DIY: Tell us about your background.
SS: I was born and raised in Westville, Durban, and schooled my whole life at Westville! After completing my matric, I did my National Service in the then South African Police Force, and specialized in forensic photography and fingerprints. After the Police Force, I worked in sales and marketing in the motor industry, and then found myself managing Keg Restaurants, which was obviously meant to be, as that is where I met my wife (now of 16 years).
After my stint in the hospitality industry, I worked for Wurth South Africa for 10 years, which is how I made my way to Johannesburg. I gradually progressed through the company to eventually becoming the National Sales Manager of its Metal Division. I followed that with brief stints in the plastics and earthmoving industries, before being approached by Triton-Leo to handle the sales in Gauteng and kick-starting the export endeavours.
DIY: What were some of the initial challenges you faced at Triton-Leo?
SS: The product range needed rationalizing. Some products had never performed wqell in the market, not that they were not good products, they had just never been given the attention that they deserved. The company had not carried out any marketing or advertising, which is also an area we have given focus to. Staff were undermanaged and had been given free reign for years. That has also changed with simple procedures put in place to ensure everyone is aware of the bigger picture and our goals as a team.
DIY: How were these challenges resolved?
SS: Focus has now been placed on the balance of range and they have started contributing to the overall sales success. Our factory has simple procedures in place to ensure optimum production, and we have employed a young energetic sales representative to handle the Gauteng area.
DIY: What is your position and role at Triton-Leo?
SS: I am the export sales and marketing manager, but I get involved in the day to day running of the company as a whole, and I spend a lot of time focusing on the Gauteng customer base.
DIY: What opportunities have you identified at the company?
SS: Locally, there are many opportunities. The South African customer base has been neglected for years, and the Q-range has trundled along without too many hassles. We are not looking to grow our national customer base, as we have chosen the route to market of wholesalers and distributors. The wholesalers and distributors do however need attention and we have handled this by putting incentives in place for their sales people.
We have also distributed many can dispensers through those wholesalers and distributors, which have grown local sales numbers substantially. My biggest challenge and opportunity is growing the export market. In the last twelve months we have appointed distributors in Zimbabwe, Mauritius, Ghana, England, Italy, Malaysia, USA, New Zealand and Australia, Saudi Arabia and Dubai, with a host of other countries on our target list. We have used the export assistance offered by the Department of Trade and Industry to help us fund this growth and their knowledge and expertise in export has been invaluable.
DIY: How will the company strive to make these opportunities into a reality?
SS: Hard work and dedication.
DIY: Triton-Leo has upped their game regarding exhibitions, why is this?
SS: Having never attended shows, we attended last year’s Hardex exhibition, and the company was a bit wary of the cost involved. At the show we signed our current Zimbabwean distributor and this immediately paid for the show and more. We have since attended the German, Cologne hardware exhibition, The Dubai Automechanika, and they are all paying dividends.
DIY: What have been some of the better exhibitions you have attended?
SS: Hardex last year was successful for us as previously mentioned, The Dubai Automechanika was more successful than the Cologne Hardware fair, this due to the fact that our product range is more focused on the automotive market segment and there appeared to be more qualified and willing buyers attending the Dubai show. We also attended the show as part of the DTI contingent and it was very professionally handled.
DIY: Exports seem to be a core focus? How is this developing?
SS: Fast and hard! Lots of paperwork, legislation, and various conformities per country, and this equals, lots of fun! We are busy installing a new production line in our Cape Town plant to cope with the increase in our export orders. All of this is extremely exciting.
DIY: What countries are now importing Q-products?
SS: Zimbabwe, Mauritius, Ghana, England, Italy, Malaysia, USA, New Zealand and Australia, Saudi Arabia and Dubai
DIY: Which countries are next?
SS: You name them! We have started a process. There are some which I would not be able to point out on a map, like Myanmar Republic, Slovenia and the list goes on and on!
DIY: Is there a big market difference between South Africa and your new exporting countries?
SS: There is a big difference; each country has various pieces of legislation which needs to be adhered to. There are not as many products competing on the shelf around the world, as they have been dominated by the world number one for years, and everyone has shied away from competing against them (to remain nameless). Most of the European countries I have visited have two to three lubricants on the shelf, whereas in South Africa we have about 10 competitors – Q20 is the market leader in South Africa, but internationally we are the complete newcomer, and this is the challenge.
DIY: What inspires you?
SS: My wife and my child are my main inspiration, I need to achieve for them more than anything else. There are many people including colleagues, who drive me to greater heights, a guy like Jeremy Mansfield, and what he gives back to the community, make me try that little bit harder in anything I do.
DIY: Where do you see yourself in five years?
SS: Living in Cape Town, enjoying a nice sunny day whilst handling the orders from 100 international countries daily for Triton-Leo.