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Understanding The Art Of Relationship Brokering

Here are seven tips on negotiating relationships in the business landscape.

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Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are the fulcrum of our economic engine; not only in South African but across the African continent. In South Africa, they provide employment to about 60% of our labour force and they plug-in various gaps in a number of industry value chains, facilitating the effective running of said industries.

Equally important, SMEs are, as South African Reserve Bank Deputy Governor, Francois Groepe asserts, “an essential conduit whereby millions of people enter the economic and social mainstream of a society.”

Through small businesses, the everyman has relatively unfettered access to an otherwise cryptic and many a time, exclusive realm. At a time when our economy needs us all to pull and push together, they present an effective pathway to economic inclusion.

With this in mind, supporting small businesses could not be more urgent. In South Africa, SMEs make up 91% of formalised businesses and are responsible for 34% of our GDP. These are huge numbers that can be bigger the more support there is for SMEs.

Related: 5 Different Types Of Businesses

We need platforms that facilitate entrepreneurship and small business growth, like the Small Business Expo which is the evolution of 20 years of Thebe Reed Exhibitions’ dedication to entrepreneurship.

The exhibition, focuses on facilitating relationship brokering between small business owners, entrepreneurs, investors, franchisors, corporate leaders and business hubs and incubators. Through effective relationship brokering, small business owners connect and support each other, and grow their establishments.

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1. Know your own story, and know it well

Sharing your story – whether it’s your business proposition, your skill set or a project you are working on – is a determinant of successful relationship brokering. You have to know your story, and know it well enough to share it in a compelling manner. Your story is part of the collateral you leave any prospective business connections.

2. Relationship brokering builds social capital

Your own and the social capital of those around you. It’s a process that, when done right, builds your influence and profiles your authority. Not only do you get a chance for people to know you, but also for people to get to know what you do and the pedigree you possess as a business owner, entrepreneur or professional. You position yourself, on an uninterrupted stage that is formal yet relaxed and personal.

3. Relationship brokering is about building sustainable communities of people and businesses that complement each other

It’s about fostering collaboration where synergies exist and enabling connections where business opportunities exist. Beyond that, a successfully built community becomes the support structure to members of its network.

Related: 4 Types Of Business Models

4. Build and maintain bridges

Don’t put yourself first. Pay attention to your business associates and connections. Ascertain their needs and assist them in addressing those needs. During that process, you profile your own skill set and showcase what you and your business can do. This is important as relationship brokering is only self-serving to a point. If it becomes a one-way street, connections crumble because no one wants to be involved in a one-way relationship.

5. Relationship brokering facilitates sharing

Relationships are about mutual value and this mutual value is not only monetary but also about shared objectives, visions and ambitions. This connection must allow parties to draw value strategically for the outcome of a business endeavour or opportunity. The shared value can include knowledge, skills transference or specialist experience – whatever the attribute, achieving mutual value is the objective of the relationship.

6. Quality trumps quantity

Relationship brokering is not a business card collection contest after all. Focus on those businesses and personalities who are stakeholders in your industry’s value chain. Always remember that one quality business relationship surpasses a rolodex of business cards who have no link to your work or industry.

Related: 9 Answers You Need About Yourself Before Starting Your Own Business

7. Do follow up. Do reach out

Many of us do more than enough sharing of contact details but not enough following up and reaching out. Follow up to legitimise the connection and start building a relationship.

Carol is an award winning business woman with over 30 years of experience in the business tourism and events, working across many sectors within the industry. She is the managing director and shareholder of Thebe Reed Exhibitions, a joint venture between Thebe Tourism Group, one of South Africa’s first black economic empowerment companies and Reed Exhibitions, a subsidiary of the RELX Group. Under her leadership, Thebe Reed Exhibitions has become one of the largest and most successful exhibition and venue management companies in Southern Africa and is well positioned to expand its footprint across Africa, with many new ventures in the pipeline.

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Start-up Advice

6 Resources For Start-ups Looking For Funding

Here are 6 online resources that can help you pay the bills and grow your business at the same time.

Josh Althuser

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Anyone who has ever considered starting their own business, or is currently in the process of doing so, knows that every little bit helps when it comes to making ends meet. Part of the charm of start-up culture is the low-budget creative atmosphere that seems to continually fuel innovation. But, eventually you’re going to have to keep the lights on and water running, and you can’t do that with creativity alone.

Whether you are a business that is just starting out, or already well on your way, there are plenty of online platforms that offer start-ups advice and funding opportunities. Here are 6 online resources that can help you pay the bills and grow your business at the same time.

1. Kickstarter

kickstarter-logoAt one point it seemed that anyone with a clever idea could make a video showing why the world should invest in the next big thing. While a lot of crazy projects have gotten funded over the years, utilising a crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter continues to be a viable way to get your project off the ground. Of course, if you want to reach your funding goals, it’s best that you have already done your market research, have a solid plan, and treat crowdfunding like a global VC.

Visit Kickstarter here.

Related: 4 Tips To Secure Funding For Your Start-up

2. Toptal

toptal-logoThose who are new to the start-up world might not know exactly where to start when it comes to looking for funding. While the freelance economy has grown immensely in the last 5 years, it’s important to know where to look.

Platforms like Toptal offer a wide range of freelance professionals that specialise start-up funding. Start-ups seeking a consultant on Toptal can also rest easy knowing that they carefully screen each candidate, ensuring they have the necessary professional background and experience to guarantee a successful project. 

Visit Toptal here.

3. Appbackr

appbackrIf you couldn’t already tell by the name, appbacker is definitely worth checking out if you are a start-up working in app technology for both Android and Iphone. The platform helps people discover different apps through the crowdsourcing model. Investors can scroll through apps from around the world, and if they like what they see, they can choose to invest. Funding incentive is based on an investor’s ability to purchase an app at the wholesale price, eventually making a profit once the app starts flying off the shelves in the official app store.

Visit Appbackr here.

Related: 7 Strategies For Development As An Entrepreneur

4. Gust

Gust logoInvestors are more likely to invest locally, which is why Gust is an attractive option for start-ups around the world, as they represent over eighty countries worldwide. Founded by a team of investors and lawyers, Gust knows their way around the start-up world.

With portals for both start-ups and investors, the platform seamlessly connects those seeking funds and those looking to invest. Start-ups can create a profile on Gust, and also have access to tools and tips to help them regulate finances and legal matters. 

Visit Gust here.

5. AngelList

angellist-logoNot just for investment, although that is a major part of the platform, AngelList is also a great place to find start-up jobs as well as recruitment. Those start-ups that are looking to expand can greatly benefit from this feature, while also getting their name out there to potential investors.

Their syndicate platform, led by technology experts make room for those who are looking to invest the chance to apply to a lead or directly invest in a fund.

Visit AngelList here.

Related: 6 Steps To Building A Million-Dollar Ecommerce Site In 60 Days

6. Seedrs

seedrs-logoFrom top corporations to big name accelerators, Seedrs aims to simplify the funding process for investors. Providing a vast network of investors from 48 different countries, who tap into an additionally impressive network of start-ups, there is plenty of room for collaboration on this platform. Seeders also encourages investors and start-ups to continue their relationship after the transaction is made. Their online and offline networks aim keep both start-ups and investors in the loop.

Depending at what stage of development your company has currently reached, exploring various funding options available to you is a worthwhile endeavour. Rather than blindly pitching investors, investigating each potential platform, whether it’s crowdfunding or a hiring a freelance funding expert, will save you time and resources so you can focus on the right type of investment based on your needs.

Visit Seedrs here.

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Start-up Advice

Picking Your Lane: Maximising Your Chances Of Success And Happiness

How do you choose? What do you prioritise? What’s right for me is almost certainly not right for you.

Anthony Miller

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Most entrepreneurs start businesses out of necessity.  They do what they have to.  They don’t think far ahead.  They fight fires every day.  They are the foundation of every economy all over the world.  Some succeed, some fail, few shoot the lights out.  Some are happy, some are not.

For me, there’s nothing more thrilling than building a business.  Seeing your ideas turn into reality.  Seeing your team exceed your expectations every day.  Seeing your customers’ lives improved by your products.

But, entrepreneurship is not for the faint-hearted.  You pour blood and sweat and tears into your business.  You get more than your fair share of punches in the nose.  It’s hard, but if you’re lucky and you persevere, the rewards are great.

So, how do you maximise your chances of getting into the ‘happy and shooting the lights out’ club?

Related: 9 Quotes Every Entrepreneur Should Live By

Picking the right lane – figuring out what you’re going to do – is probably the most important decision you’ll make.  Once you’ve figured that out, you can get down to the nitty gritty of picking your team and building your business.

But, how do you choose?  What do you prioritise?  What’s right for me is almost certainly not right for you.

sweet-spot-modelThe Sweet Spot Model, which has been drifting around the web for years, provides great guidance.  If you do what you love, the hard yards won’t feel like work.  If you do what you’re good at, you’ll beat or (even better) outstrip the competition.  If you provide something the world needs, you’ll feel a sense of purpose.  If someone will pay for it, you have a business.

When I co-founded Simply, I wanted to tick all 4 boxes AND work from Cape Town AND be extremely flexible (so I could prioritise family health).

I worked on three different ideas: A GIS-platform for solar and other utilities; a transaction platform for stokvels; and a cheeky online life insurance play.

The life insurance play quickly emerged as my best choice (it helped that my partners are top actuaries J):

  1. What I’m good at – doing start-ups, connecting people and teams, and using technology and data to solve business problems.
  2. What I love – working with people I like and trust to build businesses that solve hard problems and make the world a better place.
  3. What the world needs – most adult South Africans have one or more funeral policies. Few have life or disability cover and policies are often very expensive.  There’s a clear need for simple, convenient, well-priced life, disability and funeral cover.
  4. What someone will pay for – the market we’re targeting is huge – nearly R7.5Bn of new premium is written annually.

Related: 7 Strategies For Development As An Entrepreneur

With the stars lining up, we pressed the go button in early 2016.  It’s now twelve months since we launched to market and early signs are good:

  1. Our innovative, online products – Family Cover, Domestic Cover and Group Cover – have been well received and are improving all the time.
  2. We have an amazing, engaged team – inspired by the purpose of protecting vulnerable people.
  3. We’ve sold more than 4 500 policies to date, providing more than R2.5Bn of cover to more than 20,000 people.
  4. We’re based in Cape Town, working hard and having fun, and I seldom miss a swimming gala, netball game or opportunity to go mountain biking.

While picking the right lane is no guarantee of success, it definitely helps stack the odds in your favour. You’re going to need all the help you can get. So, take the time to pick your lane. I bet it’ll be worth the effort.

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Start-up Advice

9 Quotes Every Entrepreneur Should Live By

Entrepreneurship takes great perseverance. Failure is common. In fact, it is expected. Over 75% of venture-backed start-ups fail.

Jennifer Keithson

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Entrepreneurship takes great perseverance. Failure is common. In fact, it is expected. Over 75% of venture-backed start-ups fail.

There are great learning opportunities that present themselves when we fail, but we must be willing to continue on and try again in order to learn anything at all.

It can be quite an arduous task to strive for your own means, to create your own vision and to rally the support within yourself that starting and running your own business requires.

Thankfully, we’re not in it alone. The wisdom of others can greatly ameliorate the process learning from our missteps and hiccups.

Taking from sagacious investors, inventors and thinkers can help you pick yourself up and make something meaningful out of your quest to become a successful entrepreneur.

By studying the thought processes of other entrepreneurs, we can become more enriched and more aware of how to approach the challenges we face in business and in life.

Here are 9 quotes every entrepreneur should live by:

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