exported to a pet food wholesaler in Boston, US, owned by the family of Nhlanhla’s former WBS classmate, who had planted the seed of the idea in the first place. Nhlanhla is now preparing to launch the products under another brand name for distribution in South Africa and export to the EU.
But pet food is only the start. Maneli Pets is an offshoot of the Maneli Group, a diversified food company which is looking ooking to build further businesses in the green energy sector, while boosting black entrepreneurship.
According to a City Press report, South Africa has relatively few black-owned food production businesses, which is why government is actively promoting agro-processing and the manufacturing sector in general to spur economic growth.
Nhlanhla has worked tirelessly to secure government funding, and was thrilled to obtain R26 million from the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC). Just last month, he received the news that Maneli Pets had been awarded grant funding of R12.5 million from the Department of Trade and Industry’s Black Industrialists Scheme (BIS).
Nhlanhla, who was also a Rhodes scholar at Oxford University, considers his PDM at WBS a “superb” way of preparing a student for the real world of work. “The group dynamics was an essential learning experience in terms of delivering on a mandate with a group with entirely different skill sets.”
Describing himself as a “passionate and active WBS alumnus”, Nlhanhla still stays in regular contact with a core group from his PDM class, proving that one of the enduring benefits of a PDM (and an MBA) is the opportunity to connect and network with like-minded people and form life-long friendships.
Apart from what he learnt in the Entrepreneurship Management module of the PDM, such as the pillars of entrepreneurship, macro trend support and financing an idea, Nhlanhla considers the keys to success are threefold: Recognising the value of a social network, tenacity – and just a little luck!
See Will.i.am And Malcolm Gladwell Live In South Africa
The BCX Disrupt Summit has gathered some of the world’s most innovative and disruptive thinkers to guide you and your business into the future.
As one of the largest technology players in South Africa, BCX embraces disruption. As an organisation, one of its primary focuses is to move its customers into the future, not just with products and services, but a shift in mindset as well.
What tools and ideas do we need to embrace today to be ahead of the curve tomorrow? With this in mind, BCX has partnered with BrainFarm to launch the inaugural BCX Disrupt Summit.
“The BCXDisrupt Summit is a platform for South African innovators and businesses to learn from and be inspired by some of the greatest examples of possibility in the world,” says Dean Carlson, founder and CEO of BrainFarm, the event organisers.
A gathering of minds
The BCXDisrupt Summit is bringing some of the world’s greatest minds together under one roof for two days. The speaker line-up includes will.i.am, Malcolm Gladwell, Rapelang Rabana and Nick Goldman and topics covered will range from where technology is heading, to how playing games can extend your life expectancy by up to ten years.
Seven-time Grammy award winning hip hop artist will.i.am is also a significant player in the tech and entrepreneurial space, as well as a philanthropist. He was a partner in Beats Electronics, which was sold to Apple for $3 billion in 2014. “When will.i.am was 16 years old, music was where it was at,” says Dean.
“And so, he focused on building a music career, and creating products for that industry. Today he’s learning to code, because that’s where it’s at. He’s got an unparalleled handle on where the world is moving to, and so many insights to share.”
Dean has built BrainFarm on a portfolio of incredible local and international speakers, each of whom he’s seen live. “I regularly attend international conferences to get a sense of which speakers and idea-shapers I’d like to bring to South Africa,” he explains.
“will.i.am is one of those global shapers whose ideas take everything to the next level. To get maximum value from him for our delegates, we’ve chosen an interview set-up instead of a key-note talk. Local tech expert Aki Anastasiou will be interviewing him, and the audience will be able to ask questions as well. This will give us an opportunity to localise will.i.am’s knowledge and ideas.”
Author of five New York Times bestsellers, including David and Goliath and Outliers Gladwell is well known for introducing the concept of the 10 000-hour rule, which states anyone can become an expert in anything given enough time and practice. Dean first brought Malcolm Gladwell to South Africa in 2009.
“When I dropped him off at the airport, Malcolm signed his book for me with the words ‘Please invite me back,” says Dean.
“We’ve tried to bring him out a few times since then, but the timing hasn’t worked out. This was the ideal summit for Malcolm’s ideas, and this time, the timing worked.”
Having seen Malcolm in action many times over the years, Dean knows that he’s a speaker that always leaves his audiences wanting more. And so, the BrainFarm team thought about the best way give their delegates exactly that.
“Malcolm has developed a masterclass for the second day of the Summit that will focus on what makes a person successful, both in life and business. He’ll be unpacking tools our delegates can use to personally drive success.”
Nick is that rare breed of academic who is also an engaging and entertaining speaker. A UK-based mathematician and genome scientist, Nick is passionate about how we can store and preserve digital data.
“If you want to feed your brain, Nick is the person who will do that for you. His team recently coded five documents of historical significance onto a strand of DNA,” says Dean.
Each day, what we thought was possible changes. What does the future look like, and are you ready for it?
Born in Senegal and sold into sex slavery, Marieme Jamme refused to accept the lot life had given her, and instead taught herself to code. It was a skill that enabled her to change her conditions and life. Today, through her latest venture, iamtheCODE, she has one giant, global goal: To teach one million women and girls to code by 2013.
“Marieme has a consultancy that helps tech companies get a foothold into Africa, the Middle east, Latin America and Asia, and she’s also focused on her mission to help other women and girls escape their fates by learning to code,” says Dean. “She’s one of the most interesting and inspiring people I’ve ever come accross.”
Heralded as the controversial CEO and saviour of Telkom, Sipho has helped the company rack up gains of 150%, making Telkom one of the best performing companies on the JSE. “A major focus of Telkom is getting businesses across Africa ready for tomorrow’s customers,” says Dean.
“To be ready for tomorrow’s customers though, you need to know who they are, and have a sense of what the future will bring.”
A game designer, Futurist and New York Times best-selling author, Jane’s TED Talk, The Game That Can Give You Ten Extra Years of Life, has over six million views to date.
Local tech-star Rapelang Rabana is the CEO and founder of Rekindle Learning, a company she has positioned at the crest of a rapidly rising online community across Africa.
Her mission: To deliver learning in bite-sized chunks across the continent.
CEO of BCX. BCX has invested millions in computer programming education so that young people from all social and economic backgrounds have the opportunity to become programmers at no cost to them.
When Lars joined LEGO as Senior Global Director of Social Media and Video, the company didn’t even have a Facebook page.
“Today LEGO has well over 12 million followers on Facebook and more than three million on YouTube where they’ve just knocked up five billion lifetime views,” says Dean.
“The big idea behind their social media campaigns is to leave the thinking to their fans. Lars understands the creative power of the crowd, and what harnessing that power can do for your business.”
Bringing it all together
“We focus on projects that excite us, and that will change the perceptions and world views of our delegates,” says Dean. “We’ve partnered with BCX to put together an incredible event that will leave you inspired, amazed and driven to change your life and organisation – with the tools to do so.”
To find out more about the BCX Disrupt Summit or to book a seat, visit https://www.bcxdisrupt.com/
The Youngest Body20 Franchise Owners Share Their Success Story
Brothers Stiaan and CW Pieterse believe that if you love what you do, success will automatically follow. That’s why they’ve invested in a brand that works for them — to show other people that there’s an answer to the enemy of fitness: The time-crunch.
“I’m glad we chose Body20. I wouldn’t want to be their competitor,” says Body20 Montana owner Stiaan Pieterse. He and his brother CW, who runs Body20 Brooklyn, invested in the franchise two years ago after the amazing results they experienced as clients.
“Both Stiaan and I love to work out,” says CW. “We were clients of Body20 and couldn’t get enough of it. We were looking for a professional change and saw the brand as our ideal opportunity. It’s changed our lives and we’ve never looked back.”
Out of the ordinary
As fitness fanatics, Stiaan and CW, also known as the Brooklyn Brothers within the franchise, saw potential in the Body20 concept that gave them results equivalent to a workout of four hours minimum in the gym, in just 20 minutes. “I could not let this opportunity slip through my hands; I had to be part of it,” says Stiaan, a mechanical engineer by profession.
“To train someone in only 20 minutes and get the results in only a fraction of the time, that’s what excites me and motivates me to get up in the morning.”
Two years in, Stiaan and his brother — who studied chartered accountancy — are happy franchisees with the brand they describe as strong, firm and exceptional. This is largely thanks to the support they each receive as store owners. The constant training they receive for self-improvement as well as for their trainers is a benefit they both beam about.
“This is not one of those companies where you are seen as a number. At Body20 you’re seen as a true shareholder and owner in the brand as a whole,” says CW.
On the up and up
As two of Body20’s youngest franchisees, the brothers aren’t afraid of the challenge of owning and running two locations, but it’s passion for people and results that has seen their businesses succeed. “I love what I do and that excites me,” says Stiaan.
“That excitement turns into passion and that only drives me more and more. Since being part of Body20 I have not worked a day in my life.”
Of course, it helps having a capable and equally passionate team, including head office. Both CW and Stiaan laud the 24-hour support received from MD Bertus Albertse, Franchise Relations Manager Shaun Bruin and his team who are always available to communicate.
“From the second I’ve been part of the brand I’ve grown exponentially, learnt something new every day,” says Stiaan. “With the support of the brand, the easy business model and a little elbow grease, it’s almost impossible for you not to make a success of it.”
Enquire about your very own Body20 studio today.
Or Download the Franchise Info pack and join one of our exclusive Franchise Presentations: www.body20.co.za/key-activations/
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