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In order to build a start up, it is always important to find product market fit. One of the ways to do this is to build an MVP and launch it. This article explores how to build an MVP, which should be the first step to building your startup.

 

 

What is an MVP?

Definition: An MVP stands for a Minimum Viable Product – not Most Valuable Player!

An MVP is the first version of your product, with condensed functionality and a small set of users, think of it as a prototype. The simplest, most basic version of what it is you want to create.

Building an MVP is a crucial part of building a lean process or a product. This means designing and building it with as little redundancy as possible.

How to build one?

 

1.     Research

Say you have thought about the start-up you would like to create. The first thing to do is your research. This does not need to be an elaborate, 3-month long process where you deploy the scientific method to ascertain how accurate your hypothesis is.

Speak to your potential users, and if you don’t know who your users are: Houston, we have a problem. You should not be developing anything unless you know who you are targeting.

When thinking about a business idea, there are two key questions you need to answer

  • What is the problem I am trying to solve?
  • Who is looking for this solution?

Once you have answered these two questions, lock them down and don’t compromise on them. Remember this diagram:

 

2.     Building your MVP

 

There are countless tools that allow you to build a MVP almost free of cost. In Mauritius, it’s easy to say that they are no viable or affordable online payment facilities, but the truth of the matter is that you don’t need one: When Airbnb launched their MVP, they had no payment facilities – users where paying home owners with cash on arrival. They also did not have any map views that allowed users to view where exactly the space they were about to rent was. And the cherry on top of the cake is that one of the founders was coding part time.

 

 

If you want to start prototyping, here are a few tools that might help:

 

 

3.     LAUNCH!

Launch, and launch quickly. Don’t fixate on making whatever it is you are building perfect.

Starting social media pages costs nothing. So for the third time, LAUNCH IT!

Once that is done talk to your users, understand how they use your solution, get as much feedback as you can. Remember to keep these two factors fixed.

  • The problem you are looking to solve
  • The target customer

 

This will bring us to our next step.

 

4.     Iterate

 

Iterating means to adapting your product while keeping the feedback you have received in mind.

There is a clear difference between Iterating and Pivoting. Remember the diagram from Earlier?

Here is the diagram explaining the difference between an iteration and a pivot:

 

And there you go… Getting started on your business is as simple as this. So launch your business idea and apply to Test Drive!

 

Some references for this article:

In October 2018 Turbine,  ran the first edition of the Test Drive Program. Connectme was one of the 30 projects pre-incubated at Turbine and one of the 4 of them that followed through into the incubation program.

We asked Jason Delorie, the founder of Connectme, a few questions about his journey as an entrepreneur with regards to the first phase of the start-up called Tutorme.

How did you choose your first are of activity? Was there a specific reason why you chose to start with the education sector?

As our co-founder, Eva Graham,  is an educator herself, she has an intimate understanding of the sector and has faced many of the pains all tutors on the island face. With deeper investigation into the local tuition experience, we quickly identified that parents/students were facing multiple pains of their own. Like how to find the right tutor in an industry that relies heavily on word-of-mouth?

I was surprised to learn that over 80% of children in Mauritius receive tuition (according to stats.gov.mu) There had to be a better way for parents to search, evaluate and book trusted tutors to ease the process. For tutors they needed to increase their customer reach and focus more on what they do best, teach. Rather than administrative tasks. Thus, TutorMe was created, a web-based platform connecting tutors and parents.

How did you decide that to go forward with this specific idea?

Looking at the bigger picture we realised that the issues being faced are not limited to just the Tuition industry. In fact, most customers and providers are facing these issues across all services industries. This led to the formation of ConnectMe Ltd holding company with the mission to leverage technology to ease connection and communication of customers and service providers on a hon a human level.

What are the key challenges in your entrepreneurial endeavor?

As with any business we have faced multiple challenges. After registering the company, we had difficulty opening the necessary bank accounts to start trading pushing back our launch. We are now looking at our next big challenge of raising capital to sustain our growth. This will pose it’s own challenges in terms of recruiting the right team and leading them to build the service we are looking to offer.

Where do you see the company in 5 years/10 years?

The goal would be two-fold and could certainly happen simultaneously: To expand to the African continent by starting with Kenya as point of anchorage. And secondly, or simultaneously, expanding to different service sectors as the aim of the company is to connect customers to professional and trustworthy service providers.

 

What advice would you give to those who want to enter entrepreneurship?

My personal advice would be to really validate your concept, the more in-depth research and understanding of your customer the better decisions you will be able to make. In addition, I would encourage budding entrepreneurs to be part of the startup ecosystem, ours was that of Turbine, it has allowed us to share our experiences and learn from others facing similar problems while always being open to change and pivoting.

It has also provided us with an ever-growing network, once you meet one innovator, you are very likely to find others. It can truly create a point of advantage to become a part of a dynamic community who are always supporting one another.

 

How do you plan to raise fund to sustain growth?

As we are early on in our journey, we are aiming to raise seed funding from Business angels rather than VC’s. Although they are some investors in Mauritius looking to provide seed funding, they are few and far between. This, I believe is a great disadvantage to the Mauritian startup ecosystem as small amounts of funding are essential at the early stage to ensure entrepreneurs can grow their business to its full potential.

 

Why Kenya as a point of entry into the African continent?

We are exploring Kenya as our future route to the African Market due to my personal connections from having lived there for 16 years. In addition, the startup ecosystem, particularly in the technology sector is not only robust but booming with a lot of international attention. Lastly with the growing middle-class access to customers in our target market is high.

 

 

How have you benefited from having Turbine Incubator to accompany you during these early stages of the company?

It has helped a lot. The Test Drive program has allowed us the opportunity to ascertain whether the business idea was worth exploring or not. We met a lot of interesting people during this program as well. Furthermore, being part of the incubation has been very beneficial to the startup as a support structure. The subsidized coworking over the past year allowed us to work with an intern at the office place, the weekly business coaching kept us in check with regards to our targeted milestones. We have also been able to consult with experts from different industries as well as get an insight into different subject matters such as accounting and marketing.

In October 2018 Turbine,  ran the first edition of the Test Drive Program. Katapult was one of the 30 projects pre-incubated at Turbine and one of the 4 of them that followed through into the incubation program. Today, Katapult is an award-winning start-up that’s making ripples in the African region. Jade Li chats to us about this fantastic journey in becoming an entrepreneur.

What were you doing before starting your entrepreneurial journey?

I was working as a medical device engineer. I designed and developed medical devices from conception to implementation in production. This involves defining specifications for the product, along with the CAD design, prototyping, testing and finally setting up procedures for manufacturing.

What was your thought process when you saw the ad for Test Drive in 2018?

At that point, I had been wanting to do this for a long time, but I didn’t really know where or how to start. When I saw the Test Drive ad, it was exactly the opportunity I was looking for.

 

What was your experience of getting started? Was it more difficult than you thought it would be, or was it different?

When I started in January 2019, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into and I think that’s probably why I took the plunge. Thinking back now, it was a lot harder than I could have ever imagined. Over the course of the year, there were weeks when I thought: “Oh I’ve got this, I know what I’m doing” and then there were weeks where I felt like everything was out of control and I was overwhelmed. The one thing I’ve learned this year: Don’t sweat the small stuff. I am sure that I am only at the beginning of my roller coaster journey and there will be more twists, turns and dips ahead.

How did the Incubation at Turbine help?

Where Turbine really helped for me was the support that they provide. Meeting with my coach Aysha every week has been so helpful. The entrepreneurial journey can be very lonely when you don’t have the right people around you. Aside from the weekly meeting, the people at Turbine are always here to help.

 

What went wrong?

Things did not go according to plan. At the beginning, I had assumptions about the market that turned out not to be exactly what I thought. So, I’ve had to change my business model a few times. I’m not quite there yet, but I’m getting closer.

 

 

What were the milestones you were able to celebrate?

There were so many milestones to celebrate this year!

  • Leaving my job to work on Katapult full time
  • Doing my first workshop
  • Doing my first workshop at a school for the after-school activities
  • Hiring my first team member
  • Winning the 2nd prize for Total Startupper Challenge
  • Winning the Peer Review competition at an accelerator called Yher in Johannesburg

 

 

What would be a piece of advice that you would give to anyone with a business idea in mind?

 

If you have an idea, make a prototype and go out there and test it. And apply to Test Drive to get the support you will need!

 

 

In attempt to keep its incubated entrepreneurs inspired and motivated, Turbine organizes Entrepreneur’s Talks. This is an opportunity for founders of new start-ups to learn about the journey of seasoned entrepreneurs, to ask them for advice and to exchange ideas with them.

In November 2019, we had the pleasure of welcoming Delphine Taylor – The person responsible for l’Express Property

 

In 2008, Delphine Taylor launched Lexpress Property, the first online web portal for selling and renting property in Mauritius. Many brilliant entrepreneurial stories start with a need identified from different life experiences. This was also the case for Delphine Taylor.

Her professional career started in Paris, her finances were very low after ending a backpacking trip and was lucky enough to have a friend host her for a year. This was during 1998 and at the time there were no jobs to be found in her field, so she took whatever came her way: babysitting, waitressing, call center jobs… And this is how she got noticed my one of her clients, Cisco Systems, who offered her a job with responsibilities that were below her capabilities, but she took the job anyway as she wanted a to at least have a way in.

6 months later she was promoted to the coordinate the CRM project in France and she got her certification in Siebel to specialize herself. She was then headhunted and landed a job at Lectra Systems as a CRM consultant, to consequently become the international head of the project. Her team implemented 35 subsidiaries across the world. Delphine says that working at such an international level allowed her not only to work on the same project from 35 different points of view but also, using 35 different methodologies, which she says was quite the challenge!

She emphasizes that her key take-away from this experience is that one must not be afraid to start from humble beginnings and to climb the ladder as opportunities present themselves. Everything one learns in so doing can prove to be very valuable, it’s just a matter of putting your ego aside.

After all this, Delphine Taylor moved back to Mauritius and thus began her adventure with Lexpress Property. It all started with herself and a friend, in her room trying to build a website. Taylor claims that at the time, she didn’t have much knowledge about how to start web platforms, but it was an idea that had come to her as a result of her multiple moves and quests for accommodation during her travels.

She explains that her entrepreneurial adventure was not an easy one, that it required a lot of energy, time and perseverance. Many obstacles were met but with every hurdle came a creative solution, which is what made her experience developing Lexpress Property a beautiful adventure.

The most rewarding aspect of this adventure for her is to start on a blank slate and seeing her idea come to life as time went by. Before starting the process of creation, Delphine says that she does a significant amount of benchmarking, she reads a lot and corroborates her ideas with her entourage who challenge her thoughts. She then adapts her idea to the market she is looking to target and launches the product while keeping in mind that the revenue and costs of the business should be the backbone of her focus; this is something that seems very basic but entrepreneurs often get distracted from the main objective of a business which is to make money.

Often young aspiring entrepreneurs contact Delphine for some insight into the businesses they are trying to develop. They come forward with beautiful ideas that can no doubt interest the consumer. Delphine says she is very impressed with the Mauritian entrepreneurs’ creativity and proactiveness. However, she is often presented business plans that according to her, do not describe sustainable businesses as the entrepreneurs developing them have not spent enough time thinking about the different aspects of the business or have just not benchmarked their business against realistic standards; too often, they will think about the product before thinking about the business or the costs associated to that specific product.

Delphine expresses that the Mauritian market is full of talent and that they need a structure that accompanies them throughout their entrepreneurial journey and facilitate start-up funding!

She also shares an anecdote of her entrepreneurial adventure with us: When she launched Lexpress Property, she did a small market research which included 15 real estate agents, equipped with her PowerPoint presentation she set out to go and meet them one by one: 9 of them said that they would not be on-board with her project because they did not believe in it, 4 others said maybe but only one said yes. That was her mother’s real estate company, Villa Vie. Despite this, she still decided to go ahead with the adventure, and what a good one it has been!

At the time, she says, she was not aware of the effort and relentless amount of work this implied. She was lucky to have her husband who was supporting her. There’s always a risk that one chooses to embrace when they embark on the entrepreneurial journey, the key is to evaluate this risk and the associated consequences, but most importantly, one should consult other entrepreneurs as they could help in challenging the project.

She imparts one last piece of advice to us as a conclusion; according to her, there’s one main key to success and that is to prepare one’s project thoroughly before even asking other entrepreneurs and businessmen/women, to challenge the idea.  She then adds that finances are important, she herself decided to partner with La Sentinelle which was a strategic partner. She describes that a successful partnership is a great contributor to the exponential boost to a business.

And finally, she says that the most important aspect of building a business is the team. Any entrepreneur should know to surround himself/herself with people with the right competences and dynamism. They should also learn to create a pleasant atmosphere at work. When people are happy, they perform better. With the right team, everything is possible. This is what makes the Lexpress Property (now Mediatiz) a successful company she says!

 

 

Magnus Rehn is an engineer, turned serial entrepreneur turned coach, investor and advisor. He currently wears many hats, juggling between his many responsibilities masterfully travelling from Sweden to Portugal to Singapore. Early in December 2019, he found his way to Mauritius to visit Turbine and consult with our coaches, incubates and to spark some inspiration amongst Mauritian founders.

To understand the purpose of this visit, it is important to note that one the main value propositions of Turbine is that it is based on the established business model of STING (Stockholm Innovation and Growth). STING is a business incubator & Venture Capital Fund for start-up to seed phases of technology driven, entrepreneurial and fast-growing companies within the international cleantech, ICT and MedTech industries. Magnus’s role at STING is geared towards the sustainability/cleantech sector including renewable energy, energy efficiency, energy storage, water treatment and monitoring, biomass generation and waste management, social/impact innovation and solutions for developing countries.

During the week that he was here, Magnus consulted with our business coaches in order to share and promote the best practices when it comes to coaching start-up founders. He also laid much emphasis on the difference between an advisor, a mentor and a coach. He explains that in contrast to a consultant, advisor or even a mentor a coach’s role is not to advise but to guide the founder’s attention to specific issues and to allow them to find their own path in tackling the hurdles of entrepreneurship. Afterall, it is their company and it every action taken by the company should be the founder’s prerogative.

However, no training is successful until and unless one can make sure that the value delivered is captured. After imparting precious advice to the coaches, Magnus made all of Turbine’s coaches practice their newly learnt coaching skills in order to showcase that guiding a conversation with someone and allowing them to reach conclusions of their own is in fact not easy at all. It requires one to develop an analytical attention when the coachee (person being coached) is speaking. It also requires much patience sometimes to identify what the problem might really be? Is it truly that the business is not functioning up to standards or is it something different, something personal?

By the end of the week, Magnus delivered a well awaited workshop called the Scale Up Workshop. Founders of established startups were invited to come and understand that it takes to scale their businesses successfully. One of the key take-aways from the workshop was that if a founder wants to scale their company, he/she needs to ensure that the processes put in place are scalable. It is certainly acceptable to do certain things at the beginning that might not seem sustainable at first just if the process evolves and becomes better adapted to being duplicated. During the workshop, Magnus also shared important matrices to deeply analyze the different pre requisites in order to be able to scale successfully.

The analysis provides a strategic breakdown of which products are more likely to scale successfully and which are not; it also includes an extensive breakdown of the pre-requisites to scales, from development to marketing to the identification of scaling buddies (strategic partners that allow you to scale) to an analysis of the different markets available to the founder: Every aspect is covered, an accounted for.

This workshop was organized with the hopes of sparking an inspiration and extending the aspiration of Mauritian founders to tackle and explore new markets.

Turbine’s goal is to become the leading entrepreneurs’ hub not only in Mauritius but in the region as a whole. The purpose of a visit like Magnus Rehn’s is to ensure that the budding Mauritian ecosystem bases itself on reputed international standards. As a community of individuals with an insatiable thirst for self improvement, we will be organizing many new activities to spark the right initiatives in the entrepreneurship and innovation industry.

Artificial intelligence (AI) might represent a threat to some jobs which could be carried out by machines in the future. However, this technology remains very interesting in the field of recruitment and skills management. In an ever-changing job market where training will become continuous, AI draws up new communication patterns for recruiters and candidates. It also gives human resource departments access to new possibilities and opportunities.

Combined with a human perspective, AI could positively influence recruitment processes in the future.

 

Better and more efficient recruitment processes

Automation in recruitment will enable the management of large volumes of jobs and applications. For example, on LinkedIn, the AI algorithm quantifies the skills of the applicants with regards to a job offer. Afterwards, it proposes a classification of candidates, taking into account their levels, training and their previous job backgrounds. This is useful for the candidate, who can know where he is in relation to his competitors. This functionality is also useful for the company who can assess the applications more quickly.

Following the intervention of the AI, the recruiter can fully make use of his emotional intelligence during interviews. He can assess each candidate’s know-how, non-verbal communication, fluency, leadership and/or proximity to the company’s values.

 

Learn throughout your career(s)

Another part of human management in which AI has a strong place is the evolution of careers. The contemporary situation of careers is very unstable. There is a rising trend of professionals who are changing career paths due to poor career guidance. Many employees are also experiencing a static state when they should be in an environment that allows them to grow. AI will be able to help people develop their own skills, in order to build a fulfilling path for themselves. That will be possible through automated skills audits that facilitate self-diagnosis. They will be able to assess their orientation, identify missing skills in order to access new careers.

Companies have already seized these tools to support their employees in new jobs and thus develop their employability. By offering more opportunities for growth to their employees, companies can expect to grow in return. This will happen due to a constant improvement of their employees’ skills as they evolve with regards to their careers.

 

Working towards sustainable recruitment

The social and environmental awareness that accompanies the digital revolution is also changing recruitment patterns. Companies who adopt values relating to environmental sustainability are more likely to attract young and passionate employees. The same logic applies to diversity and human and/or career growth. In light of this reality, it is our collective and individual responsibility to be part of a sustainable recruitment process. That involves using IA solutions as an access facilitator. The digital transformation of recruitment must indeed be a catalyst for diversity and equity in real life.

 

Digital technology allows people to go beyond their own networks, meet new people and confront various points of view. Afterwards, things can go a step further following physical encounters. In this context, determining factors build each one’s path towards his sustainable professional project and his future career.

Getting a website is a popular method to gain online profits and a trendy way to become an e-businessperson. It may be tempting to take advantage of the benefits of a large website with little effort. However, it is slightly more complicated than it sounds. Before conducting any purchase regarding a website, you should consider several points. Find them listed below:

 

Get started with a “clean” site

Would you buy a house simply because you like how it looks? The same applies for websites. Do not make decisions based on the design of the site or the basic description.

Do your research on the assets, designer and history of the website. Look at the reviews collected during their activity. You can go about this step as a prospective customer of a product on the site.

If the designer and owner have a bad reputation with customers or regarding their previous activities, forget the investment. As a beginner, it would be best to start with a site that has a relatively good reputation, background included.

 

Visit the website

Browse the website and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does it offer an optimal user experience?
  • What is the speed of the searches and commands?
  • Is the site mobile-friendly?
  • What does the domain look like: Is it short, attractive and modern?

Do not invest your savings in a website with a complicated URL, rough navigation and slow loading time. The SEO will probably not be great and the few users who will visit the site will leave it immediately.

Also, take a look at their sales history and see if it is consistent and sustainable. Analyse the marketing strategies put in place and see what you can keep or improve.

 

Analyse the SEO

What about the rating of the website on search engines? Is it well placed on relevant searches?

You can also check if the site has a blog. Nowadays, appearing on the first page is difficult without regularly publishing content.

You can, for example, use tools to know what keywords are used. Then, do not hesitate to make these searches on Google to check which page the site appears on. If it appears beyond the first page, you will have to invest in the SEO to get to the first page. The further away the site is, the more you will have to invest.

 

Analyse revenue sources

To make sure your investment will be profitable, see how the website earns its revenue. It can be through selling products/services, Google Adsense, affiliates, subscriptions, etc.

The e-business you are looking to buy should have as many revenue streams as possible. Otherwise, you may need to make other investments to create more reliable revenue streams. In case the income comes exclusively from products or services, make sure that the sales are regular. Above all, they should be in the growth phase.

 

Review the maintenance of the website

Depending on the platform hosting it, a website will be more or less easy to maintain, customize or optimize.

If you are a beginner, work alongside a professional or go to sites that rely on content management systems.

Also consider asking the seller for a maintenance report:

  • How often are updates done?
  • When was the last update?
  • What are the recurring problems?

 

The price

There is no fixed price for a website. It will depend on the performance of this actual site.

However, be careful. If a seller asks for much less than the average, there must be a problem. If they ask for a strangely high price, either the site is very efficient or it is a scam.

To buy a good website, take the time to talk to the seller and ask for all the supporting documents. If he willingly accepts, you can erase a part of your doubts.

Following the above tips should help you if you are considering to buy a website. However, be sure to do thorough research and seek the help of professionals make a secure investment.

A motivated team equals work that is of high quality. Discover 5 tips to motivate your suppliers or employees on a daily basis.

Poorly motivated employees or suppliers tend to quickly exhaust themselves, thus becoming unproductive.

You should aim at achieving a good quality in terms of work and increasing your employees’ loyalty towards your company. To do that, you may have to switch strategies regarding your employees. That is, shifting from the simple assignment of objectives to the transmission of a company culture.

Here are 5 tips to boost your team’s motivation and get better results:

  1. Create a feedback culture

Your employees may not know how to improve or they may not be able to improve. In these cases, how will they and their work be able to evolve?

Regular feedback gives you the opportunity to boost their growth. This does not mean scheduling more meetings. Rather than that, try to take a look at your team’s productivity from time to time.

  1. Delegate more difficult projects to your team

In order to not end up with automated employees, try to protect your staff from a boring daily routine. When employees perform the same tasks every day, they quickly become complacent. Get them to try other things by giving them the opportunity to take risks.

One way to do this is to give them a project that really represents a challenge to your team. Define new targets and objectives during quarterly reviews. They will have the following quarter to work towards these goals.

  1. Maintain a list of challenges

Ask your teams to create a list of projects to complete, problems to solve or skills to acquire. The goal is to find a challenge to keep them busy, but also to teach them how to challenge themselves.

Your employees will be eager to take on a new project or solve new problems. Testing their skills outside of their day-to-day work will make their job more interesting. Instead of waiting for the time to pass, they will focus on solving business problems or improving outdated processes.

  1. Offer various training programs to your employees

Training allows employees to increase their effectiveness on the job. It also ensures that their knowledge and skills are up to date.

A company offering hands-on, up-to-date training will not only retain its workforce, but also reap the benefits of their improvement.

  1. Change the objective-setting process

Objectives are important to motivate your group. To challenge your employees, you need to rethink the goal-setting process.

They should not focus on reaching them, but on finding the best possible solution to achieve them. This technique challenges the employee to be creative, rather than to find quick and simple solutions.

Set animated, necessary and achievable (but not too easy!) goals that your employees will enjoy reaching. Unlike the easy targets, which leave them stuck in a routine, these should stimulate brainpower and encourage high performance.

 

Challenge your team members to take risks, step out of their daily roles and advance in their careers. Also, do not forget about challenging yourself. Improve your training, focus on feedback and rework your goals. In the end, everyone will be more successful and more committed, including you.

Having a strong brand identity is often vital to a business as it affects a company’s image and sales. The process to achieving one takes a lot of effort and time. Here are some elements that can help you to assess the quality of your brand.

 

Your employees’ perception of your brand

Your employees should fully understand your brand identity so as to pass it on properly to your customers. If their perception is different, the impact on sales can be negative. To ensure that your team has a clear understanding of your brand, you can ask them a few questions:

What are your core values?

Values can be explained in different ways. You just want to make sure your employees get as close to your vision as possible.

What is your target?

All your employees need to know your company’s primary target. If they are unaware of it, they can implement ineffective strategies.

How has the brand evolved in recent years?

While the two preceding questions may seem obvious, many people often overlook this one. However, your team needs to know about your company’s past. They should also be aware of the recent changes and the brand’s future in the years to come.

Your employees’ perception of your brand identity may differ from what you want to present to your customers. In that case, analyse the marketing tools that you use:

  • Your website
  • Your newsletters and other email campaigns
  • Your advertisements
  • Your brochures
  • Content published on your blog
  • Publications on your social network sites
  • Your press releases, etc.

If necessary, do not hesitate to remind your employees about your brand identity so as to make things clear. They should be able to convey a clear image of your brand to your customers.

 

Customers’ perception of your brand

Have your customers understood the meaning behind your brand? Is your identity clear to your clients? To find out, you may wish to ask another set of questions:

What attracted your clients to your brand?

This question will allow you to collect comments about your brand. You will then be able to judge the quality of your brand by analysing your customers’ responses.

If they talk about:

  • The quality of your customer service
  • The quality of your products
  • Your values
  • Your mission, etc.

Then you are on the right track. Their perception of your brand is clearly positive.

Some of the things that you think are important to your brand identity may not come up though. In that case, you should rework the ideas that are not clear to your customers. Meet up with your team and review your strategy.

How do they rate their interactions with your employees?

This question can help you know if your employees are actually passing on your brand’s values. Ideally, your clients should emphasize qualities such as trust or being helpful.

Would they recommend your brand to those around them? Why?

If the answers to the previous questions seem positive to you, your customers should actually recommend your brand. The “why” part of the question will highlight your strengths and weaknesses.

 

Tools to assess your brand’s perception

Use the right tools to ask these questions to your employees and customers.

Tools for your employees

In order to obtain complete and, above all, honest answers, try to go for tools that respect anonymity. This way, employees will not be afraid to say what they think. You can collect this information via anonymous questionnaires that you can send by email.

Tools for your customers

To collect your clients’ answers, you can also use online questionnaires. You can email them after a purchase, or set up a social media publication. If you own a physical store, try to go with paper questionnaires.

You can now assess the quality of your brand identity. The answers that you get will let you know where to improve.

In attempt to keep its incubated entrepreneurs inspired and motivated, Turbine organizes Entrepreneur’s Talks. This is an opportunity for founders of new start-ups to learn about the journey of seasoned entrepreneurs, to ask them for advice and to exchange ideas with them.

This month, we had the pleasure of welcoming Zulaika Sunthbocus – Co-founder and Managing Director at Spoon Consulting.

Zulaika is Mauritian, born and raised. She has done her primary and secondary studies in Mauritius and then moved to France to pursue her tertiary studies following which she started working as a software analyst. She always knew she wanted to come back to her roots in Mauritius.

While in France, Zulaika tells us she climbed the professional ladder she started off as an analyst, getting from programmer to manager to project manager. By the time she left France she was an IT consultant at PwC accompanying her clients in their information system implementation. When she came back, Zulaika worked at Accenture as a Delivery
Manager for about a year. It was then that she teamed up with her co-founders in order to set up Spoon Consulting.

The idea was to build a company that would provide ERPs and CRMs, and they could do so by leveraging the fact that all 3 of them were Oracle consultants. The 3 founders invested their savings in order to create Spoon Consulting. Zulaika mentions that they have always been trend setters as even during their early days they were investing significantly in training on the salesforce platforms for their team.

In the early years, she was very involved in operational activities of the company until one day she decided that perhaps she should try something a little further out of her comfort zone. She decided to venture out into another business. Being a certified PADI passionate diver, it was no surprise that her venture was in the diving sector. She built the business up and ran it for a couple of years.

But fate brought her back to Spoon Consulting in 2013, this time her role in the company was different. This time around she was more in charge of the Talent and Culture aspect of the company, and it turned out to be something she thoroughly enjoyed. Today Spoon Consulting has over 100 employees and she attends most of the recruitment interviews.

She enjoys working with her teams in order to promote a healthy work culture. She explains that having a committed team is one of the pillars of running a successful business. At Spoon Consulting prides itself in the attention that they provide to their employees. It is important for them to make their talents feel like they are the major asset of the company directly generating  value for the company through their high-quality delivery geared towards customer excellence.

 

Q&A Time:

 

To what would you attribute the sustainability of Spoon Consulting as a company that is born and bred in Mauritius?

She accounts the sustainability of Spoon Consulting over 15 years to the following:

 

The Team

 

She has nurtured a leadership style with the major objective to empower her team which remains the major asset of the company

Within this culture, she is continuously challenging her team, taking them out of their comfort zone, and at the same time motivating them and valorising them and above all making them feel as part of the Spoon Consulting family

Ongoing training including soft skills training is being delivered whole year round to ensure that her people are not only getting more money in their pockets but also strengthening their brains.

 

 

  1. Commitment and Strength.

It is important to note that it was not always a “La Vie en Rose” scenario with starting a company as a woman in the time that she did. IT was, as it continues to be, a male dominated industry and in that time, it was crucial for her to be committed to producing good work and maintaining positivity in order to build her credibility. She also points out that it is important to believe in yourself and never give up and today she is proud to be on board of several IT commissions in Mauritius, hence sitting at the same table of the IT guys .

  1. Money

The next thing is, money. During the first few years of Spoon Consulting, revenue was an issue for the company. She says this is something that everybody should be aware of, it is normal to have to bootstrap at the beginning. Getting money flowing into the business will not be easy. It can be frustrating to see that the forecasts don’t match the reality of the company’s performance. She says: “10 years ago, I was struggling, and it can be a stressful experience!” but today we are experiencing a constant increase of 20 percent of our revenues ( chiffre d’affaire) since 2015  and we have over 100 clients

  1. And last, but not the least: Diversity

Don’t be afraid to embrace new technologies and trainings for your employees. It is important to make it as a priority: Invest in training and cater for their well-being on a daily basis  .

Always ask for feedback, even though sometimes feedback can be negative, it is important to be able to learn from your mistakes. Focus on lessons learnt and  learn from the perception of the client. See the situation from the client’s point of view. This will help you identify the factors that help differentiate you from your competitors.

Moreover, when it comes to personal level, Zulaika says it is important to be passionate and motivated. She lays emphasis on keeping a positive and bold attitude while working.

She says she is amazed when she sees entrepreneurs working at Turbine. She feels that these people are fearless and is quite inspired by this.

How do you recruit? And how do you make them stay?

 

They recruit graduates from the University of Mauritius who they then put through a bootcamp training and on the job training.

  • Treating Talents Like Assets

When it comes to retaining talent, Spoon Consulting is a big advocate of investing on training, valuing the talents they recruit. To treat them like assets that appreciate over their journey with the Company. This creates value for the company as well as the employee as you then become an institution through which they get to grow professionally. That being said, the company also covers half of the medical insurance, they pay half of the gym membership, they sponsor mini football pitch for team members that like to play football.  They are sponsors of a great number of IT events in Mauritius and  they even bring members of the team to huge IT events in San Francisco on a yearly basis since 6 years now.

  • “Top Talents”

She explains that Spoon Consulting has also implemented “Top Talents” these are employees that get preferential trainings to develop their skills based on their exceptional performance. There are two appraisals a year and managers are trained to value their subordinates.

  • Performance Appraisal

Their performance appraisal is based on Engagement, Value Creation and Knowledge transfer within the team.

  • Team Building!

They have also coined the term “Spoon Spirit” in the company which implies taking ownership of their tasks and feeling like they are in a family at Spoon Consulting. A lot of the training at Spoon Consulting is done by the seniors to the juniors.

How do you keep up the spirit when the revenues fluctuate?

On low seasons they encouraged people to follow training to improve their skills. It is important to show them that they can still generate value for the company when the sales are low. Developing their skills during low season ensures that they can deliver a continually improving service to their customers.

How have you managed to stay with your co-founders?

It is important to have complementarity at the heart of a founding team. Theirs is broken down as follows:  Marketing, Tech and Culture.

It has not been that easy, she says. But they have had (and try to keep) a good communication. They have never taken one executive decision without having a unanimous clearance. When one of the founders wants to take a new measure or initiative, Zulaika explains that they must have a valid and rational reasoning behind it.

As a parting note, Zulaika imparted an important piece of advice: Learn to identify and to seize opportunities. They can make or break your path as a business owner.