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How Turrito Networks Went From Zero To R50 Million In Four Years

How did Brian Timperley and Louis Jardim from ICT start-up Turrito Networks manage to go from zero to R50 million in four years? By not by trying to be all things to all customers. Instead, they decided to focus on a very specific niche.

Ed Hatton

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Vital Stats

  • Players: Brian Timperley and Louis Jardim
  • Company: Turrito Networks
  • Established: 2010
  • Visit: turrito.com

As senior account managers in a major ICT company during the 2000s, the corporate accounts that Brian Timperley and Louis Jardim serviced enjoyed substantial support, but smaller customers were falling through the cracks.

Everybody wanted the huge incomes from the really big organisations, so SMEs were largely neglected.

They also realised that Internet connectivity had become a commodity, so Timperley and Jardim opened discussions with potential investors and suppliers to launch their own start-up. They accepted an investment offer and launched a company. It did not go well.

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A clash of cultures

There was a massive culture clash with the investors, and the entrepreneurs admit candidly that they had been seduced by the idea of being business owners, without considering the responsibility that went with it.

Their initial investors got into financial difficulties, so Timperley and Jardim ensured that all the staff were paid and supplier invoices settled, and then put the operation behind them.

They didn’t quit and go back to their corporate jobs though. Instead, they immediately set about refining their business model and finding a new investor, having learnt valuable lessons.

With a new business model in hand, they started looking for a more compatible investor. They came close to hitting the wall and quitting after 14 consecutive pitches to various investment companies, until pitch number 15 to the MICROmega group, who agreed to invest almost immediately.

Finding a niche

“We focused exclusively on the neglected SME sector, defined as 10 to 300 users. This focus has proved very successful,” says Timperley. “We wanted to make our customers feel as important as the big blue chips by giving them preferential support, pricing and service delivery.”

The second key differentiator stemmed from the realisation that bandwidth and network connectivity had become a commodity, so Turrito was set up to be a network aggregator, with the rights to resell products from all significant network suppliers. Customers are able to purchase all available solutions from a single provider.

The ‘halo’ effect of being backed by a large and successful listed technology investor also gave the business credibility. MICROmega provided capital as required, and the entrepreneurs admit that it was easier to grow using investor money.

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Targeting the SMEs

The SME market can be difficult and costly to break into. What challenges did Timperley and Jardim face in marketing to SMEs?

“At the start, we canvassed extensively and focused on what was in it for the potential customer. We learnt what the customers wanted, and what they didn’t care about. In the early stages, it was all about growing the business. Our approach was consultative and all about addressing customers’ pain points. To be considered by prospects (and retain existing customers) we have to boast technical excellence in products and abilities.”

“Almost 80% of our new customers are now referrals by existing customers, so providing really top-class product, support and service has proved a better marketing strategy than many traditional strategies. Thankfully, we have great sales people, so we were able to develop the initial customers fairly quickly,” says Jardim.

How to manage growth

MICROmega might have been footing the bill, but that didn’t mean that expanding the operation was necessarily easy. It took hard work and a clever approach to doing business.

So how did the company manage to scale so quickly and effectively?

“We targeted a large market of SMEs, designed the company to support them well, and secured the products they wanted, so we had a great offering. We also delegated decisions to where they were best made, enabling us to respond rapidly.”

The partners are very different. Timperley is the entrepreneur, building the strategic initiatives to grow the business, with strong industry knowledge. Jardim describes him as a ‘people magnet’. Jardim, meanwhile, is the ‘make-it-happen man’, a problem-solver with a talent for operational excellence.

Leading as a team

“We use each other’s strengths to manage the company. We have never had a serious dispute,” says Jardim.

“The management style is best described as agile chaos — it is highly decentralised decision-making, especially when it comes to the sales teams. For example, if a customer needs a facility for which Turrito Networks is not a registered supplier, employees are expected to use their initiative to motivate new suppliers to management, or find alternatives.

“We don’t make lengthy to-do lists in meetings. When a decision is made, the responsible party must just do it — often from right inside the meeting. We cannot tolerate procrastination, being right or wrong is much less damaging than indecision. It’s okay to fail and learn fast, but it’s not okay to do nothing.”

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Decentralised decision-making has been instrumental in rapid growth. “This process has allowed us to grow, because, as directors, we don’t need to focus on the day-to-day running of the company as much as we otherwise would need to. We can focus more on strategic issues such as customer-care standards, target markets and suppliers.

Hiring the right people

Of course this approach has created its own set of problems, especially when it comes to hiring employees.

“We’ve found that track record in a corporate organisation is irrelevant when it comes to hiring staff. Corporate people do not fit into this environment, so instead we look for agility. We reward high performance well and punish underperformance. We’ve also stuck to our two core strategies of selling only to SMEs and being network agnostic, and this means stability for staff, suppliers and customers,” says Jardim.

Although company growth has been impressive, the staff complement has remained fairly small. When Turrito started, there were four people. Today, there are 31.

“We are still growing, and should do more than 50% year-on-year growth this year. There’s a lot to do in the SME market. It’s a huge segment that will keep us growing rapidly. We have some customers in other African countries, so the rest of Africa offers a lot of potential as well. We are well organised to manage rapid growth and it’s great to have a large and resourceful company like MICROmega backing us,” says Timperley.

Don’t abandon your niche

“Many of our competitors have established their own network, selling their own bandwidth. This is profitable, but we’ve resisted the temptation. We believe this erodes the value of being product agnostic and places doubt on whether we benefit from one of the specific products we offer,” says Jardim.

“We’ve been tempted by large corporates that have heard about our services and wanted us to bid for their business. We stick to our guns – we’ve taken on small business units within a large corporate, but entire networks that exceed our SME definition are not for us. If we try to manage large corporate businesses that we’re not geared to scale to, we ruin our long-term strategy for a short-term windfall.”

Ed Hatton is the owner of The Marketing Director and has consulted to and mentored SMBs in strategy, marketing and sales for almost 20 years. He co-authored an entrepreneurship textbook and is passionate about helping entrepreneurs to succeed.

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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