The Office Services division of Servest is building a strong foundation to drive sustainable growth and differentiate in what is a competitive and evolving facilities management industry in South Africa
Facilities management is a complex business.
With many companies boasting large portfolios of services and managing multiple sites for numerous different clients, no job is ever the same, and consistent standards are a must in order to succeed.
Add in the relative maturity of the market in South Africa, and the challenge for FM providers to thrive becomes even clearer to see.
“This density of competition, the regulatory environment, as well as the fact that it is a labour-intensive industry, makes it an extremely challenging environment to operate in,” remarks Xolile Sizani, Group CEO at Servest.
“Furthermore, barriers to entry are low and clients are price sensitive. However, with intensification of the fourth industrial revolution, as well as the increasing pressures on businesses to contain and drive down costs, the industry is actually poised for growth through innovation.
“Additionally, recent research conducted in the sector indicates that companies are planning to outsource more of their facility needs in the upcoming year.”
About Servest Office Services
The Office Services division of Servest is a very diverse business, offering multiple complimentary soft service offerings to clients across South Africa.
The Office Services division of the Servest Group has 10 branches, with operational infrastructure in another five regions across the country. The Group currently has a footprint in 10 African countries with presence in more than 11,100 client sites.
The company’s service portfolio includes:
- Washroom/hygiene services
- Pest control
- Chemical deep cleaning of ablutions
- Specialised kitchen deep cleaning
- Indoor plants
- Water cooler machines
These solutions are rented, serviced, and maintained by the firm’s trained service teams around the country. Servest Office Services also sells a range of related products, including:
- Paper consumables (e.g. toilet paper and hand towels)
- Hand soaps and sanitisers
- Cleaning chemicals
- Janitorial consumables and equipment
- Large specialist cleaning capex equipment
- Plants and containers (including living walls)
Anderson became part of Servest in 2007 when his previous employer was acquired by the company, working up through the ranks into the Managing Director’s chair.
An important part of his upcoming remit will be to implement a joined-up strategy based on the vision of the wider Servest Group, which recently appointed Xolile Sizani as Chief Executive Officer.
Asked if he was excited by the new chapter, Anderson is quick to reply: “Definitely. The vision is to build a strong foundation for sustainable and profitable growth through driving a high-performance culture that is focused on our customers, processes, people and effective execution.
“We also want to help grow black-owned businesses, and in particular, black female-owned businesses, to improve our contribution to economic empowerment of these entities and to support our clients’ BBBEE strategies.”
Such a foundational strategy involves several key focuses, including the creation of a high-performance culture, appointment of appropriately skilled and experienced leaders, and the development and implementation of a new growth strategy.
Further, Servest Office Services will be introducing new services in line with evolving customer requirements, services which will also be deployed in new geographies.
“Our current goal is to expand our African footprint even further through a focused approach around mergers and acquisitions.
“Our aim is to bring solutions solely geared to support our clients to meet their strategies, and our integrated solution approach enables us to partner with them as strategic partners, assisting them on delivering on their triple bottom line and not just managing their facilities,” says Ross Anderson, Managing Director for the Office Services Division of Servest.
Anderson, in describing the company’s aim to become strategic partners of clients, also touches on some key differentiators which help to set Servest Office Services apart from competitors.
In an ever-diverse and complex industry, the ability to adapt and pioneer is paramount to a company’s success, which is exactly what the new Group strategy is all about.
“For us, innovation in terms of systems, new products, the constant drive for delivering back of house admin accuracy, exceptional service delivery, improving turnaround times, and communication, stand us apart,” Anderson says.
“We are always asking the question – can we do it better, smarter, or more efficiently?”
This relies upon a skilled, motivated and loyal cohort of staff, the company giving recruitment preference to internal candidates and facilitating promotion within the organisation. Careful succession and career planning are bolstered by internal and external training opportunities, ensuring Servest retains its best talent for the long term.
Anderson also points to the important role of procurement, both in terms of operational efficiency and the positive impact the company has on local enterprise.
“Although the Group has a procurement team, I have my own setup based on the volume of product that we procure and consume or sell monthly,” he explains. “Forecasting, procuring (locally and abroad), warehousing, logistics and distribution is a pivotal component to our service delivery and success.
“All of our paper products and chemicals are locally sourced as well as some of our janitorial consumables and equipment. Around 95 percent of all plants are all gown locally, with the majority coming out of our own farms, and all plant containers are sourced locally.
“The rest of the janitorial equipment and large cleaning equipment are imported but procured from local companies.”
Asides supporting local people and businesses through employment and supply chain activities, Servest invests in a great range of other community-based developments.
Lesipho Trust is a non-profit organisation established in 2014 to manage and channel, amongst other things, socioeconomic development spend for all divisions of the Group.
It supports many bodies, including the National Council for the Disabled, JAM (Joint AID Management), Middleburg Care Village, Netcare Rehabilitation Hospital, and The South African National Council for the Blind (SANCB).
Lesipho Trust also provides bursaries for children who were previously disadvantaged.
Looking ahead, Sizani identifies three major focusses that will help solidify the company’s position as a go-to FM provider.
This includes the development of a high-performance sales team to drive organic growth, complemented by the ongoing identification of quality businesses to acquire.
First and foremost, however, is to embed new systems in order to deliver excellence to clients.
Anderson signs off by reinstating the importance of this objective. “The challenge for our business and other large businesses in our industry is that we have diverse service and product offerings, a large number of clients and even more sites, and behind all that massive databases to maintain.
“Each site has multiple types of washroom units, many of each type with lots of small values all adding up to one invoice. The ability to service our clients on time with the right consumables, the right teams, bill accurately and be able to collect that money, therefore, is sometimes a challenge.
“Our goal is to have the best and most accurate systems in place to ensure that we service right each time, never miss a service, carry out necessary repairs swiftly, bill 100 percent accurately each time, and thus always delight our clients.”
First published in Africa Outlook