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How Innovo Networks is Landing Big Corporates

Coming from a corporate background, and now doing business with corporate clients, Damian Michael from Innovo Networks shares the secret to playing the corporate game — and winning top clients and tenders as a result.

Nadine Todd

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Damian-Michael

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When Damian Michael launched his boutique telecoms service provider, Innovo Networks in July 2013, he had a clear goal in mind: To offer managed ICT services to the South African market at a better price than the industry’s incumbents, while delivering excellent service at the same time.

His target was corporates and the public sector, a lucrative market for SMEs, provided you understand – and can play by – the rules of the game.

We-recommend-tickWe recommend: Watershed Frontman on Why Talent Will Only Get You So Far

What’s the first step to securing corporate clients?

Corporates only do work with registered vendors, so step one is registering as a vendor. You will find their process and the documentation required on their database.

You need to fill in everything, and provide all the required documentation, including tax clearance certificates, your B-BBEE status, director IDs, shareholder agreements and your health and safety compliance.

Understand that these are all mandatory. Let’s use health and safety as an example. Corporates are putting themselves at risk when they deal with SMEs.

If a technician falls down and breaks their leg, who’s liable? The corporate. SMEs need to understand compliance, and how corporate entities work. These are non-negotiables.

What happens once you’re registered? Is there any way to stand out from other SMEs looking to do business with the same companies?

I believe it’s essential to actively pursue clients. It’s not up to the corporate to send you quotes, tenders or even work. You need to pursue them. Corporates will load you onto their databases, but the onus is on you to build the relationship. Communicate specials to particular procurement managers – you’ll find their names when you register. Make contact, build relationships.

Any advice on how to build those relationships?

Pop into their offices; introduce yourself to the various department heads. Understand they’re very busy, so respect their time, but also understand that the more you stand out and they know you, the higher your chances of doing business with them.

It’s particularly important to give a gift to the gatekeeper. A gift opens doors; they’ll remember you, whether it’s a box of chocolates, pen or roses, people love getting gifts. Take them out to lunch – just don’t forget the gatekeeper.

Once your foot is in the door, how do you ensure repeat business?

This is entirely dependent on how well you deliver. Corporate policies state that they must always obtain three quotes. You quote on their requirements, and they choose the best product at the best price.

Often, entry into the organisation is price dependant, however, exceptional service will lead to follow-up work, and your next quote standing out from the crowd.

Pay careful attention to what distinguishes you. Stand out. Serve the organisation. Understand the organisation. What are their values? Are you delivering to those values?

We-recommend-tickWe recommend: Gil Oved’s Lessons Learnt: Be The Grandmaster of Your Game

How do you handle long payment terms from corporate clients?

Cash flow for SMEs, especially SMEs that are bootstrapped, is tight. Corporates often pay in 30, 60 or even 90 days. That’s their policy. But, if they pay within 14 days they get extra BEE points. Let them know that. If they get enterprise development points working with you, make that clear as well. 

What led you to launching Innovo Networks?

I had a corporate ICT background. I spent two years at Vodacom in sales and marketing, followed by eight years at MTN. I then joined Neotel in 2009, and that’s where I got a taste for entrepreneurship.

We were building the organisation from scratch: A customer-base, acquisitions, policies, procedures and rolling out a new network. We were competing with large incumbents, so we needed to be fast, flexible and entrepreneurial.

By 2013 I was ready to create my own brand. I wanted to provide managed ICT services, including communications, connectivity, cloud and carrier services, at a better price to the incumbents.

I had good relationships in the ICT sector, excellent IP, and saw how much opportunity there was in the market, which is on a huge growth curve.

We-recommend-tickWe recommend: Yolanda Sing from Chloé Consultants on Leading by Example

Creating Innovo Networks was a natural progression, and with my background in corporates, I understand the rules of the game.

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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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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