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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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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

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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Lessons Learnt

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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