Thabo Tabohane is the owner of All Shades Trading Solutions, an industrial and commercial cleaning business in Ekurhuleni, Johannesburg. There are about 100 other cleaning companies in the area jostling for a piece of the same pie. After five years in business, he must be doing something right. He gave us six useful tips to stand out in a crowded market.
Thabo said: “Look at different business models in your industry, test the market and understand why some worked and why others didn’t. Test your skills as well and educate yourself in the areas where you are lacking – whether that’s in finance or HR. Persevere at this stage and it will pay dividends when your business is taking off. Your systems and processes also need constant evaluation; don’t be afraid to change something that is not working, even if you have invested time and money in it. You will save in the long term.” Remember, owning a business is a marathon, not a sprint. Understanding this will give you the stamina to stay ahead of the pack.
The reason why you started your business sets you apart from the competition. Thabo first became aware of the unfair treatment of workers in the cleaning industry when his mother was a domestic worker. The day his mother retired, all she was given was her last salary – there was no medical aid or pension, and no option for upskilling. This made him want to change the way this industry treated its workers. When Thabo told his story, clients connected with him and it resonated with other businesses as well.
There is a link between successful businesses and strong branding. Your brand is unique to your business and should reflect your goals and image; in other words, it is the customer’s perception of your business. Your logo is an important part of the branding; it needs to be professional and easily recognisable. When Thabo designed his logo, he wanted his clients to immediately know what his business was about and he wanted it to represent the myriad of services he offers. But Thabo also recognised that his brand is more than a logo and has hired a marketing team to develop a digital strategy to attract new clients.
You must do something different in a crowded industry. Thabo did two: he provides an environmentally friendly cleaning service and he goes the extra mile with his clients. His customer service is so good that he has repeat customers and still services his first client: Nampak. Impressive indeed. “I believe in under-promising and over-delivering. My clients are always so surprised and happy, they tell others about me and my customer base grows.” Today he has large clients like Coca Cola, Nestle, and Consol.
Look for companies that offer services related to your business and which have a similar work ethic, says Thabo. Work out a referral system, share advertising costs and advertise on each other’s websites. It’s a win-win situation for all businesses.
Sir Richard Branson said: “Employees come first. If you take care of the employees, they will take care of the clients.” Thabo agrees: “Happy and motivated employees help build a successful business. My employees are my greatest assets and I treat them well: I maintain a positive work environment, provide incentives and training. This inspires them to provide the highest level of customer service and keeps customers coming back. This approach works because the employees who were with me when I first started the business are still with me today. It’s my own happy circle.”
In May 2018, Thabo and All Shades caught the attention of the SAB Foundation Tholoana Programme and was selected from more than 2000 applicants to participate in the enterprise development initiative. He has benefitted from all the tools and skills offered on the programme and is now looking forward to taking his business to the next level.
About All Shades:
All Shades Trading Solutions provides a range of cleaning services including industrial and office cleaning, hygiene services and more recently garden services. Call them on 078 882 1643 or email firstname.lastname@example.org