- Player: Fatima Vawda
- Company: 27four Investment Managers
- Turnover: R80 million
- Established: 2007
- Visit: 27four.com
- Build your brand and build your reputation. These really matter if you want to grow your business.
- Don’t chase every opportunity. Diversification is risky. Think carefully about how you want to grow.
- Service is key. Pay attention to the details. Be organised. Finish what you start.
- Hire the right people, and then give them room to grow. Reward them handsomely.
The financial services sector can hardly be described as under-populated. In fact, it is a space dominated by some very prominent players, so starting up a business in the industry isn’t easy.
“Getting clients isn’t hard when you work for a big organisation,” says Vawda, who started out in a large corporate. “Brand counts for an awful lot.”
For Vawda, however, the prospect of sticking to the corporate track and making her way up the ladder didn’t appeal. She wanted to start her own thing.
Of course, this was a tremendous gamble. After 11 years in the industry, Vawda could have landed a safe and lucrative position within a large company. Instead, she founded 27four, rented office space in Rosebank and pushed all her savings into the business. It was a huge gamble.
But the gamble paid off. In less than a decade, 27four has grown to a company of more than R80 million in annual turnover and assets under discretionary management of a whopping R23 billion. How did it happen? Vawda credits the following:
1. Having a great reputation
“If you want to build a great business, you first need to work for great businesses,” says Vawda. “I worked hard for eleven years, gaining knowledge and building a reputation before striking out on my own.”
Moreover, working in an industry allows you to network and identify business opportunities before you even start your own company.
“You need to leverage your connections when building your business,” says Vawda. “I left the companies I worked for on good terms, which meant that I could go back and do business with them.”
In fact, Legae Capital, where Vawda worked prior to starting 27four, was eventually acquired by her company.
“You also need to put yourself out there,” says Vawda. “You need to position yourself as a thought leader. 27four is involved in some industry or community event virtually every week of the year. We spend a lot of time and money marketing the company, all with the aim of creating a brand that people recognise, respect and trust.”
27four has even entered into a relationship with Soweto TV, through which it sponsors a weekly investment show called Money Moves with 27four Investment Managers, which aims to improve financial literacy.
“We’re not afraid to take a stance and be seen as activist investors,” says Vawda. “Even our name is derived from the date of South Africa’s first free election. We want to play an active part in improving South Africa, and that goes a long way in defining who we are. It helps position our brand.”
2. Finding (and owning) a niche
“Even though there were already a lot of players in the industry, I believed there was a gap in the market for a smaller player. Financial services were concentrated in the hands of a few corporates who couldn’t really offer a personalised boutique service,” says Vawda.
“Moreover, I realised that there was very little transformation taking place within the financial services industry, so I thought there was an opportunity for a company that could help facilitate transformation.”
So, one of the first offerings from 27four was a black asset-manager incubator programme that provided large asset owners with a risk-managed solution that could assist in transformation while keeping risks low. It is an area in which 27four is still a leader today.
The company has grown significantly since inception, but its product offering has remained fairly simple.
“Growth doesn’t necessarily equal diversification. You just confuse the client by making your offerings too complex. It is tempting to chase every opportunity that comes your way, but you need to fight it. Our aim is to stay focused on what we’re good at. However, we also want to grow market share and improve our penetration,” says Vawda.
“If you want to scale your business, you need to be able to provide new clients with the same level of service you offered when you were just starting out, so our focus is on developing the processes and systems needed to roll our offerings out to more people. Reporting to five clients is not the same as reporting to 5 000.”
3. Hiring (and rewarding) the right people
It goes without saying that, as a business grows, you need to take on employees who will be able to provide the same level of service to clients that you do personally. This isn’t always easy.
“We make it attractive to work here. We offer a market-related salary, as well as other rewards in the forms of equity and bonuses. Our employees also get to travel internationally quite a bit. It’s important that the team travel to global conferences. We aren’t making widgets. Our business is intellectual in nature, so being on top of the latest developments is important. We always need to expand our knowledge.”
27four aims to attract two kinds of people. “It’s crucial that you attract the right people. Not everyone wants to work in a smaller company. Some prefer the corporate path.
“We look for people who have had the same sort of path that I did — who started out in a corporate organisation where they gained knowledge and experience — but who are now looking for a smaller environment where it’s easier to take part in making strategic decisions. Then we also look for new people who are smart and educated, but who can join us at a young age and do some learning here.”
Importantly, Vawda actively aims to make the organisation as diverse as possible. “If you want to be relevant and truly understand your client, you need a team that reflects the diversity of the larger society. This is especially important in a melting pot such as South Africa. If you don’t transform and embrace the nature of the environment in which you operate, you will become irrelevant.”
4. Offering great service
It goes without saying that it’s important to offer good service, but it is worth pausing to consider what that actually means. Most companies claim to provide great service, but how many actually back up this claim with proper action?
“So much of so many businesses actually comes down to servicing clients,” says Vawda.
“It is the foundation of a lot of business. For me, this comes down to paying attention to the details. Many companies fail because they don’t get the basics right. You need to finish what you start and always be organised.
“Every day at 2pm, an email goes out to the whole company that simply asks: Have you connected all the dots? It reminds everyone to follow through and provide a great service at all times. Turnaround times need to be swift. Since the company started, we haven’t lost a single client, and we’re incredibly proud of that. It means that we offer a service we can be proud of.”
7 Pieces Of Wise Advice For Start-Up Entrepreneurs From Successful Business Owners
Launching a business is tough, but with perseverance, a willingness to learn from mistakes and a focus on the future, you can turn your dream into a reality. Seven top South Africa entrepreneurs share their hard-won start-up lessons.
“What seems like an expensive lesson is actually the best thing that could have happened to you.”
So you want to start a business? Seven successful entrepreneurs share their words of wisdom for start-up entrepreneurs
1. Offer advice and share your expertise freely
The more your clients are educated, the more empowered they will feel, and the more they will view you as a trusted advisor. I gave my clients material to help them develop the best labour policies and procedures. It didn’t make my service redundant — it built trust between us. — Arnoux Mare, Innovative Solutions Group, turnover R780 million
2. Stop planning and start doing
We all tend to complicate business with planning and processes. These shouldn’t be ignored, but you need to also just start — start your business, start that project, start walking the path you want to be on. — Gareth Leck, co-founder, Joe Public, turnover R700 million
3. Play your heart out and the money will follow
I learnt this valuable lesson when I was a student and busked at Greenmarket Square. You don’t stand with your hat, waiting for cash and then play — you play your heart out and the bills pile up in your hat. It’s the same in business. You can’t look at the bottom line first; it’s the other way around. — Pepe Marais, co-founder, Joe Public, turnover R700 million
4. Love learning lessons
What seems like an expensive lesson is actually the best thing that could have happened to you. I wasn’t paying attention to my partner or my books in our early days, and I didn’t realise the debt he was putting us into. We ended up owing R1 million. In hindsight, it was a cheap lesson to learn. Imagine if that happened today? The fallout would be much greater. We have 19 stores and nearly 100 staff members. It would hurt everyone, not just me. — Rodney Norman, founder, Chrome Supplements, turnover R100 million
5. Landing an investor starts with your story
A great story and data are the two golden rules of attracting an investor. You need both if you really want to access growth funding that will take your business to the next level. — Grant Rushmere, founder, Bos Ice Tea
6. Offer solutions
If you’re not solving a problem and creating value, don’t ship it — throw it away. That’s cheaper than selling a bad product. — Nadir Khamissa, co-founder, Hello Group
7. Small, clever decisions lead to big profits
One of the most important lessons any business owner can learn is that success on profit is nothing more than the accumulative sum of rand decisions. Lots of small, clever money decisions lead to big profits, and without the disciplines of frugality, money gets lost. It’s that simple. Question every single line item on a quote. Do we need it? Can we get it cheaper? This is what it’s about. — Vusi Thembekwayo, founder, Watermark
Here’s How Bosses From Hell Helped 6 Entrepreneurs Grow
From control freaks to being unco-operative, founders share what they learned from their worst boss.
In business, sometimes the most valuable lessons come from the worst teachers. We asked six entrepreneurs: What’s the greatest thing you learned from a bad boss?
1. Bring everyone in
“A former boss was very hierarchical and discouraged collaboration. Everyone reported directly to her, and interdepartmental meetings were practically prohibited. It meant that only our boss had the full picture – we missed a lot of opportunity for alignment and cooperation. Today at our company, it’s a priority to hold regular team meetings and foster a strong culture of collaboration. It’s crucial that our team members weave collective sharing into the fabric of their day-to-day interactions.” – Melissa Biggs Bradley, founder and CEO, Indagare
2. Be vulnerable
“Don’t be afraid to show your emotions! I worked for a partner at McKinsey who was an incredible person but an awful manager because he kept his feelings bottled up. After a client presentation went awry, our team didn’t know where we stood with our manager. It was tense, awkward and demotivating. Showing vulnerability and letting others know when you’re genuinely upset can help everyone externalise their emotions, build trust and reassure employees that they aren’t alone. It sends a clearer message than stone-faced silence.” – Leo Wang, founder and CEO, Buffy
Related: 5 Factors That Make A Great Boss
3. Lend a hand
“I worked for someone who would never help out the junior staff with their work, even if he was finished with his own – he’d simply pack up and leave early. I now make an extra effort to ask my staff if they can use a hand when my own workload is light. It’s created a culture that feels more like a tight-knit team and less like a hierarchy.” – Adam Tichauer, founder and CEO, Camp No Counselors
4. Move as a group
“When I was a nurse manager, I had a boss with no experience in healthcare. She wanted to change our process for keeping patients from getting blood clots. I knew it was a mistake, but she insisted. Ultimately, the change failed. It taught me the importance of empowering staff to speak up. At Extend Fertility, we collect feedback from customers via surveys. Results are shared with our staff, and together we develop action plans to address negative experiences. It’s the employees who interact with patients on a daily basis who have the best solutions.” – Ilaina Edison, CEO, Extend Fertility
5. Trust your team
“I once worked for a woman who joined our team after I had been working there for a while. Every time I stood up, she’d ask me where I was going, whether it was to the bathroom or to the printer. She had a fear of not having control over my time and work. As a young adult, this behaviour really demoralised me, especially since I had excelled at the job for years prior. My leadership style is less neurotic. Once my team members have my trust, I’m pretty hands-off.” – Denise Lee, founder and CEO, Alala
6. Respect others’ time
“Early in my career, I had a project manager who’d wait until the very last minute to review work, then convey lots of new information and requests. This happened at the end of the day or, worse, after hours, when I was home. It was demoralising, inefficient and disrespectful. In my career, I’m conscious about reviewing work in a timely and complete way so my team can successfully incorporate my feedback without generating a last-minute crisis – or lingering resentment.” – Kirsten R. Murray, principal architect and owner, Olson Kundig
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
11 Things Very Successful People Do That 99% Of People Don’t
Consistency is a big part of succeeding. The top 1% of performers in the world know this is the secret to their success.
Becoming wealthy and leaving an impact on the world is not an easy feat. If it were, everyone would go around doing it. At that point, it would not be much of an accomplishment at all.
Rather, being extremely successful requires an extreme amount of work. Especially when there is nobody looking. The best people have developed habits that help them reach their goals. These routines are not necessarily challenging to form, but they take consistent effort over extended periods of time. Creating these tendencies in your own life will propel your success.
Here are 11 things, that 99% of people (myself included) do not do, but really should.
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