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AVTS Roadworthy Stations: Ferose Oaten

A Cape Town entrepreneur has built a first-class vehicle testing business.

Monique Verduyn

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Ferose Oaten of AVTS Roadworthy Stations

While she was growing up, FeroseOaten’s family was in the business of passenger transport, so it seems onlyfitting that today she heads up AVTS Roadworthy Stations, a Western Cape-basedchain of test stations that offers vehicle inspection services, weighingfacilities, licensing and registration, number plates and quality management consulting.Oaten studied librarianship, worked ina variety of positions, and got a business school qualification under her beltbefore deciding to join AVTS as test station manager at the end of 1992,shortly after the business had been launched. Five years later, she bought outthe owner and grew AVTS from one to seven branches in the greater Cape Town area.“When the opportunity came to buy thebusiness, I had no security or property,” recalls Oaten. “With BusinessPartners’ help I compiled a business plan and was then able to access fundingfrom NedEnterprises through the Khula finance guarantee scheme. I did not applyfor Business Partners funding for the initial purchase, but later I receivedbacking from the organisation for the purchase of two properties, a weighbridgeand to enable further expansion.”

DrivingQuality

Oaten is uncompromising about quality.The result is that AVTS was able to achieve ISO 9001:2008 certification in2002, and has maintained this status at all branches for the last six years. “A quality management system is thefoundation on which businesses flourish,” she says. “It helps enormously tohave documented policies and procedures for all the activities within thebusiness. We are in a highly regulated industry, with our activitiesgoverned  by the Road Traffic Act. Sincethe opening of the first AVTS 16 years ago, we have not had to close down anyof our branches as a result of any irregularities, and we have not had onestaff member arrested due to any transgression or corrupt behaviour. It’ssomething we are proud of.”It’s an ongoing effort to ensure thatall staff members act with integrity. To achieve this, AVTS has created anenvironment in which every staff member has a sense of ownership, and ismotivated to be best ambassador for the company.

GainsayingThe Naysayers

It’s a tough business to be in. AVTSdeclares vehicles roadworthy – or not. “It’s not possible to please allcustomers all the time,” Oaten notes. Among the challenges AVTS had toconfront early on, was a shortage of cash flow, a scenario all too familiar tomany entrepreneurs. Worse still, she had to deal with cynics who did notbelieve that a private enterprise could flourish in a sector previouslyserviced by the traffic department.

Despite the naysayers, word of mouthpaid off, and continues to do so.

“We advertise in the print media, andon billboards and bins. We also have branded vehicles which help to spread ourmessage throughout Cape Town,and we use networking opportunities to create awareness of the business as wellas of vehicle safety campaigns. But our reputation has been our biggest assetwhen it comes to bringing in customers.”Oaten herself is a networkerextraordinaire. She currently serves as the president of the Retail Motor Industry(RMI), and has previously served on the boards of the Cross-Border RoadTransport Agency and the South Africa Roads Board. She is also the regionalchairperson of the National Vehicle Testing Association and plays an activerole in the NVTA’s Free Safety Test Campaigns where motorists are offeredsafety critical tests of their cars prior to holiday seasons. Oaten is alsopart of the Businesswomen’s Association and serves as its nationalvice-president and chair of the Cape Town chapter.

Survivingthe times

The last six months have seen adramatic decline in the motor industry, something which has hit AVTS hard. Tosustain the business, the company has put stringent cost saving measures inplace, in both payroll and operations. “We are not unionised as we have aworkplace forum,” says Oaten. “Its role is to ensure that not one AVTS employeeis retrenched. The strategy they have come up with has assured the stability ofAVTS at least until the end of the year.”

Theroad ahead

Passenger vehicles are currently testedfor roadworthiness on change of ownership; buses, taxis and trucks are testedannually. The government plans to enforce periodic testing of all vehicles inthe near future. Should this happen, it will obviously bode well for teststations. Oaten says she is not keen to expandAVTS in its current form; instead, she is hoping to franchise the business. “Weare ideally suited to franchising as we have a proven business model, an ISO9001 operations manual and experienced management and staff, some of whom seethemselves as prospective franchisees.” Contact: www.avts.co.za

Monique Verduyn is a freelance writer. She has more than 12 years’ experience in writing for the corporate, SME, IT and entertainment sectors, and has interviewed many of South Africa’s most prominent business leaders and thinkers. Find her on Google+.

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25 Of The Most Successful Business Ideas In South Africa

Find out who’s making waves in numerous industries and how they managed to differentiate themselves in local and international industries.

Nicole Crampton

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“Disruption is all about risk-taking, trusting your intuition, and rejecting the way things are supposed to be. Disruption goes way beyond advertising, it forces you to think about where you want your brand to go and how to get there,” says Richard Branson.

South Africa has its fair share of innovative and disruptive businesses taking both local and international industries by storm. From cutting edge space technology to reimagined logistics, and innovative business models, here are 25 of the most successful business ideas in South Africa:

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27 Of The Richest People In South Africa

Here are 27 of South Africa’s richest people, but how did they achieve this level of wealth? Find out here.

Nicole Crampton

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Learn the secrets of SA’s most successful business people, here is the list of the 27 richest people in South Africa:

In a world with growing entrepreneurship success stories, victory is often measured in terms of money. The feat of achieving a place on this list is, however, years of hard work, determination and persistence. “One has to set high standards… I can never be happy with mediocre performance,” advises Patrice Motsepe.

From the individuals that made the 27 of the richest people in South Africa list, actual entrepreneurs and self-made business people dominate the list; while those who inherited their fortunes have gone on to do even bigger and better things with their wealth. Over the years, some have slipped off the list, while others continue to climb higher and higher each year.

  1. Elisabeth Bradley
  2. Sharon Wapnick
  3. Bridgette Radebe
  4. Irene Charnley
  5. Wendy Ackerman
  6. Paul Harris
  7. Wendy Appelbaum
  8. Mark Shuttleworth
  9. Desmond Sacco
  10. Giovanni Ravazzotti
  11. Markus Jooste
  12. Gus Attridge
  13. Gerrit Thomas Ferreira
  14. Cyril Ramaphosa
  15. Adrian Gore
  16. Raymond Ackerman
  17. Michiel Le Roux
  18. Lauritz Dippenaar
  19. Jannie Mouton
  20. Stephen Saad
  21. Patrice Motsepe
  22. Allan Gray
  23. Koos Bekker
  24. Ivan Glasenberg
  25. Christoffel Wiese
  26. Johann Rupert
  27. Nicky Oppenheimer
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Watch List: 50 Top SA Black Entrepreneurs To Watch

South Africa needs more entrepreneurs to build businesses that can make a positive impact on the economy. These up-and-coming black entrepreneurs are showing how it can be done.

Nicole Crampton

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Early-stage South African entrepreneurial activity is at an all-time high of 11%, according to Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, and entrepreneurial intentions have also increased to 11.7%. With both activity and intentions growing significantly year-on-year, there are more businesses opening up around South Africa than ever before.

The increase in entrepreneurship has seen the rise of more black entrepreneurs across numerous sectors. From beauty brands to legal services and even tech start-ups, these are 50 top black entrepreneurs to watch:

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