One of Africa’s challenges in recent times is that of insecurity especially in the light of insurgency, border encroachment and other related issues.
It is the opinion of the public that a nation without adequate security, records a large number of losses and as such, security should come as priority when discussing national issues. Security companies have an important role to play in the overall process and technology is one element that guarantees success in this field.
In an exclusive interview with African Leadership Magazine’s Eruke Ojuederie, the CEO, Securitas South Africa and member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO), Loic Potjes, sheds some light on the importance of technology as a part of security service in Africa. Excerpt:
How do you see security service in Africa?
We see a traditional low skilled manpower based approach, which is however rapidly transforming into a higher skilled manpower, enabled and assisted by the latest technology. We also see many entrants in the industry, initiating a disruption process, mostly from the tech or IT industry.
Over the past 7 years, Securitas South Africa has recorded tremendous success in terms of expansion with about 4,000 employees to its credit. What will you say is the secret behind the outstanding successes?
We have had a thorough focus on doing things differently. We reallocate our customers’ security budget by decreasing slightly the need on lower skilled manpower for certain tasks like patrolling for example, and replacing it by a leasing of the latest security technologies. This brings an incomparable upside in terms of efficiency, all within customer’s current security budgets. As a result, we upskill our employees and create more higher earning positions like control room operators, technicians, supervisors and management jobs or simply a higher security guards qualification and related salary, all enabled through re-allocating more efficiently the same security budgets. Everyone wins!
Giving the numerous security challenges experienced across Africa, how in your opinion do you think these challenges can be properly addressed?
Governments must provide stable environments into which citizens, communities and businesses can operate and prosper. These in turn will be harnessing more and more the opportunities enabled by technology to thrive and solve practical problems encountered in different environments.
Can you throw some light on the transition from low cost margin manpower based model to the tech based highly differentiated model which you company is currently employing?
This model is such that once we clarified our differentiated strategy, we took a process driven approach into transforming our company internally. At first I must say that we totally underestimated the inertia linked to the perceived inability to change and the comfort we all fine in repeating and reproducing what we have always done. As a mostly traditional manpower based corporate security company, we acquired a local high tech entrepreneurial business. We had to ensure that we would retain the best of both worlds; the passion, creativity and innovation of the entrepreneurial spirit, to be successfully harnessed and scaled by the methodical process driven approach of a corporation.
Change management workshops, regular communication, lots of class based and in the field practical training, transforming our operations managers into franchise type business owners (the Securitas Branch Manager Model), new sales teams hired from outside the industry, bringing a fresh conceptual approach to tackling the usual challenges, and aligning remuneration and reward to actually delivering higher value to customers, all contributed to the success story.
You are one of many CEO’s that strongly believe in entrepreneurship to drive growth in business. What approaches can be employed to ensure more people especially the young people, take advantage of entrepreneurial activities?
It all starts with education. Young people must be encouraged very early to understand the basics of entrepreneurship. Schools must nurture and reward creativity, developing early on exposure to the basics of case based problem solving, self-learning, empirical activities, next to exposure to the basics of running a business, transforming an idea into a start-up, then scaling it, etc. This should be followed with the tackling of the numerous regulatory obstacles remaining in terms of ease of doing business in many countries. Whilst a number of countries in Africa have progressed significantly in this regard, others remain behind.
The GRIT mindset is also something to be thought more and more in our education systems; the ability to persevere, fail, try again, learn, work hard and achieve long term goals is essential! We face many challenges in Africa; most of us discover early on the reality of having to find practical solutions to go by, day after day. This is a tremendous skill that, if properly recognized and within the right enabling environment can create scalable solutions to many problems, poverty reduction, prosperity and advancement on the continent. We see many great initiatives in the field of social entrepreneurship for example.
YPO (Young Presidents’ Organization) is a not-for-profit, global network of young chief executives connected through the shared mission of becoming Better Leaders Through Education and Idea Exchange™. For more information, visit www.ypo.org.