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Grow Consulting’s Michael Greyling On Building To Be Big

If you want to grow a big business with an enduring brand, you need to think long-term. Grow Consulting’s Michael Greyling did this by fostering future relationships.

Nadine Todd

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Michael-Greyling

Vital stats

  • Players: Michael Greyling and Marlene de Lange
  • Company: Grow Consulting
  • Est: 1998
  • Visit: growconsulting.co.za

According to Michael Greyling, co-founder of Grow Consulting, the biggest growth shift the business has experienced happened when they started saying no to potential clients.

“It’s a scary decision to make,” he says. “We were saying no to revenue in order to build future relationships.”

It sounds counter-intuitive, and yet the strategy has proven itself over and over again.

Former Deloitte consultants, Michael Greyling and Marlene de Lange launched Grow with a clear goal to build their people development consulting firm into a trusted industry player.

“This was always going to be a five-day game,” he says. “We were targeting large corporates as clients, and that takes time. You need to build up trust. I knew we couldn’t approach the kinds of clients we wanted from a product mindset. They’re over-run by people asking them for a valuable slot in their diaries to pitch product solutions.”

We-recommend-tickWe recommend: Enko Education Investments Matches Money With Passion

Instead, Greyling and his team took the long view, although there were a few hurdles. “It took a while for revenue and reputation to align,” he says.

“I was used to flashing my Deloitte card and watching the red carpet roll out. Now I needed to build brand trust from the ground up. To do that, I needed to know what my long-term
goal was.”

With the aim of real, sustainable growth in mind, Grow Consulting started small.

“We needed to build trust. This meant starting with smaller, less strategic work to get our foot into the organisations that we were targeting. We knew that if we could prove ourselves there, we could work our way up. It’s all about proving value.”

Trust first

From the outset, Greyling was prepared for the business to take five to six years before it started to gain real traction in the market.

“We facilitate people development and culture transformation projects, which take medium- to long-term commitments from our clients. There’s a significant investment in terms of time and costs involved, and so the sales cycle is long. In some cases we’ve had a two-to three-year lead time before signing a client.”

Part of this can be attributed to the fact that corporates trust capability and track records. “This has always been our focus – concentrate on building trust first, and the business will follow,” he adds.

This is where saying no to potential work comes in. “We’ve built our reputation on a two-pronged approach. Our clients trust us based on what we’ve delivered in the past, often on smaller, less strategic projects to prove ourselves; and they’ve learnt that we genuinely have their best interests at heart.”

Getting real

For Greyling, the conversation is simple: “We want to understand our clients’ pain points, their business dynamics, industries and pressures – and we don’t want to waste their time. We offer a bespoke solution, and to build long-term relationships and our own future growth, those solutions need to deliver measurable value to the bottom line.

“For this reason, when we know an organisation needs a solution that we can’t deliver – or that we’re not the best at delivering – we tell them. We’ll even recommend another expert or company that we believe can help them. In the short- term it means saying no to revenue, but in the long-term we’ve built incredible and enduring relationships, and that means clients who trust us, and will always turn to us first.”

We-recommend-tickWe recommend: How Munaaz Catering Equipment Puts Customer Experience First

Lessons in Growth

Know what you’re selling. For example, a new CEO is brought in to turn a business around. We’re not selling training; we’re selling trust in our capability to help them turn the business around.

Understand who your future clients are

The CEOs and CFOs of tomorrow are in our mid-manager sessions today. Our business has grown with many mid-level managers who have gone on to become senior managers and CEOs.

They weren’t buyers, but today they are, and if we’ve helped them to become successful, they’ll always be loyal to us, and want to work with us at a strategic level.

Build relationships with the business – not individuals

We learnt this the hard way. In the early days, 70% of our business was with one client, specifically the relationship we had built up with the HR director. He fell out of favour with the new CEO, and just like that we received no more business from that company.

Now we build relationships across the organisation

There’s a difficulty here, as big corporates are full of politics and you need to navigate them, but if you take the time to understand the lay of the land, you pay attention to the various players and their objectives, and you don’t play people off against each other, you’ll build sustainable relationships across the board.

Stakeholder management is key

Corporates have an interesting dynamic because there is never just one decision-maker. SMEs often forget this going into a complex sale.

We-recommend-tickWe recommend: Entelect CEO Shashi Hansjee’s 4 Life Hacks and 1 Little Quirk That Deliver the Dough

The CEO and CFO might love what you’re offering, but they can’t get budgetary approval without the buy-in of Procurement, HR, and in our case Learning & Development.

Each department has its own objectives, and no-one likes to have something foisted on them. Build a relationship with everyone, and remain as neutral as possible.

If you want to be the best, hire the best

This was difficult for us, as we can’t compete with corporate packages. What we can offer is a flexible office environment based on output rather than hours.

We treat everyone like adults and the professionals they are, which means they have the freedom to express themselves and live their values.

It’s a real draw-card for many professionals, and one that allows us to attract and retain top talent. In 17 years we’ve never had a consultant resign.

Nadine Todd is the Managing Editor of Entrepreneur Magazine, the How-To guide for growing businesses. Find her on Google+.

Lessons Learnt

(Podcast) ‘Bizarre Foods’ Andrew Zimmern: ‘I’m Addicted To The Hustle’

How this week’s ‘How Success Happens’ guest overcame personal struggles and built an empire.

Dan Bova

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I didn’t know what to expect when we scheduled an interview over breakfast with today’s guest Andrew Zimmern. As you may know, the chef, writer, restaurateur and TV personality made a name for himself traveling the world and eating some, well, bizarre foods on his hit travel/food show, Bizarre Foods.

Turns out our breakfast was pretty normal – we didn’t dig into a fresh plate of scrambled brains or anything – but the conversation was anything but typical.

Over the past couple of years, Zimmern has built a true empire around his name with books, TV shows, restaurants (including his new Twin Cities joint Lucky Cricket), and a production company, but as he very candidly told me, the road to success has not been easy. He has gone through a lot of personal pain on his journey, and he says it is a daily endeavour to keep himself moving on the right track.

As Zimmern explained, over the course of his life, he’s had problems with substance abuse, depression – even homelessness – and he was very open about sharing the lessons he’s learned along the way about coping and finding redemption. We also spoke about his dear friend, Anthony Bourdain, and about the struggles of feeling overwhelmed that most of us face.

Related: Gareth Cliff Shares His Tips For Starting Your Very Own Podcast

But don’t get me wrong, he’s really funny, too! There’s nothing “normal” about Andrew Zimmern. Hope you’ll enjoy our conversation, thanks for listening.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Lessons Learnt

How BrightRock Is Disrupting The Insurance Industry With These 2 Pivotal Strategies

Developments in technology, and clear communication are positioning BrightRock to disrupt their industry and transform the consumer experience.

Monique Verduyn

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brightrock

Vital Stats

  • Players: Sean Hanlon, Leopold Malan, Schalk Malan, Suzanne Stevens
  • Company: BrightRock
  • Est: 2011
  • Visit: www.brightrock.co.za

BrightRock was started around a dining room table in 2011 by four people with years of industry experience and — importantly — a diverse set of complementary skills.  They wanted to make changes to an industry with an age-old methodology by allowing customers to co-create a solution that precisely meets their individual needs, and adjusts as those needs change. Today, BrightRock is the fastest-growing insurer in the intermediated individual life risk market. It also provides underwriting management services to funeral parlour businesses and, more recently, has entered the group risk insurance market, offering its needs-matched approach to employees.

The founders of BrightRock, established in 2011, knew the life insurance industry all too well, and they found its methodology wanting. “Traditional life insurance lumps all the individual’s needs into one policy,” says CEO Schalk Malan.

“It’s a methodology that has been around for centuries. We started afresh and looked at how we could design life insurance based on individual requirements. Our cover is designed to exactly match each specific financial need. Because there is no waste, it’s more cost efficient and sustainable. And if circumstances change and our customer needs more cover, it’s easy to get it because needs-matched design enables the policy to change in line with changing needs.”

1. Embracing digital technology to provide needs-matched insurance

Suzanne Stevens, marketing executive director at BrightRock, points out that this type of innovation achieves efficiency (cost savings) and effectiveness (higher returns). “By harnessing digital technology, we have made our operations more efficient, and aggressively lowered costs by up to 30% for our customers. Every rand they spend with us works harder for them. That’s the benefit of a solution designed around the customer.”

BrightRock’s founders took a similar approach. ‘We ditched legacy thinking in favour of creating a product that is intuitive and easy to navigate. An enormous amount of time and effort went into writing and designing that system, and creating the optimal customer journey.”

Related: How BrightRock Is Rocking The (Industry) Boat In Only 5 Years Since Launch

Unlike clunky legacy systems, BrightRock’s platform is modularised, and was built according to the agile principle of rapid delivery cycles. The result is a technology stack with longevity, that is also flexible enough to be tweaked when needed.

“The advantage of the technology available today is that you can plug things in and pull them out as required,” says Suzanne. “That’s one of the enablers of a truly disruptive mindset. To step away from accepted norms and find new solutions requires curiosity and creativity, as well as a lot of courage to go up against large incumbents in the market. There is always resistance to new technology, although we are fortunate in this country to have one of the most innovative insurance sectors in the world.”

2. Effective communication is critical

These disruptors have set themselves above the rest through one surprisingly simple tactic —  effective communication. They agree that it simply doesn’t matter how world-changing your product or service is if you don’t communicate it to the right audience at the right time. New companies that fail to communicate their remarkable new development will quickly be pushed aside by other disruptors. Without a clear communication strategy that reaches the audience in the industry you’re trying to disrupt, you’ll set yourself up for failure. A key question to ask when you are developing your communication strategy is simply whether people understand what you do.

“Because the premise for our product was fundamentally different from anything on the market, communication and clear messaging were critical to convincing our clients to put their trust in us,” says Schalk.

“It was especially important to educate insurance advisors so they would understand what we were doing, why we were doing it, and how it was better than the other options available. That was key to disrupting the individual life market.”

Currently, BrightRock employs 380 staff, has experienced 40% year-on-year growth, and has an annualised premium income of more than R1,3 billion. The company has recently entered the group risk environment with a similar offering that addresses many of the same shortcomings of traditional group risk products. “The inefficiencies of the structuring of group products has meant that, to remain competitive, insurers have cut the benefits offered to employees, undermining their sense of financial security. Change is needed, and we believe our needs-matched philosophy positions us to change the group risk market too.”

‘We ditched legacy thinking in favour of creating a product that is intuitive and easy to navigate. An enormous amount of time and effort went into writing and designing that system, and creating the optimal customer journey.”

Unlike clunky legacy systems, the BrightRock’s platform is modularised, and was built according to the agile principle of rapid delivery cycles. The result is a technology stack with longevity, that is also flexible enough to be tweaked when needed.

Related: BrightRock’s 5 Entrepreneurial Tips For Start-ups

This iterative, modular approach typically begins with defining the strategy and programme plan upfront, delivering a core capability fast so it can provide benefits immediately, and then continuously improving with regular, incremental capability improvements to achieve the objectives of the strategy. It’s an approach that fosters closer collaboration between stakeholders, improved transparency, earlier delivery, greater allowance for change and more focus on the business outcomes.

“The advantage of the technology available today is that you can plug things in and pull them out as required,” says Suzanne. “That’s one of the enablers of a truly disruptive mindset. To step away from accepted norms and find new solutions requires curiosity and creativity, as well as a lot of courage to go up against large incumbents in the market. There is always resistance to new technology, although we are fortunate in this country to have one of the most innovative insurance sectors in the world.”

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Lessons Learnt

The 9 Obsessions You Need To Have To Become A Self-Made Millionaire

Here’s how to stay focused on your millionaire goals.

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elon-musk

The ones who succeed weren’t handed a golden ticket; it wasn’t chance that helped them cultivate their fortune. To reach millionaire status, you must be driven to reach your dreams. You must be obsessed in order to be successful.

These are the nine obsessions that give every self-made millionaire an edge in creating success and wealth.

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