Air Blow Fans

Air Blow Fans

Winner of the Excellence in the Management of People award for 2018, category for small enterprises

Our adjudicator Kenneth Mabilisa shares with us their experience of Air Blow Fans

How to use people’s strengths and avoid unproductive personality clashes

It takes different personalities and talents to build an effective, cohesive team but if the individuals in the team don’t understand each other’s differences, tension can result. Air Blow Fans has found a way to get the most out of a diverse bunch of people so that they complement rather than frustrate each other.

It starts with recognising the value that different personalities and viewpoints bring and, conversely, the dangers of attempting to stamp a culture of clone-like uniformity on business, says Gavin Ratner, managing member.

“If everyone was like me, the place would fall apart. It takes all types to be successful,” he says, explaining: “I’m not a detail person at all but my sales manager is extremely detailed. He knows it’s not personal and that he has to make sure I give him everything he needs to do his job properly. We understand each other.”

That understanding is not based on telepathy or even years of working together. It stems from the conscious effort that Air Blow Fans makes to ensure its people are aware of each other’s different personalities and how to work together productively despite – or perhaps because of – those differences.

The company uses professional personality profilers to interview each and every team member and then consolidate the results on a group graph that shows the team’s collective strengths and weaknesses, as well as the personality dynamics at play.

“We also use profiling before we hire anyone to make sure there is the right fit between the person and the position. If the position needs detail, then the person filling the position must have detail,” says Gavin. “As Jim Collins said, you must get the right people on the bus in the rights seat before you decide where the bus is going.”

With the right people on board, in the right positions, they tend to get on with the job – and with each other. “It means you don’t have to manage people,” he says. “Technology is simple and intuitive and growing the business is the easy part. People management is the hardest thing in business. It takes just one bad apple to create turmoil and dissension.”

The company doesn’t claim to have all the answers but, judging from its staff turnover, it’s doing something right. “We lost one person two years ago and we have grown, gaining three people in the past year,” Gavin says. “Understanding each other’s personalities helps me and others to interact well. It makes things a lot simpler.”



Winner of the Excellence in the Management of People award for 2018, category for emerging enterprises

Our adjudicator Dr Mthandazo Ncube shares with us their experience of Passion4Performance.

Free to make mistakes and accountable for fixing them

On a good day, the only person you can control is yourself, so attempting to control anyone else is futile. Rather let people manage themselves, have the freedom to make mistakes and be held accountable for their actions and decisions.

This is the essence of people management at online learning assessment company Passion4Performance – and while it might sound simple, it’s anything but.

“Our culture limits us in terms of who can work for us. It’s really difficult to find people who can work this way. At school and in their studies, people are not taught to think. Then they come here and have this freedom, and it’s very uncomfortable,” says Darryn Van Den Berg, founder and Visionary MD of Passion4Performance.

The uncomfortable part is that there are only two golden rules for the company’s employees. “First, you must be able to ask if you don’t know. Second, you must know if you are about to drop a ball,” says Darryn. “Our culture is that if you drop the ball, you have to pick it up.”

In other words, it’s all about consequences and accountability. “We have lots of conversations about our culture and we tend to dive into the consequences, and this is causing the uncomfortable conversations to become closer to the norm.”

Darryn recalls the time he and a young developer went to pitch for a large contract from a prospective client. “This youngster saw me as the boss and he would never say “no” if I asked him to complete a task. He said he could do the job we were pitching for and we took the risk that he could. On the pitch day, we took him with the potential client but the work was not completed and the pitch fell apart. Holding him accountable in front of the client to fix the challenges – as we were experiencing them.”

After the experience of having to explain his misjudgement to the client, this particular employee was no longer a people pleaser. “Immediately, he started saying no,” says Darryn. “Micromanaging is easy but I’m a firm believer that people must manage themselves. As far as possible, we try to create an environment where people set their own goals and targets and make their own decisions. We like people to be free from fear to make mistakes, ask for help and pick up the balls they drop.”



Netstar were the tt100 2018 winner of the Excellence in the Management of Technology award, for large enterprises.

Our adjudicator Ann Naicker shares with us their experience of Netstar, a subsidiary of Altron.

Pressing the accelerator on innovation-led business 

Slow and steady doesn’t always win the race. To survive in today’s highly competitive environment, organisations need to be more agile and innovative. A key driver in boosting such a culture is fuelled by a willingness to invest in research and development, as well as the ability to learn from previous wins and potholes along the way.

For many years, Netstar’s basic business has been stolen vehicle recovery, and a solid business it is. Today it is also a driving force in Asset Tracking and Insurance Telematics.  

“Netstar, a subsidiary of Altron, delivers innovation that matters”, says Pierre Bruwer, Group Managing Director for Netstar. “One of our key strategic objectives is to grow our market share within the IoT and Data Analytics space. With Netstar’s Insurance Telematics, insurance companies can now perform accurate driver behaviour analysis allowing them to manage their risk more effectively. Both solutions rely on our IoT and Data Analytics platforms”, he continued.

 The automotive industry is multi-layered and offers an array of business opportunities.

“Netstar provides protection to over 700 000 vehicles and have recovered in excess of 80 000 stolen and hijacked vehicles,” says Quintin de Kok, cloud solutions architect at Netstar. “Every day, our devices stream between 250 million and 300 million messages to our insurance clients – some of whom base their whole insurance model on the data we provide.”

Usage-based insurance is one of the fastest-growing data-driven trends. This is where drivers are rewarded or penalised according to their driving behaviour.

Giving drivers incentives to drive better

“According to an analysis we did for one large company, the behaviour score of drivers who were incentivised improved by 4% to 5% on average, and 17% more had a 100% score,” Quintin says. “Incentivised drivers drove better than those who knew their score but were not incentivised and those who did not know their score and were not incentivised.”

Netstar has been making major inroads into the user-based insurance market on the strength of a combination of factors including: the huge number of Netstar devices installed in South African cars, its highly scalable technology platform, the ability to attract and retain top technology skills and their strong investment in R&D.

“We are constantly investing in new technology, spending 3.6% of our annual turnover on Research and Development,” Pierre says. “Our technology strategy is tied to our business strategy of improving revenue growth, profitability and customer experience, as well as employee excellence. To this end, we have entered into new markets in terms of our local technology offering and global presence. Our Asset Tracking solutions allow our customers to monitor more than just vehicles, but their high value possessions as well.”

Cycling is a growing sport in South Africa with cyclists on expensive bicycles becoming easy targets for criminals.  To help foil them, Netstar has partnered with CycleSense to offer cyclists a tracking and recovery solution for their bicycles. A first in the South African market. 

Further to local technology growth, Netstar recently entered the Indian car market.

“As stated in McKinsey’s July 2018 report profiling India’s passenger-vehicle market, the country is predicted to become the world’s third-largest passenger-vehicle market by 2021; and we intend on maximizing this opportunity from both a consumer and commercial perspective.”, Pierre concludes. There’s little chance that Netstar will be pressing the brakes any time soon.



Accsys were the tt100 2018 winner of the Excellence in the Management of Technology award, for medium enterprises.

Our adjudicator Marilze Schwar shares with us their experience of Accsys.

Six out of six is hard to beat

Talk about making a clean sweep. Payroll and people management company Accsys entered six tt100 award categories in 2018 and walked away with all six, including excellence in the management of technology.

“We were surprised,” admits CEO Teryl Schroenn. This is not because Accsys is a newcomer to winning awards – it received one tt100 award in 2017 and four in 2016 – but rather because it had just emerged from a challenging period.

Transaction Capital acquired Accsys in December 2017 after it had spent several years in the Telkom/BCX fold. “As a subsidiary, we had been hampered by corporate restrictions and it was only quite recently that we felt we were back on track,” says Teryl.

Six tt100 awards seem to confirm that, but truth be told, Accsys’s business and technology model is built for resilience across short-term wobbles. As payroll veterans who have seen more change than most, Teryl and her COO Cathie Webb know that nothing is more important to people than their salaries. Being paid the right amount, on time, is non-negotiable, and a payroll provider worth its salt makes sure that if there’s one thing its clients’ employees can bank on, it’s their salaries.

So the backbone of Accsys’s business is extremely reliable technology. However, that’s not enough. This technology also has to be highly flexible so that all those deductions can be made, error-free, and salaries paid via whatever channels the client and its employees prefer. For the most part, 21st century employees receive their salaries electronically but there are still many unbanked people in Africa (Accsys’s clients are active in 19 African countries) whose salaries are paid in cash.

Teryl says Accsys is able to adapt its proprietary software relatively quickly and easily to cater for those preferences, not to mention the differences in various countries’ tax frameworks, employment laws and data privacy requirements.

The company is also keeping a close eye on the rapid changes in the world of work, where digitisation is ushering in new types of employment, embodied by the gig worker who chooses to work here, there and everywhere. Such trends are bound to change what, when and how people are paid, with major implications for the future of payroll.

Here, systems integration and data protection are key requirements, she says. “Software, while having to be protected to ensure data confidentiality, must still be able to contribute data to other products and accept data from other products.”

“The digital economy is still in the embryo stage but we need to be agile enough to adapt to whatever it brings,” says Teryl. “We have a team of bright young people adding depth to our very experienced team,  looking at things to add on or take off what we are already doing and making it cutting edge.” No one knows quite how payroll will change or even what currencies will exist in the digital future, but when people need to be paid, Accsys is putting its money where its mouth is.



Winner of the Excellence in the Management of Technology award for 2018, category for emerging enterprises

Our adjudicator Chipa Maimela shares with us his experience of FetchThem

Find and fetch customers who are most likely to close the deal

It’s a scenario with which every business is familiar: many potential customers express interest in a product or service but only a small percentage of those queries are converted into actual sales. Finding and fetching customers who are more likely to close the deal is the forte of Cape Town-based digital data marketing company FetchThem.

“In a subtle and non-intrusive way, we influence the purchasing decisions of our clients’ customers by making sure the brand is exposed to their decision-makers,” says FetchThem CEO Chris Witthoft.

Here’s an example.

Company A wants exposure to certain chartered accountants in Johannesburg. Company A then gives FetchThem a list of the names of CAs it wants to reach. FetchThem locates them and makes sure that Company A’s display adverts are in front of the selected CAs wherever they go online.

“The important thing is that we integrate all the digital touch points and have a central view. The ads don’t pop up only when the person is on Facebook or Google, but everywhere they go online – across social media and other platforms,” Chris says. “This enhances the brand and keeps it top of mind.”

It’s important not to bombard the target audience, though, so the ads will run for a limited period and frequency, usually between seven and 20 times a month – often enough to be noticed but without becoming irritating.

Converting interest into sales

FetchThem’s technology model is cloud based, integrated into the leading digital platforms and running off Google Infrastructure. It connects to the cloud and clients through its own application programme interface (API), which Chris says can interface with almost any software tool.

One of FetchThem’s biggest successes to date has for a large retail distributor in South Africa, which is 2018 was experiencing that familiar challenge of converting quotations into sales.

“They receive thousands of requests for quotations every month, and were looking for an innovative way to increase quotes to sales,” Chris says. “So we took their offline data online and, within a month, they reported a dramatic increase in sales.”

FetchThem can take at least some of the credit for such successes as its reporting tools track the progress of each campaign and its return on investment (ROI). “Because our API can be integrated into point of sales, we can pick it up when someone is reached online and has actually bought the product.”

He refers to FetchThem’s business model as “account-based remarketing” because it is so targeted. While Chris would not call it a trend yet as account-based remarketing is still in its early stages worldwide, he sees it as one of the ways to solve the marketing challenges of the digital era. “Digital touch points are all over the place and business lacks a central view of what is working best. This helps us to solve that problem; it’s one of the ways that helps integrate all those touch points.”

Air Blow Fans

Air Blow Fans

Winner of the 2018 award for Excellence in the Management of Technology, category for small enterprises

Our adjudicator Jayesh Reddy shares with us his experience of how Air Blow Fans effectively manage their technology

Fan specialists take the risk up front and blow competitors away

A small company facing stiff competition from major multinationals has to do things differently, especially in a niche market where a competitive edge can quickly vanish into thin air.

Air Blow Fans have carved out a nice slice of the African industrial fans business for itself in the past 15 years, but it knows better than to settle into a comfort zone. In fact, there’s nothing like taking risk upfront to keep an enterprise on its toes, says Gavin Ratner, its managing member.

“We go out to the site, find out what the problem is and do the investigation for free,” he says. “This really means putting our money where our mouth is, and clients appreciate it that we take the risk upfront.”

The Kempton Park-based company’s clients are usually mining houses, power plants and manufacturers that use industrial-strength fans for ventilation and can ill afford the production downtime that goes with faulty or poorly functioning fans.

Their problems typically revolve around fans that someone else supplied and installed, so Air Blow Fan’s arrival is a breath of fresh air; it has a talent for fixing legacy problems.

While the fan concerned might not be brand new, Air Blow Fans’ approach is stat-of-the-art.

“We are continually improving our skills and solutions, and are very strong on the engineering side,” says Gavin. Air Blow Fans – which won no fewer than five tt100 awards in 2018 – has invested heavily in engineering software for analysis, design and systems monitoring, and is one of a handful of small South African companies with ISO 9001:2015 accreditation. It should not come as a complete surprise that the company is also a fan of the TIPS™ framework. “What I like about TIPS is the way it ties everything together,” Gavin says. “There is no one component of business you can focus on in isolation. You have to look at all of it. That’s what TIPS helps you to do.”