Hello friends and visitors to this blog! Hope you have been enjoying our interview series here? We are poised to feature the best in the blogosphere and the internet business world just to make sure you get value for your time and money.
Like always before, we are featuring yet another quality personality this week. Our guest is a business consultant who has been helping to deliver sinking businesses and giving clueless startups a reason to smile again. Gee Ranasinha is the CEO of KEXINO.COM, a marketing services company that is helping startups rise on their feet and make profits where they have been struggling. Gee is here to share his expert knowledge with us and keep us better informed on how to make our startups move ahead in the right direction. You can visit his site at your leisure time to say hello to him.
Qs: Welcome to Business Success Guide. Could you please introduce yourself?
Ans: Hello, I’m Gee Ranasinha and I’m the Founder and CEO of KEXINO, a marketing services company that specializes in helping start-ups and small-to-medium sized companies deliver effective customer experiences. Outside of work I’m a husband and father that loves photography, listening to music and playing jazz piano very badly!
Qs: How long have you been into online business?
Ans: I don’t really see KEXINO as an online business: we’re really just a business like any other but that just happens to be online. KEXINO is six years old.
Qs: What are the challenges faced with business startups, and how do you solve them?
Ans: Today we see that the rules of business, interaction, engagement, and service are being set by some of the biggest companies in the world. This has the knock-on effect of setting customer buying experience expectation levels for everyone else. Start-ups and small businesses need to set and shape their business value to a much higher level than ever before. There are a great many small companies with a great story to tell, but without the resources and expertise to deliver that narrative to their audience. That’s where we come in.
Qs: How did you start KEXINO? Any particular incident that informed your decision?
Ans: I was Worldwide Director of Marketing for a German software company, but after being there for seven years I felt that I wasn’t really moving forward in terms of career development, or self-satisfaction. At the same time I could see how the internet was beginning to shape buying decisions – but also how the biggest companies (with their big budgets) were pushing themselves to be front-of-mind with their target markets. I felt that there was a need for companies without the requirement (or budget) for full-time, top-drawer marketing and business development resources to be able to compete, due to the increasing importance of the customer relationship.
Qs: What has been responsible for the level of trust your clients have on you?
Ans: That’s easy: it’s our people. I’m very lucky to be able to work with a group of associates with whom I have total and unconditional trust. In return, we’re nothing less than totally (and sometimes brutally!) honest with our clients. We have to feel a similar level of passion for whatever the product or service being offered. If we don’t believe in our clients’ value proposition, then we don’t accept their business. We probably turn away 2-3 enquiries a month for this reason. We firmly believe in the McKinsey tenet that states “Engagements should only be taken when the value to the client exceeds the fee to the firm.”
Qs: What is your success rate at helping to revitalize dying businesses?
Ans: That depends on:
1) The state of the business when we’re first brought in;
2) The desire for change within every stakeholder associated with the business.
At the end of the day we’re not miracle workers: we cannot bring back the dead! Often the biggest challenge in having everyone accept that the current model isn’t working, and needs to be changed – regardless of how emotionally-attached they are to it.
Qs: How many of you own KEXINO, and how do you ensure its smooth running without frictions?
Ans: I’m the sole company shareholder, though honestly we don’t really run into too many internal disagreements since we all pretty much are aligned in terms of why we do what we do.
Qs: Do you have any specific types of businesses and startups you attend to?
Ans: Not really. We’ve worked with a lot of tech start-ups in Europe and the USA, but then we’ve also worked with finance companies, photographic studios, engineering companies, clothing manufacturers, printing companies – even not-for-profit organizations.
Qs: In your opinion, why do so many new businesses fail to make it?
• Hiring the wrong people. Attitude counts for far more than talent or experience.
• Spending money on things that you don’t need at the beginning.
• Not spending money on the things that you do need or (even worse) trying to do those things yourself to save money.
• Thinking that a great idea is enough as a business model, and that the world will beat a path to your door if you have a great product/service.
Qs: What are the basic things needed for startups to succeed?
• A clear vision. It’s not about doing 100 things that “aren’t that bad”, it’s about doing 1 thing to the very best of everyone’s ability.
• Everyone involved needs to be 100% emotionally invested with why the company exists.
• Being realistic on cashflow. However much you think things are going to cost, you’re going to be wrong.
• Be driven by metrics. You cannot improve it if you cannot measure it.
• Communicate often and be transparent with your team. If you can’t, then you’ve got the wrong team.
• Sell value, not product.
Qs: Do you have books in which you share your experiences, or any desire to write one soon?
Ans: I’d love to have the time to write a book, but I’m having too much fun doing what I do!
Qs: Do your services have a global reach or you are limited to a geographical location?
Ans: The company HQ is in Strasbourg, France but our clients are from all over the world. From San Diego CA to Canberra, Australia.
Qs: What and what amount to poor business marketing?
Ans: Talking at your audience, instead of with them.
Presenting yourself as a supplier, instead of a peer.
Thinking that the only reason that customers buy from you is because of price.
Qs: How important is social media to the survival of a new business?
Ans: Depends on the business – and your definition of where social media resides within a business framework. Businesses need to see social media as a corporate-wide responsibility, and not just a Marketing one. Why? Because customers see brands as a single, cohesive entity – rather than a company made up of various departments – and their needs cannot be addressed by a single division. Forget the channels – Facebook, Twitter, Google+, whatever. These are just the instruments. The true – and far bigger – opportunity is conversing, listening and connecting with customers (both new and existing) in realtime. It seems that few businesses truly see the value of such a device. Maybe it’s because business owners see social media as just being about social media channels (hint: it’s not) and, since it doesn’t cost “real money” to have a presence on the social web, the spoils can’t be worth much.
And that’s where we get stuck, and we end up with what we have now: Bolting-on shiny new social media initiatives onto tired, outdated (and increasingly irrelevant) marketing / sales / service methodologies that have pretty much remained unchanged for fifty years.
Qs: What is your greatest challenge online?
Ans: I assume you mean that of a start-up? For a start-up or small business, the greatest challenge is to first REACH their target audience, but then also to KEEP them. For example a start-up might have a fantastic website that gets lots of traffic. But if there’s nothing there for visitors to return, then they won’t. Since most people need to visit a site 6 or 7 times before taking the next step in the sales funnel, that’s an issue right there.
Qs: How soon should startups begin to expect real profits?
Ans: Again, it depends on the product/service, and business model. However as a general rule I would say that, as a startup, if you’re not generating revenue (though not necessarily being cash-positive, mind you) within 12-18 months then you should consider pivoting.
Qs: Do you have any special advice for those who are afraid to start a business?
Ans: Don’t think you’re on your own. You’re not. Never be afraid to ask for help.
Thanks Gee Ranasinha for granting our interview. God bless you.
Ans: You are most welcome. Many thanks for the opportunity.
End of interview
That was Gee Ranasinha! I hope you enjoyed the interview, and you have learnt something from it? Do you have any question for Gee Ranasinha? He would be much happy to assist you with your question or concerns. Please leave your questions or contributions in the comment box below.
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