When Ran Neu-Ner and Gil Oved launched The Creative Counsel in 2001, they did so from a 15m2 office, kitted with cheap garden furniture.
At the time they were reeling from an earlier business failure, a casualty in the dotcom bust. Their only source of leads was the yellow pages and persistence, and their entire focus was on cold calling, trying to drum up clients. It was touch and go.
Their expenses were R30 000 a month, and they had no money coming in. To keep the business operational, Oved went out to work as an IT consultant and handed his cheque over to the business each month, while Neu-Ner tried to get it to work.
From August to February they broke even but never made any money and couldn’t draw a salary. They went almost a year without being able to pay themselves, a situation that really knocks your confidence, especially when those around you are making money and carving out careers.
Fed up, Neu-Ner suggested they throw in the towel, but Oved suggested they give it one more month, during which time he gave up his consulting work and came over to give the business everything he had. In April, they landed an account for Danone. And the rest, as they say, is history.
- Always be indispensable to your client. We don’t have retainers. We believe they breed complacency. Our focus is to grow profits, and retainers set your revenue. How do you grow profits then?
- Only by reducing your cost base, which just entices you to hire cheaper resources and cut corners. That’s not our game. We grow revenue by adding value. We eat what we hunt.
- Never underestimate the power of networking. We believe that the first thing any entrepreneur should do, no matter their experience or the size of their company, is find a mentor. Then join an association or organisation.
Ran belongs to YPO and EO, Gil is an active member of YPO and is on the regional board. Each organisation operates differently, but at its core, you’re bouncing ideas and challenges off fellow business owners. It’s an invaluable well of advice. Yes, it takes time, but the dividends are exponential.
- Don’t limit yourself and what you can do. We didn’t define ourselves according to an industry and what it could do, or how large it was. That was such a defining characteristic of our growth.
There was nothing saying we couldn’t do something, or the market wasn’t big enough. We just filled a need, and didn’t care what line item it fit into. We didn’t create boxes for ourselves.
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These inspirational self-made millionaires built businesses with nothing less than hard work and sheer determination.
1. Nick D’Aloisio Wrote a Million Dollar App At Age 15
At the age of 15, Nick D’Aloisio wrote an app while sitting in his parent’s bedroom in the UK. At the age of 17, D’Aloisio sold his app Summly – a mobile news summarisation app to Yahoo for a staggering USD 30 million.
As one of the youngest millionaires, D’Aloisio is also the world’s youngest entrepreneur to be backed by venture capitalists – having secured seed funding from Sir Li Ka-Shing, Hong Kong’s billionaire, as well as raising USD 1.23 million from celebrity investors, including Yoko Ono and Ashton Kutcher.
“The number one thing I did that I think was wise was to get, through some of my advisers, was a Chairman; basically someone who was a very experienced business person, an industry veteran — Bart Swanson, who had been at Amazon and then Badoo. Then, myself and Bart really started finding people and growing the team.”
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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!
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