start ups by Andre Burnett
elite business solutions
hile the founders and directors of Elite Business Solutions (EBS) were being arranged and rearranged, directed and redirected by our photographer, I could see that the perfect photograph would only be achieved by anticipating the personalities of the three entrepreneurs in front of us and arranging them as such. The significance of this was not lost on me, as I could easily imagine this photograph being a metaphor for EBS and the coming together of three obviously brilliant minds to form a synergy in a business consultancy firm that specializes in a wide selection of business services. I made a note of this and invited them to sit for our little powwow. EBS was incorporated in January 2009 by three friends, Shereeda Williams, Natalie Wheatle and Denise Dallas, who had all met while pursuing MBAs at the Mona School of Business (MSB) at the University of the West Indies. “I hated the idea of a nine to five from the very first day,” says Wheatle, whose official title is Organizational and Policy Development Manager. Dallas, the Business Development Executive explained her introduction to entrepreneurship. “I think it was a case of being fed up with not moving fast enough or being challenged enough,” she says. “I had been working since high school and I got both my degrees part time, but when I realized that I really knew that I wanted to pursue entrepreneurship was when we all did the entrepreneurship course at MSB.” The other two ladies echo her sentiments about the entrepreneurship course and the three
(left) Shereeda Williams, (center) Natalie Wheatle, (right) Denise Dallas
Of course you know there will be disagreements but we are all Christians and we ask the Lord for guidance to navigate those times and we have seen it all through
much expertise in a particular area such as agriculture, for example, we will outsource,” says Wheatle with a reassuring air of confidence. I asked them about the inevitable clash of personalities that usually accompany group ventures and there is a chuckle from all three. “Of course you know there will be disagreements, but we are all Christians and we ask the Lord for guidance to navigate those times and we have seen it all through,” Wheatle says. Williams, true to form, makes sure that I had gotten all I had wanted advertisment
share an almost reminiscent sigh. The Financial Analyst of EBS, Williams is the most reserved but her attention to detail is evident as I noticed her making sure that my notes matched the comments without alerting my attention. “I love figures,” says the finance major, as the other two members emphasize that Williams usually has sole responsibility for the aspects of any project that involve financial analysis, revenue and profitability growth. “Business has been up and down seeing as we began in 2009 which was a trying time but right now we are on an up stretch,” says Dallas, as Williams adds that most of their projects usually last for months at a time so there is really no shortage of work. “Most of the work that we do is concerned with the development of business plans and feasibility studies, and if we don’t have as
and the ladies reminded our photographer of what they needed. I revisit my photograph analogy and head upstairs to put Elite Business Solutions on paper.
what is a
social Brand platform?
was participating in the production of a song some time ago, for reasons that escape me at this instance, when the sage-like studio engineer proclaimed that the song we had produced sounded familiar. He noticed the lines of concern on our faces and laughed knowingly, then informed us that when a song sounds familiar it was the makings of a hit. “Maybe most of us feel safer when we are given something that sounds new enough to be different, but not different enough to feel alien,” he surmised. I never forgot his theory, and earlier this week I had the same feeling when I came across an incredibly insightful article by brand strategist and innovator, Steve McCallion of Ziba Design, in the United States. McCallion used the term “social brand platform” repeatedly in the article; it was a term that I identified with immediately before realizing that it was the first time I had seen it used. A quick Google search confirmed my suspicions that McCallion had more than likely coined it himself, but his use of three very familiar words had caused the new term to ease itself into my consciousness with all the litheness of a greased meerkat. Now, what do a brand strategist, a sound engineer, and a meerkat all have in common? Mostly nothing, I suppose, but all of this took on particular relevance to me because of McCallion’s inference that in today’s world of social marketing and uber-connectivity, a company cannot rely on something as simple as a logo or a tagline to adequately engage its target audience, anymore than a hunter would engage
a rhinoceros with a ballad about unrequited love. The recent gaffe by clothing company GAP to change its logo which resulted in an embarrassing about-face after a backlash of epic proportions, has caused McCallion to suggest that today’s consumer is too informed and has too many ways to voice their displeasure to be effectively manipulated with something as simple as a logo. It is a sentiment with which I agree wholly.
Maybe most of us feel safer when we are given something that sounds new enough to be different but not different enough to feel alien When a brand decides to create a website, it makes itself a little bit more accessible. A Facebook page takes it a little bit further, and with a Twitter account that follows and has conversations with its followers, then that brand begins to endear itself to the common man by bringing itself to the level of the consumer. These are the beginnings of the social brand platform that McCallion speaks of. “Logos create value for brands but social brand platforms create value for people,” he says. This brings to mind Jamaica Pegasus’ innovative social gathering, Tweetup. The hotel used its facilities and its Twitter account to host a completely free evening of socializing, food and drink, all at its own expense to expose its potential customers to its services. The Pegasus used its Tweetup as a platform to allow its followers to gain the benefit of meeting and socializing with each other, while developing
a closer relationship with the host. The social brand platform should itself be of benefit to the user, since it would allow them to share with other users, grow with user participation, allow for different levels of participation and lastly, allow for some record of participation. I suppose all of the hoopla that is made about changing of logos and the way people react to them is really a warning sign that such things are no longer as important as they once were. Companies in Jamaica should focus more on the service that they provide to their targets rather than the most appealing logo that they can outsource to an advertising firm. We’ll see how the rest of the business world adapts to the change that has taken place. It should be interesting. advertisment
REINVENTION OF LIME?
ho says it’s not possible though? Many of us know that memories are short when it comes to brands, and it only takes a few well-placed strategies to take a brand from sagging to banging. Maybe what Lime needs is for Kartel to create a tune extolling its virtues and see if that does the trick. The truth is, it may be as simple as that. Reputation, and even cool factor, can be bought and sold. There is some evidence of resurgence. Forget the Mobile TV launch that was clearly an answer to Digicel’s launch of 4G (who launches a product months away from being available?!?), and there was the highly successful LIME School Rules that captivated thousands of Portmore residents in August. As I said to one of the organizers, “Lime connect!” This means that there is still life in the brand. What does LIME have going for it? They have a really solid network, which rarely has system interruption issues. Another positive is that they are now under Jamaican management and with a Chairman and CEO who understand and are aware of the power of marketing. I can’t remember a time that LIME Jamaica has had two Jamaicans in the top positions. Point is, they can blame it all on the Englishmen and now claim they are here for you. Of course that assertion is going to have to be backed up with appropriate pricing, vastly improved service and a commitment to being connected to their consumers.
What is holding LIME back? Famously flatfooted, there doesn’t seem much energy towards reversing the trend. A slew of terrible nicknames: Lame, Slime and sour like lime. Oh and what’s worse, they are losing money having reported a loss of $3.4billion recently. LIME doesn’t listen! They are mostly absent on social media and their executives are rarely pictured at places where the key influencers are gathered. Oh, and their customer service remains for the most part atrocious.
high value customers first, and ensure they are in your corner, then work on the next most profitable grouping and so on. 4. Take your eyes off your competitor and do what you do best. The real battle sometimes is not taking a competitor’s customer but winning the heart of your customer.
What to do if your brand/ company is like LIME 1. Weather the storm and stay focused. You can prevail most things by apologizing and making it worth your while to your customers. 2. Never forget who is keeping you in business. Stay close to your customers and make them feel appreciated.
5. To stay consistent is the key. The investment to build and sustain a brand is great. Even if people throw stones (and words), stick to your gun!
3. Throw money at the problem but do it with strategy. Work your yourmoney ezine
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