It took Chris Wilkins just over ten years to build his software company, DVT, into a R100 million business. Less than two years later, he has more than doubled that turnover.
Entrepreneur chats to him about how he has focused on growth, increased his profits, and built an industry-leading business.
What was your strategy when you started DVT and how has that changed over time?
What we do has not changed but how we do it has. You have to grow a business for it to survive, and despite what MBA students might think, you have to make a lot of it up as you go along.
It’s an ‘if needs must’ approach. The needs of a growing business change all the time, and you have to accommodate that growth by making adjustments as you go along.
The most important element for us has been hiring more people, and more senior people. As an entrepreneur, you have to know when it’s time to bring in employees who do what you used to do so that you can occupy your time with developing and evolving the business.
How has your business model evolved?
There’s nothing magical about a business model. It’s simply the nuts and bolts of how a business plans to generate revenue and profits.
It details your long-term strategy and day-to-day operations. DVT has essentially been doing the same thing we have always done — writing software for clients.
But how we do it is changing. There are more people involved. There is a big team of support staff, and an in-house recruitment team that knows how and where to find them. We are now employing around 100 people a year, which means we have to scour South Africa for the right talent.
The key point is that functions in the business have not changed, but the way we do things has changed dramatically.
That, I believe, is the difference between an average business and a great business. Our growth is not about systems and process, but about the ability to scale what works.
Describe your organisational structure?
When we started the business I looked after the profit and made sure clients were as happy as possible.
Those are the two main elements of any successful company. I did that for the first five years of the company’s existence, after which we employed our first business unit head.
Over time, we have simply replicated that model. It’s completely scalable, allowing us to keep on hiring as the need arises and the business expands.
Now we have a federal system where business unit managers head their own profit line. We have invested heavily in growing the number of business unit heads.
At this point, we are focusing on intensively building our account management to make sure that clients are taken care of.
Looking back, what would you do differently in the early days?
I would have been more cognisant of building an intelligent organisation. It’s not that we have not done that, but I would have placed more emphasis on it — of course, in the beginning, you are mainly fighting to survive.
As you move forward, from day to day and month to month, it’s critical to accumulate all the knowledge that contributes to a company’s intellectual property for the good of the business as a whole.
In South Africa, we tend to be driven by the psychology of the individual — we can do better by focusing on collective effort that leverages all the knowledge in the business.
Today, we are becoming increasingly efficient because we are always learning from what others have done before. We are able to take advantage of all that collective knowledge. That saves time, money and resources because everyone becomes a little more productive.
That’s important for a business as it gets bigger, because more people are being more productive, increasing the linear benefit exponentially.
How do you continue to differentiate the company from other software developers?
There really is no silver bullet. We’ve basically highlighted the 20 activities that need to be executed to perfection and focused intensely on those.
Each year, the company gets better at doing something, allowing us to shift our focus slightly onto the next ability that we have to excel at.
How do you ensure profits?
We break responsibility down into smaller parcels. We have 14 profit centres, each headed up by business unit heads.
As the leader of the business, I can’t oversee 400 people, but delegating responsibility to other managers makes it easier for me to lead according to our vision. Each team leader manages their own team and focuses all efforts on generating a profit.
Read the full article here.
7 Cannabis Industry Millionaires Making It Big In The Marijuana Business
These entrepreneurs have capitalised on a new market set to continue to grow rapidly as more countries legalise marijuana across the world.
1. Brendan Kennedy
- Company: Tilray
- Website: https://www.tilray.com/
Brendan Kennedy worked on job sites as a carpenter to pay his way through university, with his eyes set firmly on becoming an architect, until the allure of Silicon Valley changed the course of his direction. While working at technology start-ups Kennedy began thinking about the possibilities that medical marijuana provided.
“I was really sceptical of medical cannabis,” he says. “It took a year of having conversations with patients and physicians and hearing the same story, repackaged but essentially the same, over and over and over again, where my scepticism eroded and I became a believer.”
In 2013, Kennedy and his partners applied for a licence from Health Canada and launched Lafitte Ventures, which was later renamed Tilray. Today, the company is a global leader in medical cannabis research, cultivation, processing and distribution.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
That Time Jeff Bezos Was The Stupidest Person In The Room
Everyone can benefit from simple advice, no matter who they are.
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.'”
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.
Women Entrepreneur Successes2 weeks ago
Watch List: 50 Black African Women Entrepreneurs To Watch
Support for Women Entrepreneurs2 weeks ago
Funding And Financial Assistance For SA Women Entrepreneurs
Accounting & Payroll2 weeks ago
Wilting Away – How To Boost Your Financial Management Team After The Big Financial Year-End
Snapshots1 week ago
How Pepe Marais Went From Bankruptcy To Founding Joe Public And Becoming An Entrepreneurial Success
Snapshots6 days ago
Ian Fuhr Explains Why He Likes To Launch Businesses In Unfamiliar Industries And How He Made Sorbet A Success
Support for Women Entrepreneurs2 weeks ago
Too Few South African Women Become Entrepreneurs, But This Can Change
Company Posts3 days ago
Designing Her Destiny
Entrepreneur Today6 days ago
Digital Transformation Should Be A Priority For Small Businesses In South Africa