How did you identify an opportunity in the market for your services?
There was a huge gap in the market at the time for hardware maintenance on a contract basis, particularly for scanning devices. Companies were using equipment they knew nothing about – if a scanner broke, they simply bought a new one. Where equipment was being repaired, it was often offsite for more than six weeks. I had to come up with a different solution, so I created what I refer to as a motor plan for scanners, based on the fact that if you spread your risk, you reduce it. The business model requires companies to buy from us and pay annually, in advance, for parts and consumables. In terms of our service level agreement we either repair or replace the product. In this business, consumables like pads and rollers are expensive to buy, so we started manufacturing our own. Clients do not have to concern themselves about original equipment, as we guarantee all parts and labour. We have built a highly successful business based on annuity income,which means we never have cash flow problems.
Where did you find start-up capital?
From month one we made a profit, so we did not need additional finance.
Can you identify what your big break was?
Our first client was Standard Bank,followed by Momentum. At the time I had no experience in this business, but I believe that if you surround yourself with capable people you can do anything. When the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) asked for a document management demo, I consulted with experts in Ireland, and we ended up taking the business to a whole new level.Life must be dynamic. The ability to change is the mark of the true entrepreneur. As far as employees are concerned, I employ people who work at100% capacity. I make sure I get the best out of my team and I reward them accordingly. Rather invest money in good people than employ staff you do not need.
What was your sales strategy?
I am a born salesperson, and I don’t believe in plans or strategies. I’ve never done a marketing plan or a budget.I’ve also never set a target – targets can be motivating, but they can also bring you down. I never take clients out to lunch. People are innately suspicious, so I don’t want to buy them anything. My relationships with clients are entirely business focused. That way, we maintain absolute trust. On the service side, we have never once failed on a service level agreement or been late for a call. Our service is unrivalled and the business is driven by passion.That is the best possible sales tool.
Growth strategy – what has it been and what it is now?
After massive growth initially, I turned my attention to consolidating the business and identifying areas that were supposedly beyond our control, like the cost of consumables. I took so many risks in the beginning that I wanted to consolidate the offering. Today we are talking to the top 80 companies in the country.
What was the biggest obstacle you faced?
Myself. When you make a mistake that causes your whole life to go to hell, you have to work hard to regain the confidence to make decisions again. Goal setting is often totally misunderstood – people plan their holidays better than their lives. It’s important to have goals that are worthwhile, achievable, quantifiable and located within a certain time frame.
The Greatest Miracle in the World and The Return of the Rag Picker by Og Mandino. Don’t buy books that tell you how to run your business – all they give you is a formula so you can do what everyone else does. To achieve success you have to be a bit of a maverick; you have to take a different approach.
A salesperson is always unemployed after the last sale.