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.”
notoriously difficult to make and there aren’t too many companies confident
enough in their forecasting abilities to claim a near-perfect accuracy rate. A
rare exception is SVA Holdings, an asset protection and risk management company
with a track record of being right 99% of the time when forecasting its
clients’ risk problems – months and even years ahead.
“For instance, we can
predict non-compliance issues in a retailer’s stock-take two and a half years
in advance. It’s been tried and tested, with 99% accuracy,” says Derick Deyzel,
chief commercial officer at SVA Holdings.
However, clients need
not wait for any length of time to see the benefits of implementing the
improvements SVA suggests when it detects risk or compliance loopholes in their
systems or processes, from the supply chain to health and safety. “We feed back
to clients in real time so that they are able to make quick decisions about
their risk profiles,” says Derick. “We are constantly hunting to improve
gets it right
The uncanny accuracy
of SVA’s risk-related forecasting is rooted firmly in its Infoman technology
platform, developed in South Africa and patented in 43 countries.
It all starts with
gathering the client’s operational data 24 hours a day and feeding this into
the SVA platform, where it is weighted, rated, prioritised and escalated
according to the client’s risk profile, all in real time and without getting in
the client’s way.
“Infoman tells us
when there is a challenge, where it is, who needs to fix it and when this can
be achieved,” says Derick. “Our competitors may offer comprehensive audits but
they are largely based on historical information. We bring current and more
relevant information, right now.”
The benefit of
real-time analysis is that the client can take immediate action to correct any
non-compliance. If the driver of a logistics company, for instance, deviates
from the approved route, Infoman will pick this up while it is happening and
alert the client, who can deal with this straight away instead of after the
will pick it up immediately if one branch of a 300-store retail chain is
neglecting to do the required daily count of high-value items such as TV sets
What SVA’s technology
also does extremely well is to adjust and align with the client’s risk policies
and procedures as these evolve. “It changes and improves so that it’s as
relevant to the business in five years’ time as it is today,” Derick says.
What likely also
impressed the tt100 adjudicators about SVA Holdings’ management of innovation
capabilities is that its technology is as relevant to small enterprises as it
is to large ones. “The technology platform works just as well with a company of
five vans as it does with a national retailer with 300 to 400 outlets,” he
Perhaps it’s time to
make a bold prediction: this won’t be the last time that SVA Holdings comes up
with innovative technology that changes the face of risk management.
As the Gig economy grows, who knows
what the future holds for corporate payrolls. As more and more people do gigs
rather than full-time jobs, who will pay them – payroll or the accounts
department? Come to think of it, will large corporates and their payroll
departments even exist in the virtual era of nimble newcomers?
These are some of the questions
about the future that Accsys’s leadership team are keeping in their sights
while dealing with today’s dilemmas – of which there are plenty.
When it comes to innovation, for
instance, the following catch-22 comes to mind, says CEO Teryl Schroenn:
“As an IT company, we have got to
be innovative, which means we have got to take risks – and then we have risk.
So how do we innovate while maintaining stability and limiting risk to our
Consider that some of Accsys’s
clients have upwards of 25 000 people on their payrolls and operate right
across Sub-Saharan Africa, from South Africa to Senegal, and it’s clear that
finding the balance between innovation and stability is a real business
In fact, it’s one that Accsys,
which has clients doing business in 19 African countries, is tackling right
“We are busy with a massive update
that we have been preparing for since last October,” says Teryl. “We are always
our own guinea pigs, so we started testing the update in our own payroll. After
two months, we ran it live on two client sites and now we are starting with
some of our bigger clients.”
It sounds so simple but it’s
actually not: with clients operating in 19 countries, the update has to
accommodate 19 different national tax frameworks, not to mention a host of
other country-specific salary and employment details.
This update not only caters for
clients’ current payroll requirements but is part of the evolution towards a
digital future that is unfolding as we speak. “Innovation means making sure you
have a product that people can use now and that works, while also being mindful
of how things are changing and the impact of digital on payroll,” says Teryl.
Talking of change, what does she
think the future holds for large corporates and their payrolls?
“I think people and companies are like countries,” she says. “Some want to be their own country, like Catalan or Scotland, and some want to be centralised, like Russia. In business, there are different models too: some companies want to be small and agile, and some want to be huge. “But one thing is for sure: whatever the future holds, SARS is still going to want their tax.
How to outperform your peers in a listless economy
In today’s grim economic climate, revenue growth of over 60% is an unimaginable feat for most South African companies. “If you innovate constantly, you can outperform the market, despite the economy. Maybe we would have done even better if the economy had been up to speed,” says Alex Roberts, Regional Director: Sales and Operations of Cura Risk Management.
That level of growth in 2018 might be understandable in a
start-up coming off a small revenue base, but Cura is an established company
with a 16-year track record, not a start-up. So how has its South African
business unit managed to buck the trend of flat sales and sluggish growth?
A contributing factor is the nature of its business. Being
in the business of providing Governance, Risk and Compliance (GRC) software solutions,
Cura is in the right place at the right time. “South African companies are
getting a lot more pressure for good governance and we are in that space,” says
But that would only be part of the story – and a small part
at that. The real secret behind Cura Risk Management’s success is its mastery
of innovation. Take its ability to service customers at both ends of the
market, from small to large, as well as everything in between.
“Competitors generally focus on one end of the market or the
other,” says Ross Saunders, Director for Global Technology Services. “We service
both ends, from corporations that require very complex nuances to small clients
that want enterprise-grade software in a hosted environment.”
In the past, enterprise-grade software would have been out
of the reach of most small enterprises but Cura has bridged the gap. “With
SMEs, affordability is the problem and historically, they would only have been
able to afford a lesser product. Now, because our product set is unique and we
use different business models, we can offer small clients a solution similar to
something a massive financial services company would use, yet focused to their
own needs,” says Alex.
As for large companies – Cura’s traditional market – they
too are under pressure to up their Governance, Risk and Compliance game, and
tend to be receptive to Cura-style innovation. Its business model for large
enterprises is integrated and built on a single source of the truth, he says. “We
combine risk management, business continuity, internal audit, SHEQ, incident management,
IT risk management, etc, all as a single, fully integrated solution.”
This differentiation, along with a technology platform that
is constantly evolving, underpins the kind of growth that many South African
companies can only dream of. If you innovate, you can grow.
The local textile is in tatters thanks to cheap imports and
fashion designers are struggling but some are fighting back – and keeping their
sense of humour while they’re at it.
“It’s a whole new ball game,” says Roman of ROMAN HANDT, avant-garde
fashion scientists and textile artisans. This is the tongue-in-cheek slogan for
“Romandies” (pronounced “Rom-undies”), a sleek and comfortable line of men’s
underwear that boxers, cyclists and other sportsmen are snapping up.
It was Romandies in particular that caught the attention of
the tt100 adjudicators. ROMAN HANDT
manufactures them in-house, which is unusual for a small design and textile
house because underwear is difficult to produce, requiring elastication and
various other complicated processes and machinery.
But if you get it right, underwear can be a money spinner.
“Men’s underwear has shown the most growth (in the clothing industry) and they
are reckoning that the market is worth billions,” says Roman, adding that
modern men are “quite happy” to pay for really snug, comfy, aesthetically
“We pay a lot of attention to fit and the cup part of
Romandies sits very snugly so that men never sit on or hurt anything. It really
is a whole new ball game.”
The brand has significant market potential in South Africa,
not to mention profit potential for its originators. In South Africa, the clothing
market is all about price, and underwear is one of the few clothing products
that can be sold with a decent mark-up, says Roman.
“When you produce the product
in-house, you cut out the middleman and can be very competitive in the market.
And with underwear, there is a no return policy!”
To reap the benefits, though, in-house manufacturers need to
invest in the right technology – something that emerging and small enterprises
are often reluctant to do.
“The only way you can compete is by investing in technology,”
says Roman, adding that this need not break a business’s budget. “If you invest
time in doing your research, you can pick up quite inexpensive machines by
going to auctions.”
Once you have the right equipment to manufacture underwear,
it can be used for many other types of garments too, opening up all kind of
future possibilities, not just for the individual entrepreneur but for the
“I want to teach younger generations, entrepreneurs in their
twenties, that if you have a sewing machine and a product, there is a way to be
an entrepreneur and support your family,” says Roman. “Work for yourself –
that’s what I want to show people.”