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How Garth Barnes And Fabian Sing Launched Tigerfight

Establishing a start-up in any industry isn’t easy. It requires passion, talent and a whole lot of tenacity. Garth Barnes and Fabian Sing from Tigerfight share the lessons they learnt while launching their music production and composition start-up.

GG van Rooyen

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Vital Stats

It started, as it so often does, over late-night drinks. “We’d often sit around after gigs promising ourselves that we’d start our own thing one day,” says Tigerfight co-founder Garth Barnes, who is the frontman for South African band CrashCarBurn.

“And for a long time, nothing really came of it. It was a ‘someday’ thing,” adds Barnes’ business partner and former bandmate Fabian Sing. But then, in 2012, they decided to get serious. It was time to quit the idle talk and give it a real go.

Barnes was working at an accounting firm, and the experience was leaving him cold. Music was his real passion, and his day job was not providing him with the time to pursue what he truly loved. Sing was already working in the music industry and had received several awards for his compositions.

We-recommend-tickWe recommend: Mark Pilgrim On Authenticity In Business

The time seemed right to launch their own company. With Barnes’s business acumen and Sing’s technical expertise, they had what they needed to strike out on their own.

Typical of any start-up, the first three years of Tigerfight was a tumultuous period, filled with ups and downs. Here are their lessons.

Taking the plunge is never easy

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“Music production and composition isn’t a cheap industry to get into,” says Sing.

“Sure, modern technology allows just about anyone to record music at home on their laptop, but professional-level equipment is very expensive. And if you want to provide a top-level product, you need good equipment.”

“Getting Tigerfight off the ground required a huge capital investment,” says Barnes.

“We had to build a studio, which took a year to complete. In order to get the money needed, I decided to apply for finance while I still had a full-time job. Quitting my job and securing a loan for the business was a scary move.”

Barnes now had debt that needed to be repaid, but still the entrepreneurs needed to be patient – launching a business will always take longer than anticipated.

Know your numbers

Barnes left the accounting firm to lecture in accounting at the University of Johannesburg. “My background in numbers gave our start-up a distinct advantage. Fabian is the creative force behind Tigerfight. He’s the one with the amazing musical talent and technical expertise. I’m the one who crunches the numbers and makes sure that we manage our money properly.”

Keeping careful track of the money coming in and going out is critical, yet many start-ups neglect this, burning through their capital far quicker than anticipated.

That’s why it’s important to involve someone with a head for numbers. While everyone else is looking to the future, they can keep an eye on the runway and ensure there’s enough money in the bank to get the business off the ground.

We-recommend-tickWe recommend: Clockwork Media, Scrum And The Agile Business

Branding is very important

Tigerfight

“We were very careful about how we positioned our company. We even hired an agency to assist us in the branding of the business. It turned out to be a bit of a disaster. We weren’t on the same page, so what they created didn’t align with what Fabian and I had in mind. We had already spent quite a bit of money but decided to walk away from what the agency had created. We didn’t want to compromise our vision,” says Barnes.

“The name Tigerfight was also an extension of the brand image we wanted to create around the business. We wanted an evocative image – something that suggested passion, excitement and tenacity. The visual of two tigers fighting is anything but boring,” adds Sing.

Chase the right business

“Right from the get-go, we were very selective in the jobs we pursued. We went for projects that were exciting, and that we thought would have a nice buzz around them.

“We also quickly scratched out a specific niche for ourselves. We did work for the local Comic’s Choice Awards, for example, and this led to comedians approaching us to create unique walk-on music for them. It was a market that wasn’t being serviced at all,” says Sing. As a start-up, Sing and Barnes quickly learnt the value of mining their contacts. Everyone has contacts, it’s just a matter of using them.

Everyone’s an expert

“Proving your worth within a creative industry can be difficult. Modern technology allows anyone to create music on a PC, so companies can sometimes be reluctant to spend a significant amount on music composition. It’s your job to show them how superior your product is,” says Barnes, highlighting the importance of proving value, particularly when it’s associated with a higher cost.

“Some companies can also be reluctant to change. They stick with what they know and remain loyal to existing suppliers, so you need to bring something truly fresh and unique to the table. Don’t leave them with a choice but to sit up and take notice.”

Develop a thick skin

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“Creatives have a reputation for being sensitive and insecure when it comes to their creations. If you want to turn your creative pursuits into a commercial endeavour, though, you need to let go of your insecurities and develop a thick skin,” says Sing.

We-recommend-tickWe recommend: Greg Tinkler On Managing Business Breakups

“You need to be receptive to your client’s opinions and criticisms. You can’t take it personally. You need to be able to sit at a boardroom table and listen as eight people pick your creation apart.”

While this is true of creatives, it’s equally true of all start-ups. Ultimately your business needs to deliver on client needs, which means you can’t take things personally.

Hire slow, fire fast

“A lot of start-ups hire extra help too quickly when they start to expand. They hire fast and fire slow. We took the opposite approach. It took us about a year to hire our first employee.

“The work was rolling in and we were being swamped, so the temptation was big to hire as quickly as possible. But we wanted an individual who could offer the same level of service we were providing clients. When we did eventually hire someone, we were confident that we had found the right person, and he was worth the wait,” says Barnes.

GG van Rooyen is the deputy editor for Entrepreneur Magazine South Africa. Follow him on Twitter.

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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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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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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