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Form Follows Function With South African Interior Design Company, Form Design

In only its fourth year of operation, Form Design is on track to generate R25 million in revenue this year. What makes this particularly impressive, is that the company is able to do this while generating very few expenses. Founders Tashi Krost and Ricky Silberman don’t even have any employees.

GG van Rooyen

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Vital Stats

  • Players: Tashi Krost and Ricky Silberman
  • Company: Form Design
  • Established: 2012
  • Contact: formdesign.co.za

In 2012, Tashi Krost came up with the idea of creating a small interior design firm that could offer a bespoke service to clients who didn’t have the budget (or inclination) to make use of a large design firm. So, she started Form Design alongside her brother, Ricky Silberman, who came on as CFO.

With a solid background in design and a good eye, Tashi’s designs quickly garnered attention. The first year, the company managed about R1 million in revenue — by the third year, this had ballooned to R15 million.

Despite this phenomenal growth, the siblings have managed to keep things impressively lean. Form Design doesn’t even boast any permanent staff. How have they managed this? Here are their secrets to running a lean and lucrative operation.

1. Choose your partner wisely

As mentioned, Tashi Krost has a background in design. Her brother Ricky Silberman, meanwhile, completed a BCom in entrepreneurship, and has a real passion for numbers and problem-solving. This combination of Krost’s flair for design and Silberman’s head for numbers turned out to be crucial to the success of Form Design.

“If I had been on my own, the company would have failed in its second month,” laughs Krost.

“As a designer, my tendency is to try and make a space look as great as possible, which often means not paying attention to the bottom line. Ricky pays attention to the numbers and makes sure that every design solution makes good business sense.”

Lesson: As the adage goes: Great founders often come in pairs. Very few people have all the attributes needed to make a success of a business on their own, which is why it is important to find a partner who adds the knowledge and skills you lack. This is as true of hiring high-level managers as it is of selecting a co-founder.

Related: What The Concept Phase Really Means To Alex Van Tonder

2. Keep your overheads low

Form-design-interior-design

Most young companies struggle to resist the temptation of swanky offices who’ll impress clients and new employees that’ll help lighten the workload.

“From the beginning, we made the decision to keep things simple. Fancy offices and staff make some people feel like they are running ‘a proper company’. They also believe that if you don’t have a fancy office, people won’t want to use them. We always believed that if we provided people with beautiful items and great service, the word would get out and people would choose us because of our product, and not our office,” says Silberman.

“Form Design has evolved immensely in scope, but we have kept our size the same,” adds Krost. “We have managed to keep our overheads small, which has been critical in maintaining our value offering. Every cent we save can be passed on to our clients, which means we can price very competitively.”

Lesson: A company such as Form Design doesn’t really need a fancy office. The founders spend most of their time at clients or at suppliers, so there is little need for office space. You need to make sure that every expensive purchase or investment (whether that be a large office or an Italian espresso maker) is truly justified and not driven by vanity.

3. Work smart

“There is a quote by Bill Gates that I absolutely love,” says SIlberman. “He says: ‘I choose a lazy person to do a hard job. A lazy person will find an easy way to do it.’ I think it is important to work smart, especially if you want to operate without staff. Outsource whatever you can, manage your time very well and implement robust IT systems.”

Lesson: Innovative IT systems now allow companies to, for example, capture data or generate documents with ease. What used to take hours can now be done in minutes. By working smart, a lot of time-intensive labour can be eliminated. Make sure that you know what IT solutions are available that can save you time and money.

4. You’re only as good as your suppliers

“As a designer, you are really only as good as your suppliers,” says Krost.

“They play a massive role in delivering on the promise that you make to your clients. We have an amazing team of suppliers who we work closely with. They have enabled us to offer a full turnkey solution. In the beginning, we only provided furniture. This has expanded to include all appliances, cutlery, towels, and even linen. We can provide everything down to the final detail. This really helps clients who are looking for a one-stop shop.”

Lesson: Choose your suppliers very carefully. They will have a massive impact on the success of your business. Opting for the cheapest supplier is often a bad decision. Find suppliers that are as committed to getting the job done as you are, and who add real value to your offering.

Related: How Majozi Bros Construction Built Their Business, One Brick At A Time

5. Local is lekker

Local-South-African-interior-designers

All of the furniture offered by Form Design is manufactured locally. For the founders, making use of local manufacturers was the only option that made sense.

“If you’re having thousands of items manufactured, making use of a company in China, for example, might make sense. For us, however, there really isn’t a business case for having items manufactured overseas. It wouldn’t offer meaningful savings,” says Silberman. “We also typically can’t afford to wait three or four months for items to arrive from the East. Our clients want things done quickly.”

Another advantage of a local manufacturer is that you have more control over commissioned items. You can make sure that things are manufactured as specified, and it’s easier to have items replaced if something goes wrong.

Lesson: There is nothing worse than opening a container and discovering what you received from an overseas supplier is not at all what you ordered. For this reason, having a local supplier can be a great advantage. Moreover, the current exchange rate is making local manufacturing look more attractive than ever.

6. Find a scalable niche

Scaling a service-oriented business can be hard, especially when operating without a large number of employees. There are, after all, only so many hours in a given day.

Form Design has found a clever solution to this limitation by focusing on turnkey solutions for investors purchasing furnished apartments that can be rented out. The company does traditional residential and corporate designs, but its focus for the moment is on upscale apartment developments that require furnishing. This allows the company to roll out a particular solution across dozens of units.

“Allowing people to purchase full furniture packs enabled us to reach those clients who were furnishing properties as investment propositions. In these cases, the owner wanted a higher return on their rental units but didn’t have the time or the design acumen to start furnishing a small apartment,” says Krost.

Lesson: It is important, especially within a service operation, to find ways in which your offering can be packaged to make it scalable. Taking on time-consuming one-off commissions will never be scalable — at least, not without hiring loads of experienced (and expensive) employees. Ask yourself how your offering can be packaged and rolled out multiple times.

7. Be firm about your terms

“A key decision we made early on was to not start a job without getting a 60% deposit. Cash flow is very important in an SME. Getting a deposit reduces your risk, and also ensures that the customer is invested. We’re not afraid to lose business because of it — these are our terms,” says Silberman.

“The biggest mistake you could make is letting the client bully you into a deadline or price. Stick to your lead times so that your product is never compromised. We would rather walk away from a job if we can’t meet the deadline, as hard as that is. We hate having clients who are disappointed, so it is about being honest with yourself about whether the deadlines are deliverable,” says Krost.

Lesson: Don’t be afraid to walk away from work if your terms aren’t met. Trying to meet a client’s unrealistic time or cost demands will only result in a product or service you’re not proud of, which will harm your brand in the long run.

Related: Vinny Lingham’s Views On Focus, Changing The World And Why You Should Give Some Of Your Business Away

Do this

Make a list of all the expenses in your business that aren’t having a direct impact on the quality of your service or product. Why do they exist? How can you get rid of them?

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Lessons Learnt

10 Gary Vaynerchuk-Approved Success Strategies

The VaynerMedia founder gets real about drive and ambition.

Nina Zipkin

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Perhaps the best way to describe Gary Vaynerchuk is “nonstop.” The founder of VaynerMedia, VaynerSports and Vayner/RSE is also an author, host and vlogger who records just about everything he does.

He is known for being relentless in his pursuit of the hustle and has a loyal audience of millions (2.4 million on Instagram, 1.58 million on Twitter and 2.3 million on Facebook) who take his advice to heart.

We took a deep dive into his blog archive to find some of his best tips and advice for making it as an entrepreneur.

1. On why failure shouldn’t scare you

“It’s the lack of fear of failing that has allowed me to make decisions so quick. People don’t make decisions because they are scared to lose. I make decisions because I want to know what’s going to happen, and then I use that information to help advise what I do next,” Vaynerchuk writes.

“The one thing I know for sure, is the outcome of what happens if you don’t decide. If you never make a decision, or deliberate for too long, all the upside or potential opportunity could be lost.”

Related: 5 Vital Keys To Success From The Likes Of Tony Robbins And Gary Vaynerchuk

2. On the value of patience

“The game is LONG. There’s so much opportunity. Optimism is the secret to capitalizing on this opportunity and that’s where you need to live. You need to figure out how good it really is and how much opportunity you have,” Vaynerchuk writes.

“Patience is practical. I push patience because I know life is long. Everybody around here is running around like it’s not. 24 year-olds running around like it ends tomorrow. Like they need it now. What’s wrong with being 26 or 41 or 73?”

3. On why age has nothing to do with ability

gary-vaynerchuk-entrepreneur

“The youth are the future of everything. They are the future of business, of society, of law and of government. We better pay attention, and empower them to be the best that they can be,” Vaynerchuk writes.

“My hope is that we lose the sentiment of age makes a difference in skill. There are plenty of 22 and 24 and 26 year olds in my office right now that work harder and smarter than some of the 50 year olds I know. It’s just the truth and we are going to continue to see this trend adopted in the marketplace. You can’t deny results.”

4. On how to build a lasting legacy

“I think my actions map to my ambitions. Because my ambition is to have legacy. I treat it that way. I treat everybody I interact with, with kindness and respect. These days, as my notoriety has grown, I still treat people just the same. I look them dead in the face and I’m just in it with them for that one minute or two or three or 10, and really care about they have to say! Because I am very appreciative and humbled for their attention. I will never get over it. I will never get over the fact that people actually care.”

Related: 8 Pieces Of Sage Advice From Ernest Corbett of Tintswalo Safari Lodges

5. On the importance of an open door policy

“I don’t think one can win in business without having the proper teammates and empowering them to play their role. Ideas can come from anywhere but the fact of the matter is you need an offensive line, you need a receiver, you need a quarterback, you need them all and I think any leader that doesn’t recognise that will ultimately not succeed in the long term. Obviously you can have a company that runs for six months and you sell it but over a 10, 20, 40 year period, there is no other strategy that will actually work.”

6. On why you need to prioritise your own happiness

“To truly be selfless, you have to give without expectation. It’s the mindset of giving with expectation, which kills everything. It just doesn’t work at all. Being selfish is the gateway to selflessness, because you learn to take care of your own personal needs first in order to use that as collateral later so that you can really, truly help.”

7. On why you shouldn’t think about how things “should be”

gary-vaynerchuk-entrepreneur-quote

“Navigating our society and our lives with the hope of how it ‘should be’ versus the way it actually is, is the quickest and least practical way to create success. This is something I say to myself every single day,” Vaynerchuk writes.

“I am in control of my destiny. Nobody else. I get to decide how I react and how I respond, and the greatest motivator to inspire perspective is the simple statement ‘What’s the alternative?’”

8. On why you must value the perspective you bring to the table

“Why are you taking somebody else’s opinion about yourself greater than your opinion about yourself? It’s the single greatest mistake that will keep you from finding happiness and confidence in who you are,” Vaynerchuk writes.

“And it’s not that their opinions don’t matter. You have to have an equal amount of respect for yourself as for others. It’s a democratic society and everyone gets a vote. So beyond the thought leaders, and politicians and school systems you have to have respect for yourself. You need to put yourself on your own pedestal and then start weighing the opinions of others proportionately to how you actually feel about yourself.”

9. On why the competition doesn’t matter

“I am and always have been consumer focused. The reason I don’t pay attention to my ‘competition’ is not because I’m brash or cool. It’s because it doesn’t matter when you’re obsessed with the end consumer,” Vaynerchuk writes.

“Because it starts and it ends with the end consumer and where the attention actually is. I will always do actions that bring you the most value because then I get value in return.”

10. On why your goal should be to keep working

“I didn’t need to get mine at 25. Heck, I don’t even need to ‘get mine’ at 41. This is the long, long game. I’m driven by the climb. It could be because I’m an immigrant and I just have this chip on my shoulder. Or maybe it’s in my DNA. I don’t like winning. I like losing. I like the struggle. I like people telling me that I can’t,” Vaynerchuk writes. “I don’t give a shit if my payday comes tomorrow. I want the game. The game is my life. There will never be a moment to quit. There’s no dollar amount. Nothing you can do to make me stop.”

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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7 Motivational Habits That Drive Millionaires

Habits seem to rule us. They can hold you back, or you can adapt the right habits and prosper.

John Rampton

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Have you ever been awed by the motivation of a successful entrepreneur, leader or athlete? I have. It’s not jealousy, either. Far from it. It’s respect for how motivated they are. Even though I consider myself fairly motivated, their examples encourage me to become even more focused and driven.

The good news is that by adopting the following seven habits, anyone can become more motivated:

1. Find your why

“Highly motivated people start with their WHY. WHY do you do what you do?” asks J.D. Meier in an article for Time.

“If you climb a mountain simply because it’s there, that’s probably not enough to keep you going when the going gets tough. If you know WHY you do what you do, and it matters deeply to you, then you will find your strength in any situation,” adds Meier.

Why do you want to start a workout regiment? Because it was suggested by your doctor? Did your spouse mutter a comment? Are you tired of feeling lethargic? Once you find your why, you can use that to motivate you to follow through with exercising.

2. Get your morning started on the right foot

sleeping-habits

One of the easiest and most powerful habits that drive motivation is kicking off your day correctly by having a morning routine. Think about it. Getting your day started on the right foot makes it a lot easier to stay motivated throughout the entire day.

To ensure that you wake up on the right side of the bed, try these tips:

  • Have a reason to get out of bed. It could be anything from walking your dog, making sure your kids are off to school, or squeezing in a workout before work.
  • Stretch and breathe deep. This gets the blood and oxygen flowing to your brain, and helps you get up.
  • Do something simple to start the day. I make my bed immediately once I’m up. It’s not because I want the bedroom to look presentable. It’s because it’s an easy task that makes me feel like I’ve already accomplished something — even though I’ve only been awake for a couple of minutes!
  • Create rote tasks. As explained by Due’s Miranda Marquit, “Look for ways you can make mornings easier by creating rote tasks that are easy to accomplish. We don’t like to face a day that starts hard. Do what you can to make it easier. Once you’re up and moving, you’ll feel better and eventually be awake enough to tackle the
    hard stuff.”
  • Set goals for the day. This doesn’t have to be lengthy. Just list your top priorities for the day.

Related: 20 Things Millionaires Aren’t Sharing With You

3. Change it up

There’s an old saying: Variety is the spice of life. Variety keeps you motivated to meet goals when you haven’t yet made much progress and risk falling into a rut.

Changing things up is like your workout routine. You can’t just work on your legs. Other parts of your body need some loving too. Keep doing the same exercises and you’ll soon plateau.

The same is true for any aspect of your life. Changing things up gives you a chance to break up the monotony, try out new skills, and have new experiences that can lead to new ideas or develop a new passion.

4. Chart your progress

This is a simple way for you to see how far you’ve come along. Sounds simple, but think about when you set a reading goal. Maybe you want to read more books. Your initial goal is to read for just five minutes a day, but once you start you’re reading for ten minutes and then 30 minutes and soon you’re flying through books.

If you can do 30 minutes, then why not bump up to 40? Just imagine all the books you’ll be able to read. Mark this on your calendar each and every day.

5. Create environmental anchors

working-environment

This is simply writing your goals or inspiring quotes on a Post-it or 3×5 card and placing it on the wall of your office, the inside of your car, bathroom mirror or calendar. A daily reminder of your goal will push you to accomplish it.

6. Develop gratitude

Just by identifying the one thing every day that you’re grateful for is powerful enough in helping you achieve both mini-goals and your big goals, since it develops the ability to look for a daily opportunity that you can grow from.

For example, if you’re grateful that you just landed a new client today, use that feeling and experience to secure two new clients tomorrow.

Related: The One Habit of Self-Made Millionaires

7. Discover your passion

Obsession can be an extremely powerful motivator since it creates its own motivational might. In fact, the most successful individuals are those who chased their passion and are doing what they love to do.

When you become passionate, whether it’s at work, exercising, or volunteering, it no longer becomes laborious. It becomes something that you enjoy, look forward to, and want to get better at.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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From Local To Global: Bruce Mackenzie CA(SA) Shares Top Tips On Being A Successful Entrepreneur

Managing Director of W.Consulting, Bruce Mackenzie CA(SA), has done exactly that and shares his top tips.

SAICA

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How do you grow your own SME into a global consultancy? Managing Director of W.Consulting, Bruce Mackenzie CA(SA), has done exactly that and shares his top tips.

“I started W.Consulting with the aim of providing an independent, high-quality alternative for corporates and audit firms looking for advice on International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). The business has grown substantially to more than 40 people working globally, providing advisory services on IFRS, audit risk and corporate finance, training and IT product development.” These are Bruce’s five top tips for achieving growth.

1. Take the risk as soon as possible

It was a nerve-wracking decision to go on my own, as CAs(SA) are taught to be risk-averse. It’s very tough to throw away a CV, but rather than spend a life regretting not taking a chance, if you have thoughts of running your own business, do so sooner rather than later, as the decision only gets tougher with each passing year.

Related: Better Thinking For A Better World

flights-to-london-long-day2. Work hard and persevere

One point seldom emphasised enough when talking of entrepreneurs is that it is very hard work and requires a great deal of energy and perseverance. I attribute my success in large measure to high energy levels. You need that.

It’s exhausting — long days, early flights to London to deliver training, and sometimes back again the same day. So, yes, you need a surplus of energy.

3. Know how to sell yourself and your business

You also need a predisposition towards selling, as any business requires sales in order to expand. Selling is something that’s in my DNA.

Especially when selling advice, it requires persistence because I know that a potential client will at some point need services like ours, so I make sure W.Consulting is top of mind when that day comes. I achieve this by keeping up the relationship, sending new ideas with no sales angle connected, mailing interesting books, and checking on how things are with the client. It’s a matter of having genuine interest. 

4. Hire trustworthy people who share your passion

There are many risks in establishing your own business and one of the first challenges stems from the need to expand beyond a one-man operation. There’s a certain comfort in doing all the work and seeing all the cash in the business as yours, but it puts a fairly low ceiling on the business’s prospects and potential income.

The decision to expand and hire your first employee is both a big decision in itself and important as to the individual you select. It’s the biggest single decision most entrepreneurs have to make — and one that most don’t make early enough. You need to scale up a business to release resources at the top. That process never really ends — whatever you’re currently doing, you have to continually ask yourself: “Could this be done down the line?”

In an SME, each hire, but especially your first, has to be somebody you can trust, someone with the same objectives as you. Instead of having 9 to 5 people, rather employ someone who will do whatever is necessary, regardless of what time of day it is.

My philosophy is to hire people with passion and who preferably know what they’re doing, and then pay well to get them.

Related: 10 Things Successful People Tell Themselves Every Day

5. Continue to innovate

Most businesses fail not for want of an entrepreneurial idea, but because of management and accounting basics like cash flow. CAs(SA) already understand these basics and so arguably can concentrate on the actual operations of the business. However, because CAs(SA) can earn good money in the corporate world, most opt for the easy route in the corporate environment.

The future and success of any business is to keep on doing what it’s doing well. Bruce attributes the success of the business to its culture of continuous innovation: “It’s easier to sell something new,”  he concludes.

Visit www.saica.co.za

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