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Ukubona Electrical: Alfred Faber

Electrical company wins top contracts after investing in skills development.

Juliet Pitman

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Alfred Faber of Ukubona Electrical

When Alfred Faber started out in business, he operated outof a converted camper van. Today, he runs Ukubona Electrical, a company with aturnover of R200 million and 58 permanent employees – and one that recently wonthe coveted Business Partners National Entrepreneur of the Year Award 2007.From his humble beginnings, Faber moved into premises at the airport where heshared a desk with two other people, then purchased premises in Edenvale beforebuilding Ukubona’s current offices in Longmeadow. “We’ve now purchased thepremises next door as well to enable us to expand,” he says.

Ukubona specialises in medium and high voltage electricalwork, including switchgear, cables and transformers in the 11KV to 400KV range.The business has established international supplier relationships with fouroverseas companies, but is looking forward to embarking on a new growth phaseas a local manufacturer. Looking back on the past twenty years Faber points to onefactor which he believes has played the most critical role in his success: “Along time ago I realised that we needed to ensure the sustainability of theelectrical sector – and that to achieve this, we’d have to invest heavily inskills training and empowerment of our people. I realised people were leavingthe country and that if my business was going to survive I’d have to buildskills internally.”

Faber is a firm believer that when a company shows belief inthe potential of individuals, and is willing to back up that belief with aninvestment in development and training, the entire company culture isstrengthened. “We see the benefits of this approach on a daily basis in ourcompany. When you treat people as individuals and take an interest in theircareer growth path, they tune into your vision and stop seeing themselves asmerely a number or ‘just another employee’. It fosters greater buy-in to yourvision, and if you can achieve that and get all your people behind you with acommon sense of purpose, your company can truly go places,” he says. Back in 1993, after recognising that the country was headingfor substantial infrastructural growth, Faber realised he’d have to expand thebusiness and upskill his workforce if Ukubona was to take advantage of theopportunities that lay ahead. “I appointed two BEE directors to join me in thebusiness and together we started ensuring that our people would have the bestskills in the sector,” he relates.

The company started sending employees toSwitzerland to receive world-class training in its sector. The cost of such training is substantial, but Faber believesit’s given his business a competitive edge in more ways than one. “It’s notjust about being able to offer clients the best skills in the market, which ofcourse makes us a contractor of choice. It’s also about being internally-grown,something of which we’re very proud,” he says, continuing, “One of our keyproject managers today was someone we picked up as a casual labourer on theside of the road. He went for overseas training and today he runs his ownprojects. Another example is our bookkeeper, who came to us asking for a job,but without formal skills. She started in reception answering the phone andtoday is a fully qualified bookkeeper.”

Faber is quick to point out however, that such an approachonly works in a situation where there is equal commitment from both parties.“The company needs to recognise potential and give people a chance to developit, but the individual needs to want to develop themselves as well, and makethe most of the opportunities presented to them. It doesn’t work if you don’thave the right attitude from both sides and we’ve been fortunate in havingself-motivated and determined individuals.” Ukubona lists high profile contracts among its projects,including the stadiums for the 2010 Soccer World Cup, Gautrain, various Eskomprojects and the upgrade of the airports. “This country is at an amazingcross-road and I feel greatly blessed to be part of the solution to thechallenges it faces. It’s good to be in the position we are in right now,” saysFaber. Contact: +27 11 608 4736; www.ukubonaelectrical.co.za

Juliet Pitman is a features writer at Entrepreneur Magazine.

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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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Colin Timmis Says ‘Position Yourself For Success By Starting With The Numbers’

People pay first who they feel pressure from, so people will pay you when they feel pressure from you.

CEOwise

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Entrepreneur Colin Timmis founded South Africa’s first cloud accounting practice in 2011, Real Time Accounting. Then, a few years after being appointed as South Africa’s first Xero partner Colin became Xero Country Manager South Africa. Xero is the emerging global leader of online accounting software that connects small businesses to their advisors and other services.

Related: Pat Pillai On How He’s Helped Over 5000 Entrepreneurs Using 3 Key Steps

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Two 20 Year Olds Reshape Entrepreneur Landscape With New Social Investment Platform

The Merge vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

Merge Connect

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It’s no secret that finding the right investor for your venture is a challenge that most entrepreneurs face. The current process of finding investment is one that is outdated, and limits entrepreneurs due to a lack of time, and network that is needed to find the right investor. But, this doesn’t have to be the case in today’s digital society, says Zander Matthee and Brandon Bate, co-founders of Merge.

“By making the Internet the middleman, we are able to connect with each other much simpler and faster than before” was Zander’s response. “We have taken advantage of this, and have created a digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors” added Brandon.

Merge is a social platform that connects entrepreneurs and investors. It aims to simplify, refine and accelerate the process of finding investment for entrepreneurs, and the process of finding investment opportunities for investors. From idea to developed, the platform allows entrepreneurs to present a brief outline of their venture to a network of all investor types. While doing this, entrepreneurs are able to browse through, and connect with investor profiles that suit their requirements.

Related: 8 Codes Of Success That Helped Priven Reddy of Kagiso Interactive Media Achieve A Networth Of Over R4 Billion

From Private Investors to Venture Capital, and everything in between, Merge allows all investor types to join. Investors have the opportunity to personalise their feed to suit their investment preferences, and will be able to connect with innovative businesses – that are looking for investment – at their fingertips. Only once there is a mutual interest in each other, are users able to enter a secure private chat where they can discuss further and share documents under the protection of a digital NDA.

The two boys became good friends during their time in high school at St Stithians Boys College. However, it was only in their last year, 2016, that they decided to pursue their dreams and create the platform. They didn’t know how to code, so rather ironically, they needed some form of investment to get the platform off the ground.

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“We knew we had a mountain to climb, but we believed in our vision and that we were really trying to make a difference, and if we could get others to see that, they would be onboard.” said Zander.

Related: Lessons From The Rich And Famous: Manage Your Money Like Oprah To Avoid Going Into Debt Like Nicholas Cage

Chris Peters is one of these individuals that bought into their vision, and became Merge’s first investor. As a successful entrepreneur and part time investor , Chris saw how much value the platform could bring to all entrepreneurs and investors alike. His marketing and strategic background gave him insight into how Merge could play a vital role in a lucrative space, Brand involvement.

“Entrepreneurship and SME development are two key factors that drive economic growth in developing countries like South Africa. That is why brands are currently getting involved, and looking to support entrepreneurs through various means. We have built a platform that allows these brands to successfully market, and execute on the programmes they have created to assist entrepreneurs.” said Chris

Merge was created to assist all entrepreneurs and investors in finding exactly what they are looking for, regardless of age, race, sex, financial position or social status. That is why anybody can sign-up as an entrepreneur. As long as you are determined and willing to work for your dreams. For too long has the investor space been seen as an “elite club for the select few”, and Merge is here to change that. Whether you’ve gotten your bonus at the end of the year and looking for new investment opportunities, or are an active investor, you can sign-up. Whether you’re currently working, or a retired industry leader, you can join as a mentor.

Their vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

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