The IT skills shortage in South Africa ishere to stay and is a major inhibitor. Despite this, global market intelligencecompany IDC predicts that the local IT sector will grow at an average annual rate of 11,3% to nearly $5 670 millionby 2011.
Fareed Regal, MD of infrastructure support company Reagola, is someone who is facingthe skills shortage head-on by outsourcing the company’s staffing needs to anHR partner.“At any point in time we have at least 12qualified yet inexperienced IT people in the pipeline,” says Regal. “We trainthem to our standards and pay them a wage during the process. As a result, wealways have access to skills. This has been fundamental to the growth of thebusiness. Those whom we cannot employ permanently we use on a contract basisfor work that is done after hours.” Regal says Reagola is about people as thatis how the business makes its money. “As a BEE company, we wanted to ensurethat our contribution to skills development is real and meaningful. Trainingunemployed people is a key contributor to that. In addition, every employee whois certified represents additional income for the business, thus boosting thebottom line.” Once employed, these new recruits areprovided with mentors who are themselves incentivised to upskill the staff. Theyoung people who are brought into the company know that their salaries will bedoubled on certification, an inducement that has them meeting on the premisesevery weekend where they form study groups that enable them to complete atwo-year qualification in six months. Regal is serious about his commitment toempowerment. The company has been accredited with a BEE level two rating out ofnine possible levels, with level one being the highest. Reagola passes on itsown good fortune – 72% of its spend is with small BEE companies. The company was started in 2005 by BrandonAbrahams and Julian Mulder when they merged their businesses which wereseparately providing IT services for Woolworths at a time when Regal headed upthe retail giant’s BEE IT policy. Regal had 19 years of business experience soit was not surprising that the two should turn to him when their business grewby a whopping 200% in three months.
“They brought me on board as CEO to givethem a hard time,” Regal says. “I had always wanted to run my own business andI was attracted to Reagola because it already had a three-year contract withWoolworths under its belt and when you are older, you are less inclined to takerisks.” Regal recalls that there were certainaspects of the corporate world that did not appeal to him. He was adamant thathe would keep Reagola free of the acrimony that can arise with increases,promotions and hierarchies. He cautions, however, that building a strongcompany requires purpose and action. “Put your focus on supporting and growingpeople and you run the risk of being perceived as too nice. We are alsobusiness people and we stress that a great bottom line is what enables us to dogood things for our staff. People who do not perform are quickly shown thedoor.” He attributes the business’s success to itsfocus on more than the service level agreement (SLA), that Holy Grail of IT.“Customer service is everything in this industry. Other companies measure theirpeople on SLA. Everyone does that. We measure ours on whether they haveactually prevented incidents in the first place.” The more you add value to a customer’s business,Regal maintains, the more sustainable your own becomes. “It may not be asprofitable in the beginning, but the payoff is long-term.” Regal’s policy is to reinvest profits. “Weare debt-free and are working to ensure there is no fat in the business,” hesays. That’s what has paved the way for growth,with the company set to open offices in Johannesburg and Durban within the nextfew months. “Going national is the next logical step,” he concludes.
Contact: +27 21 469 1800; www.reagola.com
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