Unlocking Scalability with Investment
Writer: Emily Jarvis
Project Manager: Josh Hyland
Since embarking on its first remote site project for Anglo South Africa in the early 2000s, International Facilities Services (IFS) has capitalised on the marked increase in investment and development on the African continent to unlock the true potential and scalability of its business.
It was this first business opportunity that led IFS to identify the demand for its offering: the combination of its international expertise and local understanding to provide catering, housekeeping, laundry and related secondary services to a wide range of industries and public institutions, with a concerted focus on remote site solutions.
“The success of our first foray both enhanced Anglo’s reputation and the demand for our offering in what was a relatively niche market. It was then our appetite for risk combined with our multitude of competencies that saw our services transcend across borders and into sub-Saharan Africa,” comments Peter Horne, Sales Manager for IFS South Africa.
Equipped with these industry-leading competencies, IFS has spent the past decade expanding its footprint into 16 African countries and igniting the interest of investors looking for growth opportunities on the continent; forging a lucrative deal with a consortium comprising of longstanding leaders of industry with significant African experience, including Nedbank Private Equity.
“This partnership not only contributed a wealth of knowledge, networking opportunities and strategic thinking, but it also contributed towards a significant strengthening of the Group’s balance sheet and financial capabilities.
Additionally, it helped guide us through a difficult economic period for service providers and come out the other side with a bright future as a flexible, innovative and reactive private company; partnering with leaders of industry to ensure continued compliance,” he adds.
After 15 years of working hard to gain the financial capacities needed to make big investments to secure longevity – including the reorganisation of its board and executive team and human resource initiatives – IFS aims to now analyse the current market conditions in 2015 and derive a strategy that creates value for both the business and the communities impacted by its presence.
“Building capabilities is a constant drive and we are continually evaluating organisational requirements to identify new products and deliver new sources of revenue in existing markets, as well as targeting new markets for our existing product offering. Delivering on this strategy is critical to our company’s success and the achievement of operational excellence.
“IFS has stamped its authority on the remote site service industry and become an attractive proposition for clients and staff alike,” Horne explains.
Throughout the current economic slowdown that is affecting commodity prices, IFS has remained positive and focused its energies on making the right investments to ensure a solid platform from which to grow once the market turns. “To be successful in these markets requires an intimate knowledge of local conditions, specialist skills and a focus on logistics. As such, IFS has placed great emphasis on its people and clients, spending a significant amount of time working on the ground in the harshest conditions to develop a competitive edge in the market. This has been instrumental in being able to showcase our portfolio of bespoke solutions to the various prospective clients across a wide geography,” comments Horne.
From its new, larger South African office in Durban – comprising of 50 employees – IFS is able to oversee work completed across its various regions of operation, however, local skills are a must in neighbouring countries in order to guarantee there is continuous skills transfer. Therefore, IFS ensures the corporate office structure is replicated in each country of operation.
Horne confirms: “Our 95 percent local representation goal enables locals to take responsibility for whole divisions of the Company; and in certain instances, we are proud to have achieved 99 percent local content provision. Support is provided from our head office in Mauritius, but ultimately each country runs itself with the Country Manager being responsible for operational targets being met and client base growth.”
In order to further reinforce this corporate structure, IFS HR Executive, Natasha Marwick, has been tasked with overhauling the Company’s training procedures; tailoring its methods for various languages, cultures and geographies. “Natasha and her team represent IFS’ objectives to retain staff through honesty, transparency, integrity and reward. The values instilled in all staff follow: Momentum, Energy, Respect, Integrity, and Teamwork (MERIT); values which we hope to achieve at even the most remote sites,” he details.
In 2012, IFS went through a rebranding exercise with the aim of creating a warm, friendly environment for its staff and client base; “a home away from home” as Horne describes. The Company has spent a significant amount of time and money on research and development in order to develop a brand that can move with the times and is committed to an innovative approach.
Furthermore, IFS have invested in a number of IT initiatives and satellite systems to enhance the service provided to its clients, but also standardising the Group’s reporting base. Branded ‘SMART’ – an ongoing project headed by longstanding Finance Director, Johnnie Eigelaar, Eigelaar and Finance Manager Jon Lee – the system is completely unique to the industry and demonstrates IFS’s appetite for investment to achieve growth and creating workable solutions aimed at enhancing services.
“The SMART acronym stands for: Service, Management, Accountability, Retail and Trade functionality. SMART will firmly place our finger on the pulse of all our operations on the ground and will provide unsurpassed client satisfaction and sustainably high levels, thereby setting a new benchmark in our industry,” emphasises Eigelaar.
With sustainability at the heart of its new strategic direction, IFS takes corporate social responsibility (CSR) very seriously and in many areas of its operations the Company has implemented Community Trusts; where target projects identified by IFS receive funding, along with the provision of assistance for general community upliftment.
Horne highlights: “Ultimately, IFS aims to contribute CSR initiatives in the geographies surrounding its client base. Generally, focus is given to children, education and skills development and healthcare; all of which demonstrate our desire to be seen as a responsible citizen.”
Running parallel to this, IFS will continue to look for projects that will constitute realistic and achievable growth year on year across the region, with the target to double its client base across its operations by 2020. “Right now, we have a number of innovative projects in the planning phase, which should come into fruition in the next three to five years, further cementing the Company as a market leader in Africa,” says Horne.
“Most notably, IFS is growing at a time where most competitors are not; this has only been possible through our forward thinking and internal commitment to continuous improvement, resulting in affordable and quality solutions for our ever-growing client base. Subsequently, our financial capability to carry infrastructure and general investment projects has been a key factor in our success. This has strengthened our position, allowing IFS to build trust among its client base and beyond,” he concludes.