Embracing uncertainty

An agile and forward-thinking strategy, under solid leadership, has enabled the Innovative Solutions Group not only to adapt but also to thrive

SA’s business landscape is quickly becoming even more competitive in the wake of the pandemic, as the growing inflation crunch sparks yet another shake-out. To not only survive but excel through the coming months, organisations need to lean into the opportunities created by uncertainty to drive new efficiencies, diversify and seize market share, says Arnoux Maré, founder and CEO of the Innovative Solutions Group.

‘In times of uncertainty, it’s common to see businesses pull back or fall victim to paralysis, but this only allows your competitors the space needed to pull ahead, placing you and your business at a severe disadvantage for the future,’ he says. ‘One of the simplest strategies to deal with mounting costs is to rather put a premium on operational efficiency, or trim the fat and demand greater value. More daunting, but perhaps even more rewarding, is to embrace entrepreneurship and innovation to diversify your revenue base and exploit new market opportunities for growth.’

With Maré at the helm, this philosophy has served the Innovative Solutions Group well over the past decade, and especially through the turbulent period of the pandemic. Founded in 2011 with a team of just five employees and an investment in a single brand, the Innovative Solutions Group has quickly become one of SA’s fastest-growing investment holding companies, with nearly 38 000 employees across its subsidiaries and a multibillion-rand turnover.

The meteoric success of its largest subsidiary, Innovative Staffing Solutions, is evidence of the benefits of enhancing value through boosting efficiency and reducing costs. As a specialist in operational management, its proposition to clients is simple – by outsourcing non-core operations and administrative functions to its team, clients can cut their operational expenses by up to 10%, while simultaneously increasing performance and productivity levels.

Maré notes, however, that while outsourcing often carries negative connotations within SA, Innovative Staffing Solutions’ unique model provides mutual rewards for employees and businesses. ‘All Innovative Staffing Solutions’ employees are hired on a permanent, full-time basis, and are outsourced to clients depending on their specific needs. In uncertain industries such as engineering or construction, where projects are often placed on pause or even cancelled, this enables us to simply transfer employees to other projects where their skills are needed instead,’ he says.

‘This saves companies the expense of redundant salaries, while employees can enjoy the peace of mind of steady incomes and job security. Additionally, Innovative Staffing Solutions has been able to secure staff superior salaries and [provide] benefits to other employees within their industries, such as a comprehensive medical aid scheme with Discovery and a competitive company provident fund.’

Through improving working conditions, benefits and training for employees, while simultaneously providing clients with access to experienced management professionals, Innovative Staffing Solutions boasts the impressive achievement of assisting clients to reduce incidents of industrial strike action by 98%.

As further testament to the strength of its reputation, its client base has rapidly expanded over the past decade from a focus on the transportation and logistics sector to industries such as mining, agriculture, retail, hospitality, engineering, construction and fast-moving consumer goods.

‘Innovative Staffing Solutions’ success with clients demonstrates the impact that prioritising efficiency can have on businesses, especially in slow and low-growth markets as seen in South Africa over the past few years,’ says Maré.

‘And today, as competition intensifies and margins come under pressure, the risk of failure actually represents an important opportunity for organisations to get a leg up by refocusing on their core services and creating leaner, more resilient businesses for the future.’

Arnoux Maré, Innovative Solutions Group CEO

Not content to rest on the laurels of Innovative Staffing Solutions, however, his entrepreneurial spirit has seen Innovative Solutions Group invest in several other start-ups over the years to diversify its portfolio – perhaps most notably in Innovative Learning Solutions. In 2020, as the pandemic raged across the country, causing South Africans to avoid public spaces, Maré quickly observed the growing demand for professional Code 10 and 14 drivers to assist logistics companies through the online-shopping boom.

In his trademark style, Maré moved the entrepreneurial process swiftly from ideation to implementation and, in June 2020, Africa’s largest truck-driver training and testing centre opened its doors. Innovative Learning Solutions provides a range of comprehensive, practical programmes for upskilling drivers certified by the Transport Education Training Authority. In this way, it aims to reduce unemployment and enable drivers to advance their careers, while simultaneously reducing the risk of road accidents and freight losses to businesses.

Within its first year of operations, Innovative Learning Solutions trained more than 8 000 truck drivers, and in the months since it has continued to add new training programmes in response to changing conditions. For example, amid growing anxiety over fuel-price shocks, its latest programme launched in July this year seeks to train drivers in techniques for reducing diesel consumption.

The Innovative Solutions Group has also embraced the opportunities created by the turbulence of the past few years to acquire several high-potential businesses in a range of industries, introducing new efficiencies and providing strategic oversight to drive growth and returns.

One such business is the acclaimed Priva Restaurant and Cigar Lounge, the recent recipient of the Best Fine Dining Restaurant title by Pretoria News, Best Luxury Restaurant by Pretoria Magazine, and Best Restaurant of Pretoria 2022 by Restaurant Week.

Likewise, the organisation has ventured into tourism and hospitality with the purchase of the Kiarnoux Dal game farm a few hours’ drive from Johannesburg and, most recently, into retail – with the purchase of Leisure & Adventure finalised in June this year. The shopping destination of choice for outdoor enthusiasts with outlets in Modimolle and Bela-Bela, Leisure & Adventure stocks well-known brands such as Swarovski, First Ascent, K-Way and Hi-Tec. As households gradually resume holiday and hiking activities, the group already plans to capitalise on rising demand by opening another three stores in remote areas of SA within the next year.

‘The extreme levels of pain inflicted on the restaurant and hospitality industries – and to some extent retail as well – has made some investors wary. But this has also opened the opportunity to purchase high-quality assets with long-term staying power at a discount, while minimising risk to our own operations through diversifying our income,’ says Maré.

‘As a business leader, you can’t afford to bury your head in the sand or wait until you feel certain before making a move – by then, your competitors will already be five steps ahead. If Innovative Solutions Group proves anything, it’s that by adopting a contrary mindset, and remaining nimble to gaps in the market or shifting trends, you will quickly find attractive opportunities for growth and expansion while safeguarding profitability.’


+27 (0) 10 010 0076
[email protected]