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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+.

Lessons Learnt

Richard Branson’s ABCs Of Business

Throughout the year, the Virgin co-founder shared what he thinks are the essential elements to success.

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If there’s one thing Richard Branson knows, it’s how to run a successful business.

Throughout last year, the Virgin founder shared what he thinks are the keys ingredients to building a successful company with each letter of the alphabet, which he slowly revealed through the 365 days.

From A for attitude to N for naivety to Z for ZZZ, check out Branson’s ABCs of success.

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Lessons Learnt

How Reflexively Apologising For Everything All The Time Undermines Your Career

How can you inspire confidence if you are constantly saying you’re sorry for doing your job?

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I’m one of those weird people who gets excited about performance reviews. I like getting feedback and understanding how I can improve. A few years ago, I sat down for my first annual review as the director of communications for the Florida secretary of state, under the governor of Florida.

I had a great relationship with my chief of staff, but I had taken on a major challenge when I accepted the job a year prior. I didn’t really know what to expect.

Youth takes charge

I was 25 at the time, and everyone on my team was in their thirties and forties. I came from Washington, D.C., and was an outsider to my southern colleagues. I was asking a lot from people who had been used to very different expectations from their supervisor.

I sat down with my chief of staff who gave me some feedback about the challenges I had tackled.

She then paused and said to me, very directly,”But you have to stop apologising. You must stop saying sorry for doing your job.”

Related: 8 Valuable And Inspirational Web Series You Should Check Out

I didn’t know what to say. My reflex was to reply sheepishly, “Umm, I’m sorry?” But instead I immediately decided to be more cognisant of how often I said I was sorry. Years later, her words have stuck with me. I have what some may consider the classic female disease of apologising. When the New York Times addressed it, five of my friends and past coworkers sent it to me.

In it, writer Sloane Crosley got to the heart of the issue:

“To me, they sound like tiny acts of revolt, expressions of frustration or anger at having to ask for what should be automatic. They are employed when a situation is so clearly not our fault that we think the apology will serve as a prompt for the person who should be apologising.”

Topic of debate

I’ve talked at length with other women trying to figure out this fine balance. The Washington PostTime, and Cosmopolitan have all tackled this topic. Some say it’s OK to apologise; others criticise those who are criticising women who apologise. Clearly, I’m not alone in dealing with this issue. In fact, I’m constantly telling the people I manage that by apologising they give up a lot of their power.

Related: Want To Feel Empowered? Check Out These 17 Quotes From Successful Entrepreneurs And Leaders

Here’s the bottom line: Don’t apologise for doing your job.

If you’re following up with a coworker about something they said they’d get to you earlier, don’t say, “Sorry to bug you!” If you want to share your thoughts in a meeting, don’t start off by saying, “Sorry, I just want to add…” If you’re doing your job, you have absolutely nothing to apologise for.

That’s what I think. And I’m not even sorry about it.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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10 Quotes On Following Your Dreams, Having Passion And Showing Hard Work From Tech Guru Michael Dell

If you’re in need of a little motivation, check out these quotes from Dell’s CEO, founder and chairman.

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There’s much to learn from one of the computer industry’s longest tenured CEOs and founders, Michael Dell. As an integral part of the computer revolution in the 1980s, Dell launched Dell Computer Corporation from his dorm room at the University of Texas. And it didn’t take Dell long before he’d launched one of the most successful computer companies. Indeed, by 1992 Dell was the youngest CEO of a fortune 500 company.

Dell’s success had been long foreshadowed. When he was 15, Dell showed great interest in technology, purchasing an early version of an Apple computer, only so he could take it apart and see how it was built. And once he got to college, Dell noticed a gap in the market for computers: There were no companies that were selling directly to consumers. So, he decided to cut out the middleman and began building and selling computers directly to his classmates. Before long, he dropped out of school officially to pursue Dell.

Fast forward to today. Dell is not only a tech genius and businessman, but a bestselling author, investor and philanthropist, with a networth of $24.7 billion. He continues his role as the CEO and chairman of Dell Technologies, making him one of the longest tenured CEOs in the computer industry.

So if you’re in need of some motivation or inspiration, take it from Dell.

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