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Less Than 10 Years Got 3 Way Marketing Crashing Through Glass Ceilings

Tom Goldgamer and Danny Aaron have never borrowed a cent; they’ve funded all their growth internally, and their business model is 100% risk- based – which means they take on all the marketing risk, and clients only pay for results (in the form of hot leads or sales). It’s a big upfront cost for the company, but one that’s paid off in spades. Today the Benater Production Group is the holding company for 14 separate companies, has impressive year-on-year growth and a turnover of R200 million per year – all achieved in under ten years.

Nadine Todd

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Vital Stats

  • Players: Tom Goldgamer and Danny Aaron
  • Company: 3 Way Marketing and Benater Production Group
  • What they do: Data, analytics and performance-based marketing
  • Est: 2008 and 2012
  • Turnover: R200 million+
  • Visit: 3waymarketing.co.za

When Danny Aaron and Tom Goldgamer launched their business in 2008 they had no grand strategy, five year plan or a physical product. But they did have an idea, a few business philosophies they planned to develop as they went along, and a willingness to take on a lot of risk as they built their company. They wanted to make it as easy as possible for clients to take a chance on them, and their focus was on big blue-chip companies.

“We operate in an industry that changes frequently, so strategising too far ahead is difficult and often counter-productive,” says Goldgamer. “But we knew we needed strong foundations if we wanted longevity and growth, and so we focused our energy on developing business philosophies that we could implement across our various companies.”

As philosophies go, they’ve worked. Turnover is over R200 million, with staggering year-on-year growth.

Related: Grant Rushmere Is Going Bos With Iced Tea

1. Leverage a great partnership

Local investor and dragon on SA’s Dragon’s Den, Vusi Thembekwayo, believes that the best businesses are run by partners. ‘Great entrepreneurs often come in pairs,’ he says. Ex-Accenture COO and venture capitalist Clive Butkow agrees. He will rarely — if ever — invest in a business with a sole founding partner. He believes that running a business alone is too hard, as no-one embodies all of the characteristics required to successfully run a high-impact business.

Goldgamer and Aaron are a perfect example of this simple rule in action. With a fluid management philosophy and roles that change with the business needs, Aaron manages the business development and Goldgamer is more focused on operations.

“Because 3 Way Marketing’s clientele leans towards the financial services sector, the business is regulated and must adhere to strict corporate governance guidelines and KPIs,” says Goldgamer.

“This means we need to be incredibly familiar with the regulations that our clients are subject to. It also means that we’re very hands-on with all of our customers, who interact with both of us depending on their needs. No client is either mine or Danny’s. We’re a single unit with almost interchangeable parts.”

It also helps to be good friends. The lines between business and personal aren’t just blurred, they’re non-existent. “We’ve spent hours and hours on the business during non-business hours,” says Aaron.

“This is our passion, and so it can’t be confined to an 8-to-5 day. Thank goodness our wives get along as well as we do. A business partnership requires a huge amount of trust and respect.”

Aaron and Goldgamer lived next door to each other for the first six years of setting up the company, which also helped to ensure that all of their focus and time was invested in the business.

2. Hire people you like

3-Way-Marketing-and-Benater-Production-Group

Conventional business practice says hire for skill. Goldgamer and Aaron have done the opposite. Most of their early hires were friends or friends of friends with strong referrals and they only hired people they liked. Today 3 Way Marketing has grown to more than 180 employees, with over 300 people in the Benater group, but they still follow this basic principle.

“We hired people who we thought could help us grow the business, not necessarily because they possessed the right skills — those could be learnt — but because they had the right attitude,” says Aaron.

Today, those early hires are managers, instilling the company’s values in their own teams, hiring based on values and continuously focusing on upskilling.

The partners met at Hollard. Aaron was a data analyst in the marketing, insurance and risk management sectors, and Goldgamer was a GM. “Hollard has an excellent corporate advancement project,” says Goldgamer.

“Every new graduate has a line manager and a senior person overlooking their development, so training and mentorship continues on the job. You don’t need to hire for skill if you’re willing and able to upskill internally.”

Aaron and Goldgamer work in such a niche industry, it’s almost impossible to just hire someone who does what they do. “In our early days our core focus was hiring people who shared our values, were driven and who we knew we could teach our industry to. Above all we knew these people could be trusted. We then did a lot of informal mentoring, both during and after office hours. We had a small team, but everyone was engaged and hungry for success,” says Goldgamer.

Related: Starbucks Coffee Is All About Culture… For A Reason

“This was how we found great people at the beginning,” adds Aaron. “We’d call guys we knew, who we’d gone to school with or were our mates. Greg Canin, who runs the call centre business, went to school with me. Tom and I wanted a numbers guy, not a traditional call centre guy, and he fitted the profile. We gave him his own budget, bank account and created an environment where he has autonomy. Most importantly, we gave him the trust and space to create something amazing. With zero experience in call centres, he’s almost single-handedly built this into a very successful business.”

Canin is not a unique example to the group of companies. Dov Slowatek, previously a serial entrepreneur with a BSc in mathematics, now runs Benater’s operations environment. Kirill Levchenko started his career working in a call centre, and now heads up the group’s account management team, and Devin Karpes, who joined as 3 Way Marketing’s first designer, now forms part of the group’s exco.

So, how do you make something like this work?

“You need to accept that in a relatively new industry there are going to be a lot of growing pains. It’s important that you and your teams are open and transparent, and you give them a chance to learn from their mistakes. You’ll not only create an environment where everyone wants to try new things and find innovative solutions, they’ll treat your business like their own,” says Goldgamer.

“With friends this can be a bit trickier. It forces you into a more meaningful discussion with give and take, because you want to maintain the relationship. This has always worked for us, and if we’ve parted ways with friends, it’s been on a business level only, and on good terms because we’ve approached the relationship from a place of respect.”

“We learnt this lesson from friends in the private equity space who told us that you never fight over money, especially if it’s in your circle. That’s rule number one,” adds Aaron.

3. Find big clients and build loyalty

Goldgamer and Aaron’s first entrepreneurial venture was called Web Smart, and it focused on SEO for the SME market. “We had a third shareholder who bought us out within 12 months,” says Goldgamer. Although the company was a success, the partners learnt that they would rather focus on fewer clients with mass volumes. In this way, their time, energy, systems and funds would go a lot further, with more focus placed on each client.

“Our idea was to start with our core and then expand into different verticals,” says Aaron. That core was 3 Way Marketing, a data-driven lead generation business.

“Our first client was Hollard,” says Goldgamer. “I’d spent eight years with the organisation and we had a good relationship with them. They were open to our ideas, and had encouraged us to pursue our entrepreneurial dreams with our first business. Now we had a product that they could benefit from. Securing Hollard gave us traction to approach other blue-chips with a track record.”

Since Goldgamer and Aaron were determined to work with a select number of corporate clients and not hundreds of SMEs, they needed a way to get corporates to give them a chance, and they needed it fast.

To achieve this aim, they embarked on a business model and sales pitch where they carried all the risk.

4. Carry the risk to make the sale as easy as possible

“Businesses find it difficult to quantify the value of a lead,” says Goldgamer. “How qualified is the lead? How warm is it? And if no sale results from it, is it worth anything at all? Since our business starts with lead generation, we realised that we needed to put our money where our mouth is.

“Instead of asking, what is a lead worth to you, we now ask potential clients, ‘What is a sale worth to you?’ This is a completely different discussion, because it’s something they can quantify.”

Armed with this insight, Aaron and Goldgamer created a business model that is largely risk-based. “Clients only pay us for a pre-agreed result,” says Aaron. “This makes it much easier to close the sale, but it also means we only make money if we deliver. Until that point we’re actually running at a loss.”

“To make the business model work, we fire ourselves before a client can fire us,” adds Goldgamer. “We evaluate if we can come in with the numbers we need to make a client contract worthwhile. If we can’t, we’re not doing the client or ourselves any favours by continuing with the contract. Occasionally we’ll run at a loss if we can see long-term value, and of course we need to make provisions for poor response cycles and bad data patches, but on the whole it means that we only chase clients and businesses where we are sure we can deliver value and meet our targets.”

“The value to our clients is two-fold,” says Aaron. “First, they only pay us for hot leads and sales. Secondly, irrespective of the result of a campaign, they get brand awareness and exposure, which is a by-product of the lead generation process — and something they aren’t directly paying for. It’s win-win for them and it gets our foot in the door.”

Related: 6 Of The Most Profitable Small Businesses In South Africa

In order to generate leads, 3 Way Marketing uses a wide range of digital channels including email marketing, sms, social media, search engine marketing, affiliate marketing, foot soldiers and content marketing.

“Typically each channel is tested separately and the ones that yield the best results in terms of client sales delivered will be focused on, with the poorer performing channels stripped out,” says Goldgamer.

“This is an important process because we can’t afford to spend time or money on channels that don’t work, so we measure everything. After this filtering process, which typically takes three months, the platform is set for our clients to receive leads from only the top converting channels.”

5. Don’t spend cash on anything until you know it works

3-Way-Marketing-and-Benater-Production-Group-founders

Start small, test quick and measure to see if the yield is there. Every new idea, product or service must follow this path. “The upside is that we only invest significant funds on ideas that have already been market tested,” says Goldgamer.

“The downside is that we often have many processes running at the same time. We build something simple to see if it works. We then evaluate if we can make it profitable, or if it adds significant value to something else that we are working on. It’s a piecemeal and patchwork system, but it’s really worked for us.”

This philosophy directly impacts a value that everyone in the organisation embraces, which says that nothing is ever finished, complete or the best it can be. There’s always more: Another solution, a faster way of doing something, a smarter way to reach a better result.

“We’re continuously revising our system,” says Aaron. This means the team needs to really listen to their clients’ needs. “We’re always ready to make tweaks and adjustments. That’s how you keep improving. We know that systems never work like you think they do, or how you plan for them to work. You need client feedback, and then you need to adjust your systems accordingly.

“For example, we originally had one lead channel. We collected leads, sent them to our client. Because we get paid per lead or a sale, and their sales weren’t as high as we’d expected, we were able to determine that they weren’t receiving all the leads we sent. The problem was that we didn’t know why. So we built a component that tracked and pinged each lead.

“It worked incredibly well, except that now the client felt like they were being flooded with leads. They only wanted a set amount of leads per day. No problem, we adjusted the system for that too. The end result is that you’re providing a service or product that meets your business objectives as well as those of your clients, and that leads to longevity. We’ve lost only one client in eight years.”

6. Cross pollinate once you have scale

Today 3 Way Marketing has close to 60 blue- chip clients, so its risk is spread out, but this wasn’t the case in the early days. “Having only a handful of large clients meant that losing one of them would have a significant impact on our sustainability,” says Aaron. This was the driving force behind developing different but related verticals.

“We wanted a business model that spread our risk across multiple clients and verticals.”

It’s a solid growth strategy: Determining what else you can do based on your core product, service or expertise. Goldgamer and Aaron have done this particularly well. “We started as an intermediary matching affiliates with brands,” says Aaron.

“Then we realised we could create our own site and push leads through it. Today, we own thousands of comparison site domains. Our ‘engine’ is constantly profiling and running data analytics, and whether this is for 100 000 people or one million makes no difference to the system.”

“We then started looking at the lifecycle of a lead,” continues Goldgamer. “First, a lead is collected. Next it’s converted. How can we get involved there? We can make them warmer by asking qualifying questions. This led to the development of our call centre.”

“Next we looked at industries that worked in a similar way to the industry we knew from the inside out: the financial services sector,” says Aaron. “The pure risk model works just as well in automotive, travel, accommodation and education. For example, we generate hot leads for vehicle test drives for some of South Africa’s most prominent brands. We take this one step further by actually pre-qualifying every lead in our call centre and booking test drives on the client’s behalf. In this model our clients only pay once a test drive has been booked.”

As the business grew and diversified however, 3 Way Marketing was no longer an appropriate name for all the businesses Aaron and Goldgamer were involved in.

“3 Way is the golden thread that runs through everything we do,” says Aaron. “But it’s now just one business in a group of companies we launched in 2012.”

This has allowed new verticals and divisions to be added without diluting each business unit’s focus, team or skills.

The founders liken the group to a venture capitalist model. “The group and its companies were built from internally generated funds. Each new company begins as a lean start-up within the group. If we don’t have the specialised skills necessary for the business, we’ll find the right partners. We understand the power of dedicated leaders for each company within the group. This gives us the necessary skills and focus in each vertical, but it also frees us up to concentrate on overall group growth and strategies,” says Goldgamer.

Related: 27four Investment Managers Aren’t Afraid Of The Big Boys

7. Invest in people, processes and clients upfront

“From launch we decided to spend money on client campaigns before we made cash. This meant investing in people and processes, and following the risk model philosophy. We did it carefully, testing and measuring everything each step of the way, but it was a philosophy integral to our growth,” says Aaron.

“For example, we place conversion managers on-site at each client’s office. This is an upfront cost for us, and it’s one we shoulder before they’ve paid for a single lead. Our team member assists the manager with analytics, and best practice to ensure all leads are converted into sales.

“We also know that in sales, there are crucial touch points that ensure higher conversions, such as the time it takes to touch a lead, scripting, closing techniques and so on. An on-site resource makes the likelihood of successfully addressing these principles much higher.”

8. Embrace agility and openness

3-way-marketing-south-africa

“Our industry is constantly changing,” says Goldgamer. “Technology and channels continuously morph, which means we need strong individuals to grow within our organisation, and they’re hard to find. Once we have them, we need them to stay. We’ve found the best way to keep talent is to align them with the company’s performance. This incentivises them and aligns us all to the company’s goals. Our numbers and performance are transparently reported to our teams, which allows and empowers our employees to treat the business as if it were their own.”

Goldgamer and Aaron are the first to admit that it’s an important part of their business model. “What we do isn’t for everyone. It’s a tough, busy working environment. It’s full of daily lists, requires laser focus and you’re pretty much always on. But the rewards are great, both monetarily and from a growth and autonomy perspective.

“As a start-up we looked for passion and made a lot of promises to attract and keep rising young stars. As we’ve grown we’ve needed to deliver on those promises. Part of this is finding the right people who want to work within an organisation, but are also entrepreneurial enough to want to be exposed to deals, run budgets, and see a direct impact on what they do. Our senior managers have been with us since the beginning. They’ve earned their positions, and they run each business unit as their own. They go out and sign deals. Create a trusting environment where people can grow and feel in control, and they will flourish.”

The Benater Production Group

Since the Benater Production Group was formed in 2012, 3 Way Marketing’s role became the marketing engine for 14 other businesses within the group.

These include:

  • Phonefinder, South Africa’s first mobile aggregator.
  • Fix My Life, an online portal that allows you to virtually connect and transact with service providers for your home. The service includes plumbers, painters, electricians, handyman and builders.
  • Hudlr, a data mapping software tool that allows marketers to easily pinpoint and send instant direct messages straight to their target audience.
  • BMI, one of South Africa’s largest AVM (automatic voice recording) businesses, backed by a 6-seater call centre that pre-qualifies each lead before it hits a client’s environment.

In Place Recruitment, created to service the recruitment functions of the group as well as other blue-chip companies with a strong emphasis on financial services and digital.

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

Scaleup Learnings From Our Top Clients – What The Most Successful Entrepreneurs Do Right

So, how do our successful clients move through these constraints to scaling up? We see four key drivers of success, and they are: people, strategy, flawless execution and finance.

Louw Barnardt

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You’re out of your start-up boots, staff is increasing, your client base is growing, revenue is up and you’ve proven your case to the market. Now it’s time to scale up. The challenges of this vital growth phase are different and it’s a time that demands different mindsets and different actions. In a world littered with small business failures, it helps to be well-prepared for scaling up using a proven methodology. At Outsourced CFO, we get an inside look at the success factors of our clients who are mastering the transition.

On the one hand, scaling up is a really exciting phase; this is what moves you into real job creation and making an impactful contribution to economic growth. On the other hand, it is really hard to scale up successfully. We see three major constraints that limit companies’ transition from start-up to scale-up:

Leadership

The business has to have the leadership that can take it to the next level. When you start scaling up, especially rapidly, the founders can no longer do everything themselves. The team must grow and include new leadership talent that can take charge and execute so that the founders are working on the business instead of in the business.

Infrastructure

The processes, procedures, networks, systems and workflows of the business all need to be scalable. This is imperative when it comes to your infrastructure for the financial management of your business. You’re only ready for growth when your infrastructure can seamlessly keep pace.

Market access

Scaling up demands more innovative marketing and storytelling so that you can more easily connect and engage with the new employees, clients, network partners, investors and mentors that need to come along with you on your scale-up journey.

Businesses that build a market conversation and a compelling brand narrative during their start-up phase are better positioned to have this kind of market access when they need to scale up.

People

It is critical to have the right people on your team. Our successful entrepreneurs have what it takes to attract, inspire and retain top talent. A strong team of smart, ambitious and purpose-driven people who love the company and want to see it succeed contribute greatly to a world class company culture. They are adept at communicating a compelling vision and establishing core values that people can take on. These entrepreneurs are tuned into the aspirations of their people and focus on developing leaders in their teams who can in turn develop more leaders.

Strategy

It is planning that ensures that the right things are happening at the right times. At successful scale-ups strategies and action plans are devised to ensure that the most important thing always remains the most important thing.

Strategy includes input from all team members and setting of good priorities for the short, medium and long term. Goals are clear and everyone always knows what they are working towards. The needle is continuously moved because 90-day action plans are implemented each quarter to achieve targets and goals that are over and above people doing their daily jobs.

Flawless execution

Top entrepreneurs are not just focused on what operations need to achieve, but how the business operates. They have the right procedures, processes and tools in place so that everyone can deliver along the line on the company’s brand promise. Frequent, quick successive meetings ensure the rapid flow of effective communication. Problems are solved without drama. There is no chaos in the office environment. Everyone is empowered to execute flawlessly to an array of consistently happy clients.

Finance

Everyone knows that growth burns cash. A rapidly scaling business faces the challenge of needing a scalable financial infrastructure to keep the company healthy. Our successful entrepreneurs pay close attention to finance as the heartbeat of the business, ensuring that everything else functions. They look at the tech they are using for financial management and for the ways that their financial systems can be automated so that they can be brought rapidly to scale. The capital to grow is another vital finance issue.

The best way to finance a business is through paying clients on the shortest possible cash flow cycle. However, when you are scaling up and making heavier investments in the resources you need for growth, it is likely that you will need a workable plan for raising capital. Our scale-up clients know the value of accessing innovative financial management that provides high level services to drive their business growth.

Navigating the scale-up journey of a growing private company is one of the hardest but most rewarding of careers to pursue. Having people in your corner who have been through this journey before helps take a lot of pain out of the process. No growth journey looks the same, but there are tried and tested methods that will – if applied diligently – lead to definite success. Happy scaling!

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Lessons Learnt

That Time Jeff Bezos Was The Stupidest Person In The Room

Everyone can benefit from simple advice, no matter who they are.

Gene Marks

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When you think of Jeff Bezos, a lot of things probably come to your mind.

You likely think of Amazon.com, a company he founded more than twenty years ago, that’s completely disrupted retail and online commerce as we know it. You probably also think of his entrepreneurial genius. Or the immense wealth that he’s built for himself and others. You may also think of drones, Alexa and same-day delivery. Bezos is a visionary, an entrepreneur, a cutthroat competitor and a game changer. He’s unquestionably a very, very smart man. But sometimes, he can be…well…stupid, too.

Like that time back in 1995.

That was when Amazon was just a startup operating from a 2,000 square foot basement in Seattle. During that period, Bezos and most of the handful of employees working for him had other day jobs. They gathered in the office after hours to print and pack up the orders that their fast-growing bookselling site was receiving each day from around the world. It was tough, grueling work.

The company at the time, according to a speech Bezos gave, had no real organisation or distribution. Worse yet, the process of filling orders was physically demanding.

“We were packing on our hands and knees on a hard concrete floor,” Bezos recalled. “I said to the person next to me ‘this packing is killing me! My back hurts, it’s killing my knees’ and the person said ‘yeah, I know what you mean.'”

Related: Jeff Bezos: 9 Remarkable Choices That Shaped The Richest Man In The World

Bezos, our hero, the entrepreneurial genius, the CEO of a now 600,000-employee company that’s worth around a trillion dollars and one of the richest men in the world today then came up with what he thought was a brilliant idea. “You know what we need,” he said to the employee as they packed boxes together. “What we need is…kneepads!”

The employee (Nicholas Lovejoy, who worked at Amazon for three years before founding his own philanthropic organisation financed by the millions he made from the company’s stock) looked at Bezos like he was — in Bezos’ words — the “stupidest guy in the room.”

“What we need, Jeff,” Lovejoy said, “are a few packing tables.” Duh.

So the next day Bezos – after acknowledging Lovejoy’s brilliance – bought a few inexpensive packing tables. The result? An almost immediate doubling in productivity. In his speech, Bezos said that the story is just one of many examples how Amazon built its customer-centered service culture from the company’s very early days. Perhaps that’s true. Then again, it could mean something else.

It could mean that sometimes, just sometimes, those successful, smart, wealthy and powerful people may not be as brilliant as you may think. Nor do they always have the right answers. Sometimes, just sometimes, they may actually be the stupidest guy in the room. So keep that in mind the next time you’re doing business with an intimidating customer, supplier or partner who appears to know it all. You might be the one with the brilliant idea.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Lessons Learnt

How Sureswipe Built Its Identity By Building A Strong Company Culture

Culture is unique to a business, it’s the reason why companies win or lose.

Nadine Todd

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A company’s culture is its identity and personality. Since this is closely linked to its brand and how it wants to be viewed by its employees, customers, competitors and the outside world, culture is critical. The challenge is understanding that culture contains unwritten rules and that certain behaviours that align to the culture the company is nurturing should be valued and cherished more than others.

At Sureswipe, the core of our culture is that we value people and what they are capable of. We particularly value people who are engaged, get on with the job, take initiative, are happy to get stuck in beyond their formal job descriptions, and who sometimes have to suck up a bit of pain to get through a challenge.

We include culture in everything we do, so it’s a fundamental element in our recruitment process. In addition to a skills and experience interview, each candidate undergoes a culture fit in the form of a values interview. We look for top performers who echo our core values (collaboration, courage, taking initiative, fairness and personal responsibility) and have real conviction about making a difference in the lives of independent retailers. If we don’t believe a candidate will be a culture fit, we won’t hire them.

If we make a mistake in the recruitment process, we won’t retain culture killers, even if they are top performers. This is such a tough lesson to learn, but it liberates a company and often improves overall company performance.

Culture should be cultivated, constantly communicated and used when making decisions. At Sureswipe, we often talk about what it takes to win and have simplified winning into three key elements: A simple, yet inspirational vision; the right culture; and a clear and focused strategy. The first and third elements can be copied from organisation to organisation. Culture on the other hand is unique to every business and can be a great influencer in its success.

Catch phrases on the wall are not the definition of culture

A strong culture is purposeful and evolving. It’s what makes a company great, but also exposes its weakness. No company is perfect and it’s important to acknowledge the good and the bad. Without it, we cannot ensure that we are protecting and building on the good and reducing or eradicating the bad.

Mistakes happen. That’s okay. But we are very purposeful about how mistakes are handled. Culturally we’re allergic to things being covered up or deflected and have had great learning moments as individuals and as an organisation when bad news travels fast. It’s liberating to ‘tell it like it is’ and almost always, with a few more minds on the problem at hand, things can be rectified with minimal impact.

Related: Starbucks Coffee Is All About Culture… For A Reason

Culture should be built on values that resonate with you and that you want to excel at. In our case, some are lived daily and others are aspirational in that we’re still striving for them. In each case we genuinely believe in them and encourage each other to keep living them. This increases the level of trust within the team, as there is consistency in how people are treated and how we get things done.

We are always inspired when, after sitting in our reception area, nine out of ten visitors will comment on the friendliness of staff. We hear their remarks about how friendly the Sureswipe team is or a potential candidate will talk about the high level of energy and positivity they experience throughout the interview process.

These are indicators that our culture is alive and well. It’s these components of our culture — friendliness, helpfulness and positivity — that cascade into how we do business and how we treat our customers and people in general. Being able to describe your culture and support it with real life examples is a great way to communicate and promote the type of behaviour that is important and recognised within the organisation.

Culture doesn’t just happen

We are fortunate that culture has always been important to us, even if it wasn’t clearly defined in our early days. As we grew it became important to be more purposeful in the evolution of our culture. About four years ago, the senior leadership team and nominated cultural or values icons were mandated to relook all things cultural.

A facilitator said to us, “You really love it when people take the initiative, and get very frustrated when they don’t.” That accurate insight became core to our values. We love to see people proactively solve problems, take responsibility for their own growth, initiate spontaneous events, change their tactics or implement new ideas. It energises us and aligns to the way we do business.

We celebrate growth and love to see our staff getting promoted due to their hard work and perseverance. We recently had one of our earliest technicians get promoted to the Regional Manager of Limpopo. It was one of the best moments of 2018.

Be purposeful with culture, describe it, communicate it and use it in all aspects of business. Culture should change. Don’t allow phrases like ‘this is not how we do things,’ or, ‘the culture here is changing,’ to stifle the growth and development of your culture. When done correctly change is a good thing. Culture is driven from the top but at the end of the day it’s a company-wide initiative. Design it together with team members from different parts of the organisation to get the most from it. And then make sure everyone lives and breathes it.

Cost Cutting

The best ROI is achieved when you stop wasting money.

Peter Drucker once said that businesses have two main functions — marketing and innovation — that produce results. “All the rest are costs.”

If you agree, that means that the average business has a lot of fat to trim. Obviously you can go overboard trying to cut costs too. My philosophy has been to look at some of the general areas where you can add some efficiency but not at the expense of impairing your most valuable resource — your focus.

The following cost-cutting measures will do that. Think of these as adding value to your company, whether it’s time, creativity or a closer connection to your consumers.

Related: Wise Words From wiGroup On Building A “Wow” Company Culture

Uncover inefficiencies in your process

This is where I begin. In fact, it was analysing the inefficiencies of legal communication and knowledge sharing that led me to create Foxwordy, the digital collaboration platform for lawyers. I noticed that attorneys in our clients’ legal departments were drafting new documents from scratch when they could pool their knowledge and save time by using language that a trusted colleague had employed in a similar document. Business is all about process. When you create a new process, or enhance an existing process, you will drive cost efficiency.

Refine your process, then automate

If existing processes are lacking, it is time to create process. If you have processes, but they are not driving efficiency, it’s time to redefine your process. Either way, a key second step is refining processes that are needed in your business. Only then can you go to automation, since automating without a process will result in chaos — and won’t save time or money. Similarly, automating a poor process is not going to give you the cost-saving results you are looking for.

Thanks to the Cloud, there are very accessible means of automating manual processes. For instance, you can automate bookkeeping functions with FreshBooks and use chatbots to interface with clients — for very basic information. If you’re a retailer, a chatbot on your site can explain your return policy or address other frequently asked questions. Automating such processes allows you to spend more time focusing on clients and customers. Technology alone isn’t a panacea for all business functions, but if you find something you’re doing manually that can be automated, take a look and consider how much time and process definition automation would save you.

Rethink your outreach

Marketing and outreach are usually big and important challenges for an organisation. In my experience, there are two main components to successful marketing — knowing your customers and using the most effective media to spread your message. For the first part, I recommend polling. There are various online survey services that offer an instant read on what your customers are thinking. You may think business is humming along, but a survey could reveal that while consumers like your product, a few tweaks would make it even better.

For the second part — marketing messaging — once you have a firm idea of your marketing messaging, Facebook is a great vehicle for outreach. The ability to granularly target customers and create Lookalike audiences (from around 1 000 consumers) can help grow your business.

Related: Take Responsibility For Your Company’s Culture To Boost Productivity

Scrutinise your spend history

There are tools that can help you assess spend history and find cost-cutting opportunities. For example, you might be able to take advantage of rewards or loyalty programmes to reduce common business expenses, like travel, or consolidate vendors for a similar function. If you have a long-standing relationship with a vendor, negotiate better pricing.

The most important elements to keep in mind are resources that make your company special. Your company may be built on one person’s reputation and expertise. Guard against tarnishing that reputation with inappropriate messaging in advertising or social media. If your company’s special sauce is intellectual property, protect that too. But everything else — ranging from physical property to salary and benefits — are costs and should be considered negotiable. — Monica Zent

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