Steven Cohen , Head of Sage One International (Africa, Australia, Middle East and Asia), on making your business relevant.
You walk into a job interview and the first question you are asked is not about your experience or best attributes but rather: “Why is your best friend your best friend”?
I’m sure you would be just as curious to know the answer as the person asking it. From this question, they will discover more about you than they would in an hour-long stock standard job interview.
The lesson: To get to the head, you must aim for the heart. That’s according to Cal Fussman, New York Times bestselling author, writer-at-large for Esquire Magazine, and corporate culture consultant. He was one of our speakers at the Sage “Future-Proof Your Business” event for business builders last week. He translated the skills he learned from talking to people on his travels across the world into his famous column ‘What I’ve learned’.
He believes the secret to success in relationships, parenting and business is found in the power of the word ‘why’. It’s true – I’ve seen for myself how the right questions can illuminate what matters to your customers or what makes a potential employee tick.
These answers are even more important in today’s rapidly changing world, where Small & Medium Businesses are under pressure to innovate if they are to remain relevant. It’s a world where the ‘Robo Griller’ can flip 360 burgers in an hour and Amazon knows you so well they send you goods you want before you know you want it.
Constantly innovating requires continually asking yourself questions, your customers questions and your team members’ questions – and the quality of the question will determine the kind of information you get back.
Ask: what else can your business do?
It’s not enough to ask ‘what are we doing right/wrong’. You’ve got to ask ‘what else can my business do?’.
Trend specialist John Sanei’s advice: innovate outside your sector and rethink its boundaries. If you don’t believe you can, you’re wrong. Just take the example of Charmin Toilet Paper in the US – they wanted to innovate – but how do you take toilet paper beyond one-ply and two-ply? They found the answer by developing an app called ‘Sit or Squat’ for people travelling to new places to find and rate public toilets for cleanliness.
Look to the brands that have got it right to map out new opportunities for your business. For example, we know that personalisation (think Amazon) and trust (think Woolworths), rather than price, give today’s most successful businesses their edge. How can you increase personalisation and trust for your brand?
Understand your current and future customer
Ask your customers questions to understand them better, but also spend time observing them and how they interact with your brand as a ‘fly on the wall’. Miles Khubeka, owner of Vuyo’s Restaurant, found another use for security camera footage – he used it to study the behaviour and experiences of his customers – for example, waiting time, how much did they order, and how long they take to eat. He uses these insights to improve the overall customer experience.
While you must understand your customer, to be truly innovative, according to Sanei – you also need to get into the headspace of your ‘future customer’. You’ve got to learn to predict what they will want next year and work on it so that you stay ahead of the competition.
Treat learning like exercise
Mark Sham, Founder of Suits & Sneakers probably made the point that’s the most important of all – things are changing at such a fast pace that entrepreneurs can’t only rely on formal education. Neither can corporates who want to upskill their team members. When you want to get fit, you can’t just work out in 12 hour bursts a few times a year. Yet this is how we tend to view education and training – intensive and packed into a short space of time. Instead, you’ve got to work at it slowly, doing a bit every day – it has to become a part of your lifestyle.
My top tip of all for staying relevant and future-proofing your business: Schedule a ‘daily learning’ session into your calendar every day. Whether you choose a blog, a podcast, a newspaper or a conversation with a mentor or knowledgeable friend – you’ll be better off for it. If you don’t keep learning, you will fall behind.
FNB Sets Its Sights On Growing Female Entrepreneurs In South Africa
First National Bank looks to grow women entrepreneurship in South Africa.
FNB has set its sights on growing women owned and led businesses in South Africa, a commitment that has seen the bank enter into partnerships to facilitate mentorship for some of the most promising enterprises.
The bank has a good foundation to build on, as 38% of all new business accounts opened with FNB Business are either led or owned by women, highlighting an already established entrepreneurial momentum.
“We are cognisant of the fact that neither government nor corporate South Africa are going to be the sole sources of job creation. We therefore have an obligation to support and grow entrepreneurship. Partnerships such as the one entered into with International Finance Corporation (IFC) enables us to assist in developing women owned business,” says Michelle Geraghty, Head of Women in Business at FNB Business.
Over the last few years, FNB has, through a partnership with the Vumela Fund, assisted businesses such asSAIL, a leading skills and training institute that offers a range of qualifications to the public sector, and Toni Glass who produce a collection of world class tea, to not only scale effectively, but to bolster each of the business’s offering to market.
“Our approach is to, much like we have done with the likes of Sail and Tony Glass, enable qualifying women owned businesses in their growth curve by offering help that includes transact, lending, investing and insuring solutions. This will include facilitating the registration of the business online via the FNB registrations system which links to CIPC, to Instant accounting and payroll solutions aimed at reducing operating costs for the business. This will also extend to support in the incubation stage of selected businesses through Vumela. We will carry this right through to private equity funding,” explains Geraghty.
Vumela was established as an innovative model that is aimed at filling the gaps in the current SME funding and support landscape. While Vumela is an SME growth fund, it also functions as the bank’s primary Enterprise Development and Supply Development vehicle, able to fulfil both SME funding and growth needs, and corporate ESD requirements, avenues that FNB will be making use of.
FNB also intends on tracking jobs created through these initiatives to ensure a trickledown effect that not only benefits the business owner but also increases the overall number of women participating in business in South Africa.
“The need to grow the number of women in business is one that if done correctly, can address many of the disparities and anguish that women continuously face. Access to fair opportunities to grow their businesses and in turn make a real impact on the South African economy,” concludes Geraghty.
Great Bunch Of Entrepreneurs Make Top 10 In The Workspace/MiWay Competition
The top 10 in The Workspace/MiWay entrepreneur competition have been selected.
After an intense four-month process, the top 10 contenders in The Workspace/MiWay Entrepreneur competition have been notified that they’re through to the next round. These entrepreneurs will pitch their businesses to the judges, who will then whittle down the number of contenders to five, from which the winner will be chosen.
“There has been great excitement over the past four months. As every single new entry came in, we would clap our hands and cheer,” said Mari Schourie, CEO of The Workspace. It was a tough job judging all the entries to reach the top 20 submissions, she said, before having to find the top 10.
“We’ve had really strong entries submitted by people with good business knowledge,” said Schourie. “You can see the willingness to work hard and the great amount of effort they have put into their initiatives.”
Schourie said judges saw “wonderful ideas and fabulous business minds and quality people with big dreams shine through the entries”.
The top 10 are:
- Loyal 1
- Dwyka Mining Services
- Minatlou Trading 251
- Sindis Best for all
- Convergence Three
- Zinde Zinde
- Matla Risk Management
- Artsort Trading
- Iconic Talent Agency
- Nthedikgwadi Transport Services
Schourie said she wished she could tell President Cyril Ramaphosa, who supports the growth of small business as an economic driver, “the ideas and the passion that these business owners have is inspiring and should be focused on more”.
The prize on offer – worth over R350 000 – will help set-up the winning entrepreneur for a period of 12 months, giving them a boost to help build their business.
Morné Stoltz, Head of Business Insurance at MiWay, said the theme that ran throughout the entries was that entrepreneurs wanted to make a difference and contribute to positive change in South Africa. “Many of the submissions focused on technical and developmental fields,” he said.
“Entrepreneurs recognise gaps in the market and see the potential for growth. Getting into the top 10 was not at all easy.”
Stoltz said South Africa had a “great bunch of entrepreneurs” and that standing together to give them a platform to launch was an exciting opportunity. “To grow our economy we need to help with skills development and give whatever assistance we can,” he said.
Part of the finalists’ road to the top includes a skills development programme for the top 10 entrants ahead of their important date to pitch their business plans to the judges.
As Schourie pointed out, it is vital to encourage South African citizens to act on their dreams and passions because “it can be a great success; they just need make that leap”.
Dates to watch:
- 21 June: Top 10 skills development programme
- 3 July: Top 10 pitches
- 6 July: Top 5 announcement
- 20 July: Final five workshops
- 10 August: Final five pitches
- 13 September: Winner announced
Top 22 Start-ups Chosen For Final Selection Days – Startupbootcamp Africa
After receiving 1,004 applications from all over the world, the SBC team in conjunction with the programme’s corporate sponsors have narrowed the applicants down to 22 top-tier tech start-ups that will be invited to the Final Selection Days on July 11th and 12th at PwC’s headquarters in Cape Town.
SBC Africa received 1,004 total applications from 77 countries on 5 continents. The start-ups that applied were exceptionally impressive and have gained more traction in the market than the applicants for the 2017 cohort. The talent in Africa is phenomenal and the corporate sponsors and SBC team dedicated 2 weeks to narrow it down to the Top 22 to be invited to Final Selection Days.
“It’s been an intense process due to the exceptionally high calibre of start-ups applying to the programme from across the continent,” states Philip Kiracofe, co-founder and CEO of Startupbootcamp Africa. “From 1,004 applications we have managed to narrow down to 22 of the most creative teams tackling daunting African problems. One of the key differentiators for start-ups that participate in the SBC Accelerator is the opportunity to secure commercial contracts with our sponsors. In order to make it onto our Top 22, each start-up has been chosen by at least 2 sponsors for potential proof of concept projects. The 2018 cohort is already shaping up to be a milestone moment for Africa.”
Zachariah George, co-founder and Chief Investment Officer of Startupbootcamp Africa added, “The investment community across Africa is taking note of the significant traction and access to market that being an alumni of a global accelerator programme like ours provides. We are excited to further galvanize venture capital funding into tech startups through significant de-risking of business models and customer validation with our corporate partners globally.”
From the 22 teams that have been invited to the SBC Africa Final Selection Days, 10 will be selected to join the 2018 cohort. Over the span of the two Final Selection Days, the startups in attendance will have the opportunity to present their pitches to high-profile corporate sponsors, investors, thought leaders and industry experts and will have the chance to sit down with mentors and sponsors alike. At the end of Day Two, the Top 10 will be announced and will be welcomed to the Cape Town-based Accelerator that kicks off in August. During the 3-month period, they will have the opportunity to scale at an incredible pace and seal pilot and proof of concept deals with the corporate sponsors to the programme.
The SBC Africa Accelerator is anchored and endorsed by heavyweight corporate sponsors RCS, BNP Paribas Personal Finance, Nedbank, Old Mutual and PwC.
“We’ve seen an increase in the quality of start-ups applying to the programme. The awareness of the value of the programme has increased and the success of the first year of the bootcamp speaks for itself. More mature start-ups are also seeing the benefits of participating in Startupbootcamp Africa,” comments Stanley Gabriel, Head of Innovation at Old Mutual.
The Top 22 start-ups invited to the Final Selection Days come from 7 different countries. The numbers are as follows: 8 from Nigeria, 5 from South Africa, 3 from Uganda, 2 from the Ivory Coast, 2 from Kenya, 1 from Ghana and 1 from Ireland.
The names of the start-ups invited to Final Selection Days by country:
- Nigeria: Bankly Technologies, Biyabot, CredPal, FriendsVow, Kudimoney Bank, Medikal HMS, NebulaPay, and ZEEZZ Planet Solutions.
- South Africa: Brandbookalytics Big Data, ifileme, LÜLA, Prospa, and Akiba Digital
- Uganda: CoinPesa Ltd, RoundBob Uganda, and Swipe 2 Pay
- Ivory Coast: Digitech Group, and DISTRICASH
- Kenya: Kakbima, and MPost
- Ghana: Inclusive Financial Technologies
- Ireland: Pago Payments
It has been an incredible 3-month scouting journey for SBC Africa and now that the Top 22 have been announced, the Final Selection Days is the only hurdle left before the Accelerator officially kicks off on 13 August 2018.
There are high expectations for the Top 10 of 2018 and if the quality of the start-ups at this stage is any indication, 2018 is set to be a great success for the African tech and innovation ecosystem.
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