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

Our adjudicator Abe Wakama shares with us their experience of Accsys.

Rule number 1: get feedback and act on it 

What works for a 50-year-old might not work for a 25-year-old. What works for a computer programmer might not work for a human resources practitioner. What works for an introvert might not work for an extrovert. What works today might not work next year. With so many variables in the people management mix, there is only one hard-and-fast rule for Teryl Schroenn, CEO of multiple award-winning Accsys.

“Constantly ask people for feedback and when you realise that something is working well, make sure that it happens on a regular basis as opposed to by accident,” she says. “If the feedback shows that it isn’t working or no longer works, adapt.”

This very morning, while having a breakfast session with nine new employees – only one of whom was under 30 – Teryl asked what was working for them and what wasn’t.

“They gave very positive feedback on the culture we are trying to put in here,” she says. “One of the things they commented on was that ‘the CEO actually knows our names’.”

Accsys has about 90 employees, which means quite a few names to remember, and Teryl goes beyond that if she possibly can. “I try to remember how many children people have and what their interests are. People are not resources. It’s important to me to connect with the people here.”

What people do sometimes find surprising, she says, is her preference for an office with four walls and a door.

“Some people say management should get away from the ‘corner office’ and make everything open plan. I’m not a fan because we work with a lot of confidential documents. I do spend a lot of time in the open-plan space, though, and also going out with my salespeople on appointments. That’s always a good time to strategise with people about what they are going to say. We try to empower rather than manage.”

Something new at Accsys is the mentorship programme that was recently introduced. “We’ve been doing mentoring all along but this is a bit more structured,” says Teryl.

In fact, the mentorship programme is the perfect example of what she means about turning spontaneous or sporadic successes into a regular process or procedure. “In business, sometimes good things do just happen and they are lovely but informal, so they create pockets of excellence without spreading. People management and agile leadership are about picking up on those good things and making them happen regularly.”

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.”

SVA Holdings

Winner of the Excellence in the Management of Innovation award for 2018, the category for large enterprises.

Click on the clip for a summary of our energetic adjudicator Marlize Schwar on the phenomenal ways that SVA Holding manages innovation. SVA Holding is the 2018 tt100 large  enterprise excellence in Management of Innovation category winner

Foreseeing the future of risk with 99% accuracy

Predictions are 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 processes.”

Technology 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 fact.

Similarly, Infoman 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 and cellphones.

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 says.

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.



Winner of the Excellence in the Management of Innovation award for 2018, category for medium enterprises

Click on the clip below for a synopsis by our dynamic adjudicator Marlize Schwar on the exceptional ways that Accsys manages innovation.

Keeping payroll relevant in the Gig economy

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 clients?”

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 imperative.

In fact, it’s one that Accsys, which has clients doing business in 19 African countries, is tackling right now.

“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.

Cura Risk Management

Cura Risk Management

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

Click on the clip for a synopsis by our expert adjudicator Mark Fuller on the dynamic way in which Cura Risk Management manages innovation in their organisation.

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 Alex.

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.

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