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Pavlo Phitidis




How do you position your business within a customer problem, and not through product and service features?

Entrepreneurship has many attributes ascribed to it. Passion, creativity, interest in knowledge, adaptability, industriousness, and the list goes on. Over the years, we have developed an entrepreneurial assessment that looks at 14 attributes.

We use it for a number of purposes that can be roughly divided into two camps:

In service of the entrepreneur (your attributes; how they work for you and against you in your everyday life), and in service of building a business (the process of building a business into an asset of value requires particular support structures to achieve the end goal of a successful sale in three, five or even 15 years from today).

We build our business in the image of our personality, with all the attributes impacting on the end result. Being aware of them makes the difference between moving forward and remaining in one place, irrespective of how smart or hard you work. Being aware of them helps prevent self-doubt creeping in where awareness of an unproductive, personality-driven pattern of behaviour should be.

Separate your business from yourself

Andre has an interesting entrepreneurial profile. His attributes are weighted heavily in favour of interest in knowledge, innovation, adaptability and industriousness.

Backed by his technical skill set, these attributes fuel his desire to make his products better. And make more products. However, 16 years on, business growth eludes him.

His business seemed stuck in an annual turnover band of R18 million to R23 million. For the last seven years, the turnover bounced within this range. His furniture was well priced, well made, well designed and very competitive with many wonderful features that, as he explained in detail, set him apart from his competitors.

After further discussion, we agreed to work together to tackle this problem. The market opportunity in the furniture industry is in the billions. Doubling his turnover in two or three years should not be a hard task.

When I asked him why he did what he did, he spoke with excitement about his products. He was elated by the new CNC panel saw that he had recently acquired.

His meticulous nature had seen him break up his production process into neat, well-defined activities making up four business units of design, production, promotion and dispatch. This new investment would increase the efficiency of his operation by 13%, he proudly explained and showed me how the CNC machine would hopefully improve his sales performance.

I was doubtful about the acquisition and also struggled to see the link. He went on to explain that his sales staff could then take the multitude of briefs from clients and translate them quicker than his competitors into quotable, better priced designs. I continued to ask questions about the machine’s necessity.

Service, he said, better service builds trust and confidence in our ability to deliver, he told me with pleading eyes whilst he stood by the CNC machine, resting a hand lovingly on the control panel as if it were his star performer. I could see that Andre was not even that sure about his argument himself!

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You Can Dominate Business in 2014. Here’s How


Productive allocation of resources

We ran a business diagnostic on his operations. The results were not surprising. His business systems were heavily weighted in favour of the back-office activities of design and production capability. The front-office was very light in sales and marketing.

It was clear that Andre had built his business in the image of his personality, both consciously and unconsciously. He found his greatest meaning in design and production and his thirst for innovation, new product development, industriousness and conscientiousness had resulted in directing all his investment, time and energy into the part of the business that fed his personality attributes.

Immediately we knew where to look and went out to the market. He had a very exciting group of clients. Andre served corporates, big, medium and small business with office furniture. In some cases he secured work from the companies’ CEOs and designed and built furniture for their homes too.

He had a number of independent retailers on his books, some historical sales with a big brand discount retailer and had recently opened up business with a competing retailer group that served the middle market with furniture credit sales. Andre proudly told me how this left him with a well-diversified customer base to counter the risks of an uncertain economy.

Like Andre, many of us have to operate with limited resources. Directing these resources to give us the best result is one of the single biggest challenges we face as business owners. Andre’s ‘spray and pray’ selling strategy was tearing him, his staff and his business apart.

He could never build momentum in any one direction. His sales staff were all over the place and seldom was the same product sold more than three times. His design and machine repurpose costs were consuming the profit he was making and the business started and ended every year as it had started that year. There was no real progress being made.

Market segmentation

One of the first tasks that I set for Andre was to segment his market. This required him to define the multitude of people and businesses that needed furniture.

Once this was done, we organised them into groups with common features. For example, businesses were broken up into corporates, big, medium, and small businesses and small-office-home-offices (SOHO). We further broke them up into regions and type. Some of the types were service businesses, manufacturing business and retail businesses.

Regions located the businesses — provinces and then proximity to Andre’s factory. We indulged ourselves further by organising these businesses into groups that included more features such as ‘care about design or don’t care about design’ and so on.

We landed up with 47 groupings all in all. The next step was to assess the sizes of the groups in market potential. Once done, we combined groups that had 80% similar features and settled on 15 groups of which eight were sizable groups in terms of market potential.

The fight began. Andre wanted to serve six of the eight and include three of the remaining seven since the work would be interesting. I locked the door of the meeting room. At 3am the next morning we had agreed on the single group Andre would focus on. It was to be the SOHO.

With the recession on hand, retrenchments likely and job growth slow, we believed that this would be a growing market. It was already sizable and Andre was getting 37% of current sales from this market. Full of enthusiasm, Andre started to create designs on his pad that he thought this market would love. We produced a ‘research questionnaire template’ for Andre to take to his current customers. It was designed to ask them what design features they wanted.

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Want to Grow Your Business? Just Let Go


Repositioning to achieve focus

What he came back with astounded him. The designs that he had played with three weeks before, after we agreed on the SOHO, were all ripped out of his file and torn up. Back at the drawing board, Andre created final designs that went well beyond furniture features.

They included the method of selling, now that he understood the problems of his SOHO clients. They incorporated annual sales calls to touch up the furniture at no additional cost, giving Andre a long-term relationship from his previous once off sales. It also gave him sight of which SOHO clients were growing; the leap from a SOHO to a medium-sized office for any of his clients was a small one. So too was the design capability that Andre offered and that his factory could deliver.

The designs were also exciting. They gave his clients versatility. A set of three tables could double up as a board room table as well as three separate workstations maximising the use of small spaces. The materials he used gave the furniture a very classy feel, something important to a SOHO entrepreneur who wants to lift his image for clients.

Three and a half years on from our first meeting, Andre’s business is approaching R49 million in annual turnover. He does one thing very well; design, produce, promote and deliver furniture suited to the SOHO market. He is now looking at the early stages of increasing his range to accommodate some SOHO clients moving into medium sized offices.

The lever to get Andre’s business to grow annual turnovers from R20 million to R50 million was largely one thing. He positioned his business to solve the problems of a well-defined customer group.


Have you considered the following when choosing your market segment:

  • Separate your market into categories. Now give each category a % of your sales. Who is your biggest segment, and where is there room to grow?
  • If you were to narrow your focus, which segment offers the biggest growth opportunity?
  • Have you created a questionnaire for that segment asking what they want and need from you? You might be surprised by what they say.
  • Based on the above questionnaire, does your product or service offering deliver on these needs?
  • What can you change to meet those needs?
  • What value adds can you offer that will make the lives of your clients easier

Pavlo Phitidis is the CEO of Aurik Business Incubator, an organisation that works with entrepreneurs to build their businesses into valuable assets. Pavlo is a regular commentator on entrepreneurship on 702 Talk Radio and 567 Cape Talk Radio. He can be contacted at

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Company Posts

How TomTom Telematics Can Keep Your Business Moving Forward

Successful businesses need to find ways to improve their margins while still delivering excellent and efficient customer service. VDM’s CEO, Deon van der Merwe, explains why this wouldn’t be possible in his business without TomTom Telematics’ solutions.

TomTom Telematics



TomTom telematics

When TomTom Telematics entered the South African market in 2010, the local team took a deep dive into the different industry verticals they were servicing.

The more they got to know their customers, the more they realised a different solution was needed to address local conditions, and a subscription model was introduced whereby customers didn’t need to invest a large capital outlay into TomTom Telematics’ technology, but would receive the tech and software, including installation, at no extra cost, in exchange for a monthly subscription fee.

This model gives SMEs affordable access to TomTom Telematics’ solutions, but it’s had another benefit as well: As TomTom Telematics introduces new innovations, existing customers can benefit — without the costs associated with replacing all of their existing technology themselves.

An indispensable tool

For a transport and logistics business like VDM Group, which has more than 160 vehicles on the road, this means they have access to incredible new offerings, without needing to replace their TomTom units themselves.

“TomTom plays a critical role in our business,” says Deon van der Merwe, CEO of VDM Group. “It’s an indispensable tool in ensuring quality customer feedback and the management of KPIs for all supply chain stakeholders.

“Earlier this year, TomTom Telematics launched their New WEBFLEET product. We were very satisfied with what we had, and yet they still approached us and offered to replace all our existing units with new tablets, and they’re covering the installation costs,” explains Deon.

Related: Driving Your Business Growth Towards More Customers

“New WEBFLEET is the result of TomTom innovating their product based on customer feedback from around the world, and the local team wanted to ensure we had access to the additional functionality and innovations that had been introduced.”

Seamless integration with your network

According to Deon, the new TomTom PRO 8275 units seamlessly integrate VDM’s fleet scheduling software with information they extract from TomTom, including individual vehicles’ standing time and arrival notifications.

“The software from TomTom is open API, which means that all our various applications can communicate and interact with each other,” he explains. “From a productivity perspective, we no longer need to manually capture any trip information.

In addition, we have every conceivable piece of data available that will assist us to run a leaner, more cost-effective fleet, enabling us to ensure that we are delivering on all our KPIs — particularly with regards to meeting our customers’ needs.”

Related: Changing The Shape Of What’s Possible

VDM is a large transport business, but Deon believes the benefits for SMEs are as great, if not more so. “Many SMEs don’t have the back-office support that we do. The ability to capture and use this information without a team of admin specialists at your disposal is a huge competitive advantage for smaller businesses,” he says.

Offering you the competitive edge

VDM offers a specialised logistics service that creates custom-made options for clients. In order to ensure the most optimal and cost-effective solutions, while still ensuring top quality delivery, they need to consider special and complex individual customer requirements, from the point of origin to the point of destination, before finalising a customer-specific solution.

“We take into account a host of factors, including inventory carrying costs, volume requirements, product specific factors and route to market,” explains Deon.

“Road transport significantly impacts total supply chain costs, and if not managed properly, can have a severe impact on the sustainability of any particular channel. We try and manage this risk by continuously improving our service through innovative logistical solutions, the use of advanced technology, vertical integration and a team of passionate and talented experts.

TomTom assists in creating differentiators

“This focus has helped us to develop a market offering that includes dedicated and completely flexible inter-modal solutions, which is a big differentiator for us. TomTom Telematics plays a key role in our total productivity, helping us measure the performance of road transport across our supply chain.”

Deon believes that what you don’t measure you won’t know.

“TomTom provides updated fleet statistics that allow us to constantly benchmark our fleet against pre-defined route surveys and, in so doing, enables massive savings in fuel and total turnaround time.

Communicating via the WEBFLEET platform also helps us save time and creates a formal trail of correspondence with our drivers. I don’t believe it’s possible to successfully run a business like ours without a solution like this.”

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Company Posts

Sasfin Continues To Support SME Growth

Sasfin’s equity stake in fintech lender Payabill set to enhance SME growth.






In another major step forward in supporting growth in SMEs, Sasfin today announced that it has acquired a strategic stake in fast-growing fintech lender Payabill.

Payabill, a 100% digital lending business, provides working capital and/or trade finance to small businesses. The collaboration between Sasfin and Payabill accelerates financing opportunities for customers.

Sasfin, South Africa’s leading business challenger bank, last year successfully launched its digital platform, B\\YOND, for SMEs.

“Sasfin has been investing in fintechs, building digital capabilities (such as B\\YOND) and working with third parties (such as XERO Accounting) for a number of years with the aim of adding value to our business and wealth clients. Payabill has made huge strides in giving businesses access to digital finance and we are thrilled to announce this investment,” says Sasfin CEO Michael Sassoon.

Payabill CEO Eli Michal launched the pioneering fintech start up in SA in 2017. Payabill settles suppliers directly for its clients and allows clients to select their own extended payment terms. “We are incredibly excited by the opportunity afforded to Payabill by having Sasfin as an equity and debt partner. Sasfin will provide access to new channels and much needed funding that enables us to support the growth of small business finance in South Africa,” says Michal.

Michal started the fintech as he “wanted to enhance access to finance for small businesses in South Africa. We all know that boosting small business creates jobs and enables growth. Traditional lenders have neglected this segment of the market due to the high costs associated with on-boarding and assessing these customers, as well as managing their credit risk. It made no sense to us that a retail consumer could get multiple forms of credit, almost instantly via electronic channels, but small businesses could not. They were being neglected. With this in mind, we set out to build a completely paperless, digital solution to address this market’s unique requirements.”

Currently, Payabill offers loans of up to R150 000 to businesses. The intention is that with the investment made by Sasfin, Payabill will be able to offer larger loans to SMEs in the near future.

The alignment of Payabill’s aims and Sasfin’s long-term focus on small business in SA made for an ideal partnership. “SMEs can now borrow digitally, via Payabill, and bank via B\\YOND from Sasfin – reducing admin and costs which often stifles small business growth. Both B\\YOND and Payabill are gaining meaningful traction in the SME market and there are a host of additional digital initiatives that we are working on to further help small businesses thrive,” says Sassoon.

“While Sasfin has always offered a trade and debtor finance solution, this was largely for more established businesses. The new offering speaks to smaller businesses that are passionate about growth, and our larger Trade and Debtor Finance offering will be there to support businesses that reach the next phase in their development,” says Sassoon.

Sasfin Holdings Limited (“Sasfin” or “the Group” or “the Company”) is a bank-controlling company listed in the “Financials: Investment Services” sector of the JSE Limited (“the JSE”).  Sasfin and its subsidiaries provide a wide range of complementary banking, financial and related services.

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Company Posts

Driving Your Business Growth Towards More Customers

Designed to help its customers get the most from their businesses through the right telematics solution, New WEBFLEET can help you reach your customers quicker, get more done, improve efficiencies, save costs and boost your revenues.

TomTom Telematics




Europe’s highly regulated operating environment has made telematics ubiquitous in business. On the one hand, this means industries across the spectrum have become safer, more efficient and highly productive across the EU. On the other, it’s much harder to stand out from the crowd when everyone follows the same best practice standards.

“We don’t have those same stringent regulations in place,” says Justin Manson, Sales Director, Africa at TomTom Telematics. “Our clients have realised what a huge competitive advantage this actually offers them though.

“Locally, everyone understands the role that telematics plays in tracking what your drivers are doing right and wrong, and use it as a tool for encouraging good driving practices, but there’s so much more to this solution, and we’re making it our mission to help business owners really use it to their benefit.

“When deployed across the organisation to its full capabilities, a telematics system can radically improve productivity and workflow. Done correctly, a business can save up to 10% on its bottom line, and redeploy that cash into the company’s growth, thanks to drivers reaching customers quicker and getting more done. The right data also increases productivity and ensures better turnaround times.”

Thomas Schmidt, MD of TomTom Telematics, loves visiting South Africa for this very reason. “Because so many business owners aren’t using telematics to their full extent, there’s such a huge opportunity for us to assist businesses in their growth here,” he says. “We deliver a high-value stack of products that can change the way companies operate, and most importantly help them save money and make money. The challenge for us is educating our customers so that they understand what our solutions offer, and the incredible impact they can have on a business. We consistently improve these solutions based on customer feedback as well, making them very much from customers for customers.

Related: Why Your Fleet Management Plays a Pivotal Role In Your Business

“Anyone can buy a map for less than R100. Why invest in such expensive devices? The answer is because we’ve developed solutions that change lives. With the right data — and access to that data — you increase safety, simplify your business, drive efficiencies, increase your output and customer service, and ensure you are always productive and reliable — across the organisation. And that impact can be measured, and given a real ROI value.

“Imagine the impression companies that operate at that level make on their industries. They stand out from their competitors. There is so much room for growth in South Africa as we deploy these solutions.”

Game-changing solutions

As an organisation, TomTom Telematics is focused on continuous growth and innovation as well, constantly learning from market conditions, its customers and industry needs to improve its product offerings.

The result is the launch of New WEBFLEET in February 2018. “We’ve increased the value we offer our customers,” says Thomas. “We’ve collated data from hundreds of thousands of customers around the world who gave us their feedback through surveys, and New WEBFLEET is a window into easy-to-use, smart fleet management that is a game changer for companies.”

“TomTom Telematics is in the business of helping businesses,” agrees Justin. “Our goal is help our customers master their challenges. The right data at your fingertips will help you change the way you operate. That’s our goal. How much cash is being left on the table in an organisation because of inefficiencies?”

Introducing New Webfleet

The smartest way to manage your vehicles and mobile workforce

tomtom-telematicsTomTom Telematics’ state of the art Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) fleet management solution, with best-in-class user interface, is inspired by two decades of working together with customers to achieve more for better fleet management. New WEBFLEET is everything you need to manage your vehicles in the cloud, in real time. It allows you to monitor reports and dashboards, manage orders/workflow, and improve driving behaviour, safety and service, helping you save fuel and reduce costs.

Best-in-class user interface

  • A future-proof platform with a completely renewed interface, based on the latest HTML5 technology and driven by continuous innovation.
  • Simple and clean interface, with minimised clicks for faster working.
  • Intuitive functionality, means it is more accessible for greater impact across your business.
  • User rights management and state-of-the-art data handing ensures the highest level of data privacy and data security.
  • Fast access to the right information.

Related: Fleet Tools Will Help You Get More Done In Less Time

Map view

Know where your vehicles are and where they have been. Different map options such as Google, Google Street View or satellite map are enriched with traffic information, giving you a more detailed view on what’s happening on the roads. Toggle between different types of information on the map such as traffic, addresses and areas and create specific views, so you only see the information you need.


New WEBFLEET’s dashboard gives an overview of performance at a glance. Up to 27 KPIs can be used to track the performance of vehicles, individuals, benchmark teams or give a simple overview. This helps you to track real-time performance against your pre-defined KPIs.


New WEBFLEET gives you instant access to the information that matters, meaning you can spot trends over time and use real-time information to make smarter and more informed decisions. You can instantly download or schedule reports to help you stay on top of everything — from fuel efficiency and legal compliance to quality of service.

Manage on the move

New WEBFLEET is optimised so you can manage your fleet on any device by entering WEBFLEET through a web browser or by downloading the WEBFLEET Mobile app on your smartphone.

Send routes direct to drivers

  • Plan accurate routes in New WEBFLEET by adjusting multiple variables such as location, time of departure/arrival, traffic and vehicle type.
  • Get a choice of alternative routes, as well as suggested fastest route with traffic.
  • Customise your route by simply adding new waypoints, or dragging and dropping existing waypoints on a route. Then choose from guided or forced route* options.
  • Send planned routes directly to a TomTom PRO driver terminal to keep your drivers on the right track.

Related: Time Is Money And It’s Time You Saved Both When Running Your Fleet

Personalised Map views*

  • Create your own saved map view to reach information you need fast.
  • Switch between vehicle groups or areas, without needing to adjust the map filters and zoom levels. n


Many ways to customise WEBFLEET to suit individual requirements from personalised views to adding information to make what you see more informative on one page.

Plan a route the way you want it

Use multiple variables (including waypoints) to give fastest or most efficient routes.


Across different device types, allowing you to always stay on top of business.

Simple, clean and easy to administer

Toggle between views to get the right information to focus on the task in hand. Get the right information to the right people at the right time, keep data secure and in the right hands.

Send routes to driver terminals

In real time, ensure drivers follow or avoid specific routes.

Visit and follow us on Twitter @TomTomWEBFLEET

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