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Lessons Learnt

The Business Advice

Nautic Africa’s CEO, James Fisher, gives business advice on starting a business.

Juliet Pitman

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1. Look to Africa. Nautic Africa has leveraged the enormous boom in the African market. The company has procured contracts in several emerging African markets including Nigeria, Ghana and Angola.

“Africa is a very exciting space at the moment. There are massive opportunities. I would advise any entrepreneur who has half an idea about doing business in Africa to get on a plane tomorrow and go and see,” he says.

But, he also notes the complexities of conducting business in other African countries. Conducting business by remote control shouldn’t be considered as an option.

“Business should be as direct as possible,” he says, “Don’t be afraid of setting up an office. We’ve set up an office in Ghana and Nigeria. It helps you to do business more directly. If you have to use networkers use them together with your own in-country people.”

All this means travelling within the continent, which can prove to be an expensive endeavour.

“It‘s very expensive to do things like hire a car and stay in a hotel, because the options are so limited. For example, the Sheraton in Lagos can be more expensive than the Plaza Hotel in New York,” he says.

Finally he adds, “Don’t be afraid to ask for advice from the established multinationals who’ve established a footprint in Africa.”

2. Cash. The difference between sink and swim. “For an entrepreneur, cash flow is everything,” says Fisher. “It can starve and strangle even the best business in the world. You need to guard cash flow with your life. Get a strong financial person on board to make sure you are spending cash flow on your product and your customer and nothing else. Nothing else is important. We had cash flow hiccups in Nautic’s early days and ran very close to the red line, but we survived through absolute vigilance.”

3. Learning fast. About the power of patents. The Snakeboard was ultimately patented in 26 different countries but Fisher says they didn’t even know what a patent was when they started: “When we created the Snakeboard we had taken it to quite an advanced level before we even knew such a thing as a patent existed.

“I remember we were trying it out in the street and a neighbour, who was a prominent businessman, saw us and got really excited about the product. He asked if we’d patented it and when it became clear that we didn’t know what he was talking about he rushed upstairs, came down with his business card and wrote the name of patent attorneys on it. He told us not to do anything else, not to show it to anyone until we had patented it. That’s how green we were when we started.”

4. How to succeed in the race against China. Fisher believes that to compete with China your business doesn’t necessarily need to drop its pricing or production costs. Rather he suggests that if you deliver ongoing customer service, success will follow – and don’t exclude partnering with Chinese firms. “Our business includes the support and servicing that follows sales, and this has helped us build strong relationships with our customers. This allows us to compete against countries like China,” he says.

Providing consistent product maintenance and communicating with clients is imperative to striking a marketing deal, which cannot be met by Chinese mass-production.

5. Get your product right. Before you do anything, get your product right – even if that means you delay launching it. It must be right because it‘s your first show. It‘s your image going forward. Right might mean a range of things.

6. The power of passion. “Be relentlessly passionate and never give up. Believe in yourself, your product and your service. You can’t ‘buy in’ that belief and you cannot read it in a book. You must feel it in your stomach and imprint it in your consciousness.”

Balance single-minded passion with the need to take advice. Don’t listen to, “That’s not going to work, go get a degree.” But you should listen to “Go visit a patent attorney and use professionals.” Have passion but don’t think you know it all.

The Innovation Check List

  • Is the individual passionate about the product to the exclusion of all else? The business has little chance of success if it‘s being treated as a sideline.
  • Will the product fit into the market easily?
  • Can it be manufactured at the right price?
  • Is it the ‘flavour of the month’?
  • What sort of money would be required to get it to where its going?

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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