By Jo Timbuong
As Featured in The Star, TechCentral
No matter how mature a business is, it can always use a helping hand to push it along to greater heights.
Proficeo's Coach and Grow programme does exactly that and it aims to be more than just another how-to guide. Instead of tapping well-known business personalities to become silent mentors to growing companies, Proficeo takes experienced businessmen to help coach companies.
"A coach does not need to be the best player, just a good motivator," said Renuka Sena, a consultant who is known as the chief explorer at Proficeo.
Proficeo also doesn't believe in following text-books to the T and places more emphasis on working experience. "Entrepreneurs help entrepreneurs. Not academicians," Renuka said.
The programme is headed by Cradle Fund Sdn Bhd and conducted by Proficeo and is open to any business where IT is its core model.
In the first run last year, 135 companies were split into four classes - Preseed, growth, global and pre-IPO - indicating the stage of their business life cycle.
Success in stages
Each class has a specific goal to achieve.
At the Pre-seed level, busineses are tasked to identify their value proposition and select the right revenue and business models. Businesses in the growth stage need to find ways to achieve a 20% revenue increase from their last financial year.
Those that want to tackle the global market are tasked to identify and make plans to bring their products and services into those markets while those preparing for Pre-IPOs need to ensure that they have all their chips in a block before making that giant leap.
The Coach and Grow programme goes by the class system because Cradle and Proficeo do not believe in a one size fits all formula.
"Many programmes tend to lump all businesses together but companies face different challenges at different stages of they lifecycle," Renuka explained. Previously, businesses could decide on which class to join based on self-assessment of their business. However, many didn't have a clear idea on which stage they belonged to, resulting in Proficeo changing the process in the 2013/2014 academic year. "We will assess them by asking them a few questions and putting them together with their peers," Renuka said.
And just like the nostalgic classroom days, businesses in the programme are given homework to help them get to know their strength and weaknesses.
There's no teacher to punish them for being tardy with homework but it will slow down their growth process, Renuka said.
To ensure that they are on the right track, coaches meet the players at their offices to understand the company better and together figure out ways to bring the business to where it wants to be.
"Coaches can share their experience and offer them advice on tried and tested methods. It is then up to the company to take the next step," she said.
Class of its own
Two entrepreneurs that went through the programme are glad they did and view it more as a support group where entrepreneurs can share their experience and learn from one another rather than just another class. Edwin Tay, CEO and co-founder of university directory, EasyUni, which helps students and parents find the right university said that it is thanks to the Coach and Grow programme that he was able to identify key markets to expand into.
"The entrepreneurs in my batch had hopes of expanding our business globally and we had different problems like getting market access and planning the right strategy. We supported each other and traded knowledge and we realised that this support group supplemented the advice we got from our coaches," he said.
Tay said 450,000 people are using his site to help them make up their minds on which university to enrol to and it is already a popular name among users in Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore.
Another entrepreneur, Ooi Boon Sheng CEO of Web Bytes Sdn Bhd, got to understand his company better as well as the processes that would make stronger and more agile. Ooi's main product is a cloud-based retail management system called Xilnex which he and his then university mates (now colleagues) developed when they took part in Microsoft's student technology competition, Imagine Cup. Although the Imagine Cup gave them their first taste of technopreneurship, they realised they weren't fully prepared for the intricacies of the business world. "We had Xilnex out for a year and although we were lucky to have customers, we didn't have a proper direction. We thought, as long as we were making money, we'll be alright," he said.
However, their coach helped them with the company's direction and even changed their lackadaisical attitude towards account keeping to help them plan their finances and business expansions better.
"Before that, I never took much interest in accounting but thanks to the coach, we learnt that it is a measurement to see how healthy our company is growing," he said. Ooi and Tay appreciated that the programme did not eat into their work time. "The homework given can be part of the business process. We apply what we learn immediately," Tay said.
For more information on the Coach and Grow programme, go to www.cradle.com.my/coach-and-grow-programme.