Michael started his career in the information and communications technology (ICT) industry in 2008, initially at MTN, before moving to lead the rollout of Neotel in South Africa.
While working with Neotel, he quickly developed an eye for identifying market gaps and saw the opportunity to register an authorised installer business with the launch of Top TV, a business which his wife led for two years until they sold it.
When Neotel announced its acquisition by ICT giant Vodacom, Michael realised he needed to start his own venture. He knew that the future of business efficiency lay in connecting people, but not all of SMEs have access to resources or technology that enable them to compete with bigger enterprises.
“An idea or business model is only as good as the systems that drive it, and in today’s business climate, the systems leading the way use efficient technology and virtual collaboration,” says Michael.
To fill the gap in the market, he started Innovo Networks in 2013, a high-touch, business-focused voice, data and cloud provider aimed specifically at helping SMEs grow and expand their operations by providing the best technologies at a better price than larger corporates in the industry.
“I wanted to use my expertise in the ICT industry and provide guidance and best-of-breed products to SMEs in South Africa so that they could sustain themselves and contribute towards growing the local economy in terms of job creation,” he says.
Just when his business was starting to flourish in its second year of operations, the company lost R500 000 on a fraudulent order and as a leader, Michael realised that his response to the situation was critical to the business’s future success.
“I had to be strong, and show leadership to my team, leading them to believe that the business could and would bounce back from this setback.”
Since he started his business, he has racked up a list of business and entrepreneur awards, including Top 10 IT Personality of the Year 2016 and bronze winner in ROCCI and FNB Business of the Year Awards 2017 for innovation and disruptive ICT solutions.
Some of the critical lessons he has learnt and embraced since he ventured on his entrepreneurial journey are that retaining top talent is paramount to business success.
“It is difficult for a small business to compete with salaries offered by larger telecommunication corporates, but it is crucial to hire top talent and reward them appropriately. Otherwise you risk losing them to the giants in the industry,” he says.
Michael credits his entrepreneurial success to his attention to detail and ability to spot gaps in the market. “My passion for helping others and being customer-centric in all my businesses has always been a big part of my journey too,” he says.
Looking to the future, Michael has big dreams for the business and plans to innovate across Innovo Networks’ entire product portfolio and build its own cloud platform and security products. “We want to dominate and disrupt the cloud space, with the goal being to attract a multi-national buyout,” he says.
Michael’s advice to his fellow entrepreneurs:
- Have a clear and concise vision for your business. It is also important you are able to articulate this vision clearly and regularly to your team.
- Hire top talent and pay well, or to the best of your ability – this will pay off.
- Make the effort. No-one succeeds immediately, but the long hours of hard work will pay off in the end.