Digital Voodoo: Seth Mbhele

Digital Voodoo: Seth Mbhele

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In the war for talent, one of the biggest challenges businesses have traditionally faced is getting the best minds together in the same space. Until the last decade, it’s been predominantly a geographic challenge, but some businesses have found a solution that not only transcends the restrictions of a conventional office, but cities and even countries too.

One such company is Digital Voodoo, a digital marketing agency that works almost exclusively in cyberspace. “Our earliest clients were based in London. I had helped out a friend with overflow work, and the business grew from there,” says Seth Mbhele, Digital Voodoo’s founder.

If clients were based oversees, why couldn’t employees be multi-national as well?

“The evolution of the digital world means that businesses can operate completely online, provided the business model allows for it,” Mbhele continues. “The fact that we focus on online development and strategy and not on print campaigns made it easier for us to create a wholly online business, but we still needed to develop excellent systems and platforms to ensure efficient workflows.”

A multi-national society

These systems and platforms make it possible for both clients and employees to be based around the world. Employees all work on their specific section of a project, while clients can log on at any time to see the progress of a project.

“As we evolved and developed over the years we realised that we didn’t want to be hindered by geography when sourcing the best minds,” says Mbhele. “We focused on getting our systems right so that multiple people could work on a project while maintaining an efficient work flow.”

Mbhele’s only rule is that everyone needs to be able to communicate in English. The result is an extremely eclectic team. “We have developers based in London, Berlin and Prague, our sales, admin and graphics team is in Joburg, we have a copywriter in Cape Town and a junior developer in Durban. As long as everyone understands their role and uses the platform correctly, we are able to produce great work, on time.”

Specialised skills

The strategy is simple. Mbhele focuses on filling niche roles, enabling the business to offer best-of-breed minds to solve specific projects. “Our principle clients are agencies. They develop and sell a concept to their clients, and then we create the user experience – the platforms that will make their visions work.

It’s specialised work and in many cases it isn’t viable for agencies to have these kinds of skills and talents employed permanently. We offer the perfect outsourced solution.”

Digital Voodoo’s recruitment process is core to their strategy. Mbhele pays attention to talent from around the world. As his company grows, so he is able to approach said talent and offer them contracts. “I’ve have learnt that it pays to wait before making a new hire.

I’ll keep my eye on someone until I know I can afford them, and then make an offer. We aren’t just filling roles – we’re creating new competencies to add to our portfolio. Once we’ve selected a candidate, we usually put them on a test project. If they execute the project well and on time, we can negotiate the employment contract.”

There is a lot of flexibility in that no-one is office bound, but this also means that every member of the team needs to be able to self-manage.

“Our differentiator is that we have assembled a highly skilled team able to meet very niche challenges,” says Mbhele. Most of Digital Voodoo’s business is repeat business from agencies. Having grown through word-of-mouth referrals, the agency is acutely aware of the standards it has created that it now needs to maintain. This begins and ends with how well each job is executed.

Vital stats

Player: Seth Mbhele

Company: Digital Voodoo

Launched: 2005

Contact: +27 (0)11 039 8610

digitalvoodoo.co.za

 

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  • KJ

    Hmmm, I disagree. I was on a Project with Voodoo and and I can tell you that they were not professional at all, in fact I was told that the project was critically important and I must start straight away and will get paid the working deposit in a weeks time. I never got paid the working deposit and had an email saying there was an issue with the overseas payments. I continued working on the project as I believed what I was told ( yes i know, how stupid of me!!!) The worst thing was that Seth would not even reply to my emails! If anyone is even thinking of pursuing a working relationship with Seth then please please please make sure you have a solid contract in place, make sure you ask for a minimum deposit before you start the work and are ready for any difficulties that might occur when working with Voodoo. If anyone thinks that this is a just a rant of lies from someone trying to discredit Voodoo then they can contact me and I will happily talk to them and will also send them the masses of emails that were sent/received between myself and Voodoo where they acknowledge they have totally screwed me over and you will also see the many promises of payment… and then further emails again promising payment. From this you will be able to see what kind of company they are and I hope no one falls into the pit that I did with this company. This was a major lesson learnt on my part and number one was ” Don’t trust everyone simply because you have integrity and think that everyone else does too”

    To Entrepreneur Magazine – if you truly are an open honest magazine then you will not delete this or hide it as that would put into question why you have a comments box in the first place. Like i said I am happy to talk to whomever regarding my experience and will share the proof.

    Regards

    KJ – kreativejuices@gmail.com

    LONDON, UK

  • KJ has pointed out one of the biggest hurdles of starting a business: cash flow. Digital Voodoo’s first big client was a government funded and the funding was pulled with no balance of payment (years later we still have not managed to recoup this – another big lesson). We hadn’t made provision for this and as a result we couldn’t initially pay our suppliers – a lesson that we really took to heart, and changed our model as a result of the experience. We also hadn’t worked out all the kinks of making foreign payments. The whole business model was based on being able to work with international talent, and so this was another big lesson to learn – we needed to be able to negotiate the foreign payment hurdles. These early lessons really shaped our start-up and the way we do business today, and I would encourage any entrepreneur looking to start a business to seriously consider these angles – particularly cash flow and what will happen if your client can’t pay you – before launching. It’s painful when you aren’t able to meet your own commitments because you did not plan for every eventuality.

    Seth Mbhele – Digital Voodoo

  • Mack

    Need to trust KJ and agree to his comments, forget what Seth said. I completely agree with KJ as same pertain with us as well. Always false commitments and then blocking on skype, no answers on emails etc.etc. He is definitely not a Entrepreneur.

  • Mats

    BITTER former employee, there are other avenues to address such issues – not public articles, yes that was a rant. If he is not an entrepreneur how has the company survived from 2005 until now? this is just a campaign to discredit a hard working man.