HEART OF THE MATTER - JSE MAGAZINE

HEART OF THE MATTER

Through its subsidiaries, Innovative Solutions Group is driving the idea that business leaders should pioneer their industry – not just their own company

Organisations have to continuously reinvent themselves if they wish to remain relevant in the world of business. But if they want to truly excel, they must innovate the industry and not just the organisation, says Arnoux Maré, CEO of Innovative Solutions Group and MD of its subsidiaries, which provide outsourced services and solutions in staff outsourcing; finance, administration, taxation, accounting and auditing; BEE; branding and printing solutions; and personal protective equipment.

‘The fast-paced world of business requires that you must be adaptable, flexible enough in your approach, but steadfast in your values. This is why it is important to have a team that shares your vision and drive for success,’ he says. ‘At Innovative Solutions Group, we hire people who are passionate about entrepreneurship. This is, after all, our core business.’

Maré’s philosophy is actualised through the group’s largest subsidiary, Innovative Staffing Solutions. It employs more than 10 000 staff, all of whom are outsourced to various clients across the mining, transport, industrial and logistics industries all over the country. More than 5 500 staff members are truck drivers, and Innovative Staffing Solutions regularly puts them through training courses to ensure these drivers are well equipped and meticulous on the roads.

Taking this further, Innovative Staffing Solutions implements, in conjunction with a combination of regular driver evaluation and corrective training, fleet technology monitoring systems and close management of driver schedules to prevent fatigue and negligence. These processes in turn reduce the number of accidents involving commercial vehicles.

Other gate-keeping measures employed by Innovative Staffing Solutions include dedicated controllers who each oversee approximately 40 trucks and their drivers, providing constant feedback on driver behaviour and potential issues that could affect operations.

Every Innovative Staffing Solutions’ client has an on-site driver trainer. They provide ongoing training and instil the importance of safety regulations. They also accompany drivers on trips on an ad hoc   basis to observe their driving and to make sure they conform to safety and road regulations, says Maré.

‘During the twelve months we also acquired two of our own trucks [that are] dedicated to driver training. The on-site trucks benefit our clients by significantly reducing downtime for their trucks. It also ensures all drivers are properly trained in safety regulations and provided with the necessary skills to guarantee their safety and that of others on the roads.

‘Because we understand the toll driving commercial trucks can take on drivers, we have an incentive system in place, where if our drivers complete a year accident free, above their pay and bonuses we give them an additional R1 000 bonus for the first 90 days that they are accident free. The constant tracking of fleets our drivers work with and the fast response by our security personnel means our trucks are less likely to be involved in accidents or targeted by criminals.’

In 2018 Innovative Staffing Solutions struck a deal with Discovery Health to offer affordable comprehensive medical cover to the organisation’s entire staff complement.

‘This was a first in this country – having a company that offered affordable comprehensive medical cover, not just to its management staff but to all its personnel. This is something that was dear to my heart. I didn’t want to have to explain to any of our staff’s family why their loved ones, after working so hard, couldn’t afford decent medical care should they fall sick,’ says Maré. Negotiations, he adds, took months but Innovative Staffing Solutions and Discovery Health were able to reach an agreement that suited both parties.

Maré also negotiated a three-year agreement with union National Transport Movement to ensure that Innovative Staffing Solutions’ staff members will not partake in strikes or go-slows. The agreement also entails that no strikes will be registered with the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration. All labour-related disputes will be resolved through arbitration.

This form of innovative thinking, says Maré, is what changes the industry. ‘You need to approach problems and potential problems with an open mind. While other organisations are content with dealing with industrial action posthumously, we decided to take a more proactive stance. Very often the employees of a business do not want to strike because they know as soon as they strike, they will not be paid for the work days they have missed. This agreement protects employees while giving them a better platform to deal with grievances, by going the route of an independent arbitration.’

With more than a decade of experience in SA’s labour market, Maré understands that tomorrow’s problems cannot be solved using yesteryears’ methodologies. Since the inception of Innovative Staffing Solutions eight years ago, Maré has been opposed to the exploitation of workers by labour brokers. ‘You can’t be static in business. Neither can you hope to build a thriving business while exploiting the vulnerable. That is an unsustainable business model. The groundbreaking Constitutional Court judgement [nullifying labour brokers] essentially freed low-paid workers, often exploited by labour brokers, giving them much needed security.

‘Again, this is where Innovative Staffing Solutions has led the way. Unlike labour brokers, employees are permanently employed by Innovative Staffing Solutions. These employees are then placed on contract to our clients, allowing their management teams to focus on value-adding business operations while we take care of their non-core business functions. This provides substantial cost savings for clients because we absorb the cost of training, skills development and competency licensing requirements,’ says Maré.

‘We also reduce the pressure on organisations by allowing them to focus on growing their operations and boosting their bottom line.’

On having grown the business from R500 to more than R1 billion in eight years, Maré attributes this to his hands-on approach when it comes to operational matters. He says knowing what a client wants is just half of the equation.

‘You have to know how to service your clients effectively and efficiently. This requires several things, one of which is paying attention to their needs, and also knowing what the trends are in your particular industry.

‘If you are merely duplicating what others have done, then you will always be playing catch-up. You need to constantly evaluate and re-evaluate your business, client offerings and industry. Many businesses have gone under simply because they didn’t read or negotiate the terrain. Do away with aspects of your business that are not growing the business. If you can outsource the parts that have nothing to do with your daily operations, then do so,’ he says.

As an employer, according to Maré, leaders need to ensure they are approachable and available to their staff members.

‘No matter how great your business model is, or how well your employees are paid, if you are not amicable, your staff will not talk to you about what is going wrong in your business. You also need to encourage employees to find ways of executing their tasks more efficiently and rewarding good-practice behaviour,’ he says.

‘Treat your organisation like a living organism, duly paying attention to each of its components, but don’t get so attached that you fail to see when old methods no longer serve the business.’ 

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