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Innovation

How To Be A Game Changer

Old business methods won’t work anymore. It’s time to evolve.

Chris Penttila

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Companies have begun to emerge from the world’s worst recession since the 1930s, only to discover that they’re not quite out of the woods yet. Business owners who thought the easiest way to outlast the economic crisis was by sticking with the playbook and keeping their heads down aren’t necessarily going to emerge on the other side unscathed.

This recession is different from others in its scope and depth, and the worst thing you can do as a business owner is more of the same. Staying the course with your current business model could just postpone the inevitable. Instead, you need to create a competitive advantage. You need to become a game-changer.

Here’s how:

1. Get comfortable with chaos
Globalisation and technology are leading to constant economic turbulence. Being a game changer begins with recognising this new normality and understanding that business owners will not be able to count on uninterrupted periods of prosperity.

2. Reassess your customers’ values
This recession is changing people’s mind-sets, not just their spending habits, resulting in a more cautious, anxiety-ridden consumer arising in the short-term. People are re-evaluating their values and their purchases. How have your customers’ values and needs changed in the past year? The answers could spark new product and service ideas aimed at value-conscious consumers.

3. Good products always sell
A startling number of companies and game-changing products were actually launched in very tough times. IBM launched its personal computer in 1981 and the first iPod came out in late 2001. Both periods were economic low points and seemingly not the time to launch new products. Marketing research company Nielsen found customers’ willingness to purchase innovative products in good and bad times has stayed remarkably constant over the past 30 years.

4. Think new markets, not just cost cutting
Trimming costs where you can (renegotiating prices with suppliers and distributors and lowering your overhead) is very important, but don’t stop there. Game changers see levers they can pull that change a market or create an entirely new one. These include affordability, convenience, accessibility, location and cost.

5. Scarcity is a good thing
When sales are good, there’s no urgency or any real need to be innovative. Feeling like your back is against the wall actually forces you to try new things. Now’s the time to implement a few low-cost experiments and re-examine your entire business model for weaknesses.

6. Stop defending the status quo
An idea sounds great – until you realise the operating margin or some other metric will be lower than expected. Microsoft had all the tools to create Google’s search advertising business but abandoned the idea when search produced a paltry (by Microsoft standards) US$1 million in sales during its first few months. By the time Microsoft finally recognised the importance of search, Google had a commanding lead in the market.

7. Serve the customers you hate
Every company has customers it sees as undesirable from a cost or profit perspective. US-based DVD-rentals company Netflix implemented a unique business model in response to its undesirable customers who always returned their DVDs late. In early 2000, the company switched to a subscription model without traditional late fees, a move that appealed particularly to customers who have trouble returning movies on time. At the time of the shift Netflix employed 45 people. Today it has around 250 employees and its business model is thriving; proof that even the customers that businesses have learnt to hate can inspire innovative thinking.

Rules of game changing

What to Do

  • Look at your business through the lens of another industry to find new ways to operate. If you’re in manufacturing, how would you operate as a retailer, or vice versa?
  • Talk to your customers about what they need today. This will help you find new competitive advantages.
  • Get employees on the front lines talking about how customer mindsets have changed and how the company can better reach consumers.
  • Re-examine your business model for products, processes, promotions and so on that are no longer effective.
  • Constantly look for ways to add value to your company, product or service. This doesn’t have to be expensive. A retailer, for example, might set up a small play area with secondhand toys to keep kids busy while parents shop. It’s the small things that can boost a revenue line.

DON’T

  • Stay the course. Realise the economy has changed and your company must change with it.
  • Stop marketing your product or service. You need to actually communicate with customers now more than ever.
  • Assume your suppliers, vendors and distributors are doing fine. Go see them in person. Check in with their suppliers, too.
  • Get complacent if margins are still good because rapid industry transformations rise to the surface in tough times. The newspaper industry, for example, saw trouble coming for years, but healthy sales kept it from making necessary changes.
  • Stop being creative. Aim for discipline in your core business balanced with a willingness to try new things and create new markets.

Freelance journalist Chris Penttila has covered employee management and leadership issues for more than a decade.

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Innovation

Why Smart Business Growth Means Smart IT Budgeting

(…And how to do it)

Colin Thornton

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For any business today, no matter its size or sector, getting the IT budget right has become a critical part of success and sustainability.  The difference between a three-device network and a fifty-device network has significant ramifications for your IT spend and your overall budget outlook.

Let’s take a closer look at several potential costs and how to plan for them…

Network: The driving force

Essentially, the network is the backbone/core of your IT infrastructure. It needs to be reliable, fast and efficient. Often, a young and growing business will have a piecemeal network in place, bolting on new sections over time. This can lead to the network becoming inefficient and slow.

The important thing to note is that when you have reached capacity on your current network, is it’s sometimes better to start from scratch and also leave room for expansion down the line (rather than adding to the existing network as a quick fix).

While it may appear more costly (and scary), the end result is a reliable network that you won’t have to worry about revamping for many years.

Related: How Dial A Nerd Managed To Dial Up Profits

Licensing: Pricey but critical

Software licensing often comes as an unexpected (and unpleasant) cost to many business owners and their financial teams. Indeed, purchasing legal software can be pricey if you aren’t prepared for it (and don’t understand how it all works!). However, if you buy software licenses in bulk, or commit to a longer term, they can cost far less…so again, budgeting intelligently for your business growth can save you money in the long term. Also remember that many software licenses nowadays can be rented on a per user per month basis so its flexible and always up-to-date.

Maintenance: Be realistic

As the business grows and expands, so too will your IT maintenance needs. The key factor to note is to carefully consider the potential costs of IT failures and hardware issues. You need to take into account that you will undoubtedly have to spend money on maintaining your computers and overall network – and breakdowns can be extremely costly in downtime and lost productivity.

Some businesses find that it makes good financial sense to employ someone to be an IT technician in addition to taking on other responsibilities – but this person may not have the right expertise and experience to manage everything. The other increasingly popular option is to outsource your IT management.  With flexible pricing options now available to businesses, this is becoming a viable and often much more flexible route to take.

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Company Posts

Think Beyond The Box

With a holistic view of your business finances and admin in place, Sasfin’s new digital banking platform is engineered to help you grow your business.

Sasfin

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Welcome to the banking platform designed to support your banking needs. In response to more than 50 years of financing and supporting SMEs, Sasfin has launched a digital banking platform, B\\YOND, to help address the pain points and pressures that business owners face in South Africa.

“We’ve spent decades understanding what makes SMEs succeed or fail, and a lot of it begins with how well a business owner understands their finances,” says Sasfin CEO, Michael Sassoon.

“Failed SMEs often tend to either neglect or become completely consumed by their finances and admin. We wanted to create a platform that could help them take control of these factors, and give them a full 360-degree view of their businesses.”

B\\YOND was built to enable businesses to attend to their finances and admin seamlessly, thereby ensuring that entrepreneurs can focus on their clients — driving revenue and enhancing their products and services in the process.

Related: What To Consider When Investing Your (Hard-Earned) Money

Everything you need on one platform

According to Sassoon, entrepreneurs on the B\\YOND platform will never need to set foot in a branch again. The sophisticated technology incorporates many value-added services at no additional cost, including:

  • B\\YOND online applications: Businesses with multiple shareholders and directors can apply online, by uploading documents and signing the application digitally.
  • B\\YOND payroll: A simple-to-use and SARS-compliant payroll function enables business owners to perform their own payroll management.
  • B\\YOND invoicing: Businesses can create and send personalised quotes and invoices directly from the platform.
  • B\\YOND insights: Smart dashboards generated through clever account and transaction classification and tagging helps manage revenue and expenses, and keep track of projects.
  • B\\YOND integrations: Direct-feed integration into Xero ensures that small businesses and their accountants can safely and seamlessly connect their Sasfin Bank transactional data with Xero, the fastest growing cloud-based accounting software provider in the world.

Serving the entrepreneur

While there is much in store for the next versions of B\\YOND, the platform currently offers business leaders the basic tools they need to run their businesses smoothly in one place at no additional cost, with the ability to bank at their convenience.

“Sasfin has always existed to serve the entrepreneur and investor, the two key drivers of the South African economy and it bothers us that there is such a high failure rate of entrepreneurs in our country. We have spent the last three years building B\\YOND — a future-fit digital banking platform to help these entrepreneurs,” says Sassoon.


Engineered for success

Sasfin has gone above and B\\YOND to bring you a new digital banking platform that gives you the tools to make managing your business simple and profitable.

B//YOND is a value-add to all Sasfin Transctional Banking clients

Bank outside the box

The Sasfin Transactional Banking Business Account is designed for SMEs who want to focus on what they’re most passionate about — their business — while their banking platform not only sweats the small stuff for them, but helps manage and grow their business.

  1. Do you spend unnecessary time on banking?
  2. Does your bank pay you market-leading annual interest rates?
  3. Does your bank give you easy cash management in real-time?
  4. Would you like to manage your payroll and invoicing from your bank account?
  5. Does your bank help you keep track of your cash flow, manage your admin, and provide you with the set of tools you need to help run your business successfully?

Sign up today and have access to a whole new world of banking better for your business.

Visit: www.sasfin.com/bank/byond/

Call 0861 SASFIN for more information.

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Innovation

A Short Cut For Corporates To Digital Innovation: Start-ups

Charlie Stewart, co-founder and CEO of Rogerwilco shares his advice for turning to start-ups for solutions.

Charlie Stewart

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If there is one anathema in corporate culture, it is failure. With profit to be made and share prices to increase, failure is simply not an option. And yet, when listening to stories about success in the digital space, failure is there to put one on the right path to success. The phrase ‘Fail fast, Fail often’ is often bandied about, and innovation can be seen as a constant process of iteration, test and failure, repeating this until a well refined service or product is on the table.

Many corporates are waking up to the uncomfortable fact that at a structural level, the type of innovation required to grow in today’s digital landscape, is out of their reach, at least when trying to come up with it internally. So what to do? Charlie Stewart, co-founder and CEO of Rogerwilco shares his advice for turning to start-ups for solutions.

1. The start-up solution

Corporates comfortable in the digital space – Apple, Alphabet, Facebook and Amazon – have been buying startups for years, and now companies are realising that when it comes to Blockchain, artificial intelligence and machine learning, they need to turn elsewhere. And they are. Matt Garratt, Vice President of Salesforce Ventures noted that of the roughly 1500 tech acquisitions Stateside in 2016, half of them were bought by non-tech companies, showing that buying a start-up is a quick way to acquire new technologies, skills or patents.

Related: Why Optimism Isn’t Enough – You Need To Also Accept The Brutal Facts

But purchasing a company with a fully developed product can be an expensive and often risky play. Instead we are beginning to see a trend where corporates are framing agile startups as solution providers, offering them seed funding to come up with answers to digital headaches.

In the US, defence contractor Lockheed Martin has turned its investment strategy around, focusing on young startups instead of more mature companies. In the region of $20 million was ploughed into startups in 2017, helping Lockheed Martin to get a slice of the pie in fast moving spaces such as cybersecurity, autonomous vehicles and nanotechnology.

2. Outsourcing the problem

For corporates turning to start-ups, there are two benefits. Firstly, by doing so companies are casting their net a bit wider, with not only more eyeballs on the problems but, importantly, without the restraints of the corporate boardroom. There is more out-of-the-box thinking involved, no internal politics to worry about and far less of a threat of somebody’s career being jeopardised.

Secondly, if a start-up comes up with a solution, investing in the fledgling company can be cheaper than purchasing one with an established solution. If a buy-out is on the cards, it is less risky too since the due diligence process has been worked through and cultural challenges have been ironed out.

But not all start-ups actually want a buy-out. Some rather prefer access to market and skills transfer, especially around the commercial side of business. Yes, they do need investment, so companies can provide them with a proof of concept to take their idea forward, or potentially a more structured form of investment in their business. 

3. Cape Town: the start-up hub of Africa

Locally, Cape Town can be seen as the tech start-up hub of Africa, and is certainly a good place for corporates to start sniffing around for that digital innovation golden ticket. Events such as last year’s AfricArena conference proved that Cape Town can be a fruitful hunting ground. 80 start-ups from across Africa attended the inaugural event, and were tasked to find solutions to problems provided by corporates beforehand. Air France, for example, was looking for innovative mobile solutions, the City of Cape Town wanted to see how technology can be used to improve the tourism industry, while RCS asked for a loyalty programme to match a new credit programme.

Related: 7 Ingredients Of Small Business Success Online

By all accounts the event was a major success, connecting start-ups with corporates and investors, both attending the event and dialing in. The winner of Air France’s challenge, mobile payment solution provider WeCashUp, received multiple offers of investment and the project has moved on to the proof-of-concept phase.

4. The start-up lifeboat

Many companies need to face up to the fact that the current corporate structure they are working within does not allow for the type of innovation required to adapt to, never mind thrive, in a digital world. South African companies were perhaps sheltered from the digital tsunami that has eviscerated the analogue business world, but the wave has hit our shores. If it is innovation that is needed, it is time to turn to agile startups, far better adapted to a sink-or-swim digital environment, to come up with the solutions.

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