The player: Vanessa Cox
The business: Ntirho Business Consulting (1999)
The concept: Professional recruitment and disability management.
Contact: +27 (0)86 518 0140 or www.ntirho.co.za
From when Vanessa Cox was in Matric, she knew she wanted to go to Joburg and have her own business. Since 1999 through hard work and perseverance, she has grown her professional recruitment services from a fax machine, Internet connection and cold calls in her 2-bedroom house, to a reputable company with offices in Hatfield, six permanent staff and over 30 temporary staff.
Besides excellent service of matching candidates with job roles and company culture rather than just job titles, Cox sets her company apart from other recruitment agencies through her dual focus on generalist able-bodied recruitment and specialised disabled recruitment and disability management.
Room for improvement
“In 2005 I started diversifying into recruiting disabled people for employment because while there are many disabled people in South Africa who have few skills, there are also others who are highly educated and are sitting with qualifications and can’t do much with it because people and businesses have a lack of understanding about disability,” Cox says. “Businesses are also required to meet disability quotas for Employment Equity.”
Cox explains that South Africa is also under-developed in terms of disability management systems, preferring instead to pay out employees if they become disabled, making them the responsibility of the state. “What I am focusing on now, which is fairly new, is to develop ‘return to work co-ordination’ to retain disabled people and to encourage companies to put into place support structures, and if the person can’t perform their original tasks, to look at reasonably accommodating them.” Cox realistically points out, “anybody can become disabled tomorrow. So having a company assist them with returning to work and performing successfully is something that I’d like to get out there now.”
Getting off the ground
“The early days of business were very hard, the rejection is something that is difficult to deal with, and in my third year none of my companies paid and I had to pay my staff, so there were times that were very difficult and I cried.” With advice from a business banker and help from her brother’s provident fund, Cox was able to get back on her feet. “Never once during that time did I think about giving up. I knew I had to persevere.” After five years of operation, Cox began breaking even.
Cox’s business model is based on earning through placements. “Depending on the kind of placement we earn a percentage of cost to company, and it’s higher with executive candidates.” But Cox has recently had to overcome a set back with recent COSATU upheaval and labour brokering issues: “We used to have more than 40 temporary staff but we had to convert some to permanent and some contracts ended because of the threat of banning labour brokering which scared a lot of companies. In the recruitment industry, that’s the area that sustains companies because you have income on a regular basis. On a permanent basis your income is based on what you place. So that’s had a major impact on the industry itself,” Cox explains
Cox took part in Microsoft’s Women Entrepreneur Development Programme in order to learn how to better manage her business. “I decided I needed to attend because I’ve always run my business the way I thought it should be run,” she says. “When I get an idea in my head it’s impossible to get me to do otherwise, I even proposed to my husband,” she laughs. “But the truth is, I suck at certain aspects of running a business. I’m excellent at the operational aspects, but when it comes to management of staff, finance, HR and strategic planning I am weak and I get a lot of advice from my husband and my accountant.”
Through attending the course Cox was forced to sit down and apply herself to writing a strategic plan, and pleasantly surprised herself when she realised she could do it and do it well.
Cox warns entrepreneurs in the start-up phase against compromising themselves. While she has never found herself in that situation she has had to deal with consultants who had compromised themselves with businesses and candidates. “Compromise is a chain reaction and once you compromise yourself once you can never get yourself out of it,” she warns.
“I am proud of what I’ve achieved through hard work and perseverance, even in the hardest times when there have been tears and sleepless nights. The most important thing is to persevere. And while you’re at it, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. I did and it took me six months to get back from that mistake.”
Relax Spas Founder Noli Mini Shares Her Insights On Building A Business Of Value
While Relax Spas is all about rest and relaxation, the business itself is the product of hard work. Founder Noli Mini explains how she got her unique business idea off the ground.
- Player: Noli Mini
- Company: Relax Spas
- Founded: 2010
- About: Noli Mini started in 2010 as a ‘mobile spa therapist’, going to different hotels and offering mobile spa treatments. The concept has evolved and Noli has set up bases, including two spa suites, at various hotels and guest houses. An additional aspect of Relax Spas’ offering is to provide spa treatments at corporate offices and on corporate wellness days. She also has her own range of massage oils and is introducing her own brand of beauty and skincare products. To complete the circle, Noli will soon be launching her beauty and spa training institute.
- Visit: www.relaxspas.co.za
Previous experience in an industry is key
Working in an industry before launching your own operation is crucial, since it provides you with the understanding and expertise needed to successfully launch your own business. By working in other businesses first, you gain a realistic idea of what the industry is like. You also experience different environments.
You see what works, and what doesn’t. You can cherry pick from different companies and create an organisation and culture that will work for you.
Know what you’re getting yourself into
Passion and a fun business idea are important, but you also need to understand the basics of launching a company.
- How easy will it be to develop your product or idea?
- How will you market it?
- What sort of financial controls will you put in place?
- What regulations must you comply with in your industry?
- Are any licences required? What are the labour laws?
These are all questions you need to be able to answer before launching.
Build a good team around you
The combined effort of a team is almost always greater than the sum of individual contributions. Find people that can complement your skillset and bring tools to the table that you don’t have. Improving your business acumen and knowledge is important, for instance, but you don’t necessarily need to go to university to do it.
You can also increase your knowledge by surrounding yourself with the right people, particularly mentors who can guide you in both a personal and business capacity.
Create a buzz around your business by sharing your story
People love hearing stories, and I believe that just about every start-up has a great story to tell. Offering to write free editorial content for magazines is a great way to do it. Another is to speak at conferences. These strategies require effort, but they can greatly increase your reach and position you as a thought leader in your industry.
Use every single opportunity you get to market your business
You need to live and breathe your brand. Marketing is about more than spending money. You can market your business by sponsoring charity walks, wellness events and golf days in your community. Collaboration is another good strategy. There’s no better way of building a business than to get out there and shake some hands. You need to get to know people. Also, be authentic in your networking so that people get to see and know the real you.
Establishing strong relationships with your clients and business partners is of paramount importance. One way you can do this is by face to face weekly or monthly visits, depending on the demographics of your business. Another way is by keeping in touch using email or telephonically. Remember, human interaction is key. People love feeling appreciated. Also, remember that customer service is important, as a person will usually base his or her entire opinion of a business on a handful of personal interactions. So, you need to make sure that those interactions are positive. It’s all too easy to lose a customer forever.
Rapelang Rabana’s Innovation Formula – 3 Key Ingredients To Innovate
To be a success in today’s fast paced world, you need innovation at the heart of everything you do.
The innovation formula is simple: According to tech entrepreneur Rapelang Rabana, innovation is at its best and greatest when it’s sourced from your unique perspective and accumulated wisdom, combined with shared value and execution.
At this year’s BCX Disrupt Summit, Rapelang broke the process down into the three key ingredients that together shape innovation and success.
1. Prepare your mind
Your ability to innovate and be creative is based on the sum of all of your experiences. Great ideas do not take shape in our minds, they are the result of external stimulus hitting a prepared mind. We don’t think up ideas — we notice them. We connect the dots in new and creative ways. And our ability to do so is based on how prepared we are to notice what’s happening around us, and to tap into that information.
When asked what it takes to be great like Richard Branson, Steve Jobs and Elon Musk, Musk’s ex-wife, Justine Musk had this advice to offer:
“Shift your focus away from what you want (a billion dollars) and get deeply, intensely curious about what the world wants and needs. It helps to have an ego, but you must be in service to something bigger if you are to inspire the people you need to help you.”
So, ask yourself this: What do you have that is so deeply compelling and needed that no one can outsource you or replace you? Until you can answer this question, keep building your mind, your abilities and your knowledge. Work on your repository, and your ability to connect the dots.
2. Create shared value
Thato Kgatlhanye, founder of the Rethaka foundation, an organisation that creates school bags that are also solar panels, and can provide schoolgoers with energy in the evening so that they can do their homework, says that she is money-driven, business-driven, and empathetic towards her people. In other words, her business is created through shared value, and the desire to not only create money for her business, but within her communities as well.
Most successful organisations would never have been launched if their primary focus was for the business to win. People are hungry for things that are inclusive and show positive change.
Consider Airbnb — the founders had the audacity to put a blow-up mattress in their livingroom, and believe that other people would find value in their offering. And they were right, mainly because the business model is all inclusive. The business wins, the hosts win and the customers win.
According to Nielsen, 40% more social entrepreneurs are growing compared to other SMEs, and they’re showing greater profit. In addition, people say they are more likely to purchase from ethical and sustainable businesses. The cynics might say this is what people say, not how they buy. This may be true, but it’s also a leading indicator of how we will behave in the future. We’re trying to get there, and our behaviour will catch up to the sentiment.
Always be cognisant of how responsive the market is. Learn to leverage public sentiment and get attention through the ideal of shared value. Winning with others is the fastest way to create value today.
3. Get stuff done
When we start a project or idea, we try to project into the future. We want to draw a linear picture between now and then. The problem is that creation is far more chaotic.
Instead, minute variations over time create profound changes. It’s a journey. There are no defining moments of success or failure; just a series of events strung together over time. To make the necessary minute variations though, you need data points and you need to take action. Often this starts with just beginning. If you start, you can move forward, slowly but surely. Progress is far more evolutionary than simply trying to imagine the end.
The problem is that the mind blocks us. We essentially block ourselves from success. How? Building anything and trying to be innovative requires a series of many, many decisions made over years and years. Many of those decisions are made — or not made — from a place of fear. Our instincts tell us to do something, and then our minds stop us. The most incredible things can happen if we learn to follow our instincts though.
In her book, The Five Second Rule, Mel Robbins unpacks the skill of acting on your instincts. In essence, the space between your instinct and the moment of hesitation that stops you from acting is five seconds. This means you have five seconds to make things happen, and the way to utilise that time and to make things happen is to count down from five: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. At one, move. Get up, take action, call the client, speak to your boss — don’t let fear come in and crush the instinct.
Why a countdown? A countdown suspends — for a moment — the self-doubt that gives you space to move before the brain kills it. I started using the rule for small stuff at first. A countdown in the morning to get out of bed and go to gym. Then I started using it for the harder stuff, like not losing my temper. If you can be aware enough to make the countdown, you can change your behaviour.
The ability to execute and turn innovation into profit comes down to a series of five-second moments over years. Push yourself. Get past your mental blocks and act on your instinct.
Combine this with building on your knowledge, connecting the dots around you, and understanding that value is not given or taken, but is created through shared value, and you have the recipe for innovation and success.
IN YOUR TOOLKIT
Focus on learning new stuff
FACT: The super-successful focus heavily on learning new skills, reading practical books and listening or watching podcasts, interviews and informational courses.
Take best-selling author and leadership coach Simon Sinek, who said:
“My work is never complete, we wake up with a hunger to learn, and no one is ever truly an expert. Anyone who says, ‘I’m an expert at anything’ has closed their mind to the idea that they might not know everything. There’s always more to learn. I’ve never considered myself an expert. I’m always a student of leadership. All the work is imperfect and all the learning is continuous.”
Action Step: If you can read 20 full pages a day, or even listen to an hour-long audio/podcast, you will accumulate more than 36+ books a year of new knowledge.
Start here: If you’re not sure where to start, download the audible app (audible.com) and browse the business books available, or subscribe to podcasts. Three great places to begin are:
- Trailblazers with Walter Isaacson, a show focused on disruption and hosted by the biographer of Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein and Benjamin Franklin amongst others.
- The Tim Ferriss Show, hosted by Tim Ferriss and one of the biggest podcasts on the planet.
- Masters of Scale, hosted by LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, who chats to some of the worlds biggest and most successful entrepreneurs.
Uzenzele Holdings Co-founders Nadia And Zahra Rawjee’s Top Advice On Building A Service-based Business
Nadia and Zahra Rawjee of Uzenzele Holdings know what businesses need, and they understand the struggles that founders go through, which is why the pair often understand their clients’ needs before the first meeting has even taken place.
- Players: Nadia Rawjee and Zahra Rawjee
- Company: Uzenzele Holdings
- Est: 2012
- Visit: www.uzenzele.com
- About: Uzenzele Holdings is a consultancy that focuses on business development and accessing governmental funding for business expansion projects. The company uses its expertise to help clients navigate the complex process of applying for government and developmental funding, helping to unlock funds and opportunities that many entrepreneurs aren’t aware of.
Sisters Nadia and Zahra Rawjee grew up in a family business, so they understand the challenges that the average SME faces. They also realise that the average entrepreneur is unaware of the opportunities available to him or her when it comes to government and developmental funding.
“We realised what an impact government and developmental funding could have had on the family business, but like so many SMEs, it never accessed the funds available,” says Zahra Rawjee.
The fact of the matter is, many business owners are unaware of the funds that are available through government. Others, meanwhile, do not think that they would qualify, or they think that delving into this ocean of bureaucracy would simply not be worth the effort. This is a mistake. It can absolutely be worth the effort.
“Companies looking to grow can access millions through government,” says Nadia Rawjee. “We’ve seen clients receiving tens of millions in funding.”
That said, there is some truth in the view that accessing these funds is sometimes difficult. The application process can be complex, and the process as a whole can be a long one. However, if you know what you’re doing, you can get funded.
Because the Rawjees understood the challenges that businesses faced, and they possessed the arcane (and often shifting) information needed to access these funds, they decided to launch a consultancy that would assist clients in the process. Uzenzele Holdings has now been around for more than five years and has helped many clients secure funding. As you might expect, theirs is a business driven by relationships. Here’s their advice for building a successful service-driven operation.
1. Know thy customer
As mentioned, Nadia and Zahra understand the wants and needs of their clients, even when the clients themselves don’t. “We find that many clients underestimate the amount of capital they’ll need to make their growth and expansion plans a reality. They go into the process looking to raise less money than they’ll actually need, which can result in disastrous cash flow problems down the line. Because we know this, we can advise them accordingly. If you don’t understand your clients’ businesses, it’s tough to give them the right advice.
KEY LESSON: True success comes from becoming a trusted advisor to your clients. This can only happen if you have real empathy for your clients, and if you understand their businesses intimately. Without these two characteristics, any relationship will be purely transactional.
2. Follow the market
Following your passion is admirable, but it doesn’t mean that you should ignore the realities of the market in the process. To their credit, Nadia and Zahra initially wanted to focus on small/micro businesses because they believed that this was the area where they could make the biggest impact. However, they quickly learnt that these businesses were so cash strapped and focused on survival, that they weren’t looking at growth, and they didn’t have the money needed to invest in advisory services.
As consultants themselves, they decided to invest in advisors who could help them reposition the company. “We brought in marketers who helped us reposition Uzenzele Holdings and make it visible to the companies who were actually looking for our services.”
KEY LESSON: Don’t make any assumptions about the market. Your target audience might not be where you think it is. In fact, your ideal audience might be very different from the one you have in your head. It’s worth spending time and money to find out exactly who your ideal audience is, and where they can be reached.
3. Educate your audience
Because so many of Uzenzele Holdings’ clients are unaware of the funding options available, knowledge transfer is an important activity for the consultancy. “You have to be willing to give out information freely,” says Zahra. “For this reason, we have a blog on our website, we do talks at conferences, and we contribute to business publications.”
“At the moment, for example, we are focusing on the Black Industrialist Programme through the DTI, and funding available for agro processing. There are great opportunities open to those looking for funding, but people don’t know about it,” says Nadia.
KEY LESSON: Signing clients is nearly impossible when they don’t understand what you’re offering. For this reason, you need to see education as part of the selling process. The payoff might only come way down the line, but that’s not an excuse to ignore the process.
Speaking at conferences and writing articles for publications not only educates potential clients, it also builds the Uzenzele Holdings brand and ups the profile of the Rawjee sisters. “Networking is important,” says Nadia. “You have to be out there — you need to get to know people, and they need to get to know you. It takes time and work, but you have to do it. Networking is important in any business.”
“You shouldn’t underestimate the value of LinkedIn when it comes to networking. It’s a great place to connect, and post content. When it comes to the B2B space, LinkedIn is definitely one of the best platforms,” says Zahra.
KEY LESSON: You have to build your brand and get to know people. Most young companies land their first clients because of connections and referrals. To succeed, you have to establish yourself as a presence in your industry. You can do this by joining organisations, attending conferences and going out of your way to connect with others.
Your funding checklist
Understand what you need. There’s a basic checklist to follow:
- Do you need money for working or operating expenditure vs capital investment?
- How much do you require?
- How long do you need the money for?
- What is the cost of capital you can afford to repay?
Armed with this knowledge, you can start finding the right fund or finance vehicle for your needs.
Funders have different criteria:
- Turnover: mainly grants
- Profitability: loans/grants
- Balance sheet: loans/grants
- Ability to scale: venture capital
Funders tend to have between two and 26 different funds, each with their own mandate, eligibility criteria, funding type (loan or grant), costing, things they will and won’t fund and other specifics. Read the mandates to find your fit.
Call and speak to the funders and be fund specific. Speak to a consultant at the fund to clarify your eligibility before starting the application process.
Ask questions around:
- Their timelines
- When the credit committees or panels sit for adjudication
- What is considered for your application to get adjudicated.
Arming yourself with this knowledge will exponentially increase your chances of being considered for funding. Many applications do not reach the adjudication phase because the business doesn’t match the fund or the application is incorrectly filled in.
You cannot receive funding if your application is not even considered. The correct content and format is vital.
- New Fund For Small Businesses To Be Developed
- How To Think Like A Billionaire
- Relax Spas Founder Noli Mini Shares Her Insights On Building A Business Of Value
- What It Will Really Take For South Africa’s Businesses To Scale And Create Jobs
- Silver Linings For Smaller Businesses In Budget 2018
- Leadership: What Is Your Why? (Read Purpose)
- Start-Up Law: I’m A Start-up Founder. Can I Pay Employees With Shares?
Sign-up for Daily Newsletters
Start-up Industry Specific3 months ago
How Do I Start A Transport Or Logistics Business?
Company Posts1 month ago
Enhance Your Entrepreneurial Flair With An Online Postgraduate Diploma From The University Of Pretoria
Start-up Advice1 month ago
9 Quotes Every Entrepreneur Should Live By
Lessons Learnt1 month ago
15 Wise Insights From 15 Entrepreneurial Icons