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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 more than 785,000 subscriptions 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. More than 48,000 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 2016. For further information, please visit telematics.tomtom.com Follow us on Twitter @TomTomWEBFLEET

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Building Customer Relationships

Are you working in a retail environment? Explore the Wits Plus online short course in Customer Relationship Building through the DigitalCampus.

Wits Plus

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Most retail businesses agree that providing excellent customer experience is imperative for a retail store to be successful.

But what is customer experience?  According to Forrester, an independent market research company, customer experience is “How customers perceive their interactions with your company”.

They explain that good customer experiences have three relevant characteristics for the customer:

  1. They are useful, thus deliver value and meet customer needs.
  2. They are usable, so the value is easy to find and engage with.
  3. They are enjoyable, and emotionally engaging so people want to use them.

The customer ‘interactions’ are the two-way exchanges that customers have with the company. A customer will make a judgement as to whether the company meets their needs, is easy to use and enjoyable to do business with. These judgements happen every single time the customer interacts with the company: when they navigate the company website, call the contact centre, enter the retail store, buy company products, talk to an employee, respond to an advert and so forth.

Providing excellent customer experience is challenging. The systems and processes required for excellent customer experience include understanding your customers, building a positive emotional connection with them, capturing and acting on feedback, developing and training everyone in the company and measuring the return on investment. All this is difficult enough to manage in a national company but what does it mean in this age of international and multinational companies?

Related: Customer Control For Entrepreneurs

Providing a superb customer experience is first underpinned by understanding the cultures, history, experiences and sensibilities of customers and then respecting them. Again, this is more manageable if your company is national and its cultural values are aligned with the national values and history. However, achieving this in a multi-national organisation where the historical experience and cultural values of the organisation may not be aligned with the country they are operating in, can be a real challenge.  A diverse workforce is also imperative to providing an outstanding customer experience and the importance of diversity is magnified in a multinational organisation.

This is demonstrated by the infamous ‘H&M hoodie incident’ that happened early this year. In Sweden the only jungle is urban, there are no wild monkeys and the black population is relatively small. As one would expect in a Scandinavian organisation, the H&M group board has good male-female diversity, but there are few black Swedes in senior decision-making positions. Few Swedes have experienced how skin colour can provide an all-pervasive feeling of difference, of ‘us and them’, and they have little, if any, understanding of these issues on a personal level.

However, H&M is a global organisation and therefore needs to have an intimate understanding of the different cultures and sensibilities of their customers in the different countries where they have a footprint; and respect them. The simple expedient of introducing a process whereby a local executive ensures that a new product is culturally sensitive could have demonstrated some organisational understanding of this issue.

The H&M hoodie debacle is an excellent example of how not understanding the customer can negatively impact on customer experience; how it can break the emotional engagement with customers and lose their trust. This incident has made it difficult for South African customers to engage positively with H&M. The importance of diversity in the senior teams throughout a multinational can directly impact the customer experience and the bottom line. In short, one picture and a hoodie nearly undermined the reputation of the organisation in South Africa!

Are you working in a retail environment? Explore the Wits Plus online short course in Customer Relationship Building through the DigitalCampus.

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Company Posts

Entrepreneurs Can Explore Opportunities In Growing Digital Textile And Interior Décor Markets

Those wanting to explore opportunities in digital textile printing can speak to experts at the Sign Africa and FESPA Africa Expo, taking place from 12-14 September at Gallagher Convention Centre.

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According to Mark Sollman, application manager at Mimaki, ‘Digital printing technologies are revolutionising the interior décor business. Not only can these items be produced more rapidly and with less waste than with traditional manufacturing processes, digital printing offers the ability to customise – or even personalise – interior décor.’

The global printed textile market is huge, estimated at over 32 billion square metres of output annually. Print is widely used to decorate the surface appearance of furniture and surfaces. Digital textile printing is ideal for customisation – allowing consumers to print unique products for their homes or businesses.

There are also emerging niche opportunities. For example, with the wide use of online travel review sites, hotels are increasingly keen to deliver a fresh experience. A ‘TripAdvisor effect’ has been identified, with the claim it reduces the hotel renovation cycle from every seven years to every five years, consequently boosting the market for printed décor.

There are many T-shirt printers offering a web-to-shirt service, where the buyer uploads their own unique image to be printed on to a garment on demand. The printing takes a large part of the value and will be done close to the buyer. For a fashion collection, stock-outs may be avoided by printing and making popular sizes and styles locally in small quantities.

Related: Explore Business Opportunities In Print At The Sign Africa And FESPA Africa Expo

This makes higher manufacturing cost less of a problem, and internet retailers can extend this with only commissioning the product after a sale has been completed online. Increasingly, supply chains are being pressured to provide greater flexibility, which inkjet textile printing is able to provide.

Applications with interior décor include; customised wall coverings and photo wall murals; window coverings and wall decals; curtains and blinds, cushions, lampshades and bags.

Those wanting to explore opportunities in digital textile printing can speak to experts at the Sign Africa and FESPA Africa Expo, taking place from 12-14 September at Gallagher Convention Centre. There are also a range of educational features, including: 

Textile Experience

Visit this hands-on workshop where printers can learn different techniques all taught by Charlie Taublieb, who has been in the screen printing industry since 1976, and heads up Taublieb Consulting in Greenwood Village, Colorado, a company specialising in technical screen printing consulting for textile printers. This takes place from 12-14 September, in hall 1 on the Rexx Screen & Digital Supplies stand.

T-Shirt and Bag Printing Workshop

Free demonstrations by local experts on T-shirts and bags with speciality printing techniques, direct to transfer and screen printing. For more info visit http://bit.ly/EntrepreneurSignAfrica5

Related: Considerations For Signage And Printing Industry Start-Ups

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Company Posts

Explore Business Opportunities In Print At The Sign Africa And FESPA Africa Expo

Business opportunities will be showcased on various exhibitor stands at the upcoming Sign Africa and FESPA Africa Expo, taking place from 12-14 September at Gallagher Convention Centre.

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Opportunities for start-ups or those looking to grow their businesses will be showcased in daily 30 minute sessions on the hour. These sessions are free of charge. A range of topics relating to T-shirt printing, signage, branding, working with acrylic, doming and wide format printing will be covered.
TIME WED 12 SEP TIME THURS 13 SEP TIME FRI 14 SEP
09H30 Gawk hall 3: Take your textile printing to new levels with Triga Max and the all NEW Triga Go fabric tension display systems. 09H30 Gawk hall 3: Take your textile printing to new levels with Triga Max and the all NEW Triga Go fabric tension display systems 09H30 Gawk hall 3: Take your textile printing to new levels with Triga Max and the all NEW Triga Go fabric tension display systems
10H30 Midcomp hall 3: Work smarter with the HP R2000 10H30 Midcomp hall 3: Business opportunities in branding bottles and more. 10H30 Midcomp hall 3: T-shirt printing on the DCS 1800 mini Flatbed printer.

 

11h30 Maizey Plastics hall 3: T-shirt graphics using Poli-flex Turboflex Heat Transfers. 11H30 Maizey Plastics hall 3: Working with Plexiglas – A variety of tools will be onsite to demonstrate correct working techniques. 11H30 Maizey Plastics hall 3: Doming using UltraDome
12H30 JG Electronics hall 1: Start or expand your own corporate gift branding  business 12H30 JG Electronics hall 1: Investigate adding white toner T-shirt printing vs traditional printing. 12H30 JG Electronics hall 1: Investigate adding white toner T-shirt printing vs traditional printing.
13H30 Uprint hall 1:  Start up or value add to your business for a TOTAL print solution system on all Promo goods. Demo’s will be shown. 13H30 Uprint hall 1:  Start up or value add to your business for a TOTAL print solution system on all Promo goods. Demo’s will be shown. 13H30 Uprint hall 1:  Start up or value add to your business for a TOTAL print solution system on all Promo goods. Demo’s will be shown.
14H30 Rexx Hall 1: Visit this hands-on demo where printers can learn screen printing techniques all taught by Charlie Taublieb 14H30 Rexx Hall 1: Visit this hands-on demo where printers can learn screen printing techniques all taught by Charlie Taublieb 14H30 Rexx Hall 1: Visit this hands-on demo where printers can learn screen printing techniques all taught by Charlie Taublieb

For more information, and to pre-register online, please visit http://bit.ly/EntrepreneurSignAfrica4.

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Related: Business Opportunities In Printing And Signage

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