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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+.

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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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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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