Top business leaders agree that being sure of your purpose before you start is crucial. It’s a lesson that Tumi Magakwa learnt the hard way when she launched Moshomo Bashumi Consultants (MBConsultants) in 2004. Magakwa and her co-directors had been employed as casuals by a promotional company, but the pay was bad.
“We decided to go our own way, thinking that if we could make their events work, we may as well run our own company.”
They were unsure about whether to go into events management, branding or catering, but they had done it all and were prepared to try anything. They soon discovered, however, that they knew nothing about running a business. “We had no money, no clients and not a clue about what to do next,” she recalls.
“We thought about approaching the banks for a loan, but we did not even know how much we would need.”Bringing in clients was imperative. The team launched a marketing drive that started with an email campaign to over 100 companies. One of the partners spent days on the phone, calling more than 150 businesses. At the same time, they distributed their company profile along with a can of sweets to businesses, hoping that would open doors.
“No-one returned our calls and our emails went unanswered,” says Magakwa. “We were in a bad way with no idea what to do next.”
That was when one of the partners decided that they needed a mentor. Having no knowledge of the role a mentor plays in a business, the team believed a mentor would come on board and help them to close sales for a fee. “What we actually wanted was someone who could speak and write English well and communicate for us so that we could bring in clients,” says Magakwa.
They found a saviour in the form of Ed Hatton, a Business Partners mentor and business consultant who has years of management experience. Hatton explained to them that he was not in the business of finding business, and that his role as a mentor was to teach them how to do it themselves.
At the time, South African Breweries had just signed with MB Consultants. Magakwa used the money that came in from this contract and paid Hatton to teach them the basics. “He covered everything with us, how to use computers, write emails and letters, create websites, and compile presentations.”
One of the most valuable lessons they learnt was the importance of having a professional image. “It’s critical for any business that wants to be taken seriously,” says Magakwa. “Our mentor spent many hours showing us how to prepare presentations that would help us close sales.
We still call on him today from time to time, when we need advice.”MB Consultants also learnt the importance of focus and of knowing what you are selling. “You have to know your product inside-out if you want to sell it, and you have to be able to present it and defend it when people raise objections,” adds Magakwa.
Today the business focuses solely on branding– procuring, storing and positioning it at corporate events for clients like SAB, Eskom and SAfm. With contracts amounting to over R3 million, Magakwa and her team have great expectations for the future.
|Lack of basic
|Hired a mentor
|A great business idea is not enough. Hire experts or outsource key business requirements to specialists
|Failed marketing campaign
|Focus and upgrade
of poor image
|The image and positioning of a product/service is critical to success
|Know your product inside out and sell it’s benefits to a prospect with a need. Sell, sell, sell!