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.
Channeling The Fire Of Authenticity: Asia’s’ Top ‘YouTuber’, Joanna Soh
Joanna Soh’s introspective look into why her YouTube channel is not a ‘side project’ and how she makes a difference to her audience.
“The best project you will ever work on is you” – Joanna Soh
The scene was the rooftop of the Cascades Residency in Kota Damansara, Malaysia where the tranquillity of a high vantage point, the colourful deep blue of the pool, and the hypnotic sound of a waterfall created a suitable ambience to interview Asia’s’ top ‘YouTuber’, Joanna Soh.
I only interview entrepreneurs and leaders with a sense of purpose and a deep love for what they do. Joanna Soh is no exception, her smile carries the fire of authenticity, tenacity, caring, and vulnerability. This fire has most definitely spread as Joanna is Asia’s’ top ‘YouTuber’ with well over 1 Million followers and she openly shared her fears and struggles, that in itself is a valuable lesson to all entrepreneurs. Within the willingness to admit to your fears and weaknesses lies great strength and it is an understatement to exclaim that Joanna is a strong woman.
She is driven by the purpose of adding value and making a difference to her audience and is uplifted by the feedback of her fans for they mean so much to her. As I saw a childlike sense of awe and gratitude in her eyes when she spoke about her achievements I was reminded of the master poet Rumi’s’ advice to us all:
“Sell your cleverness and purchase awe”.
Stop making everything so complicated and stop taking yourself so seriously are only some of the basic lessons that Joanna’s’ entrepreneurial journey has taught her. She acknowledges that the ‘road less travelled’ of entrepreneurship can be a lonely journey and reminds the reader that when she started she also had no audience and had to build her brand. That is the reason why having a strong purpose is so valuable as it ensures longevity and makes it hard to give up on your entrepreneurial dreams.
Related: Make Money from YouTube Videos
Starting out Joanna stumbled upon a YouTube article that revealed that there was only one other Asian girl that was sharing fitness related content and took the gap with great agility. Her behaviour reminded me of Julius Caesars’’ famous words:
“I came, I saw, and I conquered.”
Joanna used and still uses basic discipline as a focal point for her brands’ growth. From the start she was disciplined enough to not treat her YouTube channel as a ‘side project’ but instead ensured that she at least worked eight hours a day on her project and meticulously researched all the technicalities of building and scaling her now famous brand.
This influential leader taught the author that there is a science behind building a strong following on YouTube. Every videos’ title is very important and whom you tag is also a priority. All these seemingly small details and mechanisms create compound interest over time when you build your brand on YouTube.
Joanna understands the importance of business metrics and daily tracks the amount of subscribers she has. At this juncture I would like to point out that Joanna’s’ followers grow by thirty thousand per month on average!
Although her background working as a TV producer in England has helped in creating a foundation for her it is most definitely not the only contributing and critical factor to her success. This YouTube stars’ relentless purpose of adding value to her followers has driven her to create ‘evergreen content’ that will still be relevant in five years’ time.
Lean in a little closer
I hope that the reader now ‘leans in’ and carefully listen to this YouTube icons’ advice, and more importantly apply the learnings contained therein:
‘Do not start a channel with the mind-set of getting rich nor famous quickly. Rather start with a clear and defined purpose – Why are you doing it, and what is really going to drive you?
Do not just upload a lot of content and then stop
Consistency is critical so therefore upload according to a pre-set schedule carefully keeping your target audience in mind. Do not limit yourself even in choice of platform, just put yourself out there. Simplicity is very important and therefore leave your audience with very easy to understand tips and practical solutions.
Discipline is a key value
Whether you are tired or not and even when you are not getting early traction still keep on doing it and be patient enough to receive your reward later. Build discipline over time and always remind yourself that helping people and adding value to them will always make you feel more grounded and centred.
Understand your audience and they will keep growing with you. Know who your audience is and work towards that strength. I know for example that eighty percent of my audience is female and continuously track the demographics of my audience. Slowly but surely take on branded sponsors whose vision and activities align with yours.
Carefully select who you follow online and feed off that persons’ energy
Do not confuse yourself and your purpose by following too many people from different industries.’
We concluded the interview and I felt inspired not only by her success but mainly by her tenacity and fierceness as a leader combined with the willingness to share her vulnerabilities which ultimately makes her stronger and stronger.
Follow Joanna Soh and you will learn something valuable. I already am…
10 Inspirational Quotes From Successful Actress-Turned-Entrepreneur Jessica Alba
Jessica Alba isn’t just another Hollywood face — she’s also the founder of a billion-dollar business
While many only recognise Jessica Alba for her performances in Sin City or Fantastic Four, in the entrepreneurial world Alba’s name goes beyond her role as a Hollywood star.
Rising to fame as a young actress, Alba saw much success early on. However, it wasn’t until 2015, when Alba co-founded The Honest Company, that she became a prominent name in the business world. What originally began as a beauty line has since grown into a billion-dollar 500-plus-employee business that sells safe and healthy baby, personal care, cleaning products and more.
It’s safe to say Alba can teach you a thing or two about entrepreneurship and running a successful business.
To learn more, here are 10 inspirational quotes from the actress-turned-entrepreneur.
Dylan Kohlstädt Of Shift One Marketing Weighs In On Digital Marketing For Start-Ups
Digital marketing maverick Dylan Kohlstädt unpacks how start-ups can maximise their marketing spend, get noticed and reach customers through savvy and cost-effective digital campaigns.
- Player: Dylan Kohlstädt
- Company: Shift One Marketing
- Visit: www.shiftone.co.za
How can start-ups go about using social media, networking and word-of-mouth to grow their businesses?
You have to be active on social media, that’s a given, but the only way to cut through the content marketing clutter is to produce content that moves the needle, and the only way to do that is to really immerse yourself in your customer segments. Ideally, it’s video-based, and ideally, your customers are creating the content for you.
Social media is digital word-of-mouth — so if you’re doing it well, customers will become your sales reps, and refer friends to you. Make it as easy as possible for customers to buy from you (usability testing), and for them to refer you.
Why is it easier to market your business than before?
Digital marketing is cheap, and you can set it up and manage it yourself. It also means that you can segment your markets like never before, and reach micro targeted segments with just a few rands. Facebook ads are super cheap, as long as you’re not chasing ‘likes’. You might actually get a few sales from them. Just remember, there’s a lot of rubbish you’ll have to trawl through first.
On the other hand, why is it also harder with such overcrowded markets?
Everyone has competitors, because all it takes is a website and a few bucks and you’ve got a business. Niching is critical. You have to understand your market. You have to be unique. You have to appeal to them, and their needs and emotions.
You have to understand their needs really well. Marketing plays a critical role in brand building — without the research involved in marketing your business, you might not understand your target audience well enough, and your product or service might not hit the mark as a result. Similarly, without a clear brand, you’re going to be lost in the sea of competitors out there.
How can start-ups access their beachhead markets through digital marketing campaigns?
It’s important to be very clear on who your customer is and what your niche is before embarking on a digital campaign. The more niche your market, and the more defined your product, the more success you’ll have and the cheaper your marketing becomes. I encourage start-ups to complete detailed market analysis covering:
- Who is your customer? Include market size, description, demographics.
- What need drives them? What is the gap?
- What are their emotions? What emotions cause them to make decisions and how can you appeal to these emotions, bearing in mind that emotions make people buy, while logic makes them think.
- Which product is right for them? Which product meets their needs?
- What is your message to them? How are you going to package all of what you know about them to create messaging that is compelling?
- What channels are they on? Where are you going to find them? This is critical as you need to target channels that they’re using, and not only the ones you’re comfortable with using.
- What content do they need? This will inform your content marketing strategies.
Related: Can Your Marketing Team Speak Data?
If you don’t do research, you make assumptions. The more time you spend on this process, the cheaper and more effective your marketing will be. It will also help you avoid one of the most common mistakes start-ups make when it comes to establishing who their target market is — you want to be niche, not broad.
Nearly all markets are accessible via digital marketing, and if they are not digital, then SMS and radio. The more information you have about your customers, and the more niched you are in segmenting them, the better your results.
How can a start-up figure out who their real target market is? Any tips?
There are many forms of research out there, but the ones I personally advocate are:
- Usability testing: Get six to 12 customers to use your website and products. This gives you endless insights into who they are and what drives them, as well as the correct wording to use throughout your communication with them.
- Dipstick research: We go to customers, wherever they are, and talk to them, find out who influences them, find out what drives them, find out their feeling about your product and your competitors.
- Content research: Once you’ve identified the voices in the community, reach out to them to get content, establish them as influencers to the community, and create content that is appealing to the market, because it comes from the market.
What should start-ups avoid doing?
Many companies avoid the channels they are not comfortable with. Many agencies produce content that appeals to the account management team, and not to customers. Don’t make big production TV ads or sign up an agency that just wants to win awards — rather create YouTube content that your customers will respond to.
Start-ups often think they need funding to launch. When is this not actually the case and why?
In a services industry, you can get away with bootstrapping. With tech companies, you’ll need to rely on sweat equity (which generally means partnering with a developer and giving them shares in the business) if you can’t afford to pay them. You might just get stuck with someone that isn’t that great at development, but at least they are working on your project for free.
If you do go the bootstrapping route, you need to keep your costs low. You definitely don’t want offices. Instead, run your small team through collaborative online platforms like Trello, Slack or Asana.
Don’t be in a hurry to get funding — it comes with a whole new set of trouble and it might kill your business. Instead, loan what you can from the 3Fs (friends, fools and family), or even a bank loan if you can get one. At least you retain ownership of the business.
Why is cash flow more important than funding in many cases?
Funding isn’t the panacea that start-ups think it is. There are many alternatives to finding an investor, including overdrafts and loans from friends. Cash flow is critical for the day-to-day running of your business. Funding might only pay out in a year’s time, based on performance, and in that time you might run out of cash.
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