David Mashabela on Edging Out the Competition

David Mashabela on Edging Out the Competition


SMEs have an advantage over large corporates because their small size allows for greater flexibility and speed, making them more cost-effective. Yet these same companies are often passed over by corporates because of their perceived inefficiency.

For David Mashabela, being efficient (really efficient, not in name alone), has proved to be a real differentiator in an industry flooded by advertising agencies, large and small.

Mashabela built a career on his name. As a popular radio producer at Metro FM, he was hit with a stark reality check when he started his own business, Mashabela Creatives. He was still the same person with the same experience, but he’d lost the clout of his previous standing. He was now ‘just another entrepreneur’ and he needed something that made him stand out. And efficiency was it.

“People want to have their problems solved, so I knew efficiency was going to be my differentiator. I’ve found that large corporates don’t take small businesses seriously because efficiency isn’t their number one priority. It’s one thing to deliver the best quality you can, it’s another to do it on time. Through efficiency and delivering an hour earlier, a day earlier, it becomes a niche in itself. Clients love and trust you because of that and you become indispensable. This brings more projects and referrals.

“Efficiency begins with motivation, so this is a quality we vet during the hiring process. All our staff are specialists and have chosen their specialty because they love it, not because it’s a job. Motivated employees give good service and deliver on time because it reflects well on themselves as well as the company. You shouldn’t have to bribe and cajole staff to be motivated, if you do, you’ve hired the wrong people.

“Everyone knows what they have to do. We have a small team but we have a person for every job and they know exactly what has to be done and how. Then there is a production manager overseeing that everyone is doing what they’re supposed to. This way the best people are being applied in the right areas and there’s no time wasted on re-works because it’s top-quality first time.

“Having to-do lists is key to efficiency. They changed my life! Every day my employees write their own to-do lists; by striking points off as ‘done’ they manage and measure themselves. We have large, visible to-do lists on boards for each project we do. To deliver that little bit earlier than promised we work backward from deadline to see what needs to be done by when. The visibility of the to-do list creates accountability for each and every person, and if anyone is lagging they are pulling the whole team down.”

A word of caution from Mashabela is to be realistic about your capabilities. “Many small businesses are so desperate for money that they’ll promise the world and not be able to deliver. A client will never forget a bad experience. Sit down with your client and negotiate deadlines based on your capabilities.”

Vital Stats

  • Player: David Mashabela
  • Company: Mashabela Creatives
  • Est: 2009
  • X-Factor: Cement customer loyalty through delivery on time, no matter what.
  • Contact: www.mashabela.co.za; +27 (0)11 478 7786
Tracy Lee Nicol
Tracy-Lee Nicol is an experienced business writer and magazine editor. She was awarded a Masters degree with distinction from Rhodes university in 2010, and in the time since has honed her business acumen and writing skills profiling some of South Africa's most successful entrepreneurs, CEOs, franchisees and franchisors.Find her on Google+.