Going against the flow

Advice for IT entrepreneurs

December 10, 2012

Six years ago, Bruce von Maltitz and Jed Hewson were both working in the corporate sector – which had become a somewhat frustrating experience. “We could see where the technology was going, and realised that larger organisations were too large to deliver the niche services that were needed in the maturing hosted call centre market,” Von Maltitz explains. “We decided to take the plunge and become the best hosted call centre service provider in Africa – maybe not the biggest, but the best.”

The company is currently one of the leading providers of hosted telephony for contact centres in South Africa, providing affordable, pay-per-use access to world-class technology. ongoing support and consulting services to a number of large multinationals.

The company recently won the Frost & Sullivan award for Exceptional Entrepreneurship. Their advice for other budding entrepreneurs includes:

  • Remain agile

Part of the reason we moved away from the corporate environment is because we wanted to get rid of the red tape, rules and regulations that slow down large enterprises. We wanted to make it easy for companies to do business with us, and not the other way around.

  • Get your product offering right first

Initially, we spent most of our time and money developing a solid technology and making sure that the offering we were taking to market was complete. This helped us in the long run, because once we had the solutions in place, we could focus on growing our client base rather than adjusting the technology or fixing bugs. We were able to offer a working, complete solution to customers.

  • Be an expert

Our success comes from knowing our business inside and out. Strive to be the best at something, rather than a jack-of-all-trades. Keep your focus and grow your expertise. We found that being a niche, specialist provider trumps being the biggest in the business every time.

  • Know your clients

Our key differentiator is service. We sit down with our clients, discuss their situations, and offer insight into both technology and business – because we understand both sides of the coin. We aren’t in the business of dropping off a product-in-a-box and disappearing – we support our customers every step of the way.

  • Outsource what you don’t need

Part of our offering is the fact that we completely take care of the technology, affording the call centres the opportunity to focus on what they do best – running a call centre. We follow the same philosophy by outsourcing certain functions that we don’t see as core drivers for our success. That way, we can focus on keeping the clients happy, rather than motivating staff in various departments. A streamlined business is an effective business.

  • Accept that it’s going to be expensive

Successful businesses are going to cost you money and the more successful you are – the more money it’ll take. When entrepreneurs start out, they tend to forget that. Yes, successful businesses make money, but you have to be prepared to keep plowing that money into the company to make sure it keeps growing and remains the best at what it does. Don’t expect to get rich quickly and don’t measure success by the amount of dividends you get paid. Be passionate about what you do and be willing to sacrifice if needs be – the rewards will come later.

1Stream has the capacity to effectively service start-up call centres with as few as 10 seats, as well as large multinationals such as Amazon.com and wonga.com. They have offices in Johannesburg and Cape Town and can be reached on www.1stream.co.za