Focus and flexibility the secrets in the long 'yomp' of life
THE fact that UUNET Internet Africa's new Irish MD, Paul Dinsmore, loves "yomping" in his downtime, speaks volumes about the determination, motivation and enthusiasm he brings to his new position.
"Yomping" refers to Dinsmore's love of strapping on a 36kg pack and power-walking a number of kilometres across hilly terrain, a result of his two-year stint with the Royal Marines.
No stranger to South Africa, Dinsmore has a clear picture of the local market, its challenges and opportunities and the type of organisational culture he intends to cultivate.
"There is no doubt that South Africa is a major telecoms opportunity with voice, data and Internet," says Dinsmore. He views UUNET Internet Africa as part of a far broader telecommunications strategy for which it is well-positioned through the Datatec IT group.
He characterises UUNET Internet Africa as "a gem of an operation", and believes its focus and flexibility will be key in ensuring its position as a market leader, particularly in a deregulated telecoms environment.
"Deregulation is not a choice," states Dinsmore. "It has to happen if we want to grow the economy. A competitive telecoms industry is key in all major developing nations with strong economies."
Dinsmore has extensive telecoms experience on three continents, having been based in Bahrain in the Middle East, then as director of global accounts for Northern Telecom in Canada and most recently having been director of Mercury Communications Northern Ireland.
He will be able to draw on his experience in environments undergoing deregulation and privatisation not dissimilar to South Africa currently and is aware of the pitfalls of operating in a market dominated by parastatal telecommunications bureaucracies.
When the British and American industries moved from monopoly to deregulated telecoms, tariffs dropped, customer service improved, jobs were created and foreign direct investment poured in coupled with international competition. This occurred in tandem with increased demand and use of service and Dinsmore sees a similar scenario in South Africa.
"Differentiation will take place along customisation, service and value-added options, and not on price alone," he predicts. "The one possibility we must be wary of is that of business benefiting at the cost of the domestic consumer."
"South Africa's telecoms future will be one of rationalisations which will take the form of mergers, acquisitions and partnerships among both the most obvious and unlikely partners," he says.
"Change represents opportunity and that's very much how I am personally orientated," says Dinsmore. He sees telecommunications as one of the most dynamic and challenging industries.
Dinsmore's vision of a new local telecoms order is one where the customer is king. An environment where products and changes are geared to user needs, requests and preferences.
He sees South Africa as a telecoms hub into Africa. UUNET Internet Africa has already tried out its springboard capabilities, developing interests in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia, Lesotho and Swaziland.
"The local market has reached a stage where those who jumped on the Internet bandwagon will be distinguished from those who view it as a business delivery mechanism," says Dinsmore. "We will increasingly focus on corporate and business-to-business Internet solutions."
He also predicts the death of the flat rate, citing the British experience where flexible customised packages with use-related charges prevail. "Flat rate pricing is simply not sustainable," he says.
Dinsmore's business philosophy is founded on his love of sport. He believes in performance management, where interim milestones are set along the path to achieving a big goal, and where employees take on full accountability and responsibility.
He also believes in a flat organisation ("I'm not into those hierarchical structures") and promotion on merit ("I don't place much weight on length of service").
Dinsmore has two objectives: to ensure that UUNET Internet Africa is a market leader, and to create a motivated staff and a company that others would like to work for.
"There is a danger in keeping the competition in your sights rather than your goals," he cautions. "You may end up following the competition instead of leading. I want us to be out in front. I don't mind if others follow, after all, someone said that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery."