Clur Research International specialises in strategic economic, property, retail and shopping centre research.
Belinda Clur’s company, which was started in 2010, is based in South Africa, and operates on the African continent and internationally. It draws on Clur’s extensive experience in the business’s chosen areas of speciality.
In her own words, Clur describes the business’s purpose and approach: “Our research is based on sophisticated methodologies underpinned by hard data, designed to remove the ‘gut feel’ from decision-making. This is achieved through the interpretive conversion of data into knowledge or intelligence, which is then applied to the client’s business needs to support and steer their strategic decision-making, and ultimately enhance their
Going it alone
Clur had long harboured a vision of starting her own company, so going it alone was a conscious decision. “Intuitively, I have always felt that I have entrepreneurial flair, have good ideas, an ability to implement, and to sell,” she says.
Prior to starting Clur Research International, Clur had spent 11 years in the corporate space and had just come back from working internationally.
“During my career I spotted an opportunity in South Africa for sound, sophisticated market research with a core strategy focus. My international experience reinforced this view. I felt that the time was right and that I had built up sufficient expertise, a strong reputation and networks in my field. I followed my instincts, felt that I was at a low risk period of my life, and went ahead,”
Overcoming early challenges
Describing the early days as “both electrifying and terrifying,” Clur comments that a positive, energetic and correctly focused attitude was vital to helping her embrace the risks that come with starting a business and making it work.
Some of her early challenges included finding her niche, creating business awareness, and delivering an innovative product that drives value, exceeds expectations, and creates repeat
Clur drew heavily on her reputation and experience to get the business recognised. “Innovations in my career were noted by the South African and international research industry, and this led to invitations to speak at numerous local and international conferences.
It also drove media requests for market commentary and articles. This kind of profiling, coupled with appointments to various international bodies such as the International Council of Shopping Centres’ European Research Group and the International Council of Shopping Centres’ North American Research Task Force, created a solid foundation for business exposure,” she says.
Since the company launched and to this day, this industry reputation and network has helped her to secure client meetings to discuss ideas and potential business.
Her critical administrative challenges were cash flow management and the reduction of overheads. Initially Clur sub-let office space from an existing company that had more space than it needed. This helped keep her overheads low and prevented her from needing to sign a long-term lease in the business’s name.
“It also gave me access to facilities such as a receptionist and boardroom, which were a luxury for a new business and would otherwise have been foregone,” she says.
Intellectual capital is difficult to price, but Clur comments that experience teaches that the law of demand and supply always prevails. “Therefore, if you have positioned your product correctly, matching your unique selling point to the market need, demand will drive the price.
Go in confident with that knowledge and a willingness to negotiate if necessary, knowing your operational limits. This approach will allow you to test and set your pricing,” she advises.
Setting it apart
“The general research space is competitive. However, most research provides information and very little provides strategy,” says Clur. “The trick therefore is to capitalise on uniqueness, not the average. Your brand must be aligned with your unique selling point.”
She adds that the company’s key differentiator is its ability to assist clients with developing and driving investment strategies, acquisition and disposals strategies, and operational strategies within their business. “The research is therefore highly interpretive and recommendations-based,” she explains.
Lessons you can learn
- Invest in your clients: meet clients in person and take a personal interest in them. Understand your client’s business and listen to them carefully to assess their needs and the opportunities available to you.
- Build relationships and work on them continually.
- Be professional, reliable and show integrity – without client trust you have nothing.
- Don’t burn your bridges as things change.
- Be flexible in your thinking and approach as your ideas will continually be tested, battered and altered by reality.
- Invest in your market awareness: engage with industry media, offering articles and opinion.
- Create a professional network via conference attendance, giving presentations where possible, and joining sites such as LinkedIn and Who’s Who SA.
- Invest in your support network. Appoint an auditor to ensure that company finances and tax are properly managed and for general business advice. Get legal advice on contracts and how to best protect your intellectual property before going to market. Discuss proposals with people you trust and get honest feedback. Surround yourself with experienced business people, experts and positive people.
- Ensure that your technology is up to date, reliable and easily allows you to constantly communicate with your market.
- This takes energy. You must be resilient. You must love what you do.
Player: Belinda Clur
Business: Clur Research International
Contact: +27 (0)78 038 1921