There’s nothing more exciting than creating something that adds value to people’s lives. It’s what spurs many entrepreneurs forward, including Andre Coetzee, Director and Co-Founder of i-worx.
I-worx opened its doors in 2003, to offer traditional IT support services. Seeing that the IT industry was changing, Andre and his business partner, Jose Gavina, decided to take their business in a new direction: turning their company which managed physical computers and servers, into a business that offers some of the most advanced hosted services on the market, including virtual desktops in two data centres.
This change in direction brought an opportunity to grow a fresh young team, hiring students and people from local schools.
“Our innovation is driven by our people,” explains Andre. “Over the years, we’ve assembled what we consider a dream team, with people with different skill sets and backgrounds who share the same care-driven values.”
And Andre works hard to keep that dream team happy, learning long ago that if you don’t enjoy where you work, you won’t stay. He believes in nurturing and empowering his employees, running monthly get-togethers to encourage them to share information and have their input in the business.
This dedication and commitment to creating healthy and supportive work environments for their employees, is one of the contributing factors to why i-worx won the Small Business BC Award for Best Workplace in February. “It was absolutely fabulous to win the SBBC Award for Best Workplace.” Andre exclaims: “It accentuated what we strive to do in our business every day and that is make it a great place to work.”
Customer is King
It’s a similar attitude they apply to their clients. “We treat our clients like we want to be treated,” comments Andre. “We have built some amazing relationships with our clients over the years, which helps us deliver a very personal service.”
That exceptional customer service was one of the reasons Andre and Jose wanted to become entrepreneurs and it’s something they work hard to maintain. “We don’t oversell our services and always deliver on what we’ve said,” Andre explains. “We keep our employees up-to-date on any new trends, innovating our business to remain ahead of the curve.”
Over the last 10 years, i-worx has seen a lot of change, and the pair happily admits there has been a need for growth in their own skills as entrepreneurs. In 2005 they sought the advice of a business coach, who has been their sounding board, and often voice of reason, for the last nine years.
One thing their coach has taught them, learn to say no. They quickly found out it is often too easy to grab on to any opportunity that comes your way when first starting a business. But not all are worth pursuing. Andre explained that he realized the importance of taking a step back to assess if the opportunity takes you away from your original goal, and if that is the direction you want to send your business.
They also learned the importance of seeking advice from an accountant. “It’s a Catch 22 when you first start your business,” Andre explains. “You don’t feel that you can part with the cash to employ an accountant, but the penalties can cost more than you imagine.” A mistake that they painfully learnt and a lesson they are keen to share.
After Andre and Jose pitched i-worx for the Best Workplace award, earliler this year, one of the judges commented, “This company has put significant thought into their business, their future, and most importantly the people that help them achieve their goals.”
And it’s this well-assembled team that the pair hope will help them achieve the company’s target of 6,000 users by 2017, across Canada and the US. It’s an ambitious goal but one that they are approaching in the right way. Having completed thorough market research, the business is now focussed on small to medium sized businesses in the professional services industries on the West Coast.
Keeping Focus in a Changing Landscape
With the IT industry constantly changing, it provides businesses with massive opportunities. With that in mind, Andre offers one last piece of advice, “Focus on something that you really love to do, make sure you are an expert in that field and then make some money while doing it. Don’t be the jack-of-all-trades.” It’s their specialization that has got them to where they are, and what he hopes will continue be their strength in the future.