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How to Build a Business That Works Without You

Spending more time working on the business and not just in it will create a better business, and more free time for you — but first, you need to get out of the ‘sucked in syndrome’.

Greg Fisher




Do any of these statements apply to you?

  1. You’re putting more and more energy and time into your business but not seeing the proportional increase in output from your efforts.
  2. You haven’t done any planning, training or systems development in your business in the past three months.
  3. The thought of bringing in new employees or part-time workers to help deal with an increased workload seems like more effort than it’s worth.
  4. Your business is almost totally dependent on the effort, ability and tacit knowledge of a few people. If any or all of these people were to leave you would be in serious trouble.
  5. If you won a dream holiday that you had to take in the next month, you would seriously consider not going for fear that your business would not survive without you being there.

The more of these statements that you identify with, the higher your chance of falling prey to the ‘sucked in syndrome’.

Related: Grow Your Business By Building A Community

The mind-set for avoiding the ‘sucked in syndrome’ – or for getting out of it – is very different from the mind-set for solving problems in the business development process.

Up to this point, the natural and fruitful way to solve problems was to work hard, to put in more hours, and to do more in the business.

The mind-set for avoiding or getting out of the sucked in syndrome is to spend more time working on the business and to spend less time working in the business.

Working in your business means operating like an employee, doing the day-to-day tasks that are required to keep the business running. Working on your business means creating your business as something separate from you that is self-sustaining without your input.

When working on the business you establish the direction for the company and develop the systems and processes so that the business runs smoothly even if you are not there.

You train and empower others to do the work in the business. Michael Gerber, the best-selling author of the book The E Myth Revisited, suggests that the most constructive way to frame the concept of working on your business is to: “Pretend that the business you own… is the prototype for 5 000 more just like it… In other words pretend that you are going to franchise your business.”

The franchise mind-set

Adopting a franchise mind-set – pretending that you are going to franchise your business – is one of the most constructive pieces of business wisdom I have ever come across.

A franchise (Nando’s, McDonald’s, Mugg & Bean) is a business format that is replicated over and over again.

The founder of the franchise creates a system that delivers a product within very particular parameters (quality, taste, experience etc) at multiple locations across the globe. To do that, the creator of the franchise needs to:

  1. Understand exactly what value the business should deliver to the customer
  2. Create a set of processes that can be operated by people with the lowest possible level of skill
  3. Capture all processes and practices of the operation in an operations manual
  4. Provide training and development to new employees so that they learn the system
  5. Be deliberate about the culture they wish to create within the organisation
  6. Specify how the brand is to remain consistent across locations.

Although, on the surface, it may seem simple to adopt the franchise mind-set, it’s difficult to implement effectively. But if done properly it can have a massive impact on SMEs and lead to real growth, and building a business that makes more profits, has a higher cash flow, and can one day be sold. It allows you to step away from your business and have a better work life balance while all of this is happening.

Focus areas for adopting a franchise mind-set

If you were going to start franchising your business in the next few months, there would be five aspects of the operation that you would need to focus on intensely to get it to the point where it could be replicated multiple times over.

Even though you may have no intention of ever franchising your business, by focusing on these elements of operation, you will be creating a business which is independent of you and one which has value even if you’re not involved. Music-stand

1. Planning and goal setting

If you were going to replicate your business many times over, you would need to be clear on what you expect each operation to achieve in both the short-term and the long-term.

As a business owner it’s easy to become so busy just trying to get through the day that you lose sight of where the business should be heading in the future.

Goals and plans drive behaviour, but as the leader of an organisation becomes more busy it’s easy for them to stop doing what’s important (setting and monitoring goals) and to only focus on what’s urgent (getting orders out, dealing with complaints etc).

When this happens, everyone in the firm loses direction and focus. They become less efficient in daily tasks and the organisation gets caught in a downward spiral of expending wasteful energy.

Take Action: To assess your focus on planning and goal setting, consider these questions:

  • Do you have goals for the next 90 days, one year, three years and five years?
  • Do your partners and employees know what those goals are?
  • Do you have a plan in place to achieve each of those goals?
  • Do you have measures and tools to regularly assess your process in relation to your plan and your goals?

2. Systems and processes

In the very early phases of a business development process, when only one person is responsible for a task, they can over time figure out the best way of performing it.

They learn through experimentation and slowly become an expert at what they do. A problem arises when that person leaves or wants to go on holiday, or when they are the business owner and have more pressing issues to deal with, or when more people are hired to do that same job but need to acquire the knowledge and skills.

There comes a point in a business’s life where the processes that have been developed over time need to be captured and documented. This entails creating an operations manual.

If you were to franchise your business you would need to pass on a manual describing all the major processes and systems in the business to the franchisee. Developing such a manual forces one to carefully consider whether all elements of a process add value and to identify the best person to carry out such a process.

Take Action: In adopting a franchise mindset in your business, consider these questions:

  • Do you have an operations manual describing the major systems and processes?
  • Have you reviewed those processes with the people carrying them out to look for inefficiencies and redundancies?
  • Have you considered whether an appropriately skilled person is carrying out each of the processes in the business?

In most cases you should aim to have the person with the lowest level of skill necessary carry out a task. If people are too skilled you are likely to incur excess cost and over-skilled people will get bored and frustrated.

Related: How to Build a Business to Sell

3. Training and development

One of the fundamental mechanisms used to empower others is training and development. A clear sign that a business is falling prey to the sucked in syndrome is when none (or very few) of the people in the business have been on any kind of training or development activity in the past six months.

People in a business are either growing or they are becoming stagnant and unproductive. Training and development programmes are one way to keep them engaged and growing.

If you were going to franchise your business, you would need to spend a significant amount of time training other people. This is one of the critical tasks for a business owner of an expanding business.

Whether you are conducting the training or overseeing the process through which others are trained and developed, to adopt a franchise mindset, you need to take responsibility and ownership of the process.

Take Action:  To assess the effectiveness of your business in this domain, consider the following questions:

  • Have all your employees been on some kind of training activity in the past year? Who has not been exposed to any training and development? Why?
  • Do you have informal activities within the organisation that encourage people to develop and grow, for example, brown bag lunch discussions, book clubs, mentoring arrangements, reading and discussing Entrepreneur magazine articles?
  • Have you been on any kind of training activity in the past year?
  • Have you spent any time passing on knowledge and training to others in the past 12 months? Could you do more?

4. Culture and morale

One of the biggest challenges to creating a franchise is replicating and distributing an organisation’s culture. To ensure the right culture and employee morale across multiple locations, one needs to be very clear on the norms, values and assumptions that are relevant within the organisation.

Organisational culture can develop a life of its own. Therefore, if as the leader of a company, you pay no attention to culture, you are likely to wake up one day and discover that the norms, values and assumptions that are driving behaviour in your organisation are out of alignment with what you want them to be.

A leader should own the culture of his or her organisation and as it expands, so the leader should pay attention to the culture that is emerging among employees.

Take Action: To critically assess the culture in your business, consider the following questions:

  • What are the values of your company? Would all your employees agree?
  • What sort of culture are you trying to create in the organisation? How is this culture demonstrated in your behaviour and in the behaviour of other employees?
  • What are the things that carry and retain the culture – language, rituals, stories, traditions, people or activities?
  • Is the culture and morale getting stronger or weaker? Why?

5. Brand and reputation

For anyone franchising an operation, one of the biggest risks is the potential destruction of the brand of the business. Prior to franchising a business, the franchisor needs to be clear about the important elements of the brand.

In some of my dealings with Nando’s I have found that this is the most critical element of the franchising arrangement for them. They can’t allow a franchisee to make a decision that puts the Nando’s brand in jeopardy. They’re absolutely clear about what the Nando’s brand means and how it should be represented in every aspect – signage, menus, greeting and customer service.

If you wish to build a business that is independent of you and has the ability to expand and grow in an effective way, you need to be explicit about what’s important for its brand.

You need to consider both tangible elements (logo, colours, signage, design, communications, mantra) and intangible elements of the brand (brand values, behaviours, routines, service delivery).

Take Action: The following questions will help focus your attention on brand and reputation related issues:

  • What does the brand of my business stand for? Would employees agree? Would customers or the public agree?
  • What are the brand’s strongest elements? What are it’s weakest elements and risks?
  • What elements do I expect to evolve and change over the next three years? What elements should remain steadfast?
  • What employees are best for my brand?
  • What customer does the brand appeal to? Is this my target customer?

Related: How To Expand Your Business To 5 Times Its Size In 5 Years

The Challenge

Adopting the franchise mindset is difficult when you start out. After months or years of being manically busy with day-to-day issues it is challenging to take a step back and focus on the bigger picture. It takes immense discipline to work on your business and avoid the trap of working in your business.

Greg Fisher, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Management & Entrepreneurship Department at the Kelley School of Business, Indiana University. He teaches courses on Strategy, Entrepreneurship, and Turnaround Management. He has a PhD in Strategy and Entrepreneurship from the Foster School of Business at the University of Washington in Seattle and an MBA from the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS). He is also a visiting lecturer at GIBS.

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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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