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Success Lies In The Details

Overcoming the challenges of a highly commoditised market means you need to be smarter and more cost-efficient than your competitors. Here’s how Christoph van Zyl is refocusing his business to achieve just that.

TomTom Telematics

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“Henry Ford said that to improve productivity means less human sweat, not more. That’s what TomTom means to us.”

In 2014, Christoph van Zyl went from working the night shift on a quarry to launching his own transport company, Renavatio Vervoer. Named after a boat in the sci-fi movie The Island, Renavatio means ‘rebirth’, an idea close to the new entrepreneur’s heart.

Christoph chose the transport industry because of low barriers to entry. By borrowing money against his house, he was able to purchase his first truck, a Mercedes-Benz extra heavy interlink. He then tapped into his mining contacts to secure a few coal transport contracts. Once he had a track record, he grew his fleet to six rigs, all financed through Mercedes-Benz.

Related: How TomTom Telematics Is Blurring The Lines Between Your Fleet And The Office

“It was an industry I could enter fairly easily, but so can everyone else. There’s a huge oversupply of trucks in South Africa; it’s an extremely open market,” he says.

This means Renavatio operates from day to day with no security and is expected to be able to deliver the same rates as large operators with 100 to 200 trucks in their fleets.

“They’re operating on completely different economies of scale to our business, which has a fleet of six trucks,” he explains. “It’s a heavily commoditised market and contracts are won and lost on price. In a tight economy, this means you’re in danger of your margins eroding to the point where your business is no longer sustainable.”

The very real challenges of transport

coal-mining

By November 2017, Christoph had been operating for just over three years, and was facing his greatest challenges yet.

“Our coal mining contracts dried up, and we needed to pivot to another industry. I had friends with connections to farmers, and secured contracts delivering grain from farms to silos.”

Although the pivot was successful, the change in industries brought new, unexpected challenges. “Our new contracts meant we needed to find farms off small, unmarked dirt roads. I would sit on the phone with one of my drivers at midnight, talking him through the directions. If he missed a turn-off though, he’d need to turn this huge truck and trailer around, invariably burning out the clutch.”

Rising fuel costs, inefficiencies and the challenges of locating their customers was putting a huge strain on the business.

“I had a friend who worked for TomTom Telematics and he told me about their solutions. Cash flow in this business is tight, and I hadn’t entertained the idea of investing in additional hardware or software, but I was getting desperate. I called him and asked him to walk me through the solution. Within half an hour I was sold. It honestly seemed too good to be true.”

The TomTom Telematics difference

Like many transport operators in South Africa, Christoph believed the capital expenditure to set up a telematics system across his fleet would have put too much strain on his cash flow.

However, because the TomTom Telematics team has worked so closely with local operators and understands their needs and challenges, they have developed a subscription model where customers don’t need to invest a large capital outlay into TomTom Telematics’ technology. They receive the tech and software, including installation, at no extra cost for a monthly subscription fee.

This fact was a game-changer for Christoph — he could instal ground-breaking technology into his fleet without a capital outlay. “It was this model that made the solution possible for us, and the impact on our business was immediate.”

A leading edge

transport

“‘Just follow the TomTom device’ has become a mantra for us. Drivers who were previously scared of entering specific areas because they were convinced they’d get lost are confident to go anywhere now. We’ve delivered a load of lime to a farm on the Lesotho border. All we need is a pin drop from our customers and we can find them.”

Related: Changing The Shape Of What’s Possible

The system offers so much more than the security of drivers knowing where they are. “The percentage of work done for money expenditure is not even relatable,” says Christoph. “The system works perfectly and has given us a return on investment of 8 000%. We save 2 000 litres of fuel per truck per month, simply because the system monitors driving style, idling time and a host of other data. Drivers can log in and check their performance on a scale of one to ten — and they’re incentivised to do so. We pay monthly bonuses based on their personal scores out of ten.”

Not only has Christoph managed to significantly cut his operating costs, allowing him to be more competitive in a highly commoditised market, but he believes he now has the edge to survive the current tough economic conditions when many other operators won’t.

“Now is when we prove ourselves and keep our head above water while we wait for the economy to turn and consumer and business confidence to return,” he says.

TomTom Telematics is a Business Unit of TomTom dedicated to fleet management, vehicle telematics and connected car services. WEBFLEET is a Software-as-a-Service solution, used by small to large businesses to improve vehicle performance, save fuel, support drivers and increase overall fleet efficiency. In addition, TomTom Telematics provides services for the insurance, rental and leasing industries, car importers and companies that address businesses as well as consumers. TomTom Telematics is one of the world’s leading telematics solution providers with over 50,000 customers worldwide. The company services drivers in more than 60 countries, giving them the industry’s strongest local support network and widest range of sector-specific third-party applications and integrations. Our customers benefit every day from the high standards of confidentiality, integrity and availability of our ISO/IEC 27001:2013 certified service, re-audited in November 2018. In January 2019 TomTom announced the sale of TomTom Telematics business to Bridgestone Europe NV/SA (“Bridgestone”), a subsidiary of Bridgestone Corporation in EMEA. The transaction is expected to close by the end of the second quarter of 2019 and it is subject to customary closing conditions. For further information, please visit telematics.tomtom.com Follow us on Twitter @TomTomWEBFLEET

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Get The Edge This Winter

Five short courses from WITS kicking off in July will give you the competitive edge.

Wits Plus

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From Gauteng’s most trusted provider of the best learning experiences, come five WITS-curated courses starting in July 2019. Use the longer, colder days to curl up with a “good book” and emerge from winter with a new edge.

There are three online short courses offered via the WITS Digital Campus, starting 15 July.

Managing Labour Relations

This 10 week course will equip you with sound knowledge of South Africa’s complex labour landscape and an understanding of your legal rights as an employee or employer.

You will also learn skills for navigating employer / employee relationships successfully, and get tools for managing disputes effectively. There are eight modules, covered in online lectures over eight weeks, requiring a commitment of five to seven hours per week. The exam is in week 10.

Logistics and Supply Chain Management Practice

This 10 week course is packed with practical and theoretical information to help retail managers, supply chain supervisors, stock controllers and even CEOs drive efficiencies in the value chain.

It covers everything from improving exporting transportation, warehousing, order processing and procurement to financial management and managing waste. There are eight modules, covered in online lectures over eight weeks, requiring a commitment of five to seven hours per week. The exam is in week 10.

Applied Digital Marketing

We operate in an increasingly digital world and traditional marketing must include digital aspects and channels to be relevant.

This 10 week course will teach you to think digital, talk digital and deliver effective digital campaigns to elevate marketing and brand-building initiatives. You will learn to conceptualise and implement successful digital marketing strategies that drive customer acquisition, optimise your digital footprint and deliver business results.

There are eight modules, covered in online lectures over eight weeks, requiring a commitment of five to seven hours per week. The exam is in week 10.

Related: Thinking of Immigrating to America from SA? Now Is The Time

Comprehensive onsite courses in July include:

Real Estate Investment Analysis

This intensive five day course is for people who have been introduced to the real estate discipline at NQF 4 and NQF 5 levels. It is designed to provide higher level, more focused training as well as tools for analysing different types of real estate investments at the individual asset level, and measuring investment performance.

The course will benefit property practitioners who do not have property degrees; past graduates of SAPOA programmes in different aspects of the real estate business and people from different disciplinary backgrounds considering entering the profession.  The course takes place over five days from 1 to 5 July 2019.

Advanced Performance Management

Presented by the School of Accountancy together with Wits Enterprise, this course is designed to prepare students for the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) Professional level exams.

On completion of this course, you will be able to:

  • Use strategic planning and control models to plan and monitor organisational performance
  • Assess and identify key external influences on organisational performance
  • Apply strategic performance measurement techniques in evaluating and improving organisational performance
  • Advise on business performance evaluation as well as recognize vulnerability to corporate failure

The course will run from 15 July to 22 October 2019.

For more information on registering for any of these courses, criteria for registering, and costs, visit.

Related: The Importance of Outsourcing Your Payroll

This article was originally posted on Entrepreneur.com/sa.

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Accounting & Payroll

The Importance of Outsourcing Your Payroll

One of an organisation’s biggest overheads is that of salaries and wages. And yet, if these are not processed on time, it can negatively impact staff morale and create the impression that the company is not financially stable.

CRS HR And Payroll Solutions

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For a small business, payroll is normally the responsibility of an accountant or bookkeeper, but even administrators can sometimes be roped in to do the job, even though they have no expertise in the matter. This is where the value of outsourcing your payroll comes in.

When should you outsource?

  • If you want to grow your business but are not aware of ongoing legislative changes that could pose a risk to your company, then it is better to get professionals to assist.
  • Accountants and bookkeepers are not specialists and do not keep up with the compliance environment. If you outsource your payroll, you enable them to focus their core duties and not get bogged down by legislative complexities.

How to choose an outsourced service provider

Understandably, payroll is a sensitive subject dealing with highly confidential information.

This is often the last thing a small business owner wants to outsource. It is therefore vital that the company does its homework and researches the potential outsourcing partner thoroughly.

Instead of going with the first available service provider or the cheapest one, here are some questions to ask:

  • Is the service provider a one-man band and, if so, what backup resources are available?
  • Is the service provider a recognised payroll provider belonging to a professional body?
  • Do they have the necessary training and skills on payroll?
  • What does the service provider do to ensure it stays up to date with legislation?
  • How secure is the payroll data and can the service provider take on historic data?
  • How easy is it to recover your payroll data in the event of a disaster?
  • What value-adds can the service provider offer? These can include anything from leave management and third-party payments, to employee self-service, time and attendance management, and any other related human resource service.
  • Can they process salaries and/or wages hourly, weekly, fortnightly, or monthly?
  • Can the service provider accommodate your growth requirements if you open new branches?
  • Is the service provider able to assist with payrolls in other African countries, manage their currencies, and deal with their regulatory environments?
  • What processes are in place to ensure the timeous processing of payrolls?

The advantages of outsourcing your payroll

One of the most obvious benefits of going the outsourcing route is freeing up your resources to focus on your core strategic objectives. This ensures you provide quality of service and control costs while an experienced partner takes care of your payroll.

Here are a few other benefits:

  • Reduce operating costs.
  • Statutory compliance and consistent service delivery.
  • Access to the latest technology, as well as skilled and dedicated payroll resources.
  • Access to a secure, risk-free and confidential payroll environment.
  • Increased flexibility and responsiveness.
  • Streamlined internal processes and procedures.

This article was originally posted on Entrepreneur.com/sa.

Related: Thinking of Immigrating to America from SA? Now Is The Time

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Thinking of Immigrating to America from SA? Now Is The Time

More South Africans are looking to get their Green Cards with the EB-5 visa. Here’s why – and how you can use this opportunity too.

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South Africans are surging towards the popular United States EB-5 Immigrant Investment Visa programme ahead of possible price increases that will likely place the EB-5 visa programme out of reach for many, other than for the uber-rich.

NES Financial, the leading EB-5 financial brokerage in the US, has estimated a 600% increase in EB-5 petition filings from South Africans this fiscal year from three years ago.

Increasing applications for the US Investor Visa

Bernard Wolfsdorf, a US EB-5 lawyer and former South African, has filed more South African cases in the past year than he has processed in the past ten years.

“I think it’s the fact that the investment amount could soon increase soon from $500 000 to $1,8 million that is driving many South Africans,” he says.

However, Wolfsdorf, Past President of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, speculates that there are other factors, such as the stable US economy, excellent business environment, and outstanding educational opportunities that are enticing many South Africans to invest in the U.S.

“The currency swing has convinced many South Africans I speak to that foreign investment in the US makes sense,” he adds.

Assisting with understanding your US immigration options

The Tier 1 top ranked US immigration law firm, Wolfsdorf Rosenthal LLP has now set up a South African focused website and is regularly sending experienced lawyers to meet with South Africans and explain their immigration options.

“While on the one hand I am sad that many South Africans are choosing to leave, my hope is that, with global investment, many will continue to run and expand their South African companies and that the foreign investment will benefit South African trade and exports and create jobs locally,” says Wolfsdorf.

Other countries, such as China and Korea have many immigrants and they continue to drive trade with their ‘mother’ countries. “I expect to see many South African immigrants continue to develop trade and commerce with the US as this huge influx continues,” he says.

The Office of the United States Trade Representative confirms that US goods and services trade with South Africa totaled an estimated $18,9 billion in 2018. Exports were $8,4 billion; imports were $10,5 billion, creating a trade deficit with South Africa of $2,1 billion in 2018.

Some of the top imports from South Africa into the US include precious metal and stone; iron and steel; vehicles; and agricultural products like tree nuts and fresh fruit. However, the strong dollar greatly benefits trade and prices for many South African goods are high.

Why South Africans are immigrating to the US and not Australia

Other factors leading South Africans to choose the US is the fact that Australia and the United Kingdom have been less welcoming to immigrants recently, so while the US has been in third place as a choice, this is likely to soon change soon.

“In fact, Australia is becoming less and less friendly to immigrants on a personal level, with many Australians believing it’s time for its liberal immigration policies to end,” says Wolfsdorf.

“The country is implementing visa crackdown measures to limit work visas and ensure that foreign workers have the right skills and occupational licenses to conduct business. Additionally, with Brexit causing uncertainty, many South Africans have decided to look towards America for a Plan B.”

Joseph Barnett, a partner of the law firm who specializes in EB-5, is currently making his second trip to South Africa in the past six months.

“I really enjoy meeting with South Africans on my previous trip,” he says. “They are friendly, hospitable and hardworking. I’m sure this is the main reason most South Africans seem to do so well in the US.”

Why consider the EB-5 Visa

“The EB-5 Visa remains popular because there is no US employer sponsorship requirement, no education requirement, travel throughout the visa process is relatively simple, and because South Africans can choose to live wherever they desire once obtaining the green card,” the attorney adds.

“In short, the opportunity to live the American dream is open to anyone able to invest $500 000.”

South Africans should be aware that regulations first proposed in 2017 have now reached the final stage of the rulemaking process, review by the US Office of Management and Budget, before being finalized.  The time to act is now.

For more information on how you can begin your US EB-5 Immigrant Investment Visa process, visit Eb5greencard.co.za

This article was originally posted on Entrepreneur.com/sa.

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