SVA Holdings

Winner of the Sustainability Award for 2018, category for large enterprises

To be sustainable, differentiate yourself

About six years ago, SVA Holdings looked to the future and predicted that conventional security services would no longer form part of its strategic framework… Its response was to completely reinvent itself. The SVA of today has transformed into a Technology-based, Risk management and Asset Protection enabler and bears little resemblance to the company it used to be.

“We transformed from a conventional South African security business that only did physical guarding to a technology-based business with intellectual property that is patented in 43 countries,” says Derick Deyzel, Chief Commercial Officer.

It was a shift that was necessary to ensure the company’s longevity, he says. “To be sustainable, we had to differentiate ourselves from everyone else. As a technology-based risk management company that owns and controls our own IP, we have been able to do that.”

One of the company’s biggest strengths is through the application of its patented platform, Infoman, to help its clients identify, evaluate and mitigate through tangible corrective actions shortcomings and/or deficiencies within their supply chains and improve their legal and risk compliance.

For example, a major retail client was using manual inventory processes in all its stores, which was time-consuming and prone to error, not to mention fraud. “We forklifted their manual processes and automated them, speeding up the processes 10-fold and giving the entire line management “near “real-time visibility,” Derick says. The refined process created the operational visibility, allocated ownership and accountability but also empowered the client to test and measure the effectiveness of operational supply chain decision making, which was evidenced by analytical, source-based risk data.

SVA has mastered the art of analysing risk-related data to identify trends and weaknesses for clients to act on – and in some cases, make uncannily accurate predictions, he says. Today, certain of our clients have been able to predict shrink 2 years ahead with 99% accuracy.”

This is no idle claim: the financial statements of some of its clients for the past 4 years show that the stock level shrink predictions calculated through SVA’s Infoman platform have turned out to be precise.

While SVA’s transformation has clearly worked for its clients, and itself, there’ll be no resting on its laurels, Derick says. “To stay relevant, you’ve got to be dynamic. That’s one of the advantages of our technology platform. If we start with a process and close the loopholes, we swiftly move on to the next shortcoming within the supply chain and in so doing able to ensure Infoman’s relevance in years to come, as it may be today.

Accsys

Winner of the Sustainability Award for 2018, category for medium enterprises

The perils of depending on the next sale

Sign a new deal today; move on to the next deal tomorrow. The incessant search for the next sale keeps many business owners awake at night – and so it should. As long as the focus is on finding the next house to build, the next passenger to fly or the next restaurant meal to serve, sustainability will probably remain elusive.

Prospects for such businesses start looking even more precarious in a higher risk environment of the VUCA variety – volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity – like the one in which South Africa now finds itself.

“Right now, how do you run a business that can withstand the ups and downs? One way is to make sure that your income is not entirely dependent on new sales. To be a sustainable business, you need a stable line of income,” says Teryl Schroenn, CEO of payroll and HR software company Accsys.

For Accsys, which has been in business since 1981 (and a tt100 finalist and winner every year since 2006), that stable line of income comes from its ability to retain customers beyond the short term and so earn a mix of annuity and contract income.

Teryl explains.

“Why do people use companies like ourselves? Because our promise is that we’re going to keep you up to date with statutory requirements. Every time the Budget comes out, our clients have to comply with a new Tax Act, and they rely on our software to do that.”

Bear in mind that Accsys has clients in 19 African countries, which means keeping abreast of the tax and other payroll changes in all those countries.

“If we were not a sustainable business with a stable line of income – annuity income – it would be very difficult to keep on developing new stuff all the time while remaining financially stable.”

Sustainability is not, of course, just about the financial bottom line. “The triple bottom line is always important,” says Teryl. “You really cannot be an island. You do need to be part of an economic tribe and a social tribe. In Accsys’s case, this includes training and skills development for a wider circle than itself, while moving towards paperless operations and doing more recycling.

Such projects need not break the company budget, she adds. “If you can’t do the big things, do small things – everywhere.”

Air Blow Fans

Winner of the 2018 award for Sustainability, category for small enterprises

Sustainability starts with making changes – big and small

From behaviour change as small as putting on a jersey instead of switching on a heater to making design changes to the aerodynamics (and therefore energy efficiency) of its products, sustainability is a subject that comes naturally to engineering firm Air Blow Fans.

“A reduction in energy has a direct link to CO², as well as savings from lower power usage, and we have a history of energy efficiency,” says Gavin Ratner, the company’s managing member. “Much of our product range (of industrial-scale fans) is generally refurbished many times before they are beyond economic repair and the material is scrapped and sent back to steel manufacturers for inclusion as scrap materials into their processes.”

Through effective engineering, it’s possible to significantly reduce energy consumed, and therefore operating costs, he says. ”Using rotor designs that are more aerodynamic, we can improve the fan’s operating point on its fan curve to better suit the required system flows and pressures.”

These benefits appeal to many users of industrial fans – but by no means all.

“People tend not to like change and some are more risk averse than others. Mostly, when clients become conscious of the positive implications of the recommended change, such as greater energy efficiency and lower costs, they make the only decision that should be made – they change,” says Gavin. “Others will resist and want things left the way they are”

Flexibility and the willingness to explore and experiment are key in driving greater efficiency, which almost always means using resources more sustainably. This comes easily at Air Blow Fans. “I’m the quintessential engineer who loves tinkering,” says Gavin. “I’m not scared of change or the unknown; I enjoy pushing boundaries and trying new things.”

Where he has become something of a stickler is in discouraging energy-wasting practices such as keeping the heater on when you really don’t need it. “Put on a jersey,” says Gavin. “It sounds like a small thing that won’t make a great difference, but change starts with us. If more people started thinking along the same lines about how we use energy, it would make a difference.” Small things count!

SVA Innovate

Winner of the Sustainability award for 2018, category for emerging enterprises

Lessons in sustainability from yesterday, today and tomorrow

Learn from what happened yesterday but don’t use your rear-view mirror as the driving force.

Constantly check where you are on the S-Curve pattern of innovation and if your products are mostly approaching the top, make sure you are already starting again at the bottom with new ones.

Hire young, extremely talented, out-of-the box thinkers to turn your specifications into real, sellable products, and manage these young people extremely well.

These are some of the learnings that SVA Innovate has embedded in its business, enabling it to feed a steady stream of fresh, innovative and affordable new products and services to its parent company, SVA Holdings. Armed with these, SVA Holdings (itself a tt100 winner for Sustainability in 2018) can maintain the competitive edge it has in the governance and risk management market.

“Business sustainability means not sitting on our laurels and expecting what we did yesterday to be good enough for today,” says Lee McFadyen, group technology executive at SVA Innovate. “At any given time, we have at least five new products in development.”

This is not simply a case of churning out new products but about delivering products that disrupt the market, Lee says.

An example is SVA Innovate’s stocktaking solution, which can predict stock take results two years ahead, with 99% accuracy. “Walmart came back to us and said we were spot on,” says Lee.

One of the five or so new products that the company is currently working on is a new technology solution for retail stores battling to deal with in-store crime. The physical presence of security guards is no longer enough of a deterrent and smart technology is increasingly filling the gap.

“All businesses say they want to use technology but having a computer is one thing; employing technology is another,” says Lee, adding that many companies see technology as a “forced purchase” instead of a tool that can significantly improve their risk and governance processes – affordably.

“We don’t spend a lot on developing our solutions; actually, we operate on a limited budget and deliver products at very reasonable prices, having developed a stable framework over the past 4 years helps us in achieving this,” he says. To a large extent, this is possible because the company makes a point of hiring people with a can-do attitude who don’t demand expensive equipment to deliver. “They don’t have an 8-to-5 mindset and lack of technology is not an obstacle to them; they think differently and find a way to make it happen.”

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