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Running A Business Like ClockWork – The Founders Weigh In On Launch Success

If you want your start-up to blow the lights out, you need to become a student of your own company. There is nothing more valuable to success than actionable data.

Nadine Todd

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ClockWork

Vital Stats

When you launch a business, research is key. Unless you have a deep understanding of the challenges you’re solving, chances are you’re creating a product or solution that might interest people, but isn’t enough to get them to open their wallets.

An idea is all fine and well, but unless you have hard data, it’s very difficult to execute that idea in a meaningful way.

Related: 7 Lessons Elevator Learnt When Partnering With Their Competitor For Next Level Growth

Jamie Rood and Jonathan Kingwill learnt this lesson the hard way. They had an idea, and they spent months working on it. They then attended a bootcamp run by Ignitor through the Standard Bank Business Incubator, and they were told that they had nothing.

“The foundation of the lean start-up method (which is the basis of Ignitor’s bootcamps) is that you get out there and do your research, which requires approaching individuals and companies,” says Jamie.

“Initially we felt completely unbalanced by the suggestion that we didn’t have a business. We’d spent seven months devising this idea, and now we were being told that unless we got out there to prove the concept, it had all been a waste of time. It was a very frustrating process. Had we wasted our time, or were we wasting it now?”

Jonathan Kingwill and Jamie Rood

The situation Jamie and Jonathan found themselves in isn’t unusual for start-ups. Entrepreneurs can become so focused on their idea and the problems that they’re solving that they end up working in a bubble.

The problem is that real, useful market research is tough — it’s time-consuming and requires an inordinate amount of perseverance. The number of ‘nos’ you get can be incredibly demoralising.

“You have to play the percentages,” says Jonathan. “You need to make 200 phone calls to get 14 people to agree to a survey. Of our sample, one third sat down with us, and the rest requested tele interviews, emails, Google Forms — we had to find a number of different ways to connect with people.”

But the data that they collected proved to be invaluable, and even precipitated a shift in their business model.

“When you’re told that you’ve been operating in a bubble, and you have to go out and prove a concept that you already believe is the right solution, it’s easy to decide you’re right and they’re wrong, and I think a lot of entrepreneurs do just that.

You can easily get lost in an ego-centric attitude when you’re founding a company. Luckily, Ignitor wasn’t the first time we’d been exposed to the foundations of lean start-up methodology,” says Jamie.

“As soon as we realised we wanted to start a business — and what our product would be — we set out to learn as much as we could about starting a business.

We researched the business model canvas, Y-Combinator, watched Start Up School videos on YouTube — we were so busy learning about start-ups that we didn’t do enough research on the actual product, which was what Ignitor highlighted for us.”

“The bootcamp wasn’t isolated,” agrees Jonathan. “It was a reminder that we hadn’t made a point of getting into the field and researching our target audience.”

The experience taught them a valuable lesson: “If you draw on knowledge and advice from people more experienced than yourself, you’ll go far further than people who switch off,” says Jamie.

Related: (Infographic) The Early Failures Of The Most Successful Billionaires

“You need to keep an open mind throughout your journey. You can never think you know more than someone else. Draw on every new data point you come across. Take a pinch of salt from everyone you meet.”

The research sample gave Jamie and Jonathan new insights into their business and the problems they were trying to solve.

“We wanted to create an instant recruitment platform for the unskilled, intensive labour market,” explains Jonathan.

“We want to make a difference to unemployment rates in South Africa by creating a product that helps labourers find work, and gives them a vetted, online identity that takes the place of a CV. That was the initial idea. We knew there was a need, and we believed that this was the solution.”

Getting out into the market revealed that there was a much bigger market problem however, one the founders hadn’t fully explored.

“We started out trying to figure out what quantifies good performance amongst labour intensive employees. We thought we’d use this information to create better CVs and to ‘score’ people on the app.

jonathan-kingwill-and-jamie-rood-entrepreneurship

“But the process of collecting the data revealed something else — we were taking a deep dive into the inner-workings of a company, and the link between employee productivity and the bottom line. And what we realised is that even though this link is strong, companies don’t measure efficiency, punctuality and productivity.

This in turn led us to the realisation that an app that helps companies track these vital components will assist employers to boost their bottom lines, and employees to become more efficient and effective at their jobs — which then feeds into our original idea of creating a labour marketplace that’s monetised by the companies whose bottom lines we are boosting.”

Related: Stuart Weaving’s Unexpected Journey To Becoming A Serial Entrepreneur

Getting the app developed is another challenge, but Jamie and Jonathan have partnered with a company that holds equity in ClockWork and is developing the platform for them.

“There’s a process that builds up to your final goal. We have a product in the market that solves a need, and is gathering data that will help us create a more sophisticated product that will work towards solving the manual labour and unemployment need in South Africa,” says Jamie.

“Building a business is done in stages — you can’t jump straight to your end product. You need to get something out into the market that will help you prove your concept, build a reputation and generate cash flow.

This can then fund the next stage of your development and even attract investors. It’s a continuous process, and we’ve learnt that data is at the core of building a strong, sustainable start-up.”


TOP TIP

If you aren’t willing to knock on doors and pound the pavement, you’ll never have a deep understanding of the biggest challenges your customers are facing — and how your solution can solve them.  


Related: Rudolf Goosen’s New Book Will Help You To Embrace A Success Mindset

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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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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brightrock

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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