BrightRock's 5 Entrepreneurial Tips For Start-ups

Schalk Malan, co-founder and executive director, shares five tips that he says were instrumental to BrightRock's success thus far.

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After six years in business, needs-matched life insurance player BrightRock is widely regarded as the fastest growing player in its segment. By the end of 2017, they have achieved an annualised premium income of of over R1.1 billion and a year-on-year growth of 62%, relative to the industry’s growth of 8%. Schalk Malan, co-founder and executive director, shares five tips that he says were instrumental to BrightRock’s success thus far:

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1. Get the right people together

It all starts with a shared goal to make a difference – in our instance, we shared a vision to change the life insurance industry through a unique, needs-matched product that would make BrightRock stand out from the crowd. We ensure that this vision is embedded in the actions of each and every one of our employees by encouraging a collaborative and entrepreneurial spirit, which in turn continues to enable us to drive the business forward.

2. Always put your clients’ interests first or build products that really create value for your clients

We put clients’ interests first by designing a product that tracks the changes in clients’ financial needs over time, so they pay only for the cover they actually need. It’s more cost-efficient and sustainable, because we strip out wasted cover to deliver premium savings. In doing so, we also create more value for our clients. But it’s not just the product that puts clients’ interests first:

By communicating our cover in simple, plain language without intricate terminology and clauses, our clients are empowered to understand what they signed up for. This principle of client-centric design can be applied in any business.

3. Play on a differentiated playing field: Stand out from the crowd, create your own niche

BrightRock operates in a competitive and well-established market, so we understood we couldn’t compete if we simply did things the way they’d always been done. We created our own playing field with new rules, where we differentiate what we do in every facet of our business. This is done on various levels – from our highly advanced product and systems architecture; to having the best claims definitions in the market; to offering a high touch; personal claims experience; personalised documentation; various initiatives offering support for independent financial advice; to our content-led consumer marketing strategy.

4. There will be twists and turns, no new business perfectly follows the original business plan

Any successful entrepreneur will tell you that you will need to constantly adapt and make changes to your business plan to stay at the top of your game. This needs to be done without compromising on the reasons why you started your business. One of many examples of this in the BrightRock story is that we originally had envisaged a Johannesburg-based head office. These days, we have a large contingent of our staff based in Port Elizabeth – delivering cost efficiencies and service improvement to our servicing model, much to the benefit of our clients.

5. Never give up

In the beginning of any new venture, it is hard because many people doubt you. We were told we were nuts to leave successful careers to start something new and take on the big boys. That doubt can be crippling if you let it be. You’re constantly watching the cash flow and new business numbers and need to recruit and motivate people based on a promise of what the business will become. There will be many sleepless nights and dark-hours-of-the-morning butterflies-in-the-stomach, but just keep going – your perseverance will eventually pay off.

Brightrock

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BrightRock was started around a dining room table in 2011 by a group of people with an entrepreneurial streak and a burning desire to change our industry for good – for the better, sustainably. Their aim? To create a new type of life insurance that would give clients and financial advisers the tools to co-create a solution that precisely meets their individual needs – even when those needs change. They entered the independent, intermediated risk insurance market in 2012, offering needs-matched life insurance cover that is uniquely structured to match clients’ life insurance needs very precisely at the outset and change as their needs change over time.

BrightRock has grown rapidly since then, and is the fastest-growing player in its sector, a position it has maintained for the past number of years. BrightRock also operates in the life assistance market, where it provides underwriting management services to funeral parlour businesses around South Africa. They entered the group risk insurance market in May 2018, allowing BrightRock to extend its world first needs-matched approach to employee risk benefits. 

BrightRock enjoys strong backing from its shareholders. Its majority shareholder, Sanlam, is a leading financial services group listed on the Johannesburg and Namibian Stock Exchanges. The Lombard insurance group is a leader in specialist risk insurance, operating in the construction, customs, fuel guarantees, mining rehabilitation guarantees and credit insurance markets. 

BrightRock is headquartered in Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth, with regional hubs in the major centres of Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban, Bloemfontein and Cape Town, and a national distribution footprint through more than 4 000 independent financial advisers. BrightRock Life is an authorised financial services provider and registered insurer. (FSP 11643, Company Registration No: 1996/014618/06).