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Clockwork Media, Scrum And The Agile Business

With an eye to becoming the biggest communications agency in the country, Nic Simmonds and Tom Manners from Clockwork Media believe success lies in six simple steps.

Monique Verduyn



Clockwork Media

Vital Stats

  • Company: Clockwork Media
  • Player: Nic Simmonds (left) and Tom Manners
  • Launched: 2013
  • Contact: +27 (0)11 463 0366,
  • Visit:

When tech journos and long-time friends Tom Manners and Nic Simmonds had enough of writing, they registered a communications business and ran it from a bedroom, with Nintendo as their first social media client.

Two years later, Clockwork Media has stylish premises in Bryanston and employs more than 20 people, thanks to Manners’ sales talent and Simmonds’ operations ability. Here’s how they are doing it.

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1. Use different personalities to the business’s advantage

“Tom is intense and aggressive, while I am calmer and more calculating,” says Simmonds. “We balance each other and complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses. If I were like Tom, we would be networking and selling like mad, with no follow-through. If he was like me, we would be all infrastructure with no sales.”

2. Turnaround time is a big differentiator

When Manners saw an email in his inbox from the new low-cost airline FlyAfrica, he made contact immediately. Five minutes later he was on the road, and within a couple of hours he had a signed contract. “You have to be quick and responsive in today’s world,” he says.

Simmonds agrees. “Everyone in the business knows that you respond to a client’s email quickly, even if it’s just to tell them that the report they have asked for will be on its way later. Responsiveness builds trust. That means when things go awry, as they are sometimes bound to, your client will be that much more forgiving.”

3. Create good-looking documents

The partners agree that they probably lost a bit of business in the early days because of shoddy documents. “Before we had a design team we used to create documents manually,” says Simmonds.

“Now, every proposal, every presentation is designed. Presentation is everything. Clients are cautious at the start of a relationship. Give them a so-so document and the potential for losing them increases exponentially.”

4. Pick your clients carefully

Initially, Clockwork Media took on anything and everything, but then they learnt. “Be selective,” says Manners.

“If a client spends less than the figure we have in mind for a communications campaign, it generally means they don’t take it seriously. That situation sets everyone up for failure, so it’s better to walk away.”

5. Be adaptable

Spend time on understanding your clients’ needs and you’ll be better able to play a proactive role in their business. “Some brands want awareness, others want lead generation,” says Manners.

“Rarely can you have the two together. We make sure that we carefully consider what the client wants, and then build our offering to meet that need, with a willingness to keep on adapting it as we go along.”

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6. Processes are the backbone of a business

With no business experience between them, Simmonds and Manners learnt quickly that things fall apart without processes. “Not having an agency background meant we could create our own processes,” says Manners.

Simmonds recounts how he spotted a book, Scrum, on agile methodology in an airport. “I bought it, read it a few times, made notes and ran workshops with our team. It’s now the backbone of the business.

As our team has grown, we’ve had to move into executive roles. We’re no longer account managers. Applying a methodology that is about agility and constant improvement has made sense for the business. With Scrum, you are always making incremental enhancements. No-one can operate on auto-pilot with such a methodology in place. Scrum exposes problems quickly, so you can immediately remove them.”

Simmonds notes that while there was some initial resistance to Scrum, most staff adapted quickly. “The plus side is that those who were resistant to change – and the high level of transparency that Scrum enables – have moved on. We now have a team who want to work hard and excel. Emotionally and professionally, everyone is much happier because A players like to be on the same team.”

Monique Verduyn is a freelance writer. She has more than 12 years’ experience in writing for the corporate, SME, IT and entertainment sectors, and has interviewed many of South Africa’s most prominent business leaders and thinkers. Find her on Google+.


25 Of The Most Successful Business Ideas In South Africa

Find out who’s making waves in numerous industries and how they managed to differentiate themselves in local and international industries.

Nicole Crampton



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“Disruption is all about risk-taking, trusting your intuition, and rejecting the way things are supposed to be. Disruption goes way beyond advertising, it forces you to think about where you want your brand to go and how to get there,” says Richard Branson.

South Africa has its fair share of innovative and disruptive businesses taking both local and international industries by storm. From cutting edge space technology to reimagined logistics, and innovative business models, here are 25 of the most successful business ideas in South Africa:

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Colin Timmis Says ‘Position Yourself For Success By Starting With The Numbers’

People pay first who they feel pressure from, so people will pay you when they feel pressure from you.






Entrepreneur Colin Timmis founded South Africa’s first cloud accounting practice in 2011, Real Time Accounting. Then, a few years after being appointed as South Africa’s first Xero partner Colin became Xero Country Manager South Africa. Xero is the emerging global leader of online accounting software that connects small businesses to their advisors and other services.

Related: Pat Pillai On How He’s Helped Over 5000 Entrepreneurs Using 3 Key Steps

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Two 20 Year Olds Reshape Entrepreneur Landscape With New Social Investment Platform

The Merge vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

Merge Connect




Vital Stats

It’s no secret that finding the right investor for your venture is a challenge that most entrepreneurs face. The current process of finding investment is one that is outdated, and limits entrepreneurs due to a lack of time, and network that is needed to find the right investor. But, this doesn’t have to be the case in today’s digital society, says Zander Matthee and Brandon Bate, co-founders of Merge.

“By making the Internet the middleman, we are able to connect with each other much simpler and faster than before” was Zander’s response. “We have taken advantage of this, and have created a digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors” added Brandon.

Merge is a social platform that connects entrepreneurs and investors. It aims to simplify, refine and accelerate the process of finding investment for entrepreneurs, and the process of finding investment opportunities for investors. From idea to developed, the platform allows entrepreneurs to present a brief outline of their venture to a network of all investor types. While doing this, entrepreneurs are able to browse through, and connect with investor profiles that suit their requirements.

Related: 8 Codes Of Success That Helped Priven Reddy of Kagiso Interactive Media Achieve A Networth Of Over R4 Billion

From Private Investors to Venture Capital, and everything in between, Merge allows all investor types to join. Investors have the opportunity to personalise their feed to suit their investment preferences, and will be able to connect with innovative businesses – that are looking for investment – at their fingertips. Only once there is a mutual interest in each other, are users able to enter a secure private chat where they can discuss further and share documents under the protection of a digital NDA.

The two boys became good friends during their time in high school at St Stithians Boys College. However, it was only in their last year, 2016, that they decided to pursue their dreams and create the platform. They didn’t know how to code, so rather ironically, they needed some form of investment to get the platform off the ground.


“We knew we had a mountain to climb, but we believed in our vision and that we were really trying to make a difference, and if we could get others to see that, they would be onboard.” said Zander.

Related: Lessons From The Rich And Famous: Manage Your Money Like Oprah To Avoid Going Into Debt Like Nicholas Cage

Chris Peters is one of these individuals that bought into their vision, and became Merge’s first investor. As a successful entrepreneur and part time investor , Chris saw how much value the platform could bring to all entrepreneurs and investors alike. His marketing and strategic background gave him insight into how Merge could play a vital role in a lucrative space, Brand involvement.

“Entrepreneurship and SME development are two key factors that drive economic growth in developing countries like South Africa. That is why brands are currently getting involved, and looking to support entrepreneurs through various means. We have built a platform that allows these brands to successfully market, and execute on the programmes they have created to assist entrepreneurs.” said Chris

Merge was created to assist all entrepreneurs and investors in finding exactly what they are looking for, regardless of age, race, sex, financial position or social status. That is why anybody can sign-up as an entrepreneur. As long as you are determined and willing to work for your dreams. For too long has the investor space been seen as an “elite club for the select few”, and Merge is here to change that. Whether you’ve gotten your bonus at the end of the year and looking for new investment opportunities, or are an active investor, you can sign-up. Whether you’re currently working, or a retired industry leader, you can join as a mentor.

Their vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

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