Jonas Schöfer (The Hackett Group): Freeing up cash from working capital
(On the picture from left to right: Melle Eijckelhoff (CFO South Africa) & Jonas Schöfer (The Hackett Group) The Hackett Group is a stalwart name in the international business world and has now come to South Africa “to free up working capital”, says Jonas Schöfer. He believes that many large South African companies can free up between 10 and 30 percent of their working capital, just by improving the quality of their processes. “That is where The Hackett Group can help you,” says Schöfer, representing the firm together with Hackett's performance partner "IQBusiness Group", South Africa's largest independent consultancy and a Level 5 BBBEE accredited entity. In an interview with CFO South Africa Schöfer says he has met with “around 100 South African CFOs” so far to discuss the proven, hands-on approach of Hackett, a global working capital consulting firm dedicated to delivering sustainable cash flow improvement across business operations. The company, which is headquartered in Miami but operates and deploys globally out of 10 offices including Johannesburg, claims to have delivered more than $25 billion in cash to its clients in the last decade only, “creating the liquidity to fund acquisitions, product development, debt reduction and share buy-back programs.”. The South African client reference sheet already covers companies from Retail, Chemicals, FMCG, Construction and Packaging.
“What we do is or should be on the agenda of all CFOs,” says Schöfer. Initially he started working in South Africa under the brand of the consultancy REL, the Working Capital division of The Hackett Group. Recently the “strategic decision was made” to instead engage South African companies under the name of the parent company to leverage its international reputation and the broader offerings of the group. The Working Capital practice of The Hackett Group focuses on three critical end-to-end processes to improve working capital management by identifying sustainable ways to reduce inventories, streamline accounts payable and increase accounts receivable.
After working in Germany, France, Hungary, Austria and The Netherlands, Schöfer has been pleasantly surprised how approachable South Africa’s top CFOs are. “We are aiming at the top 160 companies in the country and I was a bit surprised to have such a good penetration into the market – it is a type of guerrilla marketing that we do after all.” Jokingly he adds: “Maybe it has something to do with the fact that my sales assistant works from Paris and has a French accent?”
“What we try to do in every market is to get the stakeholders and the decision makers around the table,” Schöfer says. “The Hackett Group has built its reputation through publications and working capital studies. We talk about those results and findings and don’t just perform a sales show. We talk a lot about what we can do and are not scared to give away some details of how we work as it is too difficult to replicate in practice anyway.” He notes that some of the theory can be found online using Google, “but it is a whole different story to move a company of R 2 billion and more to become more efficient – that is what we excel at.”
The global experience and extensive process expertise of the NASDAQ listed Hackett Group (NASDAQ:HCKT) with its more than 1,200 employees worldwide has been developed over more than 30 years of identifying and implementing best practices to achieve operational excellence. The firm claims that its projects have a quantifiable payback of “typically a 3:1 return on your investment in the first year”. The cost of hiring the company is recovered within a year, Schöfer says. “Our approach is down to earth. We roll our sleeves up and get things done.”
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