When SME South Africa last spoke with young entrepreneurs, Scelo Makhathini and Eugene de Beer, they had just launched LinkdPro, an on-demand digital marketplace for experienced, independent professionals.
In under a year, the entrepreneurs have launched yet another digital recruitment platform, Octopus.
Octopus is the result of listening to customer feedback and exploring solutions to some of their pain points, particularly the difficulty of finding suitable professionals in the finance sector.
While their original offering, LinkdPro, connects freelance professionals in a variety of industries including management consultants, commercial lawyers, investment bankers and industry experts with companies looking for specialist industry expertise on a project basis, the newly launched Octopus focuses only on finance professionals such as CAs, CFOs and CFAs (chief financial analysts), says Makhathini.
How Octopus works is that companies are given access to a database of finance professionals, they are then able to shortlist their favourite candidates and send interview requests to those they wish to see or hire. Candidates can then either accept or decline interview requests.
The platform already boasts a client list that includes the country’s top four banking institutions, FNB, Absa, Nedbank and Standard Bank as well as a number of leading insurance companies, and is quickly becoming the go-to platform for professionals.
Spotting An Opportunity Through Customer Feedback
Octopus Group co-founder and CEO, Makhathini, says Octopus is the result of their intense focus on growing the company by building partnerships with key clients, finding new customers in new markets and developing new products; what is referred to as business development.
Every business looking for growth should take their business development strategy seriously, says Makhathini.
“It’s the overarching reason why we are in business. Be a good seller and always be on the lookout for business opportunities which might at first glance manifest themselves as problems or challenges. Remember that astute entrepreneurs see opportunities where others see problems or challenges!” he says.
So how did one fledgling startup zero in on an opportunity that has seen them quickly grow their client base and their business?
SME South Africa catches up with Makhathini to answer this question and he shares the 5 things every entrepreneur should consider when developing their own growth strategy.
Requests from Our Clients Gave Us Our Big Idea
Octopus was born out of the many requests we have been having from our existing clients wanting us to help them with finance professionals as they were impressed with our technology and [the] sophistication behind LinkdPro.
Business development plays an important role in any business and Octopus would not be around if it was not for a well-articulated business development strategy.
Product And Client Were Our Key Focus
We focused on two main areas – developing the product and developing our client base. Getting a meeting with a prospective client was a big focus. Our hit rate /success rate is quite impressive after we’ve taken prospective clients through what we do and our platform.
The Strategy Involved Some Trial And Error
We change our approach almost every day depending on [its] effectiveness or lack thereof. We closely monitor each and every result of our efforts.
We look for processes and partnerships that enable leverage for driving revenue, distribution or that enhance the product.
The 5 Steps To Follow To Develop A Killer Strategy
- Understand your market
- Define your customer
- Understand your customers’ pressing needs
- Don’t go for the entire market at once
- Measure your results and change accordingly
It Still Comes Down To Execution
Be obsessive about executing at the highest level possible and always have an accurate gauge of what each effort yielded. And as the saying goes, never take no for an answer.
It’s Always About People At the End of the Day
Marketing is the obvious one [skill]. However, more than marketing skills are required to have a successful business development strategy. But without giving a laundry list I would say that understanding people is also key.
Always have an appreciation that the people whose attention you are trying to get are extremely busy so you have to start by understanding what matters most to them.