- Player: Thomas Schmidt
- Company: TomTom Telematics
- Position: MD
- Visit: telematics.tomtom.com/en_za/webfleet/
To be a successful company in today’s fast-paced and ever-changing market, you need three key ingredients: Access to markets (which starts with products that clients need), short-term agility and long-term goals.
Consider the epic success of Apple. Steve Jobs was hungry and fast — he drove his teams to achieve more in less time. But he also had a long-term vision that directed the business’s trajectory. True innovation is the result of looking five to ten years into the future, and laying the groundwork now for where the company needs to be then.
TomTom started out in 1991 as a software provider for Palm Pilots, long before the Internet was a thing, or GPS had been opened for civil usage. Today, the listed company’s latest acquisition is Autonomous, a business that focuses on navigation systems for driverless cars. Over the course of almost three decades, TomTom has consistently focused on what comes next: What do consumer and business clients need, where will technology take us, and what will be possible in the near future, enabling greater efficiencies?
Thomas Schmidt, MD of TomTom Telematics, unpacks the five lessons TomTom has learnt while developing world-class solutions for the consumer and B2B markets worldwide.
1. Focus on the problem you’re solving, not on the product you produce
Companies that are too fixated on what they do, instead of where technology and markets are heading, will often find themselves left behind. The most common example is Kodak, who refused to see the dangers digital photography posed. Instead of seeing themselves as a company that helped people capture moments, they saw themselves as manufacturers of films and cameras. The rest of course, is history.
Robust businesses reinvent themselves, adjusting solutions to fit the market and making use of technological breakthroughs. “In 1991, the founders of TomTom launched a company called Palmtop,” says Thomas.
“They designed and created the software for digital organisers. In principle, it was like a smartphone with no connectivity, and included a digital bible, a digital cookbook, a personal organiser, a calendar and a whole host of other features. By the late 90s it even included a digital map, which they had licensed through Tele Atlas, a Belgian company that developed very basic digital maps.”
Here’s how it worked: You bought a PalmPilot, purchased the map software, uploaded it to your device, and then purchased the cables and mountings that you’d need to instal the whole system in your car. It was complicated and something that only techies were really trying out, but it triggered something in the TomTom (at that stage Palmtop) team, who recognised that if they could remove the tech hurdles to get there, they’d democratise navigation.
The company had been a forerunner in the personal organiser software business. Based on where they believed the market was heading however, they began to shift their focus to hardware, and began manufacturing personal navigation devices (PNDs), complete with digital maps licensed through Tele Atlas.
By 2003 the business had been rebranded to TomTom and their first device, the TomTom Go, was launched. From there the business consistently grew 400% year-on-year, and an IPO was concluded in May 2005.
In hindsight, the shift looks simple, but in reality, it’s never easy to reinvent yourself as a business, unless you’re agile, adaptable, and willing to focus on the best solution, rather than what your current product stack looks like.
2. Always look ahead
Great visions always precede technological solutions. If they didn’t, nothing would ever progress or change. The companies capable of those visions become the trailblazers and game-changers that shape industries, solve problems and drive greater efficiencies.
The evolution of TomTom’s dynamic map data is a perfect example of this mindset in action, because the team kept asking what would make their product more useful to consumers. They had the device, and a digital map. What they didn’t have was mobile data.
Instead, Tele Atlas had vans driving around, capturing everything. It was time consuming, expensive, and meant maps were always out of date. They also weren’t dynamic.
“When you consider the fact that 15% of a map’s data changes yearly, we knew there was so much more we could do with this product if we just had the right tools, and developed appropriate solutions,” explains Thomas.
TomTom’s team started by looking to the future: What did they want this product to look like? The answer was simple: They wanted a navigation system that was dynamic and up-to-date. If anything happened, a user would know within minutes. This would include traffic, accidents, traffic lights that weren’t working, delays — anything and everything that would add value to a motorist or business with vehicles on the road. Today, this includes data drawn from how a vehicle is operating and how the driver is performing, right through to its location with regard to a dynamic map, and the capability to send companies and clients up-to-date information.
The technology that has made all this possible came after the idea of what the team wanted to achieve. With the right starting point, they were able to develop solutions that were possible. “We had millions of units on the road. We created a functionality that allowed users to update information on the map when they plugged it into their computers to update the software.”
The problem was that it was a slow process. By the time TomTom gathered the data, sent it to Tele Atlas, and the changes were implemented and released in an update, months had passed. Consumers lost interest because it took so long to see a change.
So, the team went back to the problem to engineer a different solution. “We went back to the data we were collecting, and started comparing that data with the map. What were speed averages on different roads? Based on this, we could predict times of the day when you could expect traffic congestion and delays. We also paid attention to roads on the map that no one used, or areas with no roads that nevertheless had traffic. These were flagged as out-dated areas on the map, and we could send vans to check those areas only. It was all based on historical data, but we were adding more information to the map on a continuous basis.”
The next component to be added to the mix was telematics. Thomas’ company, Data Factory, was purchased by TomTom in 2005. “Telematics brought more data early on to TomTom. This was real-time data that could be deployed elsewhere. In the early days we were using trunket radios to capture data, but it was all fed into the system. An average car spends less than an hour on the road each day. Compare this to six hours for a business car, and up to 12 hours for a truck, and you’ll get a view of how much data we were actually collecting. The trick was to continuously ask how we could use the data, and what we could do with it. It was not yet a dynamic system, but we were constantly moving forward and improving. We kept asking, ‘If we had this, what could we do with it?’”
TomTom also made another decision, and offered to purchase Tele Atlas in 2008. “We recognised that the future was fresh, up-to-date data. If we owned the maps, we can streamline the process. Two different companies, even working in partnership, create a lot of delays.
“Increasing efficiencies wherever you can is in our DNA. That’s what we do for customers. And it’s why we’ve been able to offer our customers up-to-date dynamic maps that are data-rich and create a seamless customer experience.”
3. Adapt to the future
This takes the ideal of looking ahead a step further. On the one hand, looking ahead is focused on the lane you’re currently in, and envisioning how you can change customer lives. But it’s also about paying attention to how the world is changing, and what the future will bring.
TomTom is currently a software and hardware developer. The business has four divisions: TomTom Consumer, TomTom Automotive, TomTom Licensing and TomTom Telematics. In each case, hardware and software solutions are deployed to drive efficiencies and cost savings, from consumers with a TomTom device in their vehicles, cars with onboard systems designed by TomTom, telematics systems that track a business’s entire transport and logistics solution, to the map data as one of the sources for Apple’s map solution.
But TomTom is looking much further than the solutions it currently offers. “TomTom democratised navigation, and today it’s available in multiple different ways; your phone, a device, your car. We understand this and move with the times. We expect technology disruption to go on and things to change even faster in the future. Today we manufacture devices. We don’t believe we will still be doing this in the long-term future. How our solutions will be accessed will change. We are also now investing heavily in the navigation systems and maps autonomous cars will use. This isn’t a big revenue stream for us now, but it will be incredibly important in the future, and we will have solutions ready.
“To stay alive, you need to be smarter, faster and the master in your specific area of competence. At our core we bring customers, data and development together. It’s always about the best experience and solutions.”
4. Be fast, agile and adaptable
Even though TomTom is a listed company, its controlling shareholding rests in the hands of four people — all of whom are entrepreneurs. “TomTom’s original founders still head up the business and drive its vision, and the four different business units are run by MDs who are entrepreneurial as well,” explains Thomas, who is one of those MDs, and who by his own admission could never be a standard employee.
“Data Factory was the third business I built, and I sold it to TomTom in 2005 because I knew this was the best way to achieve international growth. 12 years later I’m still here as MD of the Telematics business because our CEO and founder, Harold Goddijn, convinced me to stay and grow the exciting business unit. The fact that we’re given so much autonomy to grow each business unit as a company makes us fast, agile and adaptable. It’s the essence of this business. We all have a fiduciary duty to our shareholders, but we also have long-term visions that allow us to be trailblazers in our industry.
“We’re not executives who begin to implement projects and then leave. We’re focused on long-term, industry changing visions that will change the way our customers operate and do business. That’s what gets me up in the morning and keeps me constantly engaged and excited.”
The business is also run on a system of flat hierarchies, which Thomas believes is a key ingredient to TomTom’s success. “No single giant can know or understand everything. To remain relevant, businesses need fresh ideas, and these come from open and collaborative teams. As the leader, you don’t need to come up with all of the ideas — but you do need to be open to fresh thinking, even from your juniors. Have an open door policy, and listen to ideas when they are shared with you. That’s how you push the envelope.”
5. Give customers what they need, not what they want
Listening to customers is important, but you also need to look beyond their current needs if you’re going to be a game- changer — both in your own industry, and in terms of what you can do for your customers.
“Take note of your customers’ pain points and deliver solutions that create value, but you can’t innovate if you only listen to what your customers want. You need to be delivering to their needs, otherwise you’re just an executor and not an innovator.
“It’s up to you to jump to the next step that they can’t see yet, and often don’t even realise is possible. Customers are focused on the now — we need to be looking five years ahead.”
How do you stay ahead of the curve though? Thomas believes it’s all about asking the right questions.
“Consider the question, ‘What if we had unlimited energy for free in the world?’ So many people stop there and don’t ask further, because it’s seen as an impossibility. And that’s what kills innovation. If you remove that obstacle, and instead look at what this would mean for the world, you can start shaping a different future.
“So, what would it mean? It would mean an unlimited water supply, because we could easily make drinking water from salt water, at little to no cost. What does unlimited drinking water mean? An unlimited food supply, because water is the biggest restrictor. Once you start asking the right questions, you reach a future that you want to be a part of and make happen — and that’s when you start finding solutions.
“Solar is already doing this, at 50% of the cost of other alternatives. The latest technology delivers at 50% of the price, and it was developed because the right questions are being asked.
“This is how we operate. We are always dreaming about what we could do. This allows us to create solutions. They don’t always work, but we’re hungry, and when we fail we fail fast, learn the lessons we need and push on. We’re always heading in the right direction, and changing the shape of what’s possible.”
LFP Training – The ‘Agents’ Of Transformation
Implemented correctly, BEE has the potential to change the current status of South Africa’s economy. Add to that LFP Group’s focus on helping corporates to boost employee skills and engagement and upskill disadvantaged people across the country, and Louis Pulzone is aiming to make a real difference.
LFP Training is the leading provider of BEE aligned turnkey skills development training in South Africa, delivering innovative, industry-first learnership programmes to educate and upskill abled and disabled individuals in line with the BEE codes of good conduct.
LFP Training’s fully accredited learnerships are strictly aligned to BEE guidelines and allow companies to implement skills development.
To date, more than 700 companies have actively benefited from LFP Training’s solutions, reaching their desired target spend at a fraction of the cost. This solution is the most cost-effective way of implementing BEE initiatives while gaining maximum points.
The team at LFP Training comprises industry experts and combines years of experience with a passion for transformation, education and making a difference.
Today, both unemployed and employed, disabled and able-bodied people in all industries are actively benefiting and contributing to society, thanks to LFP Training’s turnkey training solutions and strategic partnerships.
In South Africa’s tough economic environment, where unemployment levels are so high, how is LFP an ‘agent of transformation’?
It’s no secret that times are still tough in South Africa. Our economic inequality is one of the highest in the world and unemployment is still a massive concern.
While this is nothing new, the good news is that it has forced us to become more resilient and find new strategies. At a time like this, we need to invest in our people and kick-start the economy again. At LFP Group, we look to new strategies, growth and the upliftment of people to help shape the future. Being agents of transformation means that we look towards solutions for a better South Africa for tomorrow.
We also recognise that government cannot do everything. Our goal as LFP Group is to be a leader in our industry, helping government achieve its goals for reducing unemployment. Our aim is to forge ahead with a great public-private partnership strategy.
What role do you play in transforming South Africa? Why is this important?
With the shortfall in education, responsibility has fallen on corporates to provide opportunities and to upskill employees. Many companies are filling the gap between what has been previously learnt and what is required in a practical job function.
By partnering with corporates, LFP can help companies to achieve their BEE objectives and gain access to rebates, while providing education in the form of learnerships. The stipend provided by corporates to learners is invaluable in mobilising learners to grow, learn and fill roles, while having financial security.
By providing a turnkey solution, all parties benefit from our all-encompassing approach — both on and off campus.
Each solution is accredited and optimised to ensure that both the learner and the business benefit from the skills acquired. Our offering has expanded over the years based on demand for further skills development and quality education.
As LFP Group we do not only consider transformation as a process of change and opportunities for individual employment; we see it as a way of transforming attitudes and creating hope for a nation that truly needs and aspires to be that country that does not live in the past, but acts in the future. We believe that transformation is the duty not only of state and politics, but every South African. We started by transforming our Group first, and now our vision has shifted to our country.
Why did you launch LFP? What was your goal, and how have you realised that goal?
Having recognised a critical gap for skills development to help address unemployment in South Africa’s ever-changing economic landscape, I founded turnkey training provider LFP Training in 2013.
The company’s innovative programmes are aimed at educating and upskilling people who have disabilities and who are unemployed, in line with the country’s BEE Codes of Good Conduct. More than this, I am truly committed to transforming not just the employment and skills development side, but my country’s quest for transformation. LFP Group is a platform where I could achieve that objective. I also believe in creating a winning team that echoes my vision and shares my passion to deliver that goal.
With more than a decade’s experience in the education industry, I am passionate about making a difference through education and saw a gap in the market for innovative training programmes aimed at educating and upskilling. By partnering with corporates, we have trained more than
7 000 learners with an excess of 700 clients paying R70 million in stipends directly to learners in stipends or salaries; this has resulted in a 100% pass rate in their BEE verification audits. This has a tangible impact on unemployment in South Africa.
Why is investing in people the single most important thing that businesses can do?
Addressing staff development and training is often low on the list of business priorities — but the relationship an organisation has with its employees can directly impact commercial success. Continuously evaluating, refining and improving your greatest asset — your people — can maximise their potential and bring wider business benefits; not least that individuals are happier and more motivated, and therefore more productive. In a recent survey on adult learning, 41% of respondents indicated that further education helped them improve the skills they needed to do their jobs.
Continually training staff means more of them will have up-to-date and relevant skills, which are valued and respected by the industry.
Continuing to develop staff not only adds value to the company, strengthens the workforce and improves workplace efficiency — it also improves job satisfaction, encourages loyalty and ensures commitment to the success of the business. Another final piece of our human investment capital is adding value to our internal staff, and that of all the clients and leaders of the companies we serve. LFP Group has created a specialised IP and as a leader in the industry I believe that we must educate and invest in the people we’re associated with.
Related: Scoring BEE Points
How should business owners and executive teams view training?
Education is a fundamental right, and everyone should have access to it. With a passion for education, I always look to a quote by Nelson Mandela, a true advocate for education: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
This could not be truer. The private sector is having to fill the gaps in education and companies need to innovate to provide opportunities. In the fields of STEM there is a critical skills shortage, and we need to work together to empower and advance our country and its people. One of the most critical tasks we’ve focused on is training the leaders of industry.
Many business owners, CEOs and senior management, even shareholders of corporates, fear the mention of BEE and Transformation. The reason is simple: South Africa is not transformed enough, and this is part of our vision. We must ensure that as much as we service our clients and provide the services LFP Group has set out to do, we are slowly but surely penetrating the leadership market to educate and prepare them for transformation.
The policies of BEE are constantly in the spotlight because of the opportunities it can provide. By embracing it, companies and people are able to benefit from it wholly.
What is the role of BEE in South Africa? Why should businesses embrace it?
If implemented correctly, BEE has the potential to change the current status of our economy. B-BBEE addresses transformation in South Africa through ownership and management in companies, upskilling of employed and unemployed people and growth of the economy and smaller enterprises through enterprise and supplier development.
Investment in B-BBEE and compliance creates massive business opportunities for your organisation in the form of public sector contracts and business from other B-BBEE compliant companies. This provides a competitive edge.
As LFP Group we recognise that BEE and transformation in the labour and corporate sector, will be with us for a long time. As an industry leader we must be on top of our game and always be at the forefront of knowing our industry, and more vitally what is to come. This will allow us to address the historical imbalances and assure that all citizens in our country have skills and an opportunity for a long-lasting and sustainable job.
What does LFP Campus do?
The LFP Campus is a blended online learnership platform that makes it possible for clients to gain substantial points towards their skills development spend in line with the BEE codes.
Applicable to all industries, this popular offering avoids downtime and loss of productivity, while supporting flexibility, thanks to a blended online offering which can be undertaken outside of working hours.
LFP Training has not only aligned its online initiative to the BEE codes but also made it possible for clients to do so at a fraction of the cost — all while being eligible for government initiatives such as tax rebates, youth subsidies and other grants.
Clients are now able to claim the salary of an enrolled employee for the full duration of the learnership without compromising on their business’s operational requirements.
Clients can also claim more than 500% of the actual spend towards their skills development target spend.
LFP Group’s offerings
Youth Employment Services Implementation Programme
A staggering six million youth aged between 18 and 34 are still unemployed and this is the exact reason why LFP Group is coming to the fore.
With the Youth Employment Service (YES) initiative — officially gazetted on 28 August 2018 — aimed at creating one million jobs within the next three years, companies can now earn additional BEE benefits.
The LFP Group, in support of the YES programme, recognises the critical role that South Africa’s youth play in shaping the economy and our country. LFP now offers YES programme management implementation to benefit clients and individuals.
The offering includes:
- Comprehensive assessment of the employer to determine YES eligibility and management of the entire project.
- Recruitment of the youth and full registration of recruited youth onto the YES initiative.
- Registration of the client on the YES initiative.
- Coaching, mentorship, a personal development plan and key performance indicators.
- Access to permanent placement opportunities for youth not absorbed upon completion of the YES initiative after 12 months.
- Compilation of verification file containing supporting evidence for YES and B-BBEE recognition.
LFP Permanent Placements
LFP’s attentive team of trained experts source talent in line with a company’s B-BBEE scale and predominantly recruit for roles in the fields of administration, healthcare, technology, retail and start-up hiring.
With a clear understanding of each clients’ needs and objectives, LFP Permanent Placements has a proven track record with a project completion rate of 97% and the remaining 3% attributed to unforeseen circumstances such as project shutdowns, health issues, relocation etc.
More than learnerships, LFP prides itself in providing its clients with a turnkey solution. For this reason, LFP not only handles recruitment, training, facilitation and paperwork for learners, but also takes care of outsourced payroll requirements.
LFP Group has a dedicated and trained administration team to handle the day-to-day management of a company’s learners’ stipends, temporary employees and permanent employees.
Changing and adding suppliers is a complicated and tedious task, but as a company’s BEE needs evolve to meet the demands of new legislation and accommodate further company growth, the need for more knowledgeable and reputable suppliers becomes inevitable.
BEE-Connex is a first of its kind app, changing the way South Africa does business in the BEE industry.
It’s as simple as downloading the BEE-Connex app and signing up to the biggest and most reputable network in South Africa. Here clients receive a host of benefits including:
- Enjoying hassle-free BEE.
- Getting connected to the right supplier in just a few simple steps.
- Gaining access to a comprehensive network of verified suppliers who understand and can meet your specific needs.
- An easy, cost-effective solution to gain maximum points.
Visit www. lfptraining.co.za for more information
Choose A Job You Love, And You Will Never Have To Work A Day In Your Life
Join Col’Cacchio’s 26-year-long love story.
- Joining fee: R125 000
- Monthly management fee: 6% of turnover
- Monthly marketing fee: 2% of turnover
- Total investment: approx. R2.5m to R4.2m (turnkey) Size: 140m2 to 350m2
- Unencumbered cash (before loan): 50% of total investment
(Above figures exclude VAT)
“Owning your own restaurant is like owning your own future.” – Dominic Dempers, Franchisee Durbanville, Belvedere & Meadowridge Cape Town
We’re looking for passionate franchisees who will love our brand as much as we do.
Why you should join this delicious success story
- Assistance with site selection & lease negotiation
- Store design & build
- Full training provided for management and staff
- Marketing & operational support
- Product innovation & menu development
- Efficiency in all systems
- Healthy margins.
“Our journey started with a single restaurant on the foreshore with the aim to serve the very best pizza around” – Greg Mommsen, Business Developer Director
“Watching this brand grow and empowering people has been immensely rewarding. We have staff that have been with us for over 20 years. It’s like a family, we work hard, we laugh, we cry, we celebrate and of course, we eat a lot of pizza.” – Michael Terespolsky, Founder and Managing Director
“Becoming a franchisee is an amazing opportunity to join the family and become part of the Col’Cacchio success story. We’re 100% behind out franchises at every step, making sure that we all continue to learn and flourish” – Greg Mommsen, Business Developer Director
“It has been filled with challenges along the way, but all the rewards have made every moment worth it.” – Michael Terespolsky, Founder and Managing Director
Visit www.colcacchio.co.za or call Tarryn Godley on 084 800 7264 and let’s get this adventure going.
Travel At The Touch Of A Button
The revolutionary Travelit app has been developed for the global marketplace to meet your business travel needs.
Travelit has launched an easy-to-use mobile app that simplifies the trip approval process, provides a full trip itinerary and assists in management of travel expenses.
“The app is designed in South Africa, for the African and global marketplace,” says Wayne Muirhead Chief Sales Officer at Travelit. “We have developed the app locally with our own developers, and opted not to use a white labelling solution.”
The app interface enables the requirements of travellers, approvers, users, as well as finance and procurement role players to be met so each trip is seamlessly planned and executed.
Stress-free financial administration
“Expense management is an integral part of the complete travel cost; businesses want to understand their complete travel bill,” says Wayne. This is why the app incorporates features that facilitate:
- Capturing of photographs of receipts real-time
- Immediate allocation of expenses to the correct description
- Uploading expenses for workflow approval
- Attachment of an expense to a travel trip, or generating a non-travel related expense.
Simplified trip approval process
In addition, approvers’ features enable simple visibility into the trip’s cost and details:
- Approval of booking requests
- Trip confirmation once trip has been successfully approved
- Managing alerts — approval notifications, pre-trip notification as well as travel notifications
- Out of office activation for approvers.
Trip management made easy
With Travelit’s new app, travellers have the ability to update, create new profiles directly from their phones and update and store all their information, including:
- Updating of profile details
- Personal information
- Visas, passports, meal types, seating preferences
- Loyalty programmes.
As a traveller, when you are travelling, you require information, updates and access to your travel documentation in real time. The Trip Manager function provides you with this through the following functions:
- View current, pending and past trips
- Trip itinerary information
- View trips that are awaiting approval
- View supplier vouchers
- Locate properties via the Map option
- Boarding passes are available
- Real-time alerts to travellers.
Related: Save Up To 25% On Your Travel Costs
“We have done a soft launch with the app and offered it to strategic users and clients within our ecosystem,” says Wayne. These corporates have enjoyed the functions within the app, such as:
- Real time information for the traveller (itineraries, vouchers, boarding passes)
- Approval notifications and the approval capability
- Contact information for the consultants after-hours, and assistance
- Access to the traveller profile to ensure their data is updated and correct
- Check-in to the airline.
The Travelit app is available in the Google Play Store and iOS Store. Travelit will make monthly app releases by offering users ongoing functionality and features.
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