MOST INFLUENTIAL WOMEN 2015/16
CASE IN POINT | CEOS Technologies
by Valdi Pereira
Growing and Learning
Continental and regional winner for 2014 in the ICT sector of Africa’s Most Influential Women in Business and Government and brand ambassador for Africa’s Most Influential Women in Business and Government, Ann Kleynhans knows what it’s like to start right at the bottom and work your way to the top.
“When I decided to leave the engineering sector and venture out on my own it was both exciting and daunting at the same time,” the CEO of CEOS Technologies shares. “I soon learned the more opportunities I took, the more opportunities came my way.”
Looking back on those days, Ann admits a lot of her success was driven by raw talent and by using her natural energy and drive, to achieve her goals. “The ICT sector and market was very different in those days. When I started out I knew very little but was able to grow my technical knowledge along with business growth. I believe in today’s environment it will be far more challenging to adopt an approach of this nature.”
A Learning Experience
She points out that while she may have ‘founded’ CEOS Technologies in 1998, the company has played an equal role in ‘founding’ her. Pointing out the business helped shape her as an entrepreneur in equal measure to the work she put into shaping the business to achieve her objectives.
“I think a lot of entrepreneurs will be able to identify with what I am saying. Your business almost becomes an extension of you and how you like to do business. In the beginning it was about taking an opportunity in a male dominated environment. Today a large part of the business is about giving opportunities to women and the youth. In some way things changed but still remained the same.”
While the recognition Ann achieved via Africa’s Most Influential Women in Business and Government has been gratifying, it has also been somewhat of a pleasant surprise to her. “It has been a humbling experience to be recognised by my peers in this fashion. As I travel through Africa I get to meet many women and when I listen to their business stories, it puts my own challenges in perspective.
“It has also been a surprise for me in the sense that I never consciously worked towards recognition of this nature. As an entrepreneur you work towards making sure your company is competitive and that it is delivering the best possible service that it can, within the limitations of your resource base.
“When you receive recognition of this nature it does give you cause to pause and reflect. In my case I have decided that it provides me with an ideal platform to encourage young people and other women; showing them what heights can be achieved in the sector if you apply yourself.”
Plan for Growth
Ann’s years in business have taught her the value of planning – identifying that on every occasion when she has failed, it was because her planning has not been up to standard. Putting plans in place and underpinning them with strategies, is therefore key to her business approach. So is the ability to remain flexible and work around challenges that may arise.
“I have also learnt that growth can be a tricky proposition, especially when you are a SMME. You have to pay careful attention to financial principles when making growth plans or you can inadvertently place yourself in difficult financial circumstances,” she shares. “You also have to ensure that before you pursue growth, you have the emotional support and intellectual engagement of your staff to achieve success.”
CEOS Technologies has evolved over the years to the point where it offers 24/7, 365 days a year four hour repair services to its corporate customers through its branches across the country.
Presently the company is one of the leading professional project management firms in the South African ICT sector. This means it is able to take on huge projects and provide a wide range of professional services. This includes building server rooms and equipping it with the necessary technology and extends further to civil and fibre projects that involve running as much as 40 kilometres of fibre.
Being a system integrator company they pride themselves in being a Gold partner and certified partner of other leading brands, which attests to the capabilities and expertise that it can make available to clients.
“While I believe creativity and innovation is a very important part of business nowadays, old fashioned values are still very important,” says Ann. ‘The Customer is King’, no matter how you look at business, it would not exist without the support of the customer. While I have a great team at my side who are driven and committed, I always remind them that we need to be humble and respect the needs of our customers.”
With almost two decades of experience in the ICT sector CEOS Technologies has become adept at reading market changes under Ann’s guidance. Presently it is strongly positioned as one of the leading professional project management companies on the continent, but is aware of the fact that it cannot rest on its collective laurels.
“The beauty of technology is that it quickly erodes barriers and our competitors will no doubt quickly follow in our footsteps,” Ann acknowledges. “As a result we are already thinking about how we can offer expanded services in the cloud space. Something we believe will represent a big opportunity on the continent amongst SMEs.
“I also believe training and providing people with skills is going to become increasingly important in the future. We have already entered into this field with a training centre in the Eastern Cape. The first interns have graduated from the centre in recent months, marking an important milestone in what I believe will be another new development for CEOS Technologies.”