A Tom Thumb who's reached the pinnacle
ARNOLD FOURIE started his computer company "just for the fun of it" while he was completing his national service.
Ten years down the line, he's still having fun, but this year his company, Pinnacle Holdings, expects a turnover of R800-million.
Fourie is an entrant in our Entrepreneur of The Year competition.
"We used our start-up capital of R6 000 to buy two desks, a PC and printer," he says. "We sold two PCs in the first month - and that just covered our overheads!"
Fourie believes many of today's entrepreneurs start their computer companies with brilliant ideas, but expect to reap the benefits too soon.
When the going gets tough, their lack of commitment shows, he says.
"This results in ideas with great potential getting lost. Businesses fail and many potential entrepreneurs end up working for someone else."
Fourie advises aspiring entrepreneurs to decide what they want to do, focus on it, make it work and keep it working.
"Don't branch out too soon - and make sure profits are ploughed straight back into the company to ensure growth and stability."
According to Fourie, his main business partners, Des Segas and Fouries' brothers Louis and Elandre, have played a major role in the success of the company by staying on the coal face of the business.
He also believes much of the company's success comes from the flat structure within the group, which employs a total of 500 staff.
"Each division is treated as a separate business unit. We are results-driven and always keep a close watch on productivity per head and individual drive.
"We are focused on running a low-cost IT operation and a lean, tight ship - but not to the point of silliness."
Fourie believes in controlling his own destiny. And this is what encouraged his ambitious expansion plans.
The group has expanded from being solely a retail operation through its chain of Computer Super Stores, to addressing other areas in information technology.
Three years ago the distribution arm of the company, Pinnacle Micro, launched its own brand of desktop computers under the name of Proline. According to local research company BMI, Proline is now the third biggest brand in South Africa, and currently holds a hefty 9.8% of the local desktop computer market.
The group's service and support division, Pinteq, is run as a separate entity and the group's finance company provides credit facilities to the firm's customers.
The group's huge success has had many speculating that it won't be long before the company is listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.
Fourie, however, is adamant this will only happen once he is sure his company can provide true earnings per share for investors.
It looks as though this will be sooner rather than later.
Fourie recently acquired notebook supplier A-Z Computer Company and corporate reseller Datacentrix for R72.5-million.
And how does his company decide on acquisitions? "We first look for the magic between the two companies. Then we look for synergy between the cultures," he says.
"Only when this is matched, do we look at the actual company and what it has to offer in market areas not already represented in the group."