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Excellence begins with small things

Liza van Wyk, CEO of AstroTech to corporate breakfast, Johannesburg, 20 April 2007

Good morning everyone.
I would like to firstly thank you for beating the rush hour traffic and taking the time out of your day to join us here this morning.

Shaie Zindel is our speaker today and he will be talking to us about how important it is to read the fine print, he will remind us that the devil is in the details, or as famous American television journalist, Diane Sawyer says, “it’s all about paying attention.”

And that’s what we like to think we do at AstroTech: we pay attention.
At AstroTech we believe that excellence begins with small things. It is in the courtesies we extend to each other, it is in reading every feedback form and learning from our clients and course participants how we can offer better courses and improve those that are already rated highly.

The past year has seen significant growth at AstroTech. We trebled our staff complement and significantly increased our course offering. We now regularly present courses in Cape Town and Durban and there has been a significant demand for in-house training as more companies realise that equipping their staff with knowledge is essential to remain competitive.

Last year, as an experiment, we offered a course for High Powered Personal Assistants and Administrators and found we were swamped with applicants. It became our top selling course. From this, we realized that there was a significant need for training from aspirational middle level employees.

Historically, we have placed a strong emphasis on improving the skills of those entering upper management positions, or those in technical positions, but the heart of organisations – the critical middle level – was not included. They are the staff who support the managers and executives within companies. And with that realisation we recently launched a new company, BizTech. BizTech is targeted at that core group of employees. The response that we have received has been remarkable.

AstroTech already attracts significant media interest but you may have recently noticed the front page lead in the Sunday Times Careers Section over the Easter weekend was focused around a BizTech course. Other prominent publications and radio have also profiled the company and its courses.
There seems to be considerable unity of purpose in South Africa at present about meeting the challenges of our skills deficit.

We have another reason to be proud. On 27 February AstroTech was certified as a level 2 contributor in terms of its Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment scorecard rating. There are 8 levels with level 1 being the highest. We missed level 1 by one point. What this also means is that for companies using AstroTech as a service provider you get to claim 125% of the Rand value spent with us as BEE spend for your preferential procurement rating.

Improving our company and our courses is a process we continuously work hard at. We have regular meetings with our trainers & clients to discuss industry trends, and what needs are most pressing in the engine rooms of the economy, so that we can devise courses to help you and your staff remain ahead of the challenges the world presents you.

If we reflect a little on what it takes to get ahead. In recent times I have watching Ireland with more than a little interest and not just because of the World Cup cricket.

Just 20 years ago Ireland was an indebted nation; today it is the second wealthiest nation in the world.

In the 60s Ireland turned its attention to delivering quality education, including free university tuition for Irish citizens. With its well educated service-oriented workforce, Ireland is now the world’s 18th largest exporter of services which significantly outstrips its manufacturing sector.

In early March the Irish government said that approximately a third of the country’s workers will need to progress by "at least" one level of educational attainment above their current highest level by 2020. It means that every Irish worker who wants to get ahead has to dramatically increase his or her skills. It means that every Irish company that wants to stay ahead of the global economy must have significant training plans in place.

South African business knows it has to work harder to stay on top.
The employees we see on AstroTech courses are individuals who know that staying ahead is getting harder but also much more exciting.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for your support and to say that we look forward to continuing to work with you to ensure excellence in South Africa’s workplace.

Finally, I’d like to conclude with the sentiments of founder Jeff Bezos, they echo our attitude perfectly, he said: “We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It's our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.”
Thank you for joining us at today’s early-morning party.