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How these Young Black Entrepreneurs Built a Profitable BRAW Business From a Bad Partnership

Three young entrepreneurs, Nathi Khumalo, Alex Tshabalala, and William Sekgobela have turned their empowerment business around thanks to sheer determination and a belief in what they do.

Monique Verduyn

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BRAW

Vital stats:

  • Players: Nathi Khumalo, Alex Tshabalala, and William Sekgobela
  • Company: BRAW
  • Established: 2011
  • Visit: www.braw.co.za
  • Contact: +27 (0)11 339 1004

Young, trendy, energetic – Alex Tshabalala, William Sekgobela and Nathi Khumalo are well suited to Braamfontein, which is where they relocated their offices after a partnership went belly-up.

Related: How Billion Rand Business USN Was Launched From a Small Kitchen

The up-and-coming city neighbourhood has turned out to be the perfect backdrop to the rebirth of their business, BRAW Transformation Outsourcing, a company that helps organisations to prepare for and maintain B-BBEE verification. Tshabalala says they have answered some tough questions.

1. Do you have a partnership agreement or governing document?

We discovered too late how important this is. A partnership agreement defines the business relationship you have with your partners, and enables you to ensure that all needs are met.

It spells out how profits will be divided, the rights and responsibilities of the partners, the procedures to take when a partner leaves the business, and many other important rules and guidelines.

In our situation, in the second year of operation, before Nathi joined us, William and I had a major fallout with two of the partners. What followed was a serious internal dispute. They opened a case against us with the police, and at one point security locked us out of our own offices.

2. Had you agreed on salaries?

This seems obvious, but our partners felt they were being robbed of what was rightfully theirs. It turns out they were on a self-enrichment crusade and were using BRAW as a cash withdrawal machine.

They wanted whoever brought in a client to receive 70% of the value of the deal, with only the remaining 30% going back into the business. That was not at all sustainable. You cannot pay yourself more than the business can afford.

3. Did you have the law on your side?

We had to dig deep into our own pockets, but we followed the proper legal route and got an interdict against our former partners. We had to fight for our name, but we succeeded in bringing the business back to what it was, and within a year, it was profitable once again.

4. Is your business model workable?

We were being overwhelmed by large numbers of small clients, who sometimes paid us, and sometimes did not. We called them the 15-threes, because our fee was R15 000.

The problem was that small clients would contract us on a once-off basis, and then they were gone. They were generally also the most difficult and demanding. When Nathi joined the business, he brought in a huge contract, and that changed everything.

It was only when we targeted big corporates that we started making our mark in the industry.

Working with larger clients enabled us to do far more meaningful work. We believe that broad-based BEE is about changing lives and redressing imbalances, and we are helping our clients to do that in ways that are significant.

Related: How the Mad World Group Grew the Smart Way

5. Is customer service given top priority?

Many businesses fail not because of the lack of sales capacity, but because too many people concentrate on the money aspect and neglect to see their customers, who are looking for delivery and fulfilment. It’s critical to have specific departmental responsibilities, and to think like the customer you are trying to keep.

If you focus on customer satisfaction first, money will take care of itself. We were R740 000 in the red when the original partnership came to an end and we were forced to work from home for a year – yes our service levels were such that not one of our clients ever knew we did not have an office.

6. What are you prepared to give your customers?

We like to give our customers a complimentary sample of what the whole meal tastes like before we ask them to sign contracts. That’s how much we believe in the value of our services.

Monique Verduyn is a freelance writer. She has more than 12 years’ experience in writing for the corporate, SME, IT and entertainment sectors, and has interviewed many of South Africa’s most prominent business leaders and thinkers. Find her on Google+.

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Lessons Learnt

Give Your Business The Best Chance Of Success

For that to happen an entrepreneur must distil the business’s reason for being and then doggedly pursue that vision.

Gil Sperling

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In my capacity as a business owner and venture capitalist, one of the questions I get asked most often by entrepreneurs is, “how do I ensure my business succeeds?” While there’s no straightforward answer, there are important elements that I believe every entrepreneur must consider to ensure the greatest probability of success.

Firstly, no business will succeed if it doesn’t solve a unique pain point or problem for modern consumers or businesses. However, even if a business is able to carve out that niche, there’s no guarantee that growth will follow. For that to happen an entrepreneur must distil the business’s reason for being and then doggedly pursue that vision.

North Star metric

This principle of having a clear business vision guides all my decisions. Whenever I need to validate a choice or a change in strategic direction, or if I’m trying to determine what to focus on, I always refer back to my vision. If the two are incongruent, then I know I need to change tack.

Elon Musk is a great example of a successful entrepreneur who is guided by his grand vision. Everything he does, from Tesla to SpaceX, pertains to sustainability, both for the planet and the human race. It might be hard to make the connection when you consider his various businesses out of context, but everything he creates fits into a broader ecosystem that in some way moves the needle towards his ultimate objective. Developing Tesla cars that run on renewable energy is but a small, short-term plan that feeds into his grand vision, yet it’s also been the catalyst for the evolution of the motoring industry.

Related: The Popimedia (Mega) Success Story

Be clear, concise

In the same way, every decision an entrepreneur makes should in some way take them a step closer to realising their vision. In this regard, it is also vital that your vision is crystal clear – a murky or undefined vision will divert you off your path to success.

That’s because you’ll tend to focus on the wrong things, especially when scaling rapidly, or when running bigger organisations, because there are many tasks to complete every day. A lack of clarity also leads to poor decision-making, or, worse, decision paralysis, and that’s business suicide – I’d rather make a bad decision than no decision at all, because it prompts action. However, with a clear vision, more often than not, those decisions will be correct.

Defining your vision

So, how do you know if your vision is clear and, more importantly, relevant and consequential? The way I stress test my vision is to evaluate it every day against the decisions I take, and the direction of the business. This daily process helps to sharpen my decisions over time.

The other step is to remain open-minded enough to accept and acknowledge criticism, and take on board advice from trusted confidants and impartial experts. This is important, because you need to craft your vision based on as much information as possible, including valid criticism.

Ultimately, though, your vision for the business should align with your purpose. Forget about money and turnover as points of departure when defining your vision. These are merely metrics that can determine the strength and effectiveness of your business strategy.

For each of my several business interests, be it VC funding or ad-tech innovation, I have different visions. Each are meaningful to me, but in every instance, I don’t wake up every day with the sole ambition of making money.

While I need to make money to grow these businesses, or build something new, having purpose and vision are the ways I pull through those inevitable challenging situations. Having your vision front of mind in everything you do helps you make better decisions, and makes the hardships easier to endure. It helps you see through the turmoil, because you know where the process will lead, and you always know where the ultimate objective lies.

Read next: A Comprehensive List Of Angel Investors That Fund South African Start-Ups

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Lessons Learnt

Jimmy Choo’s Co-Founder Explains Why There Are No Small Jobs

Tamara Mellon shares the strategy that has helped her find new opportunities throughout her career.

Nina Zipkin

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The co-founder of Jimmy Choo, Tamara Mellon, believes that you can find inspiration and opportunity anywhere. All it takes is determination to keep going and a keen eye for observation.

Mellon began her career in the early 1990s working as an accessories editor for British Vogue. Always on the hunt for up-and-coming designers, she came across Jimmy Choo, a cobbler working in London’s East End.

She would commission him to create shoes for fashion shoots. They were so well received by readers that the pair realised they could expand beyond one-of-kind pieces for the pages of the magazine.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Lessons Learnt

6 Habits Long-Time Millionaires Rely On To Stay Rich

It’s a simple fact: Most millionaires have different habits than the average person. However, these habits are far from inaccessible; they improve one’s odds of finding success but can be adopted by just about anyone with a bit of concerted effort.

Timothy Sykes

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jack-dorsey

To take that idea one step further, once someone has become successful, how do they stay successful? Here, I’d like to take a slightly longer-sighted look at the habits of millionaires, focusing not just on the habits that make them successful but the ones that help them stay successful over time. By cultivating these habits in your own life, you’ll be investing in your own sustained success over time.

Here are six habits of long-time millionaires:

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