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Databuild: Morag Evans

How a liquidated business was turned into SA’s top construction industry database.

Monique Verduyn

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Morag Evans of Databuild

When Morag Evans took up the position of PA to the owner of Databuild in 1992, little did she know that a decade later she would become an owner of the company. “I was quite amazed when I walked in,” she says. “I had never heard of any organisation offering this type of service.”

Now in its third decade, the company supplies information to the construction and related industries. Clients have access to a thorough, precise and up-to-date database of projects available in South Africa. Its research teams track projects from the planning stage,through tender, award and tenant installation phases, enabling clients to source new business based on the information.

Evans has seen the business through some tough times. In 1998, Databuild was sold to a holding company that had little interest in its business; by 2001 it was liquidated after having stagnated. Evans, GM at the time, was approached by one of the directors of the holding company, Malcolm Moodie, who suggested they buy the business together.

“It was December and he opened up the possibility of saving 50 jobs,” Evans recalls. “It was an irresistible offer.We spent that whole holiday liaising with the liquidators and setting up an interim trading agreement. It was imperative that we keep the business going.” When the staff returned to work, 32 were retained and Databuild continued to operate off the back of a number of existing contracts.

“Finances were tight,” Evans says.“Nonetheless, we spent everything we had on enhancing outdated systems and building the corporate culture which had taken a hard knock. Our people were insecure, and many were resentful of the fact that the previous owners had put the brakes on any new product development.”

Evans set about creating a culture of performance which has been complemented by a firm belief in the fact that people must have fun at work if they are to offer great customer service. “If you want people to put the client at the centre of everything they do, you have to make them believe that they are making a difference.

Keeping a team happy is a never-ending job.” Evans believes that competitive advantage,differentiation and value creation is achieved by repositioning a business to create and deliver a great customer experience consistently. Referring to customer experience guru Colin Shaw, she says it is important to be an “outside– in” business and to be obsessive about detail.

Databuild has few real competitors today. This can be attributed to the quality of its information and the way it is delivered. “We collect everything there is to know about building projects throughout the country, whether civil, industrial, commercial, educational or residential, and it’s all available from one source.

Another differentiator is the fact that the information is trustworthy.” Technology has played a major role in Databuild’s success and Evans is quick to acknowledge IT project manager GrahamWest who developed Webleads, the company’s online project database.

Webleads allows clients to find, sort and manage project information, and to track their sales processes and measure their success rates in the shortest possible time. As a mobile platform, it can also be accessed in the field via PDA.

“Webleads has enabled us to leapfrog our competitors,” Evans says. “Aside from pushing information to clients and being really easy to navigate, it also allows them to measure their success rates.” Databuild’s client base has shrunk over the years, a factor that Evans attributes to its improved quality.

The company has 600 subscription-based clients and around 1 500 users, all at the top end ofthe market. “We refuse to compete on price and this has enabled us to secure tier one customers.” Contact: +27 11 259 4500; www.databuild.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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