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Customer Control For Entrepreneurs

How can small companies exert a degree of control over their customer base and help ‘guide’ them in such a way that they remain loyal and continue purchasing from them?

Gary Harwood

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No organisation, irrespective its size, industry, and geographic location, can succeed without customers. And given how the digital environment has made it easier for competitors across sectors to emerge, entrepreneurs are especially under pressure to balance customer needs and desires, with value propositions that still make them money.

There is clearly a fine balancing act to manage.

On the one hand, you have people who (thanks to technology) are aware of the power they have over product development and pricing. After all, if a competitor sells a product or service at a lower price, who is the customer going to go with? Add to this, the ability to customise solutions according to data analysis of specific end user needs, then you have a situation where many entrepreneurs feel they are facing a never-ending struggle.

On the other, small to medium businesses must be able to produce products and services in such a way that cash flow is maintained. As any entrepreneur can attest to, not having a reliable cash flow is tantamount to business failure. So, how can small companies exert a degree of control over their customer base and help ‘guide’ them in such a way that they remain loyal and continue purchasing from them?

Related: How English Language Skills Play An Essential Role In Building Trust With Your Customers

Managing expectations

One of the most important elements in this regard is managing customer expectations. The emergence of social media and the power it has to influence people’s buying decisions, cannot be overestimated. Today, more than ever before, the likes of word of mouth, marketing, and public relations as a direct result of social networking can often grow or sink a burgeoning business.

It has also created a dynamic where customers feel that if they leave a negative comment or ask a question, they expect a response almost immediately. For entrepreneurs already trying to do everything themselves while managing the business, this can often be a major cause of frustration. But it does not have to be the case.

By setting parameters up front with customers in terms of response times, queries, and even experiences, small businesses can start leveraging the power of social networking and other digital communication technologies for their benefit.

Being pro-active and taking charge of these expectations puts the organisation in more control than if a hands-off approach is followed.

Being open

Openness and transparency might sound like luxuries no entrepreneur can afford, but these concepts build strongly from managing expectations. Having open discussions with customers on aspects of support, product requirements, and even their (the end user) own expectations can greatly assist a small company to provide a more bespoke approach to products and services.

Related: 5 Techniques To Leave Customers Grinning And Vowing To Return

In addition, by providing customers with various resources (think troubleshooting or ‘self-help’), the entrepreneur is empowering them to take control of their own experiences with the company. It also means they are not as reliant on company resources if they were to phone the organisation or email a complaint. The added benefit to this approach is the customer can manage their own experiences when they have the time to do so irrespective of whether it is 10:00 or 22:00.

Granted, the path to customer control (perceived or otherwise) is not an easy one to take. However, no entrepreneur can afford not to take notice of these requirements and put the customer at the forefront of their thinking.

Gary Harwood with thirty years of global branding and design experience grew up in Johannesburg and studied graphic design at Wits. As one of the founders of HKLM in 2003, Gary is passionate about the potential of Africa – the most dynamic, vibrant and culturally diverse continent on the planet.

Business Landscape

A Look At Youth Mentorship During Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW)

Entrepreneur: A person who sets up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit.

Kristly McCarthy

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Global Entrepreneurship Week kicks off from 12 November – 16 November. Around the world, entrepreneurs are carving out their paths and are taking matters into their own hands.

Back home, Futureproof wants to instil a culture of curiosity, tenacity and risk taking in every South Africa – young or old, intrapreneur or entrepreneur.

In fact, we go as far as to teach young children from the age of 8-years-old about the art of entrepreneurship as part of our countrywide school program. Most recently, the company has seen success in the Orange Farm area and is teaching 110 Grade 3’s to master the art of entrepreneurship.

To celebrate this week, the team at Futureproof interviewed several well-known entrepreneurs and asked them the big question: ‘What do you wish someone had told you before you became an entrepreneur?’ Here’s what they had to say:

Clive Murray, the founder and CEO of World Water Exchange: “Making money is easier than keeping it. Don’t change the rules you make for yourself when times get tough.”

Marc Ashton, former MD of Moneyweb and CEO of Dynamic Body Technology:

  1. Don’t start a business…
  2. If you are feeling foolish and still wan to then do it with partners.
  3. If you are doing it with partners then lay out the terms of divorce upfront.

CEO and Co-Founder, Lisa Illingworth says that Futureproof has made it their life’s mission to aid children with the real-life, hands-on skills that they need to succeed as entrepreneurs.

“Text books just don’t teach the things that entrepreneurs really need to know. So much growth and economic activity can be realised out of entrepreneurial ventures, but we are all too scared to take the leap… why? Because we don’t feel supported and we would probably prefer to stay in our comfort zones”.

Related: The Mentorship Challenge – Behind Every Great Leader Is A Great Mentor

In fact, while entrepreneurship could literally catapult our country, an article in the Daily Maverick in 2017 described entrepreneurship in South Africa as ‘Sitting backwards on a donkey riding further away’.

Issues that entrepreneurs will come to face, even in their younger years is that of funding issues, lack of mentorship and opportunities, low skill levels, compliance and of course, poor standards of education and lack of access to education.

The current structure of the education system was initially designed in an entirely different age to achieve economic outcomes that are no longer viable due, in large, to the rapid innovation and adoption of technology.

“Gearing the country up for the forth industrial revolution is proving to be a challenge in both the public and private sectors. Are we really ready and how we use this particular week of the year to relook the problems and derive opportunities from them?” says Lisa.

Lisa provides context on the issues that entrepreneurs face. “Imagine this: you have a brilliant idea but no investment. You have no clue where to begin but you take it to the banks and a few potential investors. Without a solid plan and ‘street smarts’, the deals fall through, or you jump through hoops, give away more than half of your company and land up working tirelessly with no returns. This a reality for many who really don’t know how to launch an idea, understand its feasibility and raising the capital they need through mechanisms that won’t cannabalise the business at a later point.”

Lisa says that the country remains hopeful for President Ramaphosa to implement his vision for entrepreneurship as stated in the SONA 2018. “The President stated that ‘establishment through the CEOs Initiative of a small business fund – which currently stands at R1.5-billion – is an outstanding example of the role that the private sector can play. Government is finalising a small business and innovation fund targeted at start-ups’,” she continues.

“We need to change how and what schools are teaching for this to be realised on a large scale and providing the foundations so that these kinds of funding initiatives will have the best possible chance of growth and success”.

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Business Landscape

Make Your Travel Even More Rewarding

From engineers to businessmen, hairdressers, creatives and stay-at-home-partners, the British Airways Executive Club benefits all who join.

British Airways

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The British Airways Executive Club is uncomplicated, free to join on ba.com and from the moment you join, you will benefit from exclusive privileges and rewards, such as upgrades, hotel stays and car rentals with British Airways and oneworld® airline partners.

Besides collecting Avios, which can be redeemed on flights, you will also collect Tier Points every time you travel, allowing you to progress through the different Tier levels within the Club, which are Blue, Bronze, Silver and Gold.

Your Tier status will open up a world of opportunities and added benefits, such as fast track check-in, free seat selection and saving your meal preference selection as part of your Executive Club profile for future flights.

When travelling within southern Africa or internationally on British Airways, Executive Club members from Silver Tier status and up will experience a valuable and enjoyable ‘moment in time’ between checking in and boarding with lounge access into all British Airways eligible lounges. Some of these features include on-site spas, wine tasting from a monthly selection of the finest South African and international wines, a Living Library, private meeting spaces and business facilities to mention but a few.

The more Tier points you earn the sooner you will reach your next Tier status in the Club, which will result in additional benefits, such as bonus Avios, priority check-in, extra luggage allowance, access to over 170 lounges worldwide and enhanced opportunities to afford the luxury of travelling in the British Airways Club (Business Class) cabin.

Related: How I Run An International Business From A Remote Beach Town In The Eastern Cape

british-airways-foodWhen travelling in Club, priority boarding is on offer giving passengers a minute or two to reflect as they settle into the comfort of the business class seats, meaning significantly more space, which can be utilised to work on your next business pitch, read a book on your digital device or stretch out and relax before touching down.

Be welcomed with pre-drinks and a hot towel as you get seated and wait for the rest of boarding to complete as the flight embarks to your chosen destination. On-board hospitality will include a variety of delicious meals, which gets your day off to the best start or ends your trip on a tasteful note. Being an Executive Club Member, your meal preferences can be stored and offered where possible.

As part of the Executive Club you will collect Avios every time you fly and you can even top up your Avios with ease and make use of a collective balance by pooling Avios together within a household account, to reach your dream destination sooner. By calculating earnable Avios and Tier points with the simple calculator available on ba.com, an estimation can be done before booking your next flight.

Take advantage of the opportunity to redeem exclusive awards with Avios by booking reward flights, upgrade flights or spoil friends and family by gifting your Avios.

Appreciate travel more than ever before with The British Airways Executive Club. It’s designed to recognise and reward all passengers, ensuring every journey is exceptional and enjoyable.

Fly with British Airways on its extensive route network within southern Africa and beyond which includes Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth, Livingstone, Harare, Victoria Falls, Windhoek, Mauritius and London.

For more information and to become an Executive Club Member visit ba.com

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Business Landscape

How Schindlers Attorneys Became Involved In The Landmark Cannabis Case

Everything you accomplish accumulates and eventually comes back to assist you further along in your career. This is how a final year LLB assignment became the basis for a Constitutional Court case.

Nicole Crampton

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Schindlers Attorneys are the law firm that were involved in the landmark Constitutional Court judgement on cannabis use within a private space. Paul-Michael Keichel, Partner at Schindlers Attorneys shares how they came to be the foremost legal experts on cannabis and how they became involved in the Constitutional Court case:

How the journey began

“In 2005, my first year at Rhodes University, whilst studying for Intro to Law, it occurred to me that there were strong constitutional points that could be raised to objectively justify the decriminalisation of cannabis in South Africa,” explains Paul-Michael Keichel.

“In my final year LLB, 2009, I took Constitutional Litigation as an elective (largely motivated by the creation of a timetable clash, which meant that I’d not have to sit another semester of lectures for a module that I had failed the previous year). This provided me with the opportunity to write an assignment titled “A Critical Analysis of Prince and an Objective Justification for the Decriminalisation of Marijuana in South Africa”, in which I composed my argument (based on the right to equality in our Constitution).”

Related: 7 Top Lessons You Can Learn From The US Cannabis Market

The start of the partnership

“Fast forward to 2013 and the Dagga Couple find themselves at Schindlers (where I am a first-year associate) to register their NPC, “Fields of Green for All”. The attorney handling the registration (who I’d also bored with my argument) suggests to the Dagga Couple that they speak to me. It turns out that they already knew of me, because my assignment had (unbeknownst to me) done the rounds on the underground cannabis networks. We get chatting and I rope-in my brother, Maurice Crespi, the managing partner of Schindlers,” explains Keichel.

“We are the only firm out of many approached by the Couple who are willing to take on their trial action against 7 state departments and Doctors for Life to push for a declaration of constitutional invalidity of the laws prohibiting cannabis use/possession/dealing in South Africa. We decide to run the challenge for them pro bono.”

The Cape ruling that started it all

“Prince and Acton et al have their matter heard in the Cape, which resulted in the 2017 Judgment. We run a portion of our trial (including expert evidence from international scientists and doctors – the best in field), but it is rendered part-heard. We then heard that Prince and Acton et al’s matter will be heard by the Constitutional Court in November 2017 and we decide, with the Dagga Couple, to intervene in that matter, upon which it is confirmed that my 2009 assignment forms the on-record basis of a major chunk of Prince and Acton et al’s arguments in support of legalisation.”

“Our involvement in the Constitutional Court was such that we provided clear legal argument and authority to support and expand upon what Prince and Acton et al were trying to say to the Court. Ultimately, much of what we submitted has found its way into the judgment of the Constitutional Court.”

Related: 10 Cannabis Business Opportunities You Can Start From Home

How a final assignment became the foundation for a Constitutional Court case

“So, an idea (bolstered by wanting to create a timetable clash) resulted in an assignment, which provided certain credibility and impetus to cannabis activists. Two of these activists ended up being our clients, which, despite being handled pro bono, has brought Schindlers immeasurable positive publicity, and which, ultimately, contributed to the decriminalisation (and potential future legalisation and commercialisation) of cannabis in our country.”

“Schindlers now has a dedicated “Medicinal and Recreational Cannabis Law” department, through which we will continue to make submissions to parliament, apply for licenses on behalf of our clients, support those who have been arrested and charged.”

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