Bright star-maker unlocks potential

Bev Hancock from Kamva Leadership Institute provides training to public speakers, business leaders and employees
Bev Hancock from Kamva Leadership Institute provides training to public speakers, business leaders and employees
Image: Supplied

She started the Kamva Leadership Institute in 1999 out of the necessity to support her family. Almost 20 years later, Bev Hancock is a proud star-maker, training public speakers, business leaders and employees alike to unlock their own potential.

Can you give me some background on how the business began?

I am not a natural entrepreneur.

I originally started the business in 1999 when I became a single mom with the prospect of putting my two young boys through school at Grey High, and knowing that there was no way I could do that on a secretary’s salary.

Without any formal tertiary education, I looked at the two things I could do, which was marketing and working with computers.

Damelin offered me a fulltime position in academic management and later a position as national sales development manager, where I discovered my real passion for coaching and development.

On leaving Damelin, I relaunched my business as a leadership development consultancy and studied coaching first at UCT Graduate School and later a got a second master’s degree in management coaching at Stellenbosch, where I was able to combine my love of coaching and technology in my research.

I later found my niche and I scaled down the business to focus on the power of conversational intelligence in communication strategies, team performance and organisational strategy and culture.

What is your core service?

My role is to facilitate the conversations that really count in the boardroom, training room or on the conference stage.

On stage, I invite the audience to participate in the conversation and provide valuable feedback, through interactive presentations and consulting with conference organisers to maximise the quality of interaction at their event, using conversational design and interactive technology.

In an organisation, I facilitate the conversations that build strategy and culture to unlock the potential of the team to create the best employee and customer experience, through team-thinking sessions, master classes, team and individual coaching.

Where was the idea born?

At my very essence I see myself as a star-maker rather than a star, so I was naturally drawn to people development.

I started the business out of necessity but I now have the luxury of focusing on my true purpose, which is to prepare leadership for the future world of work.

The core of my current business idea was born out of the research I did on the impact of the mega-trends in the Fourth Industrial Revolution on leaders and the people and society they serve.

I believe that we need leaders who are purpose driven and believe that people matter beyond the bottom line.

They understand that the digital age is balancing both technology and people priorities, and great leadership requires trust, commitment, accountability, innovation and collaboration.

This new culture is built one relationship, one conversation at a time.

What makes your business unique?

I make it unique. My unique combination of skills, experience and deep commitment to learning, and the people I serve is impossible to replicate.

What are some of the biggest inhibitors your business faced at the start?

My biggest inhibitor has been that I don’t like chocolate box offerings. I prefer to do bespoke design so that I can cocreate the best solution for every client.

My biggest personal inhibitor was recognising that as a business owner, it is my role to generate business. I can remember in the first few days of my business, staring at the phone with absolute dread knowing I had to pick it up and make contact with potential clients. I have had to learn to sell and to do it effectively.

What are some of the best practices that have made your business successful?

Building strong relationships based on trust and delivery. I always strive to give more than I am paid for, and believe in sharing knowledge and wisdom.

I am relentless in giving my clients the best possible experience and prefer to journey with them. A once-off event is never as effective.

What are some of your highlights in running your business?

I wake up every morning and do what I love. I am privileged to work with top thought leaders, which means I am continually stretched and have rich opportunities for creative development. I have all the energy and drive of Johannesburg and come home to the quiet energy of Port Elizabeth, with exceptional clients in both places.

How important is social media and an online presence for your business?

It is vital, as I believe it is for any business. However, I have learnt to use it more strategically. So much of what we do online is just activity with little return on investment.

I am focusing less on broadcasting messages and more on developing relationships that can be taken offline. From this approach I already have three appointments set up in London.

Do you have any plans for expanding the business, and how would you go about this?

Expand, no – scale, yes. Through strategic partnering with the Unique Speaker Bureau I have access to an amazing team and a collaborative group of professional speakers who are on the cutting edge of their industry. Together we are expanding the global market with our first showcase and exhibition in London in September, where I will be showcasing two master classes.

Locally, we are taking a new MasterClass offering to the market. I commute between Port Elizabeth and Johannesburg and now have an office in both towns.

Once you had funding, what was the first step in actually launching the business?

You don’t have to wait for funding to start your business. Rather look for ways to generate the initial seed funding you need to get going. I had no option but to hit the ground running. I focused on three things: acquiring business, developing a product offering and building relationships through extensive networking.

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned from your business journey?

Find your niche and focus your resources on building that relentlessly. We dilute our power when we try to take on too much. Focus on what you’re good at and what you are passionate about, and find other people to complement you with their strengths.

In your experience, what is the best way to motivate staff?

Find ways to incentivize the right behaviour and results. If you can give employees the opportunity to benefit from going the extra mile, they will do this consistently.

Once money is off the table, focus on purpose, mastery and autonomy. Let them feel they are part of a bigger purpose and that what they do contributes to that purpose. Provide ways for them to demonstrate mastery, support them with skills development and find ways for them to implement their learning.

Tips for budding entrepreneurs:

Get into the driver’s seat of your business. Too many entrepreneurs are putting their business success in the hands of others. You have it within you to make a success of your business with what you have now. Just do it!

Focus on what you are good at and find strategic partners to complement what you do. Strategic partnering brings together the best resources only when they are needed, and provides the capacity to take on bigger projects.