What inventor hasn’t dreamed of having a big-box retailer sell their product? When Walmart purchasers decided to order one of my inventions years ago, I learned just how hard fulfilling the needs of a chain business can be. I wouldn’t say we were prepared, but we managed to get it done.
The truth is, there are so many things I wish I had known in advance. So I recently sat down with Tom Gray, an entrepreneur who has been finding, designing, manufacturing and selling consumer products for nearly two decades now, to pick his brain.
Tom began working with the world’s largest retailers in Australia. Now based in the U.S., the founder and CEO of The Handy Camel communicates regularly with inventors and major buyers including Home Depot as alike.
We recommend: For Cupmasters A Cup Is More Than Just A Simple Product
These are his thoughts on the roadblocks that most often plague fledgling businesses and independent inventors en route to the big boys.
1. Proven history
Many buyers won’t agree to test a product in their stores before it takes off elsewhere. They’re risk-averse. They want to sell popular products at the best price, not debut new products.
At a trade show you might hear a buyer say, “We love it, but you’re not big enough yet.” It’s just a reality.
A distributor might be interested, but you need to be careful: Now you, the independent stores that carry your product and your distributor are all trying to turn a profit. But if your product ends up costing too much on the shelf, it won’t sell.
Inventors need to know: If your product costs a dollar to manufacture, and you get a retailer to purchase it from you for R15, you’ve done well.
What do I mean by that? Big-box retailers have a keen grasp of manufacturing costs. Inventors tell me, “Well, it costs a dollar to manufacture, so I’m going to offer it to them for R40 or R50, and then they’ll turn around and sell it for at least R100.” No. Companies are never going to pay you that much. Margins are low and competition is high.
Another note on pricing: At first, you’ll be tempted to allow anyone who offers to sell your product for you. But don’t forget to set a minimum! Say a price war breaks out on Amazon, and someone ends up selling your invention for R49. Home Depot is not going to want to sell it for R99 after that.
3. Marketing costs
You invent a product people love – after you demo it, that is. Your product might be the coolest in the world, but it’s not going to sell itself simply by sitting on a shelf, unfortunately.
If people don’t have a clue what it does, you’ll need to educate them. Effectively getting the word out can be costly.
Overseas imports can result in huge cash flow problems. You’ll need to account for the fact that you’ll have to pay your manufacturer six to nine months before a retailer pays you.
5. Reaction time
If you receive an order and are unable to fulfill it within a certain time frame, you’ll be penalised.
6. Buyer rotation
Establishing a relationship with a buyer can take time, but you don’t have much, because they’re frequently moved between departments in an effort to reduce favoritism. So, be aware that there’s a good chance you’ll have to go back to square one with a new buyer at some point.
To make room for your invention, they’ll need to dispose of another product. And that’s why you see rows of more or less the same brand in some aisles.
We recommend: The Secret Ingredients to a Successful Branding Strategy
These brands have major marketing power. How can you compete? Eliminating a big brand product favour of a no-name brand is difficult to justify.
Getting set up will feel like it is taking forever. As a new vendor, you’ll have to tackle everything from insurance to training to mastering their computer software system – all of which will take time. Budget for it. Your monthly overhead won’t stop.
Don’t be dissuaded. (If you’re anything like Tom and I, like we even could dissuade you.) Our intent is to open your eyes to the reality at hand.
Tom says to be prepared to spend at least two years gaining the momentum needed to work with a big box retailer to get your invention on its shelves, and I fully agree.
“This is not for the faint of heart!” Tom says. He, and I, wouldn’t have it any other way.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Never Mind The New Dawn – The Sun’s Shining For Brave SA Entrepreneurs
How do you manage risks and where do you find opportunities where the ‘sensible’ money fears to tread?
We’re planning to open two new apartment hotels each year, which is a pretty aggressive growth strategy in an environment where land expropriation without compensation is the hot topic of the moment, and investors are looking beyond our borders for growth opportunities.
However, I believe that smart entrepreneurs find opportunity in every financial climate, no matter how dire it may seem on the surface. For example, current investor caution means that those who are willing to take calculated risks face less competition – now and in the long term.
In our sector, international hotel groups are slowing or even halting any investment in improving existing properties or developing new ones. For us, that means our competition is thinning, and that there are more opportunities for us to build on prime sites for which we would have had stiff, if not insurmountable, competition in the past.
How do you manage risks and where do you find opportunities where the ‘sensible’ money fears to tread?
- If an issue seems to be an obstacle, do your research to understand all the implications. In the property business, we’re finding out how to structure our new builds and acquisitions so that they’re unlikely targets for any potential expropriation, including focusing on transformation, job creation, and promoting tourism – all elements of the National Development Plan.
- Find ways to make your investment opportunities appealing. For example, Section 12J of the Income Tax Act offers scope to create investment options that reduce tax liability and offer alternative sources of return.
- One of South Africa’s biggest challenges is a shortage of skills. We’re changing that by investing in our people, giving them access to training and career growth opportunities, and teaching them how to be entrepreneurs. We believe that these skills will either help our business grow, or they’ll give the individuals the courage they need to launch their own businesses – yet another great outcome for the country.
- While South Africa is developed in many ways, it still has many characteristics of an emerging market. This means that there are still many opportunities for brave entrepreneurs here, equipped with the ‘can-do’ attitude for which we are famous, that wouldn’t likely be available in more developed markets.
- Even though countries like Nigeria and Kenya are gateways to their regions, South Africa remains a gateway to SADEC countries and markets beyond. Adapting your products or services to appeal to those travelling through South Africa is a way of growing your client base too. For example, we have found that our apartment hotels in the Sandton district are particularly popular with visitors from the continent who come to the city to shop – but who don’t like local food. They choose our hotels because they can prepare their own favourites in our apartments’ fully equipped kitchens – clear example of how adapting to meet the needs of a potentially ‘lost’ opportunity can carve a niche for your business.
- Work harder than your competitors to convince bankers and shareholders that you’ve done everything possible – and then some – to manage risk. If you can tell a compelling story supported by solid facts, investors are likely to make decisions more quickly, giving you the edge over your competitors.
Ours is truly a homegrown business, with long term plans to continue our growth throughout South Africa. Current risks have certainly made us sharpen our proverbial pencils but using these risks to identify opportunities and research them into reality has seen us stand out from our competitors.
Any business that takes the time to interrogate challenges properly will find opportunities where others flee in uninformed fear. Do your homework and you’ll agree with me: South Africa really is one of the best places in the world to build a new business.
Saving Time When You Need It Most
With the right tools in place, thanks to TomTom Telematics, the company’s Emergency medical technicians can reach the scene faster — and as a result, they can concentrate on what they do best, saving lives.
No two industries are alike. Each sector faces its own unique challenges, and businesses within those sectors have specific KPIs they need to deliver on. For businesses in the emergency medical services sector, time is of the essence. Seconds can mean the difference between life and death.
For a company like Redicure EMS, how quickly an ambulance can reach the scene of a medical emergency is at the very heart of its value proposition.
“Every day we have another chance to save a life,” says Rosert Manamela, an emergency care practitioner at Redicure. “But to do that, we need to be able to get to the scene on time.”
Racing the clock
Redicure has a strict policy that all ambulance drivers stick to the rules of the road at all times. “We have lights and sirens, but we still need to be safe. You can’t assume everyone else sharing the road with you has heard or seen you.”
The company’s entire fleet utilises TomTom Telematics devices for this reason. “We’re able to receive up-to-date information on traffic within the area as well as alternative routes. When you’re racing against the clock you don’t have time to consider your different options — you need an immediate plan of action that will get you where you need to be.”
Thanks to this platform, which links each vehicle on the road with Redicure’s control centre, the EMS provider’s promise to all of its clients is that an ambulance will be on the scene within 15 minutes. Because vehicles are tracked, the trained emergency care practitioners — who are both monitoring the vehicles and in contact with the client who requires emergency services — can keep everyone informed from the control centre.
Pushing the boundaries of innovation
After two years operating in the medical emergencies sector, and based on their relationship with TomTom Telematics, the team at Redicure began to evaluate what else they could do to support the safety and wellbeing of South Africans facing a medical emergency.
“WEBFLEET is open API, which means it can integrate with any other applications you have,” explains Rosert. “We understood the value TomTom Telematics had brought to our business by enabling us to get to emergencies as quickly as possible, and so we started thinking about what else we could do with this technology.”
The answer was instant access to Redicure in the case of an emergency. “Once you solve the problem of how quickly an ambulance can reach you, the next challenge is how quickly you can get hold of an ambulance. We approached this problem with an understanding that in an emergency people don’t always have all the information they need on hand — who should they call, can they get through, and how quickly can the control centre gather all the information they need to be able to dispatch an ambulance? All of this wastes precious time.”
In response to this clear need, Redicure has piloted the Redicure app with Tshwane University of Technology across its six campuses. Each student has been encouraged to download the app. In the case of an emergency, one push of a button immediately sends a signal to Redicure’s control centre, complete with who needs medical assistance, all of their contact details, and most importantly, their location.
Through TomTom Telematics’ WEBFLEET solution, an alert is then sent out from the control room to the closest ambulance in the area, and the client is contacted with up-to-date expected arrival times.
“We’re changing the face of medical emergency response times, thanks to technology that enables us to get to the scene of a medical emergency more quickly and efficiently,” says Rosert.
“We’re also fine-tuning what we do on a daily basis, thanks to the information available through WEBFLEET. With TomTom, we’re not only working with collaborators who understand our business, but support the development and growth of our services and products, allowing us to push the limits of what’s possible in our industry.”
4 Vital Differences Between King III And King IV™ On Corporate Governance
April 2018 marks a year since the effective date of the IoDSA’s (Institute of Directors in Southern Africa) latest report, the King IV Report on Corporate Governance ™ (King IV™), on effective and ethical corporate governance.
What is the King Report?
If you’re not familiar with the King Reports: it’s a series of reports that translate international standards and big-time happenings on corporate governance into set of local principles. Each new Report replaces the former.
The aim of the King Report is to set up actionable principles for South African company leadership to act as modern, good corporate citizens.
It also ensures those in leadership positions act in the best interest of the company and all parties influenced by the company. The first Report, King I, published in 1994, and was the first officiated document of its kind in South Africa.
Why is it useful to my business?
The Report also promotes transparency within your company’s leadership to ensure transgressions aren’t hidden that will eventually damage the company.
The Report also ensure blunders can be evaluated, found and corrected ASAP. Today, its mandatory for all JSE listed companies to implement the Report into their company policy. If you’re a smaller business or a non-profit, you can comply with the Report voluntarily; by applying the principles you’re essentially ensuring the long-term sustainability and survival of the business.
It also helps that create a healthy corporate culture and when your business’s foundation is healthy, growth is unthreatened. If you haven’t applied any of the former Reports in your business, you’re in luck; King IV™ is the simplest, and seemingly the most practical, Report in the family of four reports.
Why was King IV™ needed?
Companies, especially smaller businesses, often struggled to apply the King III due to its long-winded structure.
Also, King IV™ was needed because King III, published in 2009, was out-dated in terms of present-day concerns like technological advances, the increased need for online transparency, long-term resource sustainability and information security.
Here’s the rundown of the most significant differences between King IV™ and King III.
1. King IV’s™ structure is much simpler to apply
While King III did a good job of summarising the extensive scope of effective and ethical governance into 75 principles, the Report still lacked clear guidance on real-world application.
Ensuring the effective incorporation of all 75 vague, ethical principles was too exhaustive for most companies to implement, monitor and account for. That’s why King IV™ took a different structural approach.
King IV™ boiled good corporate governance down to 17 simplified principles, each supplemented with various recommended practices to make it easier for smaller companies to implement the principles within their day-to-day running.
2. King IV™ spotlights practical implementation
King III lists multiple ethical principles and then commands companies to explain how their management and actions honour those principles.
Unfortunately this meant companies approached it like a mindless compliance checklist.
King IV™ also states principles, but more importantly, requires organisations to actively report on the implementation of the recommended practices thereof.
Mervyn King, the chair of the King Committee, dubs this the shift from a “apply OR explain” mentality to a “apply AND explain” mentality. The Report also allows organisations to report on alterative-implemented practices – provided they support and advance the principle.
To make the application simpler to grasp, King IV™ clearly differentiates between the long-term Outcomes, the ethical Principles and the recommended Practices.
Essentially the new structure and its requirements mean companies have to engage in thoughtful implementation and reporting of those practices.
3. King IV™ is inclusive to more than just large companies
After King III, there was a significant demand for the inclusivity of smaller businesses, and governmental or non-profit organisations in the King Report.
Consequently, King IV™ dedicates an entire supplement chapter to guiding municipalities; non-profit organisations; retirement funds; small and medium enterprises and state-owned entities in the implementation of the Report.
Also, where King III used terms like “companies” and “boards”, King IV™ very purposefully uses more inclusive terms like “governing bodies” and “organisations” throughout the report.
It’s clear that King IV™ aims to move the principles on good corporate governance into real-world action – for all organisations.
4. Difference 3: King IV™ pushes for more accountability, transparency and reporting
What King IV™ does quite differently from King III, is recommending the application of its principles within set timelines, reports and committees within it’s recommended practices.
King IV™ strongly propagates transparency, the delegation of responsibility and the implementation of accountability by putting pen to paper in term of officiated aims, bodies responsible for those aims and the provisions of consistent reports.
Take leadership as an example, where King III would just stipulate what being a good leader means, King IV™ advises you to set goals, delegate responsibility and evaluate progress through reports and accountability.
An example would be to set up a committee, consisting of lower management levels, with clearly identifiable responsibilities and then to measure their progress via reports.
It comes down to the ignorance no longer being a valid excuse. Directors should be aware of all issues within your company.
Directors should take responsibility for everything that happens within their organisation – you can’t plead innocence on the grounds of not knowing. There should rather be reports in place to identify and uncover any discrepancies early on.
Essentially, where King III lacks in the aim of ensuring the actualisation of good corporate citizenship, King IV™ steps up the game.
Start-up Industry Specific4 weeks ago
How Do I Start A Transport Or Logistics Business?
Snapshots9 years ago
Habari Media: Adrian Hewlett
Snapshots4 weeks ago
27 Of The Richest People In South Africa
Types of Businesses to Start4 weeks ago
11 Uniquely South African Business Ideas
Entrepreneur Profiles7 months ago
10 SA Entrepreneurs Who Built Their Businesses From Nothing
Types of Businesses to Start7 months ago
10 Business Ideas Ready To Launch!
Support for Women Entrepreneurs10 months ago
10 Successful SA Women Entrepreneurs’ Top Advice On Balancing Work And Family
Lessons Learnt4 weeks ago
6 Of The Most Profitable Small Businesses In South Africa