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Does a “Juggerniche” Really Exist?

Is it truly possible to reengineer and realign a corporate mindset to operate in a digital environment that requires innovation and responsiveness to market dynamics at speed? INN8’s CEO, Mickey Gambale, takes a look.
5 min read

Vusi Thembekwayo explains the term juggerniche very effectively: “The juggerniche is the organisation of the future. It has large capital to deploy but small focused nimble teams to deliver strategy.”

In principle, this idea is a powerful one that makes complete sense, but how realistic is it in implementation? Over the last few years, I’ve been an entrepreneur in a large corporate environment, trying to deliver innovation at speed with scale – the nature of a start-up. Fundamentally though, the principles of a start-up are very different from those of a large corporate – in fact, in many ways, they are polar opposites.

The question then is this: is it truly possible to reengineer and realign a corporate mindset to operate in a digital environment that requires innovation and responsiveness to market dynamics at speed? Can we retain our advantage of scale, while still acting like a start-up?

I believe at INN8 we may just have accomplished this. We form part of a large group, but we behave and act like the little guy. We are hungry for every piece of business and stretch ourselves in everything that we do to ensure we are continually pushing the boundaries of what is possible. We challenge the status quo and keep asking “why not?”. Getting to this point has been no mean feat and is the result of many a late night.

So, how did we do it?

1. Our people at the heart of our design

Our business model is designed with our clients at the centre of our operating model. However, to ensure that we deliver on our desired customer experience we have worked really hard to place our people at the centre of our business.

Getting the environment right is critical and that includes the culture as well as the physical environment. Never underestimate the power of ensuring your teams have the right space, tools and leadership aligned to your culture. No – it isn’t about foosball tables. It is about creating a space where people feel empowered and confident to share ideas, challenge the status quo, and know-how valued they are as a member of the team.

The lesson? Focus on your people and they will focus on your clients, which, in turn, will, in turn, deliver the profitability results.

2. With a clear vision, you empower autonomy

At INN8, I like to lead with a concept known as mission command: we create alignment at scale by empowering our staff, make our intent clear, and leave our teams to deliver on it. Our organisational value system creates the framework within which innovation thrives and the teams operate. Our values are the guiding principles of how the teams deliver.

It’s impossible for one person to understand all aspects of the business, and as a CEO this is one of the most important lessons I have had to learn – but when you surround yourself with smart people, you don’t need to know everything.

We have some really clever people here at INN8, so it’s my job as the CEO to ensure they have the autonomy to spread their wings, use those skills to solve problems and deliver the goods we are looking for as a business. It’s their job to deliver on that intent and they, not me, know best how to make that happen.

3. Responsive rigour

A values-based framework geared for delivery and not bureaucracy is critical. To ensure that this discipline of “learn fast fail quickly” / “get up and get it right” works in a complex operating system, the right tools are critical to be able to make good decisions.

Aligning goals, agreeing to the delivery timeframes, and then having the discipline to stick to these principles ensures that everyone has the autonomy to deliver. However, you can’t leave these timeframes to be months – especially when conditions are uncertain (this stops teams ’boiling the ocean” so to speak). Chunking up the delivery into smaller manageable bite sizes with smaller time frames ensures alignment. If things are going wrong, the team can respond quickly and correct course before significant deviation.

This is where the right tools ensure that everyone has sight of projects and initiatives and, at a glance, can ensure alignment or catch that ball. Responsive rigour without bureaucracy.

4. Chief cook and bottle washer

While INN8 may be part of a bigger group, we think big and act small. Running a business like an entrepreneur means being lean and agile, with a sense of urgency. Everyone needs a chief-cook-and-bottle-washer mentality.

Gone are the days of resting on a corporate chequebook or waiting for another department to do it; we treat every client as our only client, and resource as if it were our own business. It’s amazing the innovation that happens when you are treating every rand as your own and knowing how far you must make it stretch. This has enabled us to deliver our business at a start-up budget.

5. Define your tribe

If you truly want to run a juggerniche – thinking big and acting small – where every client matters and you pioneer change in your industry then you need to do one more thing: define why you exist, who you are, and who your target market is! Why you exist and who you are defines the kind of tribe you are going to attract both as staff and as clients.

At INN8 we exist to do one thing, and that’s to change the way investments are done.

The stereotypical view of the investment industry is of a bunch of investment specialists, actuaries and product developers in suits and ties peddling the black art of investing. To “change the way investments are done” means we need to be different.

You see, for us our tribe consists of different smart people, people like you and me, with skills and knowledge, and who are not afraid to push the impossible into possible. People who want to ask why not; who quite simply want to change the way things have always been done.

By aligning our team to our reason for being, we are going to attract clients – our tribe – who also want to change the way things are done. By leveraging the passion of a few with a start-up mindset backed by the scale of a large organisation, an entire industry can change. That’s the power of a juggerniche.

So, to answer the question is a “juggerniche” possible – yes! With a clear vision, passionate people, the right tools, and innovative cultural framework, yes, it is.

However, you will need a great deal of stamina and staying power and remember to always ask yourself “is what we are doing aligned to our reason for being?”.

Written by

Mickey Gambale

Mickey Gambale

Mickey has built up his business experience over the last 20 years. He has been there, and done that, with a cupboard full of proverbial t-shirts to show for it – from starting a micro-lending and E-commerce business to being an executive at corporate level.

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