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11 Secrets Of South African Entrepreneurs On Making It To The Top

This comprehensive guide will help you learn valuable lessons from leading South African entrepreneurs on how to succeed in life – and in business.

Nicole Crampton

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Nicholas-Bell

Although it’s tough, you can succeed nonetheless

These 11 South African entrepreneurs have experienced their fair share of ups and downs. Some of them needed life changing events, and external criticism in order to pivot or launch their finally successful business or venture. But in the end, they persevered and today run some of the most thriving companies in the country.

It’s becoming clearer to many that the journey of an entrepreneur is difficult one. They start out in their garages, and some sleep in their cars to save capital. A few realise, after years of running their businesses, that it can’t scale and they’ll need to pivot. Life also happens, which means entrepreneurs also wade through life altering events that regularly drive them re-evaluate their life’s path.

Here are 11 of South Africa’s best and brightest businesspeople, sharing their stories and advice on how they overcame obstacles and struggles in order to achieve success:

Mphela & Associates on scaling their legal services enterprise

maditsi-mphela-associates

Maditsi Mphela

Vital Stats

  • Player: Maditsi Mphela
  • Company: Mphela & Associates
  • Established: 1986
  • Turnover: R100 million
  • Visit: mphela.co.za

As a lawyer, Maditsi Mphela didn’t really consider himself a businessman. But, when he started his own legal practice that is exactly what he became. Law firms are service-orientated businesses, which are notoriously difficult to scale. This is because lawyers are highly-skilled professionals and each case can take lengthy amounts of time.

As the owner, Mphela employed skilled and ‘expensive’ people who spent a lot of time on each case. There was a need to reposition in order to access a growing client base and to facilitate access to the High Court. His practice at the time was successful, earning him R10 000 in the first year and growing from 1 000 to 15 000 clients, but it started to stagnate and he needed to figure out how to scale it.

The Top Secret

Mphela found the answer by finding a specific focus for his business. Instead of being a general practice, Mphela and Associates would focus their energies on personal injury cases and cases against the state. He found that other cases were requiring more work and time, and offered relatively low incomes for his team. So, he re-engineered his firm to focus on areas that yielded huge returns.

Related: South African Entrepreneurs Blazing a Trail Overseas

Decision Inc. had to pivot to build a sustainable business

Nicholas Bell

Nicholas Bell

Vital Stats

  • Player: Nicholas Bell
  • Company: Decision Inc.
  • Established: 2008
  • Turnover: R116 million
  • Visit: decisioninc.co.za

Nicholas Bell launched his business that serviced big corporates and positioned it as a value partner. Five years after launching, his turnover was R21 million and he boasted clients like Simba, Harmony, SAB and Sibanye Gold. However, when meeting with an International Selection Panel to join Endeavour, they told him that they didn’t believe his business could scale, as the Intellectual Property wasn’t his, and that he was open to disruption.

“The feedback made me look at the business critically and evaluate our strengths and weaknesses,” he says. Bell realised that Decision Inc. was open to disruption if someone bought their single vendor. He also looked into who controlled his company’s licence to trade.

The Top Secret  

Once these weakness had been identified, Bell systematically solved each one. First, he partnered with other vendors to avoid future possible disruption from only having one vendor. Then, he turned his attention to IP: “We’re an intellectual business that relies on human capital. Our IP resides in a lot of people’s heads. We needed to get it out of [their] heads and into the business,” explains Bell.

His business had a high capacity, but more employees couldn’t do the work faster. He needed to change his business model, which is what he did. Bell’s business is now worth more than R100 million and in the next five years his business could be worth 10 times return on investment.

Get creative when the pay cheques stop coming

jerusha-govender

Jerusha Govender

Vital Stats

When Jerusha Govender went on maternity leave with her first child, her company decided to not renew her contract for economic reasons. Within weeks of the birth of her son, she had registered her business, Data Innovator. But, how would she get her idea to market? If you can’t get customers to pay for your service, you don’t have a business.

The Top Secret 

“I contacted everyone I knew. That’s a real plus point to working for a few years before you start your own business. The industry gets to know you, you build up a track record and develop necessary experience and expertise to be really innovative in your field,” she says.

However, Govender didn’t have a proven track record as a business owner, so she offered her services for free for a specific period of time to grow trust with her customers. This business model was risky, but in Govender’s case it paid off. She told her clients up front that after two free reports, she would need to be paid for her services, and they agreed. Now, her business is based entirely on referrals and clients have kept coming since she entered the market.

Related: 8 SA Entrepreneurs Who Built Proudly South African Businesses

TBO Touch on fighting an uphill battle against your critics

TBO Touch

TBO Touch

Vital Stats

  • Player: TBO Touch
  • Company: Touch Central, serial entrepreneur
  • Established: 2016
  • Visit: touchcentral.fm

When TBO Touch started his career on Metro FM, critics were quick to predict that he wouldn’t be able to grow his primetime show into an asset. His goal, however, was to change the business of radio by converting three hours of radio into a ‘movement’. Throughout his entrepreneurial exploits, it’s argued that the ‘media’ is waiting for him to fail, as he’s already made headlines several times.

The Top Secret

“My mantra from the beginning of my career has been to under-promise and over-deliver.” This method allowed him to consistently keep his clients happy and coming back for more, despite what was happening in the press.

Another top secret that helped TBO Touch go from strength to strength is to continuously have a positive mindset.

“Everything looks big and daunting until you realise how easy it is when you reach the top. There is no such thing as impossible. There are minds and attitudes that create excuses not to attain goals, that’s all.”

Self-doubt or second guessing yourself can have a detrimental impact on your business, it’s better to rather be positive about your business and the direction you’re heading in.

Demographica learnt the hard lesson of adapt and grow or be left behind

Warren Moss

Warren Moss

Vital Stats

Demographica has been around for a decade already, and during this time the company has enjoyed tremendous growth. But, it had to pivot the business to maintain its growth curve.

Long-term companies can see massive disruption heading down the pipeline and that’s what happened with Demographica.

“Things like the Consumer Protection Act and the Protection of Personal Information Act were coming into being, so I realised that a database service like ours would come under threat. If we wanted to keep going we would have to change our business,” says Moss.

The Top Secret

“We weren’t simply sending out emails. We were constantly solving problems for clients. Our clients were asking us for help, and we started to build a reputation as a business that could provide advice and insight on a strategic level. We realised this was an area we could focus on, and so we started to turn into more of an agency, with a focus on direct marketing,” Moss explains.

Demographica not only pivoted, but also carved out a significant niche to operate in. “Since changing over, the company has grown by 200%.” So they completely changed their offering and overhauled the whole company in order to avoid being disrupted and to scale effectively.

Related: 10 Dynamic Black Entrepreneurs

Planet Fitness started with no credit record, no assets and no money

Manny Rivera

Manny Rivera

Vital Stats

  • Player: Manny Rivera
  • Company: Planet Fitness
  • Established: 1995
  • Turnover: R850 million
  • Company worth: Between R2 billion and R3 billion
  • Visit: planetfitness.co.za, www.justgym.co.za

“I started out with no backing, no cash, and no major corporate infrastructure behind me.” But, Manny Rivera was going to launch a major fitness brand to compete with the Health and Racquet Club no matter what.

“I had pure blind passion and only the end in mind. That’s what I focused on. I had a clear vision: I wanted to be the most profitable and successful health club in South Africa…and beyond,” says Rivera.

The first challenge was gaining skills, credibility and a share of the market: “The trick is to focus on what you do have and not what you don’t have.”

The Top Secret

Manny Rivera used the fact that he was starting smaller to his advantage. His competition wouldn’t be paying attention to him. “I knew they’d underestimate the little guy,” he says.

“I found a stand-alone club with nice, old-school equipment and started negotiating with the owner. I couldn’t get a loan to buy the business, so I had to make him an attractive offer that suited both our needs.” Rivera offered the gym owner R50 000 a month with a 10% escalation per year for the next ten years, after that the gym would be his, and that was his first stepping-stone to building a fitness empire.

Do what you know, especially if you can do it better than everyone else

busi-skenjana

Busi Skenjana

Vital Stats

  • Player: Busi Skenjana
  • Company: Brand Support Keys Marketing
  • Established: 2002
  • Visit: bskmarketing.co.za

Busi Skenjana wanted to become an entrepreneur, but she couldn’t figure out precisely what she should do. “I knew I needed a niche for myself,” says Skenjana. She understood that she had to comprehend her customers, their needs and their challenges and relate her message in a way that made them care about what she was telling them. Except, she just didn’t have an audience.

Skenjana has been a member of a stokvel her entire adult life, and it’s an industry that she knows intimately.

“I could see where brands were getting it wrong. Big companies were doing brand activations in black communities, but they were missing the mark,” says Skenjana.

The Top Secret

She suddenly realised this should be the industry she should focus on for her marketing business. Big business was missing the social path to their target marker, but Skenjana knew where they would be.

“Every Saturday there are thousands of stokvel meetings happening around the country. People are engaging with each other on a social level. It’s an engaged audience and far more focused than people at taxi ranks or in malls,” explains Skenjana.

Another top secret, Skenjana says: “If you put your market first and really focus on their needs, success will naturally follow, because you’ll be offering a service that adds real value to businesses and lives.”

Related: 10 Young Entrepreneurs Under 30 Share Their Start-Up Secrets

Partner with your competitor to continue experiencing growth

Rent my ride

Rent my ride

Vital Stats

  • Player: Rudolf Vavruch and Peter Puren
  • Company: RentMyRide
  • Visit: rentmyride.co.za

Peer-to-peer car rental is an exciting business model in its own right within South Africa. There is, however, some debate around how much growth these sorts of businesses can achieve given the largely higher LSM’s and corporate entities that this model initially appealed to.

Being unable to scale would have eventually caused RentMyRide to become stagnant and the business would have slowly downsized, or faced disruption by a competitor.

 The Top Secret

Recognising this potentially limited growth, the founders of RentMyRide partnered with Uber in South Africa to provide easy and equitable solutions for both fleet partners. A separate business and platform, DriverSelect, connects these parties and enables the owners to still get great returns on their vehicles, but with far less involvement in the administration of their fleet.

Launching amidst a global economic crisis made Car Service City stronger

grant-brady-car-service-city

Grant Brady

Vital Stats

For a young company, launching and being hit by a global economic crisis is the worst scenario you can think of. Establishing and growing a business under normal circumstances is hard enough, but when the world’s economy contracts, it can be nearly impossible to succeed.

But, Car Service City didn’t close down like many other businesses did when the Global Financial Crisis of 2009 hit. They flourished. And, over the past decade the brand has expanded to over 60 franchise locations nationwide.

The Top Secret

“We believe our business is recession-proof because road transport is the main method of transport for South Africa. Because we use cars so much, we need to keep them in top condition. The maintenance of vehicles is therefore key to keep them in top conditions,” Brady says.

Car Service City also focuses their attention on one-man-show car service businesses. This allowed them to both convert the competition and create new experienced owner-managers.

Related: 10 SA Entrepreneurs Who Built Their Businesses From Nothing

Avoid assumptions that a great career will come with time and patience

Kate Moodley

Kate Moodley

Vital Stats

  • Player: Kate Moodley
  • Company: Discovery Consulting Services
  • Established: 2010
  • Visit: www.katemoodley.co.za

In her early 20s, Kate Moodley was told to have patience and build her career. Trying to beat this misconception can take many years for entrepreneurs to overcome. Listening to bad advice can be just as devastating as a disruptor or an economic crisis.

Thankfully Moodley was far too impatient to wait ten years for a promotion, which is how she became a GM at Momentum by 26.

The Top Secret

She achieved her promotion by upskilling herself while she looked for opportunities. “I went out and taught myself the skills I needed to fill that role. Typically, successful people are doing things that other people don’t want to do. Where you put in effort is where you’ll see the rewards.”

Moodley focuses religiously on her self-development and keeps herself disciplined enough to work on it continuously.

“Do it the right way. Don’t choose options that make it easier in the short term – think long-term; learn more, look longer and further into the future,” she says.

A man with ‘only matric’ on becoming a universally loved brand

brian-altriche-rocomamas-franchise-south-africa

Brian Altriche

Vital stats

  • Player: Brian Altriche
  • Company: RocoMamas
  • Launched: 2014
  • Visit: rocomammas.com

Brian Altriche started his work life airbrushing Harley Davidsons and leather jackets on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles. During the late 80’s, early 90’s it was finally time to return to the new South Africa.

He moved to Yeoville and started painting signage for restaurants. Altriche had no tertiary qualifications, but he was creative, and a fast learner. He was paying attention to branding and marketing, and figuring out what customers responded to. And then his accident happened, he broke his arm and leg along with sustaining a head injury. He was stranded in hospital. During his time in hospital he re-evaluated his life path.

The Top Secret

He became obsessed with visualisation, the visualising of his life path, what a successful brand should look like, various options for how customers would experience a particular offering. Nothing would happen until he visualised it down to the tiniest detail, because once he saw it perfectly in his mind’s eye, he could aim for it and achieve it.

Twenty years later, this fanatical relationship with the power of visualisation would lead directly to the launch of RocoMamas, which is arguably one of the most successful new food chains in South Africa’s fast, casual dining sector.

Related: Funding And Resources For Young SA Entrepreneurs

Next Slideshow: 10 Inspirational African Entrepreneurs

abasiama-idaresit

Abasiama Idaresit

Nicole Crampton is an online writer for Entrepreneur Magazine. She has studied a BA Journalism at Monash South Africa. Nicole has also completed several courses in writing and online marketing.

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Lessons Learnt

Scaleup Learnings From Our Top Clients – What The Most Successful Entrepreneurs Do Right

So, how do our successful clients move through these constraints to scaling up? We see four key drivers of success, and they are: people, strategy, flawless execution and finance.

Louw Barnardt

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business-growth-scaling-advice

You’re out of your start-up boots, staff is increasing, your client base is growing, revenue is up and you’ve proven your case to the market. Now it’s time to scale up. The challenges of this vital growth phase are different and it’s a time that demands different mindsets and different actions. In a world littered with small business failures, it helps to be well-prepared for scaling up using a proven methodology. At Outsourced CFO, we get an inside look at the success factors of our clients who are mastering the transition.

On the one hand, scaling up is a really exciting phase; this is what moves you into real job creation and making an impactful contribution to economic growth. On the other hand, it is really hard to scale up successfully. We see three major constraints that limit companies’ transition from start-up to scale-up:

Leadership

The business has to have the leadership that can take it to the next level. When you start scaling up, especially rapidly, the founders can no longer do everything themselves. The team must grow and include new leadership talent that can take charge and execute so that the founders are working on the business instead of in the business.

Infrastructure

The processes, procedures, networks, systems and workflows of the business all need to be scalable. This is imperative when it comes to your infrastructure for the financial management of your business. You’re only ready for growth when your infrastructure can seamlessly keep pace.

Market access

Scaling up demands more innovative marketing and storytelling so that you can more easily connect and engage with the new employees, clients, network partners, investors and mentors that need to come along with you on your scale-up journey.

Businesses that build a market conversation and a compelling brand narrative during their start-up phase are better positioned to have this kind of market access when they need to scale up.

People

It is critical to have the right people on your team. Our successful entrepreneurs have what it takes to attract, inspire and retain top talent. A strong team of smart, ambitious and purpose-driven people who love the company and want to see it succeed contribute greatly to a world class company culture. They are adept at communicating a compelling vision and establishing core values that people can take on. These entrepreneurs are tuned into the aspirations of their people and focus on developing leaders in their teams who can in turn develop more leaders.

Strategy

It is planning that ensures that the right things are happening at the right times. At successful scale-ups strategies and action plans are devised to ensure that the most important thing always remains the most important thing.

Strategy includes input from all team members and setting of good priorities for the short, medium and long term. Goals are clear and everyone always knows what they are working towards. The needle is continuously moved because 90-day action plans are implemented each quarter to achieve targets and goals that are over and above people doing their daily jobs.

Flawless execution

Top entrepreneurs are not just focused on what operations need to achieve, but how the business operates. They have the right procedures, processes and tools in place so that everyone can deliver along the line on the company’s brand promise. Frequent, quick successive meetings ensure the rapid flow of effective communication. Problems are solved without drama. There is no chaos in the office environment. Everyone is empowered to execute flawlessly to an array of consistently happy clients.

Finance

Everyone knows that growth burns cash. A rapidly scaling business faces the challenge of needing a scalable financial infrastructure to keep the company healthy. Our successful entrepreneurs pay close attention to finance as the heartbeat of the business, ensuring that everything else functions. They look at the tech they are using for financial management and for the ways that their financial systems can be automated so that they can be brought rapidly to scale. The capital to grow is another vital finance issue.

The best way to finance a business is through paying clients on the shortest possible cash flow cycle. However, when you are scaling up and making heavier investments in the resources you need for growth, it is likely that you will need a workable plan for raising capital. Our scale-up clients know the value of accessing innovative financial management that provides high level services to drive their business growth.

Navigating the scale-up journey of a growing private company is one of the hardest but most rewarding of careers to pursue. Having people in your corner who have been through this journey before helps take a lot of pain out of the process. No growth journey looks the same, but there are tried and tested methods that will – if applied diligently – lead to definite success. Happy scaling!

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Lessons Learnt

That Time Jeff Bezos Was The Stupidest Person In The Room

Everyone can benefit from simple advice, no matter who they are.

Gene Marks

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jeff-bezos

When you think of Jeff Bezos, a lot of things probably come to your mind.

You likely think of Amazon.com, a company he founded more than twenty years ago, that’s completely disrupted retail and online commerce as we know it. You probably also think of his entrepreneurial genius. Or the immense wealth that he’s built for himself and others. You may also think of drones, Alexa and same-day delivery. Bezos is a visionary, an entrepreneur, a cutthroat competitor and a game changer. He’s unquestionably a very, very smart man. But sometimes, he can be…well…stupid, too.

Like that time back in 1995.

That was when Amazon was just a startup operating from a 2,000 square foot basement in Seattle. During that period, Bezos and most of the handful of employees working for him had other day jobs. They gathered in the office after hours to print and pack up the orders that their fast-growing bookselling site was receiving each day from around the world. It was tough, grueling work.

The company at the time, according to a speech Bezos gave, had no real organisation or distribution. Worse yet, the process of filling orders was physically demanding.

“We were packing on our hands and knees on a hard concrete floor,” Bezos recalled. “I said to the person next to me ‘this packing is killing me! My back hurts, it’s killing my knees’ and the person said ‘yeah, I know what you mean.'”

Related: Jeff Bezos: 9 Remarkable Choices That Shaped The Richest Man In The World

Bezos, our hero, the entrepreneurial genius, the CEO of a now 600,000-employee company that’s worth around a trillion dollars and one of the richest men in the world today then came up with what he thought was a brilliant idea. “You know what we need,” he said to the employee as they packed boxes together. “What we need is…kneepads!”

The employee (Nicholas Lovejoy, who worked at Amazon for three years before founding his own philanthropic organisation financed by the millions he made from the company’s stock) looked at Bezos like he was — in Bezos’ words — the “stupidest guy in the room.”

“What we need, Jeff,” Lovejoy said, “are a few packing tables.” Duh.

So the next day Bezos – after acknowledging Lovejoy’s brilliance – bought a few inexpensive packing tables. The result? An almost immediate doubling in productivity. In his speech, Bezos said that the story is just one of many examples how Amazon built its customer-centered service culture from the company’s very early days. Perhaps that’s true. Then again, it could mean something else.

It could mean that sometimes, just sometimes, those successful, smart, wealthy and powerful people may not be as brilliant as you may think. Nor do they always have the right answers. Sometimes, just sometimes, they may actually be the stupidest guy in the room. So keep that in mind the next time you’re doing business with an intimidating customer, supplier or partner who appears to know it all. You might be the one with the brilliant idea.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Lessons Learnt

How Sureswipe Built Its Identity By Building A Strong Company Culture

Culture is unique to a business, it’s the reason why companies win or lose.

Nadine Todd

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company-culture

A company’s culture is its identity and personality. Since this is closely linked to its brand and how it wants to be viewed by its employees, customers, competitors and the outside world, culture is critical. The challenge is understanding that culture contains unwritten rules and that certain behaviours that align to the culture the company is nurturing should be valued and cherished more than others.

At Sureswipe, the core of our culture is that we value people and what they are capable of. We particularly value people who are engaged, get on with the job, take initiative, are happy to get stuck in beyond their formal job descriptions, and who sometimes have to suck up a bit of pain to get through a challenge.

We include culture in everything we do, so it’s a fundamental element in our recruitment process. In addition to a skills and experience interview, each candidate undergoes a culture fit in the form of a values interview. We look for top performers who echo our core values (collaboration, courage, taking initiative, fairness and personal responsibility) and have real conviction about making a difference in the lives of independent retailers. If we don’t believe a candidate will be a culture fit, we won’t hire them.

If we make a mistake in the recruitment process, we won’t retain culture killers, even if they are top performers. This is such a tough lesson to learn, but it liberates a company and often improves overall company performance.

Culture should be cultivated, constantly communicated and used when making decisions. At Sureswipe, we often talk about what it takes to win and have simplified winning into three key elements: A simple, yet inspirational vision; the right culture; and a clear and focused strategy. The first and third elements can be copied from organisation to organisation. Culture on the other hand is unique to every business and can be a great influencer in its success.

Catch phrases on the wall are not the definition of culture

A strong culture is purposeful and evolving. It’s what makes a company great, but also exposes its weakness. No company is perfect and it’s important to acknowledge the good and the bad. Without it, we cannot ensure that we are protecting and building on the good and reducing or eradicating the bad.

Mistakes happen. That’s okay. But we are very purposeful about how mistakes are handled. Culturally we’re allergic to things being covered up or deflected and have had great learning moments as individuals and as an organisation when bad news travels fast. It’s liberating to ‘tell it like it is’ and almost always, with a few more minds on the problem at hand, things can be rectified with minimal impact.

Related: Starbucks Coffee Is All About Culture… For A Reason

Culture should be built on values that resonate with you and that you want to excel at. In our case, some are lived daily and others are aspirational in that we’re still striving for them. In each case we genuinely believe in them and encourage each other to keep living them. This increases the level of trust within the team, as there is consistency in how people are treated and how we get things done.

We are always inspired when, after sitting in our reception area, nine out of ten visitors will comment on the friendliness of staff. We hear their remarks about how friendly the Sureswipe team is or a potential candidate will talk about the high level of energy and positivity they experience throughout the interview process.

These are indicators that our culture is alive and well. It’s these components of our culture — friendliness, helpfulness and positivity — that cascade into how we do business and how we treat our customers and people in general. Being able to describe your culture and support it with real life examples is a great way to communicate and promote the type of behaviour that is important and recognised within the organisation.

Culture doesn’t just happen

We are fortunate that culture has always been important to us, even if it wasn’t clearly defined in our early days. As we grew it became important to be more purposeful in the evolution of our culture. About four years ago, the senior leadership team and nominated cultural or values icons were mandated to relook all things cultural.

A facilitator said to us, “You really love it when people take the initiative, and get very frustrated when they don’t.” That accurate insight became core to our values. We love to see people proactively solve problems, take responsibility for their own growth, initiate spontaneous events, change their tactics or implement new ideas. It energises us and aligns to the way we do business.

We celebrate growth and love to see our staff getting promoted due to their hard work and perseverance. We recently had one of our earliest technicians get promoted to the Regional Manager of Limpopo. It was one of the best moments of 2018.

Be purposeful with culture, describe it, communicate it and use it in all aspects of business. Culture should change. Don’t allow phrases like ‘this is not how we do things,’ or, ‘the culture here is changing,’ to stifle the growth and development of your culture. When done correctly change is a good thing. Culture is driven from the top but at the end of the day it’s a company-wide initiative. Design it together with team members from different parts of the organisation to get the most from it. And then make sure everyone lives and breathes it.

Cost Cutting

The best ROI is achieved when you stop wasting money.

Peter Drucker once said that businesses have two main functions — marketing and innovation — that produce results. “All the rest are costs.”

If you agree, that means that the average business has a lot of fat to trim. Obviously you can go overboard trying to cut costs too. My philosophy has been to look at some of the general areas where you can add some efficiency but not at the expense of impairing your most valuable resource — your focus.

The following cost-cutting measures will do that. Think of these as adding value to your company, whether it’s time, creativity or a closer connection to your consumers.

Related: Wise Words From wiGroup On Building A “Wow” Company Culture

Uncover inefficiencies in your process

This is where I begin. In fact, it was analysing the inefficiencies of legal communication and knowledge sharing that led me to create Foxwordy, the digital collaboration platform for lawyers. I noticed that attorneys in our clients’ legal departments were drafting new documents from scratch when they could pool their knowledge and save time by using language that a trusted colleague had employed in a similar document. Business is all about process. When you create a new process, or enhance an existing process, you will drive cost efficiency.

Refine your process, then automate

If existing processes are lacking, it is time to create process. If you have processes, but they are not driving efficiency, it’s time to redefine your process. Either way, a key second step is refining processes that are needed in your business. Only then can you go to automation, since automating without a process will result in chaos — and won’t save time or money. Similarly, automating a poor process is not going to give you the cost-saving results you are looking for.

Thanks to the Cloud, there are very accessible means of automating manual processes. For instance, you can automate bookkeeping functions with FreshBooks and use chatbots to interface with clients — for very basic information. If you’re a retailer, a chatbot on your site can explain your return policy or address other frequently asked questions. Automating such processes allows you to spend more time focusing on clients and customers. Technology alone isn’t a panacea for all business functions, but if you find something you’re doing manually that can be automated, take a look and consider how much time and process definition automation would save you.

Rethink your outreach

Marketing and outreach are usually big and important challenges for an organisation. In my experience, there are two main components to successful marketing — knowing your customers and using the most effective media to spread your message. For the first part, I recommend polling. There are various online survey services that offer an instant read on what your customers are thinking. You may think business is humming along, but a survey could reveal that while consumers like your product, a few tweaks would make it even better.

For the second part — marketing messaging — once you have a firm idea of your marketing messaging, Facebook is a great vehicle for outreach. The ability to granularly target customers and create Lookalike audiences (from around 1 000 consumers) can help grow your business.

Related: Take Responsibility For Your Company’s Culture To Boost Productivity

Scrutinise your spend history

There are tools that can help you assess spend history and find cost-cutting opportunities. For example, you might be able to take advantage of rewards or loyalty programmes to reduce common business expenses, like travel, or consolidate vendors for a similar function. If you have a long-standing relationship with a vendor, negotiate better pricing.

The most important elements to keep in mind are resources that make your company special. Your company may be built on one person’s reputation and expertise. Guard against tarnishing that reputation with inappropriate messaging in advertising or social media. If your company’s special sauce is intellectual property, protect that too. But everything else — ranging from physical property to salary and benefits — are costs and should be considered negotiable. — Monica Zent

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