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Selling New Business Ideas

7 things I learned from overseeing the GIBS business plan competition.

Greg Fisher

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This last weekend GIBS hosted the second annual MBA Business Plan Competition. 38 student teams from the Entrepreneurship MBA and Modular MBA programme participated in the competition.
The day was filled with energy, nerves and excitement as all the students presented their business ideas to panels of judges in the morning with the seven best business plans going though to the final in the afternoon. In the final there were a broad range of ideas from businesses delivering solar power solutions to a debtor financing platform to a furniture manufacturer to a massive mining operation. In the end the winner was Colin Daniels with his business plan for a mobile ticketing platform. In arranging this competition for the MBA students I gleaned some interesting insights about entrepreneurship and selling new business ideas. Here what I learned…

1. Small things make a big difference

When presenting a business idea, the details matter. People are making a judgment about you and about the business in a very short window of time. They are therefore inferring a lot from a very small amount of information. Make sure that what you present to them is excellent. The slides must look good, the plan must be perfectly coherent, you attitude must be right and you must answer questions with care and humility. Focus on the small details to have a big impact.

2. Execution is everything
There are many good ideas floating around. What sets them apart is what people do with them. Those students who were already executing on their idea where in a much stronger position than those who were just presenting a concept. Ultimately you will be judged on what you are already doing and not just on what you say you will do. To build traction for your business make sure that you assemble a team, develop a pilot product or service, get some early customers and report real results. It sets you apart!

3. Borrow what you can and build only what you have to
Many would be entrepreneurs think that they need to build everything from scratch. They think they need to design and build the product, write the software or establish a new distribution channel. One thing I realized at the business plan competition is that savvy entrepreneurs borrow everything they can and assemble what they borrowed to create an innovative new product or service. Many times a significant part of the solution has been developed elsewhere and it is the entrepreneurs role to get the right to use what has been developed and to adapt it to a new market space. Building stuff from scratch takes time, is expensive and very risky. Borrowing everything that you can and building around it means that you can get to market quickly, without breaking the bank.

4. People want to help
One of the things that struck me about the competition was just how much people in the community want to be part of it. My greatest joy in arranging the competition was finding judges. Everyone I asked to participate as a judged gladly agreed or if they were unable to do it asked me to keep them in mind for next year. People want to see new business ideas succeed and they want to play a part in making that happen. They just need to be given the opportunity to contribute. For entrepreneurs this means that you have to be active in seeking out a support network for your business. When you ask people will respond. Ask experts to be on your board of advisers, seek counsel from those in the know and never be scared to call in a favor to make your business succeed.

5. Make the numbers work but its not about the numbers

A new business concept needs to make sense financially. Based on the calculations that you present, you need to show that the business can make a profit within a reasonable period of time and you need to demonstrate that you have thought clearly about the economics of the operation. But that’s not enough. Investors know that anyone can make a business look profitable on an excel spreadsheet. To really sell the business idea you need to demonstrate that you know everything about what you are doing. Use a discussion about the numbers to show that you really understand the industry, show that you have investigated the competitors and show that you have really delved deep into the drivers of business success within the context in which you are operating. Talking about the economics of the business provides an opportunity for you to demonstrate the real passion that you have for what you are doing. The more you know, the more passionate you will appear, and the more others will be interested in what you are doing.

6. Get going
At one point during the final presentations one of the judges looked at the participant and said to her, “You can keep planning, you can keep researching, you can keep developing financial forecasts but in the end you just need to get going. There comes a time in the business creation process when you need to stop planning and just start doing. You will learn so much more from doing compared to planning.” The risk with a business plan is that it seems like it is never complete. We always want to do one more thing, check this, confirm that or run one more spreadsheet. This approach is anti-entrepreneurial. The true entrepreneur uses the plan up to a point and then sets it aside and takes action. There comes a time when you just need to get going.

7. FNB cares about entrepreneurship
Without me even asking, and without expecting anything in return, FNB offered to come on board and sponsor a significant cash prize for the winner of the competition. Having worked with FNB on a few of their Biznetwork events, I have always know that they care about entrepreneurship in South Africa but I was taken back when they approached me offering to support the winner of the competition with a chunk of seed capital in an FNB account to help them get their business off the ground. What a great gesture confirming that as an organization they are looking for opportunities to help bring good business ideas to fruition. Thanks FNB!!!

Thanks to all the judges, participants and supporters that made the 2011 GIBS MBA Business Plan Competition a great learning event for all involved.

Greg Fisher, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Management & Entrepreneurship Department at the Kelley School of Business, Indiana University. He teaches courses on Strategy, Entrepreneurship, and Turnaround Management. He has a PhD in Strategy and Entrepreneurship from the Foster School of Business at the University of Washington in Seattle and an MBA from the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS). He is also a visiting lecturer at GIBS.

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Surge In South Africans Swopping Their Cars For Bitcoin

The cryptocurrency Bitcoin has experienced a seemingly interminable rise. Early adopters have experience lottery-sized pay-outs on minor investments as the currency exploded in value in 2017.

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The cryptocurrency Bitcoin has experienced a seemingly interminable rise. Early adopters have experience lottery-sized pay-outs on minor investments as the currency exploded in value in 2017.

As South Africans are itching to get their hands on the digital currency, there’s been an increase in swops and bitcoin-only sales on Gumtree.co.za, says Claire Cobbledick, Head of Core at Gumtree. “This is particularly true for high-value items like cars, bikes and boats. Many sellers are willing to take a gamble with their assets in hopes of a large pay-out.”

This is on trend with other marketplaces. In the United States a McLaren 720S was put up for sale in exchange for 25 bitcoin, a theoretical value of $425,000.

Related: 11 Things You Need To Know About Bitcoin

While Gumtree does not allow for the sale of bitcoin miners or services, Cobbledick says that customers can exchange goods for bitcoin on the site, but should be fully aware of the risks. “Bitcoin is a volatile currency, so while you could easily see a 50% increase in your investment, you could just as easily end up with nothing. It’s up to the seller to decide if they are willing and able to take a gamble.”

Some cars currently up for sale in exchange for bitcoin includes a Land Rover Defender, BMW X5 and a rare 1970 Mercury Cougar V8.

“There are also a few other sellers accepting bitcoin in exchange for Kruger Rands,” says Cobbledick. “Perhaps proving that gold as a store of value is falling out of vogue.”

But the most unusual swop would have to go to an entrepreneurial seller who is offering carnivorous plants in exchange for the cryptocurrency.

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Zando Sold 80 Items A Minute During Black Friday – By Doing This

Black Friday has brought immense success for numerous local online retailers – reflecting the potential of e-commerce in South Africa. Why not learn from Zando’s success in 2017 to ensure your success during the 2018 Black Friday sales season?

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For South African e-retailers, Black Friday is a big sales event. But you need to ensure you’re prepared for the web traffic and that your e-commerce store can handle the logistics of thousands of orders.

zando-sascha-breussAccording to Zando, they experience 100% up-time during Black Friday and less than a week after the season sales event, 95% of customer orders have already been shipped.

To help fellow e-tailers perform better next year, Zando’s CEO, Sascha Breuss answers some key questions about the company’s preparations and learnings around Black Friday:

1. How did you encourage greater sales on Black Friday?

Over the last few years Black Friday has developed a following in South Africa, so we benefitted from the existing hype around it. We didn’t focus too much on upfront marketing, but put our energy into flawless execution and of course great deals for the customers.

Related: The Evolution Of Retail: From Corner Store To Artificial Intelligence

2. How much planning went into ensuring your store platform ran at optimum?

The real ‘hot phase’ started with the first day of November when our IT department went into a ‘feature freeze’ and we focused 100% on site-stability and scalability.

We went through some intense testing of our site with loads up to 15 times the average daily amount of visitors. So, when the actual day came, we were confident in our systems.

3. How were you able to successfully co-ordinate logistics during Black Friday?

Early preparation and experience from past years have been the key to success. We increased our head count in both Warehouse and Customer Service well in advance so that we could rely on well-trained and experienced colleagues come Black Friday.

4. How did you ensure a seamless experience between your website and your app?

We know that our customers are browsing Zando on all platforms, desktop, mobile and app so we implemented some handy features to make the transition between each platform easier. For example, shared baskets and wish lists are now a feature. Some of the deals however have been app-only and sometimes we reward our app users with early access to shop the best deals. So it is definitely worth it to download our app.

Related: How SA’s Online Retailers Can Cash In On Black Friday Fever

5. How did you scale your entire operation for a single event?

This is easy to summarise in one word – TEAMWORK. The Zando staff did an amazing job and were the backbone of our success. Not only did they put the required extra hours in and worked hard until the job was done, but they also showed real team-spirit. When you called our Customer Service during Black Friday it’s very possible that you spoke to someone in our HR, Social Media or Legal team who helped out answering calls.

6. How did your marketing campaign affect traffic on your platforms?

The most surprising element was probably the high volume of traffic that we saw during the night. Visits started to increase every minute before midnight and during the first two hours of the day we saw peaks that were higher than on our strongest week day. This traffic never dropped with a lot of orders being placed between 2am and 3am on Black Friday.

7. How did your technology systems handle the influx of shopper traffic?

In the build up to Black Friday we added additional server capacity and changed the way we handled the flow of traffic. This made us very flexible to switch on additional capacity wherever required. So it was a combination of intensive preparation, close monitoring and ultimately very little sleep for a couple of days to ensure we monitored our system health 24 hours a day.

8. What was your sales strategy?

For us everything that had a discount of 40%-80%, and was still a relevant and recent look, qualified for Black Friday 2017. Once these criteria were fulfilled we made sure that we had sufficient stock available – in some cases the demand was so high that we brought on additional stock from our suppliers during the Black Friday weekend.

Related: 5 Last-Minute Tips For Small Retailers To Boost Black Friday Sales

9. What were your biggest learnings?

We have been very successful in our approach to remain true to the idea of Black Friday – offering great deals on relevant product and not outdated clearance ranges. The customer is very educated and will identify a good deal, and we have seen consumers’ negative comments on stores who used Black Friday solely as a warehouse clearance opportunity.

10. What surprised you about Zando’s success during Black Friday?

Thanks to extensive preparation we have been able to achieve an uptime of 100% for the full month of November. We also kept the deliveries and returns 100% free regardless of discount or basket size. It seems like our customers appreciated this approach and we have actually seen very positive sales numbers after Black Friday while we expected a drop. I believe the full focus and investment on the Customer Experience has worked for us.

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Team Resolutions: 11 Tips To Uncover Passion And Potential In New Hires

If there’s one resolution HR departments should make this new year, it should be to transform the onboarding experience for new hires.

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If there’s one resolution HR departments should make this new year, it should be to transform the onboarding experience for new hires says Michelle Seko, Talent Acquisition Manger at Sage Africa & Middle East.

The importance of a good candidate experience cannot be underestimated. Research has shown that 88% of job applicants are more likely to buy from a company if they’ve had a positive experience when applying for work there. Research has also shown that candidates talk about their experiences with a company, regardless of whether they got the job. Some candidates would even refer a friend to the company and others will re-apply for a future role, if the experience was a good one.

Research also found that:

Related: Why You Should (Seriously) Stop Hiring People

Win-win

Businesses enter into a relationship with a new hire the moment they sign on the dotted line. And, as with any relationship, it will only flourish if built on trust, respect and a commitment to self-improvement.

When you set new hires up for personal success, the outcomes naturally feed into your business’ success, which means you both win.

Here are a few ideas to get the most out of your new hires:

Make them feel welcome

Introduce them to the people they’ll be working with as soon as possible so that they immediately feel part of a team. At Sage, we partner new hires with a buddy, or Sage Ambassador, who helps them settle in and meet new people, contributing to the positive on-boarding experience.

Focus on the benefits

Compelling benefits not only attract the best candidates but also boost loyalty and job satisfaction. People are motivated by different things: one person might value flexi-time while another could place more importance on growth opportunities or bonuses. Focus on the benefits that align with the individual’s values when onboarding.

Set goals early and outline a plan to achieve them

This keeps your team focused, especially if they will be rewarded for achieving their goals.

Assess performance

Monthly, at least. Adjust goals and plans where necessary, reward good performance, introduce new challenges and deal with issues promptly.

Show genuine interest

Regular catch-ups and remembering children’s names, for instance, makes people feel appreciated.

Empower them

Let your new hires apply their knowledge to business challenges and offer training opportunities outside of their comfort zones. Reward ideas that help you do things better and faster.

Related: Hiring The Right Person Is Critical When Growing A Business

Encourage collaboration

People thrive when they can learn from others and when they can share their knowledge. Involve experienced team members in the new hire’s training. This is a great way to recognise and appreciate their loyalty and skills.

Be transparent

Do you have difficult clients? Will the new hire have to work overtime? What are the business’s goals? New hires should know what they’re getting into.

Provide solid training on everything from company culture and benefits, to opportunities for growth

The biggest cost associated with training people is the time it takes for them to become productive. But rushing through on-the-job training could lead to a host of other problems, including repeated mistakes and a lack of confidence.

Openly communicate any changes in the business

Manage your team’s expectations and be clear about yours. Allow new hires to question and understand how you do things and to point out errors – their past experience probably gave them new ideas and ways of working that could boost your team’s efficiency and productivity.

Be upbeat

Your mood sets the tone for everyone else. You can have the best product in the world but unless your team is passionate and enthusiastic about that product, you won’t get the results you’re hoping for.

Keeping people motivated and productive is hard work

But if you provide them with the tools, knowledge and support to do their best work and to contribute their best ideas, motivation and productivity will come naturally.

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