Understanding the ‘Coombs Clock’


Prominent Cape Town business facilitator Lizelle Coombs employs a learning strategy she calls the “Coombs Clock”.

“Think about to what age you would like to live, subtract your current age from that number, and multiply that by 365. That is how many days you have left on earth,” she says.

“The intention of the Coombs Clock is not to make you depressed. Rather, it is a reminder that you can’t have your time back, so don’t get embroiled in what other people say about you or worry about the little things. Make your time count.”

Ms Coombs, who works extensively with micro enterprises and develops training programmes for business incubators, was the keynote speaker at an Absa corporate breakfast in Claremont last week, where she explained the finer points of marketing to guests at the Kaleidoscope Cafe.

The charismatic Fish Hoek-based entrepreneur is renowned for her entertaining training exercises, and from the outset did not disappoint as she talked audience members through the so-called “pig test”, used to identify different personality types.

Those people who drew a pig standing on all fours, complete with tail, were said to be well-grounded and stable in their decision-making processes, while those who only drew the pig’s face looking straight on were said to be more direct and confident in their approach.

“Those of you who drew the pig with more than four legs, well … I have a different workshop for that,” she quipped to much laughter from the audience.

Humour aside, Ms Coombs emphasised the importance of understanding people in marketing, and how social media and digital campaigns could be used in their future endeavours.

“You have to understand who your client is first before you send out advertising or bombard them with emails,” she said.

“Networking is very important. In 10 to 15 seconds you can figure out exactly what a person is interested in. Consequently you need to talk to people, even if you are shy. You have to remember that sales are made on the emotional level, and that is all about establishing who the people you hope to sell to, are.”

Importantly, a business owner had to ensure their selling proposition was unique, she said.

“The only thing unique about your product is you, especially these days. Research has shown that it takes another person seven or eight times to remember who you are, so you had better make sure your call to action is different, and stands out.”

On points of social media, Ms Coombs asked the audience to consider that the world’s biggest platforms – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Airbnb and Uber — essentially owned nothing but still were worth billions of dollars.

“They don’t own the homes they rent out or the vehicles used as taxis, in the examples of Airbnb and Uber, but they do own the platforms, which shows the influence they have. Studies have shown that today, 71 percent of people would buy items online, and you need to tap into that market as business owners.”

Entrepreneurs, she said, needed to pay close attention to the group known as “digital natives” – the people under the age of 25 who have grown up with digital technology.

“You have to look after this group, by learning how you talk to them. It is not just about selling the product, you have to show your human side in your Facebook posts. Post interesting photographs or something human about your company. You should also look at what leaders in your industry are doing. My mentor, (Pick * Pay’s) Raymond Ackerman told me there is nothing wrong with borrowing ideas from others to make your business a success.”

However, it was essential that social media platforms were updated regularly.

“You should post something interesting at least five times a week, otherwise you are going to get left behind. You should also be very aware of what’s going on in the world at all times, as speaking to an issue that resonates with others gives you credibility. Remember though, you have to be very certain that what you post is correct, as posting the wrong information can be a disaster. As I always say, ‘Google before you tweet’.