From warehouse to patient: mPharma’s approach to increasing the accessibility of medicines in Africa (Rising Africa)

Good news from the continent

Since 2013, the startup mPharma has been trying to build an infrastructure and a drug-monitoring system to connect patients, hospitals and pharmacies. The objective is to enable doctors to know the exact location and availability of medicines in real time, and patients to have better access to medicines.

mPharma is a prescription drug manager for providers and payers in Africa. They manage the drug inventory for providers and design drug benefits plan for payers. mPharma currently operates in three African countries (Nigeria, Ghana and Zambia), serving close to 20,000 patients each month across a network of over 70 hospitals and clinics in Lagos, Warri, Port Harcourt, Benin, Aba, Accra, Kumasi, Cape Coast, Lusaka and Ndola. mPharma aims to build the data intelligence and retail layer to support the future of African healthcare.

mPharma is building a more scalable version of CVS Health in Africa using the Airbnb model enabling mPharma to create a tightly coupled pharmacy monolith with leverage over pricing, distribution and reimbursements.

mPharma has developed supply-chain software that enables them to implement vendor managed inventory for independent healthcare providers in Africa. mPharma takes over inventory procurement of retail and hospital pharmacies while remotely running pharmacy operations using proprietary technology infrastructure. This entails using data generated through their software to forecast demand, and commanding lower pricing from suppliers (distributors and manufacturers) due to aggregated and predicted volumes across hospitals and retail pharmacies in their network.

mPharma supplies drugs to all pharmacies on consignment. Thus, revenues are based on actual drug sales to patients, and not what is supplied to hospitals on a timed basis. This creates a disruptive business model for hospitals and pharmacies because it is different from the traditional “pay-for-supplies” model that distributors offer. This model improves working capital and cash flow for hospitals and pharmacies.

Click here to read the full article.

8 signs you’re on the golden path to success

By: Adam Toren February 16, 2016

Source: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/270737

In the midst of a long entrepreneurial journey, it can be difficult to tell whether your idea — and more specifically, the way you execute it — is going to be successful. But if any of these eight signs have crossed your path as of late, you may be on the right track.

1. You’re excited about your business.

Those who start businesses for the money or to please friends and family are likely to burn out — or fall flat. The concept behind your business should be exciting from the beginning of your entrepreneurial journey to the end (even though it’s often said there isn’t an end at all).

You know you’re excited about your company when you talk about it obsessively with friends, when you can’t wait to get to work in the morning, or even when you feel a familiar warmth in your chest when you accomplish a minor business-related task. If you’ve lost touch with the “fun” side of starting a business, sit down and write out the reasons you started the company in the first place. What were your goals from the very beginning? Have you achieved any since then — or are you close?

2. People are talking.

If your core idea is a good one (and it’s marketed well), people will talk about it. Check out the conversations circulating social media. If it doesn’t take hundreds of social media posts per week to get people commenting, sharing, tweeting and more, you’re doing pretty well.

Customers, clients and fans can discuss your brand silently as well by wearing T-shirts, boasting stickers and donning pins with your logo or catchphrase. People are eager to be the first to tell their friends about the “next big thing” — conversation surrounding your business may mean it’s just that.

3. Your net income makes your overhead costs look reasonable.

When you’re first starting out, it can be painful to shell out money for web domains, logo design, product prototypes and other start-up costs. Your wallet gradually becomes thinner, and you wonder more than once if that money will ever come back. It often takes 12 to 36 months for businesses to be quite profitable, but if you’re drawing in disposable income before or at that stage, you’re on the right track.  Keep careful records of your company’s finances. Once your loans and overhead costs seem a little less daunting, you’re doing just fine.

If you’re searching for ways to speed up the payback process on your business, remember that good branding goes a long way. My brother and business partner, Matthew, and I have pulled profits within only a few weeks after opening by leveraging well-designed business cards, media kits and websites.

If you’re preparing to sell an innovative new product, take a look at pre-selling through sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Test the waters and deliver the best product through A/B split testing and surveys. Last but not least, always strive to keep costs low. Sites like Fiverr and Upwork help you find freelance work for less.

4. You’re willing and able to adapt to change.

Successful entrepreneurs understand that the world of business is fluid — and so are the fields in which their products are services are encapsulated. Any business, no matter how big or small, will have to change along with the times. Those who don’t are denying themselves an opportunity to impress their customers and achieve long-term greatness.

For instance, several occupational domains are facing a digital revolution, such as the publishing industry with self-publishing and ebooks, education with computer math and reading programs, art with graphic design and more. Large publishing houses that don’t put out ebooks alongside traditional books, as well as teachers who deny their students the right to use a computer or tablet for their work, are considered behind the times. It’s clear that you’re on the path to success when you’re capable of adapting to the changes around you.

5. You welcome criticism.

No entrepreneur is capable of growing and enhancing their business if they can’t accept criticism for what it is — free advice. Feedback often comes in unpleasant forms, but many times it identifies areas of improvement. If you’re able to receive criticism and turn it into positive change, you’re that much ahead of business owners who can’t.  Develop a thick skin, and brush empty opinions off your back while absorbing the ones that offer valuable tips on how to polish your business.

6. You learn from your mistakes.

Successful people aren’t those who don’t make mistakes — they’re the ones who learn from them. Much like welcoming criticism, successful entrepreneurs are capable of learning from their mistakes, and much like criticism, mistakes are lessons in disguise. Instead of wallowing in the false sense of failure that often surrounds a mistake, attempt to learn from it: What could you have done better? What obstacles could have been avoided?

Remember that because you don’t have time to make every mistake, you can also learn from the mistakes of those around you — to learn by experience with no cost to your own business, network with your peers and discuss the things they wish they would have done differently. You’re already on the path to success if you consciously gain valuable lessons from your mistakes.

7. You’re capable of being grateful for what you have while still striving for more.

You’ll never be satisfied with your progress if you’re incapable of being grateful for what you already have. During the start-up process, ensure that you differentiate resources you already have from those you have to acquire. Perform brief check-ins with yourself or with your team every six months or so, paying close attention to the victories you’ve experienced that you worked so hard for.

Being thankful for what you have not only surrounds you and your company with positivity, but it will also keep things in perspective when you’re experiencing doubts about your abilities.

8. You don’t have regrets.

You likely jumped into the world of entrepreneurship knowing that it was one full of ups and downs. You’re more inclined to reap the rewards of success if you can acknowledge that even through the hardships starting a business has brought you, you don’t regret stepping foot into such a unique field of business. Those who are truly meant to be entrepreneurs love the hard work they put into their businesses no matter what results come from it — the passion and energy that go into starting a company are enough of a reason to push forward regardless of circumstance.

It’s more than just “knowing” — thousands of entrepreneurs sense shining success in their futures by encountering any of these eight tell-tale signs. When did you realize you’d be successful at what you do? What was the turning point of success for your business?

Fashion gets faster and the CBD is in vogue

Clothing and other items in city-centre Joburg shops are drawing budget-conscious, trendy shoppers. And the big chains are also increasingly aware of the need to respond rapidly to changing demands

By: Sunita Menon & Pales Vuyolwethu Tshandu  March 01, 2018
Source: https://www.businesslive.co.za

The heart of Johannesburg’s central business district (CBD) is a fast-fashion haven and “on-trend” this year are ruffled shirts, perspex heels, berets and 1990s-style retro sunglasses. Though such items may set you back tens of thousands of rand from the likes of Gucci and Chanel, fast fashion has made trends easily accessible to less wealthy consumers.

Fast fashion is a contemporary term used by retailers for designs that move from the catwalk to the shop floor, capturing fashion trends. SA’s fast-fashion market ranges from catwalk-esque looks at Mr Price and H&M to entire streets of fashion stores in the CBD.

In the CBD you can find it all, from Zara replicas to Gucci knockoffs to cheaper versions of high-end make-up brands. Though H&M’s recent numbers show that fast fashion may not be a strong model for its brand, Mr Price is soaring.

H&M experienced its worst sales performance in at least 15 years in the quarter through November while Mr Price reported an 8.3% increase in third-quarter sales. Its total retail sales were R6.6bn for the three months to end-December.

When it comes to fast-fashion, H&M’s orders are placed well in advance for high-volume items such as fashion basics. Garments with a high trend factor, or for selected stores, generally require shorter lead times.

Amelia-May Woudstra, spokesman for H&M SA, says: “We can offer our customers the latest fashion because we have our own design [we create our own collections] and buying departments.

“The overarching collections are planned well in advance, and the very latest trends are picked up at shorter notice.”

Woudstra says H&M is ahead of the curve compared with its peers and is working on its autumn/winter 2019 collections. “We can also act fast when new trends emerge. Having effective logistics for all our collections depends on the nature of the item.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a cleaner store layout in Sandton or at Melrose Arch. Like many of the other stores in the Smal Street Mall, Men Express is owned by a foreigner and gives you bang for your buck. A three-piece suit will cost around R2,500.

The informal sector has become something of a microcosm of the malls — the same offerings, only with more palatable price tags. But behind the on-trend shirts, the gaudy prints and the neon lights in town is a R750bn industry. While the formal sector shed 135,000 jobs in the fourth quarter of 2017, the informal sector added 119,000 jobs.

The share of total employment in the informal nonagricultural sector accounted for only 16.5%. A shirt from Zara will set you back anywhere between R400 and R690 in Sandton, but in the CBD similar items cost a little over R60. The biggest brand in the knockoff game is a hitherto little-known player called Rainbow Nation.

Olerato Sesing, a 24-year-old student, shops in the CBD about four times a month and prefers it to malls. “Downtown is very cheap and always has the latest clothes. You can always negotiate the amount,” she says. While a trip to a mall would get you two items of clothes for R1,000, Sesing gets 10 to 15 items for the same amount in the CBD. “I only ever shop there,” she adds.

 

“Lead times are always a balance between price, time, quality and sustainability,” she adds. According to Euromonitor, North America and Asia Pacific are becoming increasingly dominated by fast fashion with expansion of domestic brands such as La Chapelle and Forever 21, as well as international giants H&M and Zara.

As the rest of the industry reacts to fast fashion, many apparel companies are aiming to implement more reactive supply chains, speeding up production of stock and increasing the quantity of trend-led products.

But other local retailers such as TFG have been at the forefront of fast fashion and say the time between date of order and delivery can be weeks.

Graham Choice, head of TFG apparel and Prestige, says: “The process can take up to eight weeks from the date of order to delivery to stores, depending on the complexity of the order. However, we are working towards increasing the number of orders we deliver within 28 days.

“We work with the best local suppliers including our wholly owned, world-class apparel manufacturer, Prestige [located in Caledon and Maitland in the Western Cape] to maintain their leading edge as the producer of in-demand apparel in SA.”

TFG uses a quick-response (QR) process, relying on collaboration between the retailer, design teams and factory capacity to meet fast-shifting customer demands.

“The QR system allows for flexibility and importantly enables quick action when positive sales call for bestseller repeats or changes to an existing garment can be implemented to meet current trends,” Choice says.

 

7 real-life business lessons you can learn from billionaires

By: Deep Patel

Source: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/309265

The “three-comma club” consists of those in industry, art and commerce who have achieved the exclusive honor of reaching a net worth of more than one billion dollars. From Rockefeller to Gates, members of the club include people who have truly altered the world. To achieve this level of success requires hard work, dedication and a little bit of luck.

Fortunately for the rest of us, these men and women have shared some of the techniques that helped them achieve membership in the exclusive billionaires’ club.

Whether your goal is to make a billion dollars or bring clean water to a billion people, the techniques of how to envision and achieve goals can be used by anyone. Here are 7 of those techniques, straight from the mouths of billionaires.

1. Look failure in the eyes.

Failure is not something that you expect the most successful entrepreneurs to have experienced much of. However, all billionaires have experienced failure, sometimes catastrophically. The difference between those who thrive and those who don’t is that those who thrive failed better. As Bill Gates said, “It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.”

Gates is a prime example of why learning from failure is key. While at his first company, Traf-O-Data, Gates, the future richest man in the world, saw his life’s work fail completely. When Traf-O-Data went out of business in the late 1970s, Gates watched his dream of success start to crumble. However, according to him and his co-founder and fellow billionaire Paul Allen, the lesson they learned from the failure of Traf-O-Data helped Microsoft succeed.

Many ambitious people, when faced with failure, want to forget it quickly and move on. However, something that is key for success is being able to face failures and understand the lessons they offer. The most successful people recognize that failures can be stepping stones rather than stumbling blocks.

2. Insist on excellence.

Excellence for the most successful among us is a habit. Take the words of advice from Mohammad Dewji, CEO of the METL Group and Africa’s youngest billionaire at 42. He says, “Always strive for excellence in life and never make room for mediocrity. Set your standards high and your efforts shall be rewarded.”

Long-term goals can seem daunting or abstract. However, waking up every day and being consistent with one’s standards is key. A billion dollars starts with a million, which starts with a thousand, which starts with one … and that first dollar is only earned by demanding one’s best.

The most successful entrepreneurs create the right goals and achieve them daily. With time, these become the right habits. And finally, these become the right accomplishments. Insist on excellence, and maybe you could end up in the three-comma club.

3. Vision is key.

The other aspect of becoming a billionaire is setting the right goals. Coming up with those ideas that are worth pursuing means thinking outside the box and seeing value where others do not. The ideas that created billionaires have been those that pushed the boundaries. This means pursuing one’s idea and having faith in a vision when others are skeptical or even hostile.

For example, when billionaire Richard Branson started Virgin Airlines to compete with air-travel giants like TWA and American Airlines, he was mocked. Others scoffed at him for even attempting to challenge the existing airline companies. However, Branson saw there was a need for a cheaper airline, and one with customer service in mind.

He had faith in his vision, and even though Virgin Airlines struggled in its first few years, it eventually took off for Branson. When Branson sold his 31 percent stake of Virgin America to KLM-France in 2017 for $286 million dollars, his vision was vindicated.

4. Health is important.

No billion-dollar effort gets off the ground without a healthy and willing personality behind it. As fitness expert and personal trainer to billionaires Samir Becic says, “I truly believe that in the 21st century, in order to excel in the world, you have to be fit and healthy.” Billionaires from the founder of Under Armour to 86-year-old George Soros all emphasize how important personal health is to them.

Your idea won’t get off the ground if you feel sluggish and unfit. You won’t have the energy to do all the things on your list. Stress-reduction strategies, a healthy diet and consistent exercise will do wonders for your motivation and mental capacity. Remember that even in pursuing your dreams, health is key to keeping you in tip-top shape.

5. Opportunity plus preparation equals luck.

You may be surprised that luck is embraced by these hard-working, motivated people; however, it absolutely plays a factor in becoming a member of the billionaires’ club. As Mark Cuban, who sold his company Broadcast.com for $5.7 billion in the 1990s, openly admits, “Being a billionaire requires a lot of luck, a lot of great timing.”

Now, it’s obviously foolish to depend on luck for success. However, the ability to quickly and correctly recognize opportunity when it is presented to you, the flexibility to change course if required and the preparation to rise to the occasion all are vital in taking advantage of what would be considered “luck.” Learning to take the appropriate chances and having faith in yourself are keys to finding the opportunities that can help you along the way.

6. Keep your priorities in order.

Health, happiness and financial security, in that order, were the three top priorities of millionaires, according to a 2015 US Trust Survey of 640 high-net-worth individuals with at least $3 million in investable assets.

While the financial and professional goals we set for ourselves are crucial to success, it is also important to remember why we are pursuing them. A billion dollars will achieve financial security, and possibly fame, but you should remember the other things in life that money can’t buy.

Warren Buffet often discusses the importance of his children growing up with “normal” childhoods that would teach them self-sufficiency and family values. Even when working hard and making sacrifices in pursuing financial success, remember to think about what you’ll do what you get there, and what you’ll need to have in order to truly be happy.

7. Work, work, work.

The Chairman of Nissan-Renault flies more than 150,000 miles a year. Serena and Venus Williams began hitting tennis balls at 6:00 a.m. when they were 8-years old. Marissa Mayer worked brutal 130-hour weeks while at Google. These stories of grit and work ethic define the journey to becoming a billionaire.

No matter the weather, day or time, for billionaires the only thing on their mind is the task at hand. It is this willingness to work that sets those in the three-comma club apart and defines those who can achieve their dreams, no matter what it is. Luckily, with the right work ethic, all the other steps become easy. As Mark Cuban says,“Companies don’t fail for a lack of cash or attitude. Companies fail for a lack … of effort.”

 

 

 

The key to achieving goals: Consistent, persistent pursuit

By: David Meltzer January 17, 2018

Source: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/307529

I used to define happiness as the enjoyment of the pursuit of your potential. But, my ideas changed as I received more clarity on how exactly to reach your potential, happiness, purpose or fulfillment. I have found that it’s not only the enjoyment of the pursuit of your potential — but the consistent, and persistent, enjoyment of that pursuit of your potential that helps you to crush your goals. Personally, I am focused on pursuing my potential as a philanthropist:

I see a disconnect between people and their attempts to manifest their dreams. It’s that they forget the importance of being consistent and persistent in the way that they pursue them. It’s estimated you have 10,000 new thoughts a day and 40,000 of the same thoughts every day. In order to make sure these thoughts move from your conscious to your subconscious and unconscious, you need to control those 10,000 new thoughts. Change the way you look at things so the things you look at change. You can control these repetitive thoughts through what I call the Cancel/Clear/Connect strategy. When negative thoughts pop up, say to yourself “Cancel.” When the same thoughts keep popping up, work on clearing your mind. If the negativity persists, connect to what inspires you.

Get out of your own way.

We tend to carry on without persistence. Our goals become more difficult to achieve, and we create shortages, voids and obstacles that are tough (if not impossible) to fill ourselves. We can be born with the greatest talents and gifts, but if you’re not persistent and consistent in your use of those skills, then you cannot achieve your fullest potential. In my coaching business, I see this issue quite often. It makes things difficult because hardly anybody is consistent and persistent in their pursuit. We always tend to waiver, get distracted by extraneous things or get in our own way. That is why I created the Gratitude Challenge, to show people that the biggest impact you can make is simply by doing something every day. So, I picked the simplest change that provides great results, saying “thank you” and doing it every day. The majority of the people that take the gratitude challenge are unable to stick to it, though. Be consistent in using Cancel/Clear/Connect and you will change the way you think. Regularly using this strategy is essential in order to change the way you think and enjoy the pursuit of your potential.

Perform a self-evaluation.

Think about how much time per day you are committed to the pursuit of your potential. Are you consistent? Are you persistent? Do you need to improve in these areas? Consistency is a massively important because it allows you to focus on what you want. Focusing on a goal and working toward it every day allows you to utilize the power of intention. That focus yields exponential growth and results. You need to do something every day in order to be great at it. Meditate, use gratitude, practice a skill, work on a relationship, tell somebody that you love and appreciate them. Each of those activities can take as little as 30 seconds a day, if you are efficient, and make a resounding impact in your life.

(Consistent) drive for dough

My favorite example to use when it comes to consistency is golf. If you play golf 30 minutes every single day, you’ll be far better than someone who plays one of two rounds on the weekends. In fact, people who play six hours on the weekend are often worse after one year compared to those who consistently practice. There are many examples of this in sports, people who push on despite being told “no” again and again. They stick to their guns, whether it be during one game, one season or an entire career, and it pays off in the end.

Persistence in business

These same principles hold true for all of the successful entrepreneurs we’ve come to know. Individuals like Walt Disney and Henry Ford (and myself) all had lived in the consistent, persistent enjoyment of the pursuit of their potential, pushing past the many difficulties they faced. You will always run into obstacles, voids and shortages along the way. Sticking to your goals every single day will allow you to increase your enjoyment of that pursuit. In order to reach your potential, it is essential to be consistent and persistent in the enjoyment of the pursuit of it.

Persistence pays it forward.

I want to encourage this mindset in people around the world, so I have started a “50 For 50” campaign with the Unstoppable Foundation to help raise money to bring Entrepreneurship and Empowerment Centers to Kenya, which will provide individuals the resources to thrive as entrepreneurs.

7 traits you should look for in a co-founder

By: Sujan Patel March 14, 2016

Source: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/272150

A business partnership is an entirely different ballgame than  going solo, and it has its own set of unique challenges and considerations. One of those is finding the right partner. Choosing a co-founder for your business is not an easy task, and shouldn’t be taken lightly. It’s okay to be excited about getting your business started, but it’s not something to rush. Remember, this is your livelihood.

Once you’re sure your startup idea will work, consider the following traits that you should look for when selecting a co-founder.

1. Complementary strengths

Like any relationship, you’re at your best when each person brings something to the table that complements and supports the other. Your strengths complement his — or her — weaknesses, and vice versa.

Recognizing your strengths makes it easy to define your roles in the partnership, and that definition makes it easier to hold one another accountable as the business grows. When you run into difficulties in making a decision, it’s nice to have someone who can see things from a fresh perspective. You’ll challenge each other to consider things you wouldn’t normally see on your own.

“I met my co-founder, Thomas Griffin, using the approach of ‘one builds, one sells,’” says Syed Balkhi, founder of OptinMonster. “This means that one of the co-founders is responsible for building the product, while the other sells the product. This complementary approach is a perfect model for many startups.”

2. A thirst for knowledge

A perfect co-founder is one who recognizes that he or she has a lot more to learn. This recognition that the individual doesn’t have it all figured out, coupled with a willingness to learn, will greatly contribute to growth in the right direction.

The concept of constant improvement is a strong value to have.The people best suited for startup life are the ones ready to learn more and take the business beyond what either thought was possible.

3. Shared passion

A co-founder who brings a financial investment is terrific — and might be the one thing you need to get a startup off the ground. But, even more important — and hard to find — is a co-founder who recognizes your drive, mission and passion, and shares it.

You’re starting a business for a reason, and uniting over a common interest is a typical way for two founders to come together.

That’s what brought together Gary Lambert Jr. and Zack Carpenter, the founders of Cyclops Vapor, an eliquid manufacturer. Driven by the desire to produce a quality product that made it easier for people to stop smoking, the two shared a common passion that propelled their company to the top in their industry. As Carpenter says, “We enjoy what we do here. It’s not just about the profits. We have the ability to help people, and it’s pretty awesome.”

“More than likely, your co-founder will be a person with whom you’ve had shared experiences,“ says entrepreneurship and Entrepreneur.comcontributor Neil Patel. “Through such experiences, ‘true motivations are revealed, not declared.’ In other words, you know each other in more than just a superficial way.”

Before you jump into business with someone else, make sure the person you’re working with is committed to the same core values. It’s costly to give up a percentage of your company to someone who quickly loses interest.

4. Adaptability

Having a business partner who is able to think on his feet and adapt to changing situations is critical. In any new business, you’re likely to encounter a fair number of surprises, so find someone who won’t sweat the small stuff and can be flexible when the going gets rough and tough decisions need to be made.

You also want to find a co-founder who isn’t above handling the small tasks that need to be dealt with. This person should have the drive to push the company forward, but the humility to know that sometimes there’ll be a need to answer phones and empty garbage cans — and to smile while doing those tasks.

5. Serious energy

You might think you’ve got enough energy for the team, but you always want to be backed up by someone that has at least as much, if not more, than you. Starting a business is hard work, and it’s not for the faint of heart.

Growth, scaling and survival will eat at your energy stores. When you’re all but tapped out and running on fumes, you want a co-founder with energy to spare who can pick you up and get you motivated to keep running.

6. Integrity and honesty

When you’re involved at the ownership level, there are so many ways for money to disappear and for people to be dishonest. Even beyond cash, there are things a person can do that might call the ethics and morals of a company into question. Those things don’t have to be illegal to permanently damage your business, either.

Find someone who is honest. Communicate up-front that there is an expectation for 100 percent honesty at all times — no exceptions. Remember, finding the right partner isn’t just about skills: It’s also about character.

7. Emotional stability

Emotional stability involves the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others. Every owner needs to be able to maintain her cool in the face of the rough times that are common in the startup environment. Getting angry with vendors and customers or falling apart under the weight of stress is detrimental to business. Such habits can destroy relationships and send employees running.

Having success as a startup relies on an owner’s ability to stay calm and not collapse under pressure.

Also make sure you find someone that you get along with outside of work, because building your business will be an around-the-clock endeavor. Find someone you trust, who will take the pitfalls in stride and grow with you. The true measure of a person is not how he or she behaves when things are going well, but when things are going badly.

 

 

Three ways to buy an established online business

By: Doug Winter August 14, 2017

Source: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/295829

This year will be known as the year enterprises became artificially intelligent. Research by Gartner suggests that interest in new big data investments has peaked. The question has changed from “how do we get data?” to “what do we do with it?” Forrester found that enterprises plan on increasing investment in artificial intelligence (AI) by 300 percent in 2017. One area of major AI investments will be sales. Customer analytics are one of the largest data sources for enterprises, and Salesforce already made a big splash earlier this month by releasing Einstein, their AI assistant designed to help sales teams uncover insights that will help close deals and identify upsell opportunities. But how exactly will sales be upended by AI? I see three main areas:

  1. Process optimization. According to CSO Insights, 43 percent of enterprise sales reps miss quota. The main reason? Lack of efficient, organized sales processes. AI will make huge inroads in regards to optimizing the sales process, beginning with the onboarding of new reps, which currently takes upwards of six to 10 months to reach full productivity. Based on observing the actions of high-performing reps, AI will provide a blueprint to new reps, offering guidance in terms of how often reach out to a prospect and what collateral to send them to be most effective in closing deals. This “autocoach” functionality will mitigate the time in which new reps operate at a loss because they are acting in a statistically similar way as high-performing reps. Content and meeting preparation processes are also primed for AI, particularly through natural language processing (NLP). For example, client-facing collateral in regulated industries, like financial services, is often required to include correct disclosures, a manual process usually delegated to reps. NLP can automate this process through keyword scanning, and as sales compliance remains a hot button issue in financial services, expect to see AI play a major role. NLP will also improve how sales reps prepare for meetings by bringing context front-and-center. By leveraging data accrued from past meetings across the sales organizations, sales reps will know what pieces of content — and even what order of slides — will work best for the particular combination of buyers in the room during a presentation. Which brings me to my next point …
  1. Personalization. Eighty percent of B2B sales organizations find personalized interactions to be most effective with buyers. Unfortunately, Forrester has found that 78 percent of buyers say salespeople come to meetings with irrelevant or incorrect materials. AI opens up a new world of personalization in sales conversations. One important instance will be in lead scoring. Right now, lead scoring essentially involves qualifying leads by fairly large, non-specific buckets based on previous interactions and subjective human input. With AI processing data from the entire marketing, sales and UX technology stacks, lead scoring will become exponentially more granular, where sales reps are handed personalized blueprints on how to approach each lead as an individual. From there, AI will also usher in dramatic changes to the content used by sales reps. Integrating data coming from the Internet of Things opens up particularly intriguing cases. Today this data primarily assists product monitoring, but it’s not hard to see a situation in which, say, Boeing, through the digital monitoring of their own commercial machine parts, reaches out to American Airlines with a personalized product brochure — automatically personalized with the right logos and pertinent case studies for the individual buyer — on new turbines the moment there are indications that it may be time for a new one within their fleet.
  1. The elimination of mundane sales tasks. Popular calendar and scheduling tools are, frankly, a giant pain for everyone involved. Our sales team of 60 schedules about 3,600 meetings per month. If each meeting takes 10 minutes of sending calendar invites back and forth and including new attendees, the result is 600 hours per month wasted scheduling meetings. We’re already seeing a crop of new tools that leverage AI to help with scheduling meetings. X.ai, for example, automates the email back and forth for the sales rep. Another manually intensive area of sales is note taking. Required for proper follow-up, note taking can also distract the rep from giving his or her full attention to the buyer. Clarke.ai is claiming to solve this problem via NLP. By dialing into the service before a call, Clarke.ai will record the context of the meeting and provide it back to the seller automatically.

 

Bringing it all together

While the tactical changes promised by AI will no doubt change the day-to-day of sales reps, its true benefit lies in the feedback loop. Big data investments have allowed data to be collected from all areas of the customer experience, from first touch to the monitoring of products they end up using. AI will be able to pinpoint and predict areas of strength and weaknesses in the experience of each new lead that comes through, improving the entire sales and marketing process intelligently and automatically.

3 things business owners need to know about BI (entrepreneur.com)

By: Sheila Eugenio May 29, 2017

Source: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/289500

Business intelligence, or BI, is changing the way small to mid-size companies are making decisions, and it is creating significant advantages for those that do it well. If you are an entrepreneur, you know how important information is when it pertains to decisions that involve the future of your business. Data-driven decision-making helps improve potential outcomes by reducing speculation in favor of analysis. Industry experts are all talking about the ways in which data and BI are becoming essential tools for all business owners. Peter Sondergaard of Gartner Research summarized the importance of BI when he said, “Information is the oil of the 21st century, and analytics is the combustion engine.” Research firms like Gartner are not only predicting the importance of BI for decision-making purposes; they also think it can be monetized. A recent report projects that as many as 10 percent of companies will have profitable departments focused on “productizing and commercializing” the data they collect by 2020.

Forrester, another research firm, found that enterprise data is an untapped resource for most organizations. It reported that a mere 40 percent of enterprise data is ever used to enhance operations. Organizations that can use that information to improve existing processes will likely see significant improvements in their strategies, and those that learn how to market and sell that data will achieve higher revenues. The following are three major trends business owners need to know to better leverage BI for their organizations.

  1. Self-service BI for small business.

Until recently, big data was inaccessible for smaller organizations. But the rise of platforms that provide self-service BI solutions is allowing access to anyone who wants to evaluate the data that drives their business. Many organizations that leverage internal data collect it from multiple processes or departments, which makes it difficult to aggregate in a way that makes sense for everyone. This is especially challenging for large organizations that have much more data to process. The result is often data-centric blind spots that open the company up to significant risks. Uday Hegde, CEO of USEReady, a company that works to help business leaders leverage data and analytics, explains how companies are consolidating these functions. “Businesses are shifting toward using application program interfaces (APO) to transfer their data to user-friendly applications. As a result, they can trade clunky dashboards for more useful apps. Converting to an app-centric approach empowers companies to make their data more interactive across multiple connected devices. Self-reliant solutions help businesses make data more actionable.”

  1. Data for visualization.

The good news is data is becoming more and more useful, as there are more companies working to provide quality data visualization that is geared toward being accessible to even the less technical members of the team. Organizations like Tableau, Domo and IBM are all innovating at a rapid pace, aiming to gain market share by helping their customers improve the usefulness of their data. Tableau released its own predictions about where data analytics are headed in the coming year, highlighting visualization as the second most important development in big data. Why is visualization such a compelling method for presenting data? Hans Rosling, a scientist known for his videos depicting interesting data, explains in a TED Talk, “The idea is to go from numbers to information to understanding.” Data presented in compelling visuals helps guide the viewer toward comprehension.

  1. Security for data.

As self-service applications begin to democratize data for organizations, and visualization helps more members of the organization access and comprehend crucial information, the need for securing that information increases. More people accessing and sharing data means more opportunities for proprietary data to leak, and more potential points for external attacks. Gartner estimates that by 2018 20 percent of organizations will be looking to develop sound data security governance plans to protect themselves from data breaches on the cloud. Those that fail to do so will likely encounter damaging security breaches and subsequent fallout. Firms like USEReady take an integrated approach, helping companies use business intelligence tools while creating plans for securing their data. Hegde explains, “BI systems in large organizations often create security challenges when not managed correctly. It is important for these businesses to evaluate their data infrastructure and create governance strategies to keep it secure.” Businesses that successfully integrate security into all data applications will help prevent the hardships that come from breaches.

7 productivity tips to help you accomplish your biggest goals (entrepreneur.com)

By: Nina Zipkin

Source: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/288254

As a young entrepreneur who says her mission is to help others reach their potential, Caroline Ghosn understands the link between happiness and doing work that is of value. Ghosn is the founder and CEO of Levo, an online hub dedicated to helping millennials build and grow their careers by providing tips, tools, mentorship and networking opportunities. We caught up with Ghosn to talk about how to achieve peak productivity and meet your goals head on. Here are her seven tips to reach your goals.

  1. Write everything down.

Don’t hold on to every plan, thought or feeling in your brain. You will get stressed out just trying to remember everything.

“What makes people feel anxious and unproductive is that loop,” she says. “You can have hundreds of those going on at once and it can be completely distracting.” Simply writing down what you want to accomplish will free up space to focus on what is most important, Ghosn says.

  1. Make a plan.

“It is never wasted time. You’re actually making the rest of your day productive by spending 30 minutes reviewing your to-do’s, prioritizing them and ruthlessly removing things that shouldn’t be there,” Ghosn says. She recommends structuring your to-do list with actionable items — only those things that start with a verb. If it takes only a few minutes to do, just do the task right away. Create lists around a single theme or intention.

  1. Put social media away.

“Actually remove those tabs from your computer and phone,” Ghosn says. Turn off notifications so you don’t feel the urge to check your social media accounts and lose your concentration and momentum. Uninterrupted work time is key. In a survey conducted by Levo and Microsoft, Ghosn noted that respondents identified social media as the number one distraction.

  1. Block off your calendar.
    Ghosn recommends dividing your day into several sections — for example, one dedicated to catching up on correspondence and meetings, another to plan out your to-do list and a third to execute on those tasks. “They all require very different mindsets and they should be separated as such,” she says.
  2. Find out when you are most productive.

“I used to think I was a night owl,” Ghosn says. “I realized I’m not because I have energy at night but I’m not as focused and productive when I try to get things done.” She recommends figuring out where and when you are most engaged and excited to work and use those times to tackle the most important items on your list. In the survey, 38 percent of those polled reported that the mid-morning was their most productive time period, followed by the early morning. Only 1 percent said that their mind was the sharpest during the lunch hour.

  1. Remember that it is OK to fumble.

“When you experience difficulty at work or in your life, instead of looking back on it as something that was really challenging, look at it and ask yourself, ‘what wisdom did I learn from that?'” Ghosn says. “It’s approaching it with gratitude vs. bitterness or negativity, and it allows you to be better.” You can learn from every mistake and use it to motivate you rather than blame yourself or give up something that is important to you.

  1. Check in with yourself.

Ghosn recommends doing a weekly review and checking off what you achieved and giving yourself credit for even the most incremental wins. “Take the time to close the loop with your brain,” she says, “and affirm that you did a great job.”

7 key steps to a growth strategy that works immediately (entrepreneur.com)

By: Rob Biederman January 29, 2015

Source: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/240853

If only half of startups survive more than five years and only one-third make it to 10, what’s the one thing you could do to ensure your company is sustainable? The answer is to create a growth strategy for your business, of course. A growth strategy involves more than simply envisioning long-term success. If you don’t have a tangible plan, you’re actually losing business — or you’re increasing the chance of losing business to competitors. The key with any growth strategy is to be deliberate. Figure out the rate-limiting step in your growth, and pour as much fuel on the fire as possible. But for this to be beneficial, you need to take the following steps:

  1. Establish a value proposition.

For your business to sustain long-term growth, you must understand what sets it apart from the competition. Identify why customers come to you for a product or service. What makes you relevant, differentiated and credible? Use your answer to explain to other consumers why they should do business with you. For example, some companies compete on “authority” — Whole Foods Market is the definitive place to buy healthy, organic foods. Others, such as Walmart, compete on price. Figure out what special benefit only you can provide, and forget everything else. If you stray from this proposition, you’ll only run the risk of devaluing your business.

  1. Identify your ideal customer.

You got into business to solve a problem for a certain audience. Who is that audience? Is that audience your ideal customer? If not, who are you serving? Nail down your ideal customer, and revert back to this audience as you adjust business to stimulate growth.

  1. Define your key indicators.

Changes must be measurable. If you’re unable to measure a change, you have no way of knowing whether it’s effective. Identify which key indicators affect the growth of your business, then dedicate time and money to those areas. Also, A/B test properly — making changes over time and comparing historical and current results isn’t valid.

  1. Verify your revenue streams.

What are your current revenue streams? What revenue streams could you add to make your business more profitable? Once you identify the potential for new revenue streams, ask yourself if they’re sustainable in the long run. Some great ideas or cool products don’t necessarily have revenue streams attached. Be careful to isolate and understand the difference.

  1. Look to your competition.

No matter your industry, your competition is likely excelling at something that your company is struggling with. Look toward similar businesses that are growing in new, unique ways to inform your growth strategy. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice. Ask yourself why your competitors have made alternate choices. Are they wrong? Or are your businesses positioned differently? The assumption that you’re smarter is rarely correct.

  1. Focus on your strengths.

Sometimes, focusing on your strengths — rather than trying to improve your weaknesses — can help you establish growth strategies. Reorient the playing field to suit your strengths, and build upon them to grow your business.

  1. 7. Invest in talent.

Your employees have direct contact with your customers, so you need to hire people who are motivated and inspired by your company’s value proposition. Be cheap with office furniture, marketing budgets and holiday parties. Hire few employees, but pay them a ton. The best ones will usually stick around if you need to cut back their compensation during a slow period.

Developing a growth strategy isn’t a one-size-fits-all process. In fact, due to changing market conditions, making strategic decisions based on someone else’s successes would be foolish. That’s not to say that you can’t learn from another company, but blindly implementing a cookie-cutter plan won’t create sustainable growth. You need to adapt your plan to smooth out your business’s inefficiencies, refine its strengths and better suit your customers — who could be completely different than those from a vague, one-size-fits-all strategy. Your company’s data should lend itself to all your strategic decisions. Specifically, you can use the data from your key indicators and revenue streams to create a personalized growth plan. That way, you’ll better understand your business and your customers’ nuances, which will naturally lead to growth.