Providing homegrown quality

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SoluGrowth's Pierre Botha explains why choosing a homegrown solution beats low-cost offshore BPO destinations.

In the wake of the great resignation and global economic uncertainty, SoluGrowth – a business process solution provider – is positioning itself as a top choice for companies looking to outsource.

The latest statistics put South Africa’s unemployment rate at 35 percent, and SoluGrowth business executive Pierre Botha asserts that the BPO sector could provide a lot of jobs for youth in South Africa: “We have an alarming unemployment rate, yet have so many skills and so much talent in this country. We need to match the shortage of skills in the UK, Europe, Australia and the US with the unemployment that we have in South Africa.”

Agility, flexibility and scalability
Pierre says there are numerous significant advantages to choosing a South African-based operation like SoluGrowth versus firms in other low-cost destinations such as India and the Philippines. “The time zone is definitely in our favour for clients in the UK and Europe. While this is not necessarily so for the US or Australia, we are extremely flexible, with some of our team members starting as early as 6am and some as late as 12pm. We have proven that we have the flexibility and agility to service clients regardless of where they are; for instance, we have a US-based client who has been with us for 19 years.”

He says another massive advantage South African firms have is cultural affinity. He explains that, “We offer a distinct advantage in that our business culture is similar to the culture of our clients. This allows us to communicate without difficulty, which keeps the quality of our work high and prevents errors from occurring.

“Finally, our niche expertise is appreciated by our clients. We are not a high volume, high turnaround business. The resources we provide are highly skilled and provide the personal touch even to clients that are abroad.”

Continuity in business
“A lot of what we do is an extension of a workforce located in another country,” says Pierre. “Our business depends on our ability to maintain a stable workforce. If that workforce changes too frequently, business continuity is out the door and relationships with customers, clients and suppliers will need to be rebuilt, causing delays and disruption.

“In some of the popular outsourcing destinations such as India, where there is high inflation and high job turnover, some positions like call centres currently have a 100 percent depletion, while our attrition is minimal at about 10 percent.”

He says growing quality skills is a priority for SoluGrowth and he points to a programme that was started in October 2014. “We recruit individuals from previously disadvantaged communities and provide hands-on experience for 18 months, alongside a government grant for the first 18 months to study towards a finance diploma. We started the programme with roughly three individuals in October 2014, and now more than 25 percent of our staff currently working on a project come from this initiative.”

Many of the programme participants are now team leaders and supervisors and he says it is one of the best sourcing initiatives that the company has had over the last few years.
“One of our greatest assets is that we have a team that’s cross-trained across all of the different projects we have worked on over the years. If an employee is off sick, or has to take paternity or maternity leave, or if labour laws change in the US like they did when paternity leave increased from one week to three months, it means you have a back-up plan.”

SoluGrowth’s approach to service delivery is collaborative. Pierre says they offer a range of services to help clients achieve their goals by streamlining the process and eliminating unnecessary obstacles. “We work collaboratively with our clients, providing guidance on the best ways to achieve those goals, rather than simply meeting preset standards. Every quarter, we hold a business review with both the client and our own staff to discuss progress made towards these goals and how we can improve upon them for future projects or assignments.”

He says SoluGrowth always focuses on delivering value to its clients: “We review the value we’ve added for them in the last quarter and think about what they’ll want from us in the next quarter. We also offer a highly customisable service. This means we do not offer cookie-cutter solutions. Instead, we create a plan that is specifically designed to meet the needs of each client. We also have the flexibility to work on your hardware or ours if need be. I think this is one of the key reasons we have experienced so much growth in recent years.”

As a highly agile and adaptive operation, the company is able to meet challenges like load shedding and power disruption head-on. It all comes down to being responsive and having contingencies in place.

“We have issued all our people with 3G cards for all the networks because connectivity can differ according to location. We have our head office located in Pretoria, with satellite offices in all other major cities in South Africa available through a flexible booking system. Some dedicated space in Cape Town is also being used every week, that has fully operational UPSes and generators, and people can come in to work from those.”

Being a reliable data provider
Pierre recognises that data is more crucial than ever for finance leaders to meet reporting requirements on time and respond to burgeoning obligations such as ESG, and says SoluGrowth is in a position to effectively support its clients with digital transformation and data analytics.

“Having timely and accurate data is essential for most projects,” he says. “We have live dashboards where information gets automatically populated. The right data strategy depends on the size of your company and the purpose of your project. Our team leaders must be able to keep track of the status of their projects, and the only way they can do that is by having quality data available.”

This special feature was originally published in the second edition of the 2022 CFO South Africa magazine.

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