Enabling the businesses of tomorrow
When Marc Fletcher first visited South Africa on holiday nearly two decades ago, he was pleasantly surprised by what he found. And he never really left.
Recently appointed territory lead for the Western Cape at Altron Karabina, he has started businesses, sold businesses, worked for bigger corporates and helped companies boost their reach in new regions.
But none of it was easy, which is why Fletcher earmarks some of his time to helping start-ups have a smoother ride than he did.
“To say that I was pushed to the edge is an understatement. The truth is that I didn’t know what I didn’t know until I was in the thick of it,” explains Fletcher. “It really was a baptism by fire.”
When start-up incubators and innovation hubs came to the fore in the early 2000s, Fletcher decided to get involved and quickly realised that many of the stories he was hearing in these circles were much like his own. Many of these people decided to start their own thing after working in bigger corporates but they really didn’t know what they were getting themselves into, says Fletcher.
“I realised that I knew a lot more than I thought I did purely because I’d done this stuff myself. Unlike a person who gets an MBA and thinks they know how to run a business, I’d actually run a business and had experienced some of the pitfalls that go hand-in-hand with starting something new.”
This doesn’t mean Fletcher doesn’t appreciate the value of an MBA, but he firmly believes you can’t beat real life experience. “My work with start-ups is motivated by a desire to share my experiences and to help others develop as a result of this.”
So, what is the key takeaway he has from his years in business? Never want to be the smartest person in the room. “If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’d better find a new room, full of far smarter people so that you get an opportunity to learn something.”
Innovations as start-up enablers
Keen to offer greater productivity and collaboration capabilities to local businesses, Microsoft South Africa recently announced it would make Office 365 services available from its newly opened data centre regions.
According to Fletcher, developments like these – coupled with exciting innovations like machine learning and artificial intelligence – are huge enablers for start-ups and small businesses.
“Now that we have the data centres in SA and issues around data sovereignty and speed/reliability concerns are now moot, businesses of all sizes can accelerate their strategic use of data.”
Our ever-changing business environment actually presents small businesses with a leg-up over their more established counterparts. According to Fletcher, the fact that these new ventures don’t have to deal with legacy infrastructure, because they were born into a cloud-based world, means they are geared to use, and likely already have used, cloud-enabled tools and data to their advantage.
“What we mustn’t forget is that the start-ups of today will become the corporates of tomorrow,” concludes Fletcher. “And they’re, ultimately, the people I want to sell to in the future. So it’s in all of our best interest to help them succeed.”