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Talk About Been There Done That: From Advertising To The T-Shirt Business

Here are 9 tips for turning a dying business into a profitable one.

Ben Wren

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You didn’t think an ad agency could run a t-shirt company.

But, as a veteran of the communications industry, I’m now the part-owner of Been There Done That, a B2B supplier of t-shirts with eye-catching designs. Until we took over, Been There Done That was running at a loss. In 3 months, it’s turning over a healthy profit.

We handle the design, manufacture the t-shirts and then deliver them to our clients: Boutique retailers with nationwide reach.

Been There Done That has broadened my education. It’s forced me to understand the value chain of a good company. The business is as far removed from the communications landscape as you can get – and yet it’s not.

To transform the business, we’ve kept it simple, cut the fat and employed elementary business practices that should be reinforced for every entrepreneur.

Related: 7 Business Tips From The 3 Way Marketing Group Founders

Here’s what I’ve learnt.

Reduce overheads

Cape-Town

Overheads throttle you. Before we took over, Been There Done That was paying through the roof for salaries, rented space, parking and non-essential amenities.

We cut non-essential staff and dropped the rent by moving to the Inner City Ideas Cartel in the Cape Town CBD. The space looks good to clients, but it’s also cost-effective, and bundles all your amenities together in one attractive package.

Concentrate on what you’re good at

It’s tempting to try and do everything yourself, but that makes you lose focus and slow down. Plus, we’re only really good at one or two things. Stick to them.

Running Been There Done That, I knew I’d be wasting my time if I tried to do everything. We plugged in talent from Area 213 (my advertising agency) and our trusted partners. New talent filled the gaps.

Keep it simple

Our dream is to one day launch Been There Done That as a brand. But we realised very quickly that the company was fulfilling a niche as a B2B entity. As a B2C brand, it was going to struggle.

So we focused on the B2B business, growing it as best we can, and shelved the B2C dream until we knew we could dedicate the resources to make a success of it. The upshot? Diversifying a business too quickly can kill it.

Related: Make A Distinctive Impression With House Of Janine

Build up relationships

Fox-and-Dash-tshirts

I realised right away that the suppliers and the clients hadn’t been serviced properly, and a lot of them were dropping us because our designs got stale.

I corrected that by simply picking up the phone and rebuilding a rapport with them. I brought a new designer on board, and made sure that we fed a steady stream of new designs weekly to our retailers.

Good people are crucial in any business

Get the right people on board, and give them a key stake in the business.

With Been There Done That, our designer boasts extensive experience. We can’t afford to pay him a salary he deserves, so we’ve given him equity in the company instead.

Incentivising people properly is crucial in getting the best out of them. Find a way to make it work.

Sort out the supply chain

No matter what industry you’re in, speed is everything. When we took charge, t-shirts were taking 4 weeks to be produced. One client told us he would increase the quantities he ordered tenfold if we could deliver in 5 days. We now deliver in 5 days.

Get financial terms right

Sometimes, you need to the confidence to raise your price. Been There Done That was losing massive amounts of margin because the price of t-shirts hadn’t gone up in years – all because no one had the confidence to raise it.

Worse, the company was being held to ransom by unreasonable financial demands and being squeezed by both the clients and the suppliers. All the risk was sitting with us. Payment to suppliers was made in cash and clients had us on 30 days plus. I negotiated better credit terms with our suppliers, rose our quantities, secured discounts and raised our price.

Related: Never Go Out Of Style

Do your market research

One of the reasons I had the confidence to hike up the price was because market research demonstrated that we were far cheaper than the competition. Even with our price increase we are extremely competitive.

Do your research properly and you’ll secure yourself a proper bargaining position.

Grow slowly but methodically

Down the line, the dream is to launch the brand as an online retailer for high-end t-shirts with eye-catching designs. But we’re not there yet, and it’d be a mistake to try and scale it too quickly. We’ve been focusing on sorting out all the operational stuff first – and that’s key.

With a career spanning over twenty years, starting in London and now in Cape Town, Ben Wren has been fortunate enough to work with some of the best clients in world. These include: Nike (W+K London), Microsoft (Euro RSCG London), Coco Cola (60 Layers of Cake South Africa), Windhoek Lager (The Jupiter Drawing Room Cape Town) and Diageo (Isobar South Africa). Last year, he put his experience to good use by embracing entrepreneurship and starting his own venture: Area 213 Communications & Area 213 International.

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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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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