Stratcol was formed in October 2003 based on a very specific need, which Hennie Heymans, CEO of Stratcol and a practicing attorney, had with his Debtors. He required a practical and comprehensive electronic debit order solution that enabled him to have control over his cash flow.
This specific requirement was not unique just to the legal profession, but throughout all sectors within South Africa. Research had proven that the average payment term of Debtors in SA is 59 days after invoicing. This lengthy process is the reason as to why so many companies in South Africa are struggling since their debtors are controlling their cash!
Law / Debit and Credit Movements through Bankers environment
An average day
My typical day transforms tremendously from a hands-on practical labour sense, to exploring and delegating tasks. My main challenges during the day are to find the next square that we can knock into a round shape. Normal business life is full of complex challenges and obstacles, and our clients do not want their professional relationships burdened further with unnecessary red tape and tiresome procedures. I therefore focus on building a business that is flexible and compatible, that creates user friendly applications and that is mindful of the most important asset, the operator or user.
My managerial style enables me to completely delegate to an excellent handpicked team of individual experts. As any CEO will attest to, with delegation comes accountability and therefore much of my day is spent in consultation and consideration of the various implementations that are needed.
Journey to success
I obtained my B. Proc. Degree in 1990 at the University of Pretoria, and I was admitted as an attorney the same year. In 2009 I also successfully completed a course in Advanced Corporate Law and Securities Law at UNISA.
My journey started much the same as any other attorney in a law firm, and my time was spent learning and honing my skills to apply your mind to achieve results by accepting that there is always more than one road to success. It was during these times that my frustrations to collect outstanding fees, forced me to explore alternative methods of payment collection.
Having recognised the concept that debit orders can restore the priority control to the creditor, I realised the potential and the business opportunity. Every idea needs a funding partner so that the idea can be born, nourished and be brought to maturity and thus I formed a joint venture with one my clients.
The road was long, the Balance Sheet was red and the light ahead was as dark as a never ending tunnel. Eventually the partnership ran out of funds and we had to obtain public funding from about 18 000 shareholders. Throughout this time we kept our eyes completely focused on our goals, and the rest is history as we made a resounding success of our business!
Since our partners original contribution was very limited, I had to educate myself in different areas of business and the first book I bought was “Access for Dummies”. I spent most of my spare time including a Easter Weekend to understand what Access is about in order to build our first database. Subsequently this database has been rebuilt many a time, but we did finally reach a point where we could substitute it with a proper database.
Those years I saw myself as the Chief, Cook and bottle washer of the company as I invested myself in programming, marketing and managing the business.
Personality Profile to Match
My job is one of service, and certainly not one of governing from a pedestal. You need to be able to make quick decisions, be accountable for those decisions and ensure you never burn your bridges. It is irrelevant if you have a personality that is more introverted or extraverted to fulfil the position of a CEO. Being the “face” of the company will only get you so far – you have to lead in a fair and transparent manner to earn the trust of those who you seek to follow you.
The best advice that I can offer is to not be afraid to start from the bottom. Be on the lookout for opportunities, listen to the right people and never be afraid to learn! The mere fact that I had to master programming, irrespective of the low level of skill I reached, meant that I knew when the wool was being pulled over my eyes, but I also understood the programmers’ needs and frustrations.
Challenges to face head on
For me it has never really been about making money or trying to be the best, the biggest challenge is to not take what you have achieved for granted and to keep building on that!
Management is not about winning any popularity contests. It is about being fair, applying the same transparent principles throughout, and making the tough decisions when to cut losses or get rid of the dead wood.
Did you plan to reach your position?
My legal background only helped in so far as preparing me to always look for alternatives. The rest came due to hard work once I stepped over the Rubicon, having sold my law practice and fully engaged in the new business venture.
Years to reach this level
I was appointed in the position from day one, but it took 6 years before I earned it, if measured in profit.
Average working day
I try and work as smartly as I can, and not necessarily as long as I possibly can. In my position you don’t really keep ‘normal’ working hours as you need to be flexible at all times. I would estimate that on average I work 7 hours a day, but those hours would be spread out through the morning, afternoon and evenings.
I enjoy the flexibility that it brings to my life, although my golf handicap has suffered somewhat and would attest to the opposite…
About The Author
Yolande Wissing has an Advanced Diploma in Hospitality Management. Her career started in the Hospitality sector as a Front Court & Banqueting Manager. She then spent 2 years at @lantic in Events Coordination and Marketing where she won Top Performer award for Marketing in 2010 and 2012. You can connect to her on LinkedIn.