Kate Moodley believes that a business and its founder are inextricably linked, with the personal brand and reputation of one a direct reflection on the other. It’s a vision her employees embrace as well, and has helped her build one of the most successful Discovery Consulting Services franchises in the country.
I’m the first person to admit I don’t have a work/life balance. Work is my life. My personal mantra is to be the best at what I do, or not to do it. It means I’m committed to excellence in whatever I do, but also that I don’t really have much downtime in my life. The lines between business and personal aren’t just blurred – they’re almost non-existent.
It’s a trait that has allowed me to reach my goals and stay true to my business vision though. When I chose a corporate career and decided to join Discovery as a franchise owner, I jotted down an action plan on a single piece of paper. I didn’t ramble. I knew exactly what I wanted to achieve, and I had a plan to get it done.
It’s since developed into a two-page working document. It’s not a strategy file sitting on a shelf gathering dust, but a living, breathing document that focuses on the year ahead. I review it quarterly, measure what we have achieved according to my goals, and adjust the plan where needed. But I keep it simple.
It has four parts: What’s my objective? Are we a brand to be reckoned with? Are we profitable? Do we provide our clients with the best possible service? If we aren’t achieving one of the goals encapsulated within those four questions, I need to critically look at myself, the goals and the business, determine why not, and then change what needs to be changed. It’s not rocket science, but it does take discipline.
I learnt early in my career that whether you’re in the corporate world or a business owner, you have a personal brand. People do business with the individual, not a company, even if you are employed by a big, respected brand – ultimately it’s you they choose to develop a working relationship with. Never forget that.
I spent seven years in the corporate world, and when I left to start my own business and I secured a five-year contract with Discovery as their franchise director in the Bedfordview area, I realised how valuable my own brand was.
Over the years I developed a network of clients and industry contacts, I gained market intelligence, people knew who I was, and they trusted me. The network I built up was priceless because when I took over the franchise it had approximately 80 clients, and I grew the business to close to 140 in a relatively short time.
The only reason I was able to do this was because of the relationships I had built up.
I have really cultivated that network over the years. I think it’s easy to fall into the trap of assuming that everyone knows who you are, that you’re doing a good job, and you can now start focusing on other things, but how quickly do things start falling apart if you take your eye off the ball?
Staying plugged in allows me to really focus on securing new business, which I believe is a critical part of my job description. We have consultants who service brokers and even find new business, but ultimately it is my responsibility to ensure that Discovery products are distributed successfully and we provide the best service to our clients.
I need to know the industry and our clients, as well as Discovery’s products and those of our competitors well enough to always be on top of my game.
The same is true of our consultants, who I hire based on word of mouth. If I’ve heard great things about you, I’ll approach you — my business is only as good as my team. But if I don’t have my ear to the ground, how can I know who’s great?
My differentiator has always been that I really understand my industry – not just the financial world, but everything happening within this specific sector, from the best consultants to the best products. You need intellectual capital about your competitors to be able to innovate and offer your clients the best possible solutions. Discovery head office also offers great support and competitor analyses.
My consultants are brought on board because we share the same values and vision. They aren’t just selling to brokers, they pay attention to their needs, and those of their clients. What works? What doesn’t? Where are the gaps?
What solutions do we believe would solve these gaps? All of this information is passed on to Discovery. After all, we’re at the coalface, and if we care about what we’re selling, we should be involved and invested in ensuring we stay best of breed.
I see my role in three parts. I’m a compliance officer, a franchise director and I’m ultimately responsible for meeting the business’s allocated targets.
Without a sound operational structure the business will lose money, either through poor financial systems or simply because the company’s employees don’t operate to the best of their abilities. Similarly, if we aren’t looking after our customers as well as bringing in new business, we won’t make money.
These two points are the foundation of business, and yet I find that many business owners either focus on one or the other, and not both. You can’t leave sales completely up to someone else, just as you shouldn’t ignore the numbers. You don’t need to be a financial guru, but you do need to know what’s happening in your books – and with your employees.
Everything I do is based on the one-third principle. If I want to make a profit, I need to focus on sales and customer retention. If I want to have the best employees operating at maximum efficiency, I need to hire the right people, train them, ensure that they are well managed and well compensated, and if I want the business to run smoothly, I need to focus on the operational systems and admin behind the scenes.
Each of these three areas need to be on my radar, all receiving equal attention from me. That doesn’t mean I can’t delegate anything, but I am always aware of what’s happening in my company – right down to which consultant needs some additional training.
In my experience, one of the biggest deal-breakers in a client relationship is not delivering on your promises. You should never over-commit, but you also won’t win the contract if your offering is sub-par. It’s a delicate balance.
You need to be able to offer more than your competitors (in quality of product, service delivery, advice etc), but you also need to be able to do what you say you can do.
Your employees play an integral role in this. You can have the best products in the world, but if your service isn’t up to scratch, your market offering is worthless.
Our industry, like so many others, is about relationships. My personal dynamic has always been delivering a quality product coupled with good service. I’ve built a solid reputation on this simple formula and people want to transact with me — and it would all be for nothing if this same discipline wasn’t instilled in my employees.
I don’t just hire people and leave them to it. I pay attention to how well they know our products and where their gaps in knowledge and skills lie. First, products are always evolving and we can’t offer good advice unless we know exactly what’s on offer.
Too often consultants learn a few products and every piece of advice they give is based on that knowledge bank, instead of a broader understanding of everything that’s available, every permutation. I make sure this isn’t happening in my business by continuously investing in training, and offering my staff incentives to be the best they can be. We all win: The company, my employees and most importantly the clients.
I also make myself available to our clients – anyone can call me to ask a question at any time. This achieves two things. First, I’m aware that the reputation of my business is built on me. In light of that it’s important that clients know I’m very involved in the business.
Second, it helps me become aware of problems early on. If a client is calling to ask me a question, the consultant doesn’t know the answer. I can then do an assessment and fill those gaps. This is an ongoing process.
Finally, I’m very involved in the financial and operational side of the business. I’m a structured person with a financial background, and so my business is naturally very structured as well. I believe you can’t know if you’re making a profit unless you know exactly what and where your expenses are.
Do you need to cut costs? Where? If you aren’t evaluating this on a monthly basis, chances are you are missing something. As the owner of this business, I’m ultimately accountable and so I check and double check every figure.
Operations are as stringent. Good service starts with a well organised house. Everyone can be as friendly as they like, but if forms aren’t processed quickly and efficiently, the friendliness isn’t worth much. We capture applications, vital information and huge amounts of data – there can be no errors, and this starts with good systems. They’re in place, and I expect them to be followed fanatically.
If we can’t track the business, we can’t measure our productivity levels, I can’t evaluate if we are meeting our goals, and where the problems lie if we aren’t.
For me, success lies in the balance between what happens inside and outside the business. How you are perceived in the market starts with your internal systems and values, and everyone needs to hold a shared vision.
Financial management 101
- Know where your profits come from. Until you can answer these basic questions, chances are you don’t know if you’re making a profit, or where it comes from: What costs am I incurring? Where? Which products are most profitable? Which sell the most? Which require the most effort? How can we sell more of the profitable?
- Maximise your staff. Understand your employee overheads, and evaluate what your staff does on a daily basis. Do you have six people doing what two could do? Are your employees busy enough? Can you change what they do to maximise capacity?
- Control debt. I keep costs down, I am very careful with my cash reserves and I never over-commit, which means we have no debt. You need to balance your profitability against debt before you have a realistic picture of your business.
Name: Kate Moodley
Company: Discovery Consulting Services Bedfordview
Background: Practised as an attorney before becoming the GM of distribution at Momentum. Spent five years in distribution before leaving to take over a franchise. Author of IINC: Be the CEO of your brand.
Accolades: 2012: Selected as the Top 200 SA by the Mail and Guardian and the Rising Star for the Finance Category. 2011: Won Top Woman Executive for SA and Top Business Woman of the Year.
Designing Her Destiny
Oh Yay! owner, Emmerentia van den Hoven does business her way.
In 2011, Emmerentia van den Hoven took a leap of faith when she decided to leave her graphic design job at an agency and pursue her real passion – and it has paid off tenfold. Here’s her story.
“When I started planning my own wedding eight years ago, I fell in love with wedding design and wanted to do that for the rest of my life. Designing for brands had become a set of rules rather than being creative, and I’d always wanted to work for myself. So, in September 2011, I turned my seven-month-old side gig into a fully-fledged business and launched Oh Yay!
I have to hustle every month to get new clients because every client will use my services maximum twice – first for the wedding invitations and then for the stationery on the day – so I don’t normally have returning clients.
Because my main business is seasonal and usually once-off per customer, I have branched out into branding for small businesses in the beauty and lifestyle industry. I also earn a passive income through the Oh Yay! online shop where I sell wedding décor items. Oh Yay Kids – my other online store – is my passion project. I launched it just before my second child was born, adding items to the store that I made for my two boys when I saw a need for it. I then expanded into prints for nurseries and kids’ party stationery.
I work for myself and have no employees, so the fact that QuickBooks lets me load all my services, products and prices in one place makes running my business so much easier. Being an entrepreneur is difficult because you don’t know if you’ll be successful or not. But if you believe in and love what you’re doing, it reflects in your work and the service you give.”
Less admin, more of what you love
When Oh Yay! was launched, along with her dream of being an entrepreneur, came the nightmare of other administrative tasks. But that changed in 2018 when Emmerentia started using QuickBooks.
“When I was using spreadsheets to balance my books, I was spending 80% of my time on admin, which left very little time to tend to customers’ orders. I now spend no more than 25% of my time on admin, which is important, especially when it comes to the speed at which I send quotes. You don’t get any work if you don’t send out quotes and it’s tough to juggle the admin with your actual job of running the business.
Numbers were never really my strong point, so having a professional quote done in record time not only projects professionalism, but the format also changes the way new clients see me. In my industry, the quicker you can send a quote out, the likelier you’ll get the clients’ business. It gives legitimacy to my business. The QuickBooks system operates so seamlessly that clients communicate with me differently, like I have my own accounting department, when in fact, I’m a one-woman-show.
I used to dread doing admin, but now it’s so easy and quick. I’m not just saying this – QuickBooks changed my life.”
Watch List: 50 Black African Women Entrepreneurs To Watch
These female entrepreneurs are breaking barriers, transforming industries and inspiring change on the continent.
From creatives, to tech gurus and medical scientists, here’s how these African women have revolutionised their communities through their innovative and sustainable businesses:
- Portia Mngomezulu
- Nandi Dlepu
- Nthabiseng Ramaboa
- Ntombenhle Khathwane
- Sunshine Shibambo
- Mogau Seshoene
- Nontando Molefe
- Thato Kgathlanye
- Nothando Moleketi
- Allegro Dinkwanyane
- Sandra Mwiihangele
- Shakeela Tolasade Williams
- Reabetswe Ngwane
- Mabel Suglo
- Lucy Agwunobi
- Patience Maame Mensah
- Rachel Sibande
- Nneile Nkholise
- Nelisiwe Masango
- Sheila Afari
- Samke Mhlongo
- Kelebogile Mabunda
- Aisha Pandor
- Karabo Mathang-Tshabuse
- Zanele Matome
- Shingai Nyagweta
- Funke Bucknor-Obruthe
- Vere Shaba
- Khanya Mzongwana
- Portia Masimula
- Monalisa Molefe
- Nozipho Dube
- Rapelang Rabana
- Botlhale Tshetlo
- Lebo Mphela
- Sarinah Matema-Morgans
- Tsholo Wesi
- Theo Mothoa-Frendo
- Palesa Sibeko
- Mokgadi Mabela
- Sibongile Sambo
- Tam de Vries
- Constance Mapule Bhebhe
- Phendu Kuta
- Linda Mabhena-Olagunju
- Nobesuthu Ndlovu
- Regina Luki Kgatle
- Hlengiwe Vilakati
- Lilian Muhammed
- Bonolo Mataboge
Starting a business is not for the faint of heart, but that didn’t stop these 50 women from doing it. Across the continent, women have pursued entrepreneurship, some for the very first time at 50 years old, while others have never even been formally employed.
Owner Of Nouwens Carpets Shares Success Lessons From Running A 50 Year Old Family Business
Embrace technology every chance you get.
A company that’s been active for more than five decades in an industry that’s hundreds of years old doesn’t sound like a recipe for innovation — and yet that’s exactly what Luci Nouwens, owner of Nouwens Carpets, is focused on.
The modern carpet has a history that goes back thousands of years. And despite the hipster trend of reclaimed and hard wood flooring, the carpet still remains a popular choice for consumers.
In South Africa, a name that’s synonymous with quality carpeting is Nouwens. When Cornelis Nouwens arrived in the country in the 1950s, bringing the skills of a trade which he had mastered alongside his father in Tilburg, the hub of the Netherlands’ wool textile industry, he passed on the skills and the love of the craft to his family and to workers in the Harrismith region in KwaZulu Natal.
More than 50 years after her father started it in 1962, the company remains family owned, and is headed by Luci Nouwens, who has been with the business for 48 years.
“We have maintained our reputation for premium quality all this time by paying meticulous attention to crafting standards and selecting only the finest raw materials,” says Luci. “Equally important is that we have innovated at every opportunity, embracing technology without ever compromising the traditional craftsman’s spirit.”
Innovation drives growth
Businesses that innovate are able to grow and hire more employees. As a result, they grab a bigger share of the market. That’s true regardless of the size of your business: If you innovate, you can scale up.
In 1968 Nouwens launched a pure karakul wool carpet that was extremely hard wearing and took the company into the commercial carpet market. Luci recalls the manufacturing of the carpet as “a major feat of unique textile engineering.” Another innovation in 2005 was the introduction of a totally new style of flat weave wool carpet, a very clean, minimalist and natural look requiring much less wool without compromising on wearability.
“These innovations are just two of many that have allowed the business to boost its market share over the years,” says Luci. “But beyond that, innovation has enabled Nouwens Carpets to form the backbone of economic activity and upliftment in the local community around Harrismith. This has allowed us to make substantial investment in providing education and skills development for the local population, to ensure that the craft is preserved for generations to come.”
Innovation enables sustainability
Innovation in technologies and how they are applied is key to enabling a manufacturer like Nouwens to create new business value, while also protecting the planet.
“We have used technology to enable sustainable manufacturing, for the benefit of the business, the community, and our customers.”
Nouwens selects equipment, materials and manufacturing methods based on their degree of sustainability and protection of the environment. The company is also a member of the Green Building Council of South Africa and submits its products for VOC testing to ensure that harmful emissions are significantly reduced.
“Ultimately, we are driven by a passion for textiles and the ability to constantly find better ways to produce beautiful products. After the downturn in the economy, we started to produce more cost-effective commercial nylon yarns, and in 2017, we became the new kid on the block for synthetic grass. The bottom line is that a true entrepreneur does what has to be done when the time comes.” — Monique Verduyn
The role of disruption in creating value
A disruptive business is a business that challenges and potentially changes the status quo. From a mindset point of view, a culture that questions ‘why’ can help foster organisational and market disruption. But disruption for the sake of disruption is self-defeating, it needs to be on the back of making things better and based on commercial principles, i.e. people or market players actually wanting to be disrupted.
The starting point is this: Does someone, or a market, value what you’re producing? If the answer is yes, you have a commercially viable disruption. Disruption that is valued by its target market has the best chance of resulting in success.
Get that right and you’ll have a customer base, you’ll gain traction and you’ll attract investors, provided you’re also making a meaningful and sustainable difference to your target market or community. — Ian Lessem, CEO, HAVAIC Investment and Advisory Firm
Team up with customers and competitors.
There’s more power in collaboration than competition. We’re stronger together than when we’re apart. When it comes to working with competitors, consider this: They may have something that you don’t, or vice versa, and 50% of something is always more than 100% of nothing. You’re then positioned to add value before you add an invoice, so your clients benefit from your relationships, and the market wins. From there, you become your client’s go-to-person, because you’re putting them first.
Customers are also a great source of knowledge: They might just have the answers you’re looking for, but are you asking them the right questions? They often know more about an entrepreneur’s business than they know themselves, because they’re on the receiving end of your offering. One way to collaborate with customers is to ask them more questions about yourselves, themselves and their clients. Harness their perspective and develop yourself to give them what they want, not what you think they want. — Wes Boshoff, founder, Imagine Thinking
Know what your audiences are interested in
As a brand, there are many ways to ensure your audience is paying attention to you, but you can’t expect them to find you unless you’re sharing content that captures their interest. If you send out press releases, don’t be too rigid or plain. Audiences want to be engaged, and not to have to deal with long, cumbersome information. An infographic, along with a video or pictures will make your release easier to ingest and more memorable. People don’t want boring figures, they want relatable stories.
One way to be relatable is by tapping into influencer marketing. This doesn’t mean you need celebrities with the highest followings to endorse you. Micro-influencers are proving to have just as much clout as those with larger followings. Evidence shows that micro-influencers have a more established and deeper connection with their audience, which translates to loyalty and a readiness to follow their advice. The trick is to find the micro-influencers who are speaking to the audience you want to reach.
Big data plays a key role in painting a picture of who is ‘out there’. With the right information, you can tailor your content to a specific audience. Big data can show you what topics and problems are trending in your industry, so that you can get the jump on them. Use big data to deliver your own insights on current topics, shaping and leading the conversation, converting your audience’s attention into action. — Madelain Roscher, founder and managing director, PR Worx and Status Reputation Management
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