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VentureWeb: Matthew Jankelow

An entrepreneur with a different take on the skills shortage wows global clients with what South Africa has to offer.

Juliet Pitman

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Matthew Jankelow

Matthew Jankelow sees the world a little differently. At a time when most of South Africa is bemoaning a critical lack of skills, his company has secured success by outsourcing local skills to multinational organisations across the globe.

VentureWeb provides outsourced strategic and tactical business-to-business marketing services to more than 400 marketers in 49 countries – but the skills stay in South Africa. “We source the very best marketing talent South Africa has to offer, employ those people on a full-time or contract basis, and outsource their skills to our clients,” explains Jankelow. The model is not a new one – offshoring skills to more cost-effective geographical locations is common practice in the contact centre industry, for example.

Seeing Potential

But although offshoring has traditionally been about outsourcing back-office, non-essential operations to emerging economies where skills are cheaper, Jankelow believes there is potential for it to be so much more. “While cost saving is a key consideration for companies considering offshoring, it is becoming more than simply finding skills at a cheaper price, and includes engaging great talent at a reasonable rate,” he says.

A study conducted in the US by the Duke University Centre for International Business Education and
Research shows that outsourcing companies are increasingly getting involved in mission-critical functions like new product development, research and developing, engineering and knowledge-intensive analytical services. “When you think about it, the skills crisis is not just confined to South Africa – it’s a global business challenge. And in a global short-skills market, it makes sense for companies to source skills from every available talent pool around the world,” says Jankelow.

Overcoming Perceptions

The challenge for any outsourcing company is to prove to prospective clients that they have the goods. “The nature of this business is that it is done remotely, largely via digital communications such as teleconferencing, skype, email and the Internet.

Companies sometimes have very real fears about service delivery, cultural fit and work ethic,” Jankelow explains. There are of course also the First World perceptions of doing business in Africa to overcome. For Jankelow, this means proving that VentureWeb is a legitimate organisation, with the necessary technological capacity, service delivery credentials and, of course, skills.

Adding the Human Touch

“Because of these perceptions and concerns, the sales cycle is complex and ultimately any outsourcing company needs to acknowledge that personal relationships need some level of personal contact. A great deal of contact can be managed via video conferencing but it’s critical that we conduct some face-to-face visits.

“It’s ideal if clients can reciprocate, so they can see where and how we work, and that we are a professionally run organisation,” he says. All of this costs money, but Jankelow is nothing if not resourceful. He recently entered a competition and won business class tickets to anywhere in the world for a period of a year. This will go a long way to helping VentureWeb expand its client base.

Attracting Top Talent

Having best of breed talent is a key success indicator for VentureWeb, and the company has devised a compelling value proposition to make sure it attracts the best skills in the industry.

“The nature of the business makes it less material where staff work so our full-time staff have the option of working at home on certain days of the week,” says Jankelow. The company also has a significant pool of contract employees. “The flexibility on offer means we can attract top players in the industry who still want to work but who don’t necessarily want to be tied down by a full-time job, or inflexible working hours,” he continues.

This allows VentureWeb to attract and retain the kind of talent it would not necessarily be able to afford otherwise. “We can’t compete with large corporates on benefits, but many of our contractors earn really well, and we can offer people valuable flexibility, which is attractive and makes them think twice before moving to another company,” he says.

Looking Ahead

In the past four years, VentureWeb has opened operations in Canada, more than tripled its revenue and secured its position as market leader in the marketing skills outsourcing sector.

And while Jankelow is excited about the future of his company, he’s equally enthusiastic about the growth of the outsoucing industry: “South Africa has some fantastic skills and the opportunity exists to establish the country as a global skills hub. Doing so not only brings in great revenue, but it means that the country is able to retain its top talent. Sure there are challenges relating to infrastructure and the like, but if we get these right, the possibilities are endless.”

VentureWeb

Player: Matthew Jankelow
Est: 1998
Contact: +27 11 300 2700; www.ventureweb.com

Juliet Pitman is a features writer at Entrepreneur Magazine.

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