Three requirements for business success: luck, tenacity and sailing close to the wind

Thirty by Thirty is a South African-based firm that provides customer experience management software and services, which creates a measuring framework for the sum of all experiences a customer has with company. Outside of South Africa, Thirty by Thirty has a customer base in Mozambique, Zambia and Nigeria, with further plans to expand across Africa and internationally.

Tim Matthis

Tim Matthis

The founder, Tim Matthis, is a serial entrepreneur who has recently made the finalist list for the 2013 Sanlam/Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year award. He shared his entrepreneurial experience and advice with How we made it in Africa.

Tell us about the inspiration for starting Thirty by Thirty Marketing.

I think that the true driver for most entrepreneurs starting a business is less often a specific passion for the industry they are entering, but rather an excitement about the reality of starting something of their own. This was certainly true for me. I felt, at the time of starting Thirty by Thirty, that I could see a gap in a market, something innovative in an industry which at the time I knew little about. However, the thrill of contributing to this space and creating a business in the process all delighted and stimulated me. I believe that entrepreneurship is as much a vocational calling as it is for someone who always knows that they want to be a doctor for instance. Real entrepreneurs are born that way.

As a serial entrepreneur, what do you consider to be entrepreneurial success?

To me this is simple. A business which you start and extricate yourself from is a success. If you can breathe life into a business and place competent custodians in it who can manage it and continue to grow it without your day to day involvement, you can call yourself a successful entrepreneur. At this stage, you have succeeded in creating value, employment and removed the single biggest risk to the business – yourself.

What’s your greatest fear as an entrepreneur?

Moving slowly. As an entrepreneur, one has to constantly grow and move, personally and in all facets of the specific business in question. There are times when the speed at which one wishes to move is constrained by various resource limitations or other extraneous forces. If an entrepreneur could move as quickly as he dreams the future, he would achieve truly great things. My fear of getting bogged down in urgent unimportant tasks, and the reality of it, is my biggest challenge.

Describe the potential you see for business in the rest of Africa.

One of the realities of Africa, north of the Limpopo, is that there is a mind-set of deference to providers from ‘the south’. This is both positive and negative, but it certainly creates an opportunity to deliver value. We will continue to grow our presence in Africa and look to expand our service, but also understand that it is a reality that the wheels sometimes turn more slowly when dealing with African companies. As a ‘smallish’ business, it is important to have a multipronged approach to which markets you enter. Africa is wonderful in that there is so much opportunity to delivery real value, but it’s also important to be cushioned from the long leads times that go hand in hand with working on the continent. As internet penetration in Africa increases, so too will the opportunities for our services.