Connect with us

Start-up Advice

ClickMaven Had To Overcome Growing Pains to Become a Serious Industry Player

Failing quickly taught Ferdie Bester to think differently and advance his business, ClickMaven.

Monique Verduyn




Vital Stats

  • Company: ClickMaven
  • Player: Ferdie Bester
  • Est: 2007
  • Contact: +27 (0)11 726 1074
  • Visit:

When digital marketing expert, Ferdie Bester, decided it was time to launch his own business in 2007, his wife handed her bonus over to him so that he could get ClickMaven up and running.

“I was lucky, I had just written the business plan and I was preparing to bootstrap the company, when my wife got a windfall and invested it in my start-up,” Bester recalls. That support continued through the ups and downs of the young business which required a shift in mindset and lifestyle.

Early mishaps

Bester is candid about the mistakes he made in the beginning. “I wanted to start a business because it seemed glamorous and would give me more freedom. I also believed that hard work would logically equal success. I could not have been more wrong.”

Bester says his first mistake was to work from home. “All my anxiety about work affected my home life. My work hours were erratic and it was difficult for people to take me seriously on the phone when they could hear the dog barking. I also began to sense that I was socially deprived. I had little contact with the outside world and I was getting very little affirmation.”


Changing the business model

Bester’s business model was built on performance marketing, a combination of advertising and innovation that helps retailers and affiliates grow their businesses through highly targeted campaigns. Done well, it creates big opportunities for both retailers and affiliates.

“After a year of working alone, the business had gained little traction, and I realised I’d have to change what I was doing and find a way to really make the business stand out. It was about making the change from freelancer to entrepreneur.

“I also had to let go of the delusional idea that by paying myself a low salary I could convince myself that I was breaking even.” 

[box style=”gray,info” ]

Ask yourself:

How do you get your business to gain traction and go from small start-up to serious industry player?


Doing one thing well

Bester focused the business on one thing only – Google AdWords management. He’d gained experience in it at a time when the concept was still new in the local market.

By helping clients put their message in front of potential customers searching for what those clients had to offer, he began to distinguish ClickMaven’s offering. That helped him to position the business and start building a significant client base.

Within two years ClickMaven achieved break-even, with Bester signing up more and more clients, thanks to his technical know-how and his new mindset.

“I was lucky enough to fail quickly and often. That sounds counter-intuitive, but it meant that I could see that my initial plan was not going to work and I could adjust accordingly. I was basically forced to figure out what to do next.”

Paving the way for growth

From the initial focus on AdWords, the company now has a suite of digital marketing products that drive leads and sales for clients, a move that happened in line with rapidly changing market needs. It builds sales-focused websites, marketing clients’ services, driving traffic to their sites, and bringing them more qualified leads.

Today the business employs 16 people and has a solid client base in the financial services industry, as well as a number of mid-sized companies. From 2011 to now, the business has doubled its revenue, and is growing at a rate of 30% per year.

“We have always been excellent at what we do technically. The challenge now is to continue to promote an organisational culture that is innovative enough to enable us to compete in what has become a commoditised market.

“Our team is united by a passion for digital, and we are always ready to embrace new technology and new ideas. I’m committed to making sure we have a great mix of people and products. That will make the business sustainable.”

In 2012 Bester joined Entrepreneurs’ Organisation, a global non-profit organisation which engages leading entrepreneurs to learn and grow.

“It was an enormous help to receive advice and mentorship from other people, and to be able to surround myself with people who face the same challenges and operate in similar spaces to me. There’s a lot to be said for reaching out.”

Monique Verduyn is a freelance writer. She has more than 12 years’ experience in writing for the corporate, SME, IT and entertainment sectors, and has interviewed many of South Africa’s most prominent business leaders and thinkers. Find her on Google+.

Click to comment

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply

Start-up Advice

Put On Your Wellies: It’s Time To Wade Into Risk

Entrepreneurs aren’t all leaping into the unknown like lemmings off a cliff, but they do need to consider it…

Chris Ogden




You’ve had a great idea. You’ve looked into its development. You’ve recognised that it has potential beyond just what Auntie Mabel and Mike From The Grocer think. And you’ve clearly nailed a pain point that can make money. Now it is time to take the risk of running with it.

Every big idea comes with risk. You can’t step out into the world of entrepreneurial thinking and business development without it. Your idea may fail. It will also be time consuming, demanding, hungry for money, and hard work. It is unrealistic to expect that your project will leap out into the world and be an unmitigated success.

It is also unrealistic to assume that it isn’t worth taking this risk.

There are steps that you can follow to ensure that your risk is managed so you aren’t blindly leaping off that cliff…

Step 01: Do your research

No, canvassing your neighbours, friends and family is not doing research. You need to know that your idea will appeal to a broad market and that it will have significant legs. This may sound like daft advice, but you would be surprised how many people think an idea will take off just because Susan in Accounting said so.

Step 02: Understand the costs

Projects are hungry for money and investment. Realistically work out your budgets and how much it will cost to take your project off the ground and then stick to it.

A calculated risk is a far better bet than one that shoots from the hip and hopes for the best. You can also use this as an opportunity to draw a clear line under where you will stop investing and end the project. If it keeps eating money and isn’t getting anywhere with results you need to be able to walk away.

Step 03: Know when to walk away

As mentioned before, this can be defined by a line you’ve drawn in the proverbial sand (and budget) but no matter where you draw this line, you have to stick to it. Often, when time, money and energy have been poured into a project it can be incredibly hard to walk away.

You think ‘but I have put so much into this, just one more’ and then it gets to a point where the ‘just one more’ has taken you so far down the line that walking away feels impossible. Leave. Learn the lessons. Apply them to your next project.

Continue Reading

Start-up Advice

Mind The Gap

The entrepreneur’s guide to finding the gaps and building the right solutions.

Chris Ogden




Innovation may very well be the key to business success but finding the gap into which your innovative thinking can fit is often a lot harder than people realise. Some may be struck by inspiration in the shower, others by that moment of blinding insight in a meeting, however, for most people finding that big idea isn’t that simple. They want to be an entrepreneur and start their own high-growth business, but they need some ideas on how to find that big idea.

Here are five…

1. Network

It sounds trite but networking is actually an excellent way of picking up on patterns and trends in conversation and business problems. The trick is to note them down and pay attention. Soon, you will find patterns emerging and ideas forming.

2. Look for pain

Just as networking can reveal trends in the market, so can spending time reading. The latter will also help you find common business pain points. These are the touchpoints that frustrate people, annoy business owners, affect productivity, or impact employee engagement.

Be the Panado that fixes these pains.

3. Luck


This is probably the most annoying of the ideas, but it is unfortunately (or fortunately) very true. Luck does play a role in helping you capture that big idea. However, luck isn’t just standing around and random people offering you opportunities. Luck is found at networking events, it is found in research and it is found in conversations with other entrepreneurs.

4. Luck needs courage

You may have found the big idea through your network, a pain point or pure blind luck, but if you don’t have the courage to take it and run with it, you will lose it to someone else.

Being bold in business is highly underrated because most people assume that everyone is bold and prepared to take big leaps into the unknown. However, not all brilliant entrepreneurs were ready to throw their family funds to the wind and leap into an idea – they were courageous enough to figure out a way of harnessing their ideas realistically.

5. Pay attention

This is probably one of the most vital ways of finding a gap in the market. Often, people are so busy that they don’t really pay attention to that niggling issue that always bothers them on a commute, or in a mall, or at a meeting. This niggling issue could very well be the next big business opportunity. Pay attention to it and find out if that issue can be solved with your innovative thinking.

Continue Reading

Start-up Advice

5 Things To Know About Your “Toddler” Business

As you navigate this new toddler phase of your business, here are five things to bear in mind.

Catherine Black




Ah, toddlers. Those irresistible bundles of joy bring a huge amount of energy, curiosity and fun to any family – but there’s also frustration and worry that comes with their unpredictability, as they grow and start to become more independent. If you own a business and it’s successfully past its “infancy” of the first year or so, it’s likely it will also go through a toddler stage of its lifecycle.

Pete Hammond, founder of luxury safari company SafariScapes, agrees with this. “Our business is now three and a half years old, and we’ve found that we’re not yet big enough to justify employing a large team of people to handle the day-to-day admin tasks, yet we still need to grow the business as well,” he says. “As a result, our main challenge is finding the time to step back and see the bigger picture. Kind of like when you are raising a busy toddler and you spend most of your time running after them!”

As you navigate this new toddler phase of your business, here are five things to bear in mind:

1. This too shall pass

Everything in life is temporary – and that goes for both the good and the bad. It’s as helpful to remember this when you’re facing the might of a toddler temper tantrum, as it is when you’re facing throws of uncertainty in your business. If your new(ish) venture is going through a rough patch in its first few years, it can be easy to think about giving up – but don’t. As long as you have an overall big idea that you believe can add value to your customers, keep pushing through the rough parts until you come out the other side.

2. Appreciate what this phase brings

The toddler years mean that the initial newborn joy is officially behind you. But these small humans also bring their own kinds of joy, as you watch them learn new skills, say funny things, and give affection back to you. While your two-year-old business may not hold the same exhilaration for you as it did during those first few months, there are now different things to appreciate about it: Maybe you’re expanding your product range, or employing new people who can take the workload off you.

3. Establish boundaries

Toddlers thrive on boundary and routine – and your toddler business will too. As it grows into a new phase, try and establish limits in terms of the type of clients you want to work with and the type of work you’ll do. It’s also a good idea to make a decision about the hours you’ll work and when you’ll switch off, which will help you establish a good work-life balance.

4. Take a break

Every parent with a toddler needs a break every now and then, even if that means a walk around the block (on your own!), a dinner out with friends, or even a few days away. The same is true for a demanding small business: every so often, remember to take time out to rest properly, where you switch off your laptop and completely unplug. You’ll return much more inspired and resilient to deal with the everyday uncertainty that it brings.

5. Give it space to make mistakes

While the unpredictability of a young business can be stressful and tiring, it’s also a time for trying new things without the risk of huge consequences if they don’t quite work. After all, it’s much simpler to change your USP if you’re a small business employing a few people, rather than a big company where 50 people are relying on you for their salary, or where you’ve received a huge amount of investment capital. While you may fail in some of the things you try with your business (in fact, this is almost guaranteed), see it as a toddler that’s resilient enough to pick itself up, dust its knees and keep moving forward.

During this phase of business growth it’s also essential to have the right type of medical aid cover. There are medical schemes such as Fedhealth which has a number of medical aid options and value-added benefits to ensure that your health and wellness is taken care of too. After all, the healthier you and your staff are, the more productive your business will be – during the toddler (business) stage and beyond.

While this phase can be frustrating, it’s a sign that your business is growing and adapting, rather than remaining in its infancy, and that can only be a good thing! So embrace the difficulties, learn from them, and watch as your business strides forward confidently into the next exciting phase.

Continue Reading



Recent Posts

Follow Us

We respect your privacy. 
* indicates required.