Sunday, March 2, 2008

South Africa

South Africa has been a great experience. I arrived in Johannesburg late Wednesday and was met by Peter Edwards, one of the owners of CT - South Africa. Peter drove me out almost two hours from the city, to a game lodge called Mothabenga, owned by another CT-SA owner, Hugh Wason.

Mothabenga is rural, and although the lodge is beautiful and the staff could not possibly be nicer, there is no high speed internet and even the dial-up can't get past 14k bps. Fortunately my new blackberry is picking up 3G signals most of the time, so I'm not entirely without email!

I'm here primarily to participate in the first South African Computer Troubleshooters conference. The event is to be Friday & Saturday, and I'll give four presentations during it, including the frequently requested overviews of our BEST managed services program and our ENGAGE marketing program. But Thursday is mostly spent trying to get over the jetlag from a 22 hour flight, so I woke up, had breakfast, took a nap. Woke up, had lunch, took a nap. It was a very stressful time! :)

Thursday afternoon Peter and I (who had the entire lodge to ourselves at first) were joined by Hugh and also by Arjen Van Zwieten. Arjen was our original master franchise for South Africa, but made a smart decision to include others in his team last year - I'll share more about that in a minute. Together though the four of us went to Pilanesburg National Park that afternoon, which is South Africa's 2nd largest game reserve and requires several hours if not days to completely tour. We drove around the park for about an hour and got some good photos of hippos, zebra, elant, wildebeest, and other game animals in their natural settings, but we also came back later on Sunday hoping to see elephant, lions, or giraffe. On the latter we were not disappointed:But the main event was the conference itself. Saturday morning we were to start at 10am, since many participants were driving in from all across South Africa and Botswana. About 30 people were expected, but at 10am less than 15 were present. We heard stories about a traffic problem which was holding people up somewhere. As we were standing around outside the conference room, suddenly they all arrived at once, lead by 4 of the fully-branded CT Vans which South Africa has standardized on. It was really impressive seeing that "fleet" of identical vehicles all arrive together -seriously, I got goosebumps! We tried to make some video to recreate the experience, but it's not quite the same: you can download it from

The conference itself was wonderful, and remarkable in several ways. We had 100% attendance of all franchisees in South Africa and Botswana for starters, representing 13 locations. In the US we tend to only get 50% to 70% attendance at our conferences, so this was impressive. But also there is a great energy in South Africa, especially since they've grown from 3 locations to 13 in just the last 12 months, so many locations are new and excited and growing fast. That sort of growth is also remarkable within the CT system, and can be attributed to Arjen's decision last year to include Peter and Hugh in his management team, and to the new recruiting strategy they developed together (I'll be sharing that with other CT country directors too).

At the end of the conference we held a feedback session and people were enthusiastic about BEST and ENGAGE and many of the vendors (Microsoft, WSI, and others) who came for the event, but the comment heard over and over again was that everyone was most excited about being able to work together as a team to share ideas, support each other, and dominate the South African computer support market.

I really enjoyed my brief stay in South Africa, and I learned alot from them and hopefully was able to share some knowledge as well. They have a great team, both at the national level and across all thirteen franchisees, and I'm hoping to come back next year to see what they accomplish next.

(Group Photo from the first South African Computer Troubleshooters Conference:
Kneeling: Hugh, me, Arjen, Peter)

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