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My Mentor

logoMentor advice for improving your business

Ed is a columnist for the South African edition of Entrepreneur magazine, South Africa’s No. 1 award winning business magazine. His column has been running for more than five years, originally under the The Start Up Coach and now My Mentor. Articles listed on this page are primarily about growing and developing exiting businesses, articles about starting a business and early stage entrepreneurship are listed on the Start up Coach page.

Articles are posted on this blog three months after they have been published in the magazine – hey we want you to go out and buy the current one! Or even better subscribe to the mag – it really is a great publication for entrepreneurs. And I am most grateful to Entrepreneur Media SA (Pty) Ltd., the publishers of Entrepreneur Magazine for allowing me to post these articles which were written for and published by Entrepreneur Media SA (Pty) Ltd. and all rights are owned by them. Thanks folks, I appreciate you letting me showcase this work.

Readers should take note of and abide by the copyright notice at the end of each of these articles, OK?

So now to the articles.

From the April 2016 edition

Strategic competitive positioning

Attack, defend, innovate or do nothing

In this column we discuss strategic positioning responses to difficult business conditions. The possible options are explored; attack, defend and innovate. The Attack option uses the bad economic times to aggressively pursue market share, the Defend option makes sure that customers, skills and resources stay intact and the Innovate option seeks to differentiate the company. Ed also warns about the risks of the “do nothing” option. The full article is on the main blog page.

 

 

 

 

From the March 2016 edition

Managing hidden expenses

The costs you don’t get invoices for

In this column Ed shows examples of the many intangible costs, those for which the business does not get invoices, but which often cost the business enormous sums through additional payroll and material costs and lost goodwill. He sets out an action plan to track and measure these costs with the objective of reducing them and increasing profitability. The full article is on the main blog page.

 

From the February 2016 edition

Are you driving your business or is it driving you?

Why so many strategies fail to deliver and what can be done about it

In this article we discuss why so many strategic plans fail, why it is that despite brilliant ideas the business plods on as it always has. Ed considers the style of most entrepreneurs and shows that this is a contributing factor, and discusses what can be done about it. The full article is on the main blog page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

From the November 2015 edition

Customer base or new business?

How should you deploy limited resources for best returns?

In this article Ed examines how entrepreneurs can best use their scarce sales and marketing resources, and gives examples of types of companies which must position for new business. He points out that customers are the best source of word of mouth marketing and can themselves be a wonderful target market. The full article is on the main blog page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

From the October 2015 edition

The power of focus

Concentrate your resources on the target to improve performance

In this article we discuss the advantages of concentrating your efforts, focusing all your resources on key target markets to gain advantages of building expertise, reducing costs and increasing the dales strike rate. Although trying to cover all markets sounds like a great idea Ed shows how this is only applicable if you are the dominant player. For all others a focused strategy produces better results. The full article is on the main blog page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

2015-septemberFrom the September 2014 edition

Tenders – timewaster or business generator?

Should you tender or stay away? Some basic rules

 

In this My Mentor column we consider tenders and whether to submit or not. Ed suggest you must have a different technology, expertise or way of doing business to increase the chances of succeeding with a tender bid. He notes that tender submissions are time consuming and expensive, and the effort may be better utilised in other sales efforts. He warns about the risks of fixed price long term bid submissions and trying to compete with politically connected tendepreneurs.

The full article is on the main blog page.

 

 

 

 

2015-august

From the August 2015 edition

Your sales machine

Turn your whole company into an enthusiastic unit that aids and promotes your sales

In this column Ed discusses the benefits to everyone of a company in which everyone is customer focused. He recommends that entrepreneurs start by taking a hard look at themselves and their company and making sure it does deliver what the customer expects. Then he shows how to communicate with and develop the staff to become truly proud of what they do for customers. The full article is on the main blog page.

 

 

 

 

2015 July

From the July 2015 edition

When you fight with customers         

Sensible outcomes from disputes

In this column Ed focuses on arguments with customers, recognising we are all human and disputes will occur. He looks at common causes for disputes and shows how the argument can escalate if one party feels they are not being heard. He considers how best to resolve disputes and stop them becoming emotional and advises on investigating customer and staff complaints and warns about taking sides without all the facts. The full article is on the main blog page.

 

 

 

 

 

2015 June cover

From the June 21015 edition

The unique product or service

Does unique mean it will make millions for you?

In this column Ed considers the ‘unique’ product trap; entrepreneurs believing that because they have a totally new product or service that they will automatically make massive sales. Ed advises on considerations to think about prior to launch, and checking that customers will like the product and will be prepared to pay the price. He also notes that although you may not have direct competition alternative solutions or ways to spend available funds must be countered in the marketing campaign. The full article is on the main blog page.

 

 

 

 

2015 April coverFrom the April 2015 edition

 

The one giant deal

Opportunities and risks of getting the biggest deal ever

In this article Ed examines the situation where a company has the opportunity of doing a huge deal – bigger than anything they have touched before, possibly bigger than the existing company. Ed considers the good and bad possibilities of such a deal and discusses what entrepreneurs need to think about to make the go – no go decisions. He suggests negotiation considerations to reduce risks and preserve relationships with existing customers. The full article can be found on the main blog pages.

 

 

 

 

2015 MarchFrom the March 2015 edition

The right workload

Entrepreneurs work hard but should get the balance right

In this article Ed examines the heavy workload that is usual for entrepreneurs and questions the composition of the work done. Is it reactive, or forced on the entrepreneur by poor planning? he asks. Entrepreneurs realise they should be spending more time on finding new ways to compete, on building efficiencies and other strategic concerns – working on the business rather than in it. Ed gives guidelines on how to get a better balance to working life. The full article is on the main blog page.

 

 

 

 

2015 FebruaryFrom the February 2015 edition

Breakout

Planning and executing real growth strategies

 

In this article Ed examines strategies for breaking out of the limited growth habit that many companies have fallen into. He looks at how to plan and execute for substantial growth by turning problems into opportunities, pushing aside negativity and self-limiting thoughts and getting commitment to measurable growth. He considers how to grow the user base, to grow at the expense of competitors and how to use your company strengths.

The full article can be found on the main blog page.

 

 

 

 

2014_NovemberFrom the November 2014 edition

Don’t slow down

November and December offer many opportunities for alert entrepreneurs

In this My Mentor column we consider opportunities to profit from the general lazy slowing down of business from November to January and catching competitors napping by looking for appropriate sales opportunities and tenders. Ed asks if you really can afford to have a quarter of the year as a time of no or few sales, and give ideas on how to use this time profitably.

The full article is on the main blog page.

 

 

 

 

2014_OctoberFrom the October 2014 edition

Selling to big business

Sales to huge organisations can be wonderful, but there are risks

In this My Mentor column we consider the threats and opportunities of selling and contracting to big business. Ed shows the risks and suggest you learn to work to support their KPIs and budgets, and recognise this is a very unequal relationship. He gives ideas about reducing the risks and suggests the culture of businesses that will be least at risk in this relationship.

The full article is on the main blog page.

 

 

 

 

2014_AugustFrom the August 2014 edition

Competitive strategy

Is this only for the big corporates?

In this My Mentor column we consider competitive strategy and how it should not be the exclusive preserve of large organisations. Even tiny start-ups need to have a competitive strategy so they can compete. Ed give a ‘how to’ guide on identifying competitors, research their strengths and weaknesses and then figuring out how to compete, using many examples drawn from successful businesses.

The full article is on the main blog page.

 

 

 

 

2014_JulyFrom the July 2014 edition

Getting better margins

Are you paying enough attention to this profit generator?

In this My Mentor column we consider how to increase profit by getting better margins. Ed outlines four ways to improve margins; higher turnover, even if only marginally higher; lower cost of sale; price increases by selective pricing and bundling and changes in the product mix. Ed advises how to increase profit with little cost by managing margins better.

The full article is on the main blog page.

 

 

 

 

2014_MayFrom the May 2014 edition

Change of ownership

When is the right time to start thinking about selling your business?

In this My Mentor column we examine what happens when businesses are sold, and what preparations should be undertaken for the sale of the business, sometimes years in advance. Ed advises that you plan your lifestyle after the sale of the business to avoid becoming depressed or frustrated, and considers the threats and opportunities of selling to various types of buyer.

The full article is on the main blog page.

 

 

 

 

2014_AprilFrom the April 2014 edition

Customer information

A seriously valuable marketing tool – and it is free

In this My Mentor column we examine the value of information about customers, and show how it is all available somewhere in the company records but should be in one accessible place. Ed shows how simple combinations of existing customer information can point to products needing attention, customers on the way out and sales opportunities to increase turnover.

The full article is on the main blog page.

 

 

 

 

2014_MarchFrom the March 2014 edition

The dreaded top of the “S” curve

A threat or a real opportunity?

In this My Mentor column we examine the growth of businesses in an “S” curve which ends in a plateau with little growth and a very static business. Like a mountain, the only way ahead is downhill. Ed shows how this phase is often reached because of the ‘do everything’ style of the entrepreneurs and advises how and when to prepare to jump the “S” curve before reaching the plateau.

The full article is on the main blog page.

 

 

 

 

14 Feb coverFrom the February 2014 edition

Moving from the core business

Think positively to diversify your small business

In this My Mentor column we examine the opportunities and risks of diversifying a small business. Ed advises that diversification should arise from a desire to spread the risk in the business and innovate rather than from boredom. He advises ‘firestarter’ entrepreneurs to get a methodical partner or become serial entrepreneurs.

The full article is on the main blog page.

 

 

 

 

13 Oct CoverFrom the October 2013 edition

Lessons from the beginning

Remember how fanatical you were when you opened your doors?

In this My Mentor column, Ed reminds entrepreneurs of established and static companies about the way they ran their businesses when they opened their doors. The fanaticism about customer service, the constant self-challenge to be better than competitors, the celebrations when sale were made. He suggests that business which have become boring and static can be rejuvenated by returning to the practices of those heady early days.

The full article is on the main blog page.

 

 

 

 

13 July CoverFrom the July 2013 edition

Why should they buy?

What makes your business the supplier of choice for your customers?

This My Mentor column challenges entrepreneurs to answer the fundamental questions: Why do customers buy from my business? Why should they? Recognising that a potential customer probably has a trusted supplier, the article examines ways in which entrepreneurs can offer convenience, uniqueness and services to make attractive offers to those potential customers, using good market intelligence as a key.

The full article is on the main blog page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

13 June CoverFrom the June 2013 edition

Getting the numbers right

Entrepreneur optimism in sales forecasting

This My Mentor column examines the risks of optimistic sales forecasting and looks at the steps which should be taken to get to realistic and achievable forecasts. Ed give key lessons on the need to identify why customers will buy and how they will know about the new organisation, he outlines ways to set out the forecast and stresses the necessity of comparing the forecast to actual sales made.

The full article is on the main blog page.

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