Ensuring ‘everyone understands what we’re doing and why we’re doing it’
ONELOGIX was bursting with enthusiasm when it listed on the JSE’s main board back in 2000. South Africa’s economy was in a steady growth phase and the company’s diversified logistics offering seemed perfectly placed to take advantage of the imminent consumer boom. However, reality panned out somewhat differently to management’s plans. OneLogix – headed by entrepreneur and founder of PostNet, Ian Lourens – was a hodgepodge of a variety of businesses Lourens and his equally fearless business partners had bought giving little thought to how the final product would function.
“We started with a bang and ended with a whimper,” says CEO Lourens, appointed in 2003, who now runs the considerably smaller and humbler OneLogix – a reincarnated logistics company with a purpose significantly more refined than the heady vision circa 2000, which was “to be something for everyone”.
OneLogix has impressed the market over the past three years with steady growth in earnings, thanks to impressive control of a few niche markets – most notably the transportation of passenger cars throughout southern Africa – where barriers to entry are high and margins pleasingly wide. Its share price has mirrored earnings, with a 125% increase over the past year.
The company is the product of a baptism of fire involving a difficult downsizing to four core operations and a move to the JSE’s AltX board in 2004. Lourens was one of the founding members of PostNet, started in 1994 as an alternative to the SA Post Office. PostNet has since evolved into an SME business service centre, with 232 franchised outlets countrywide. PostNet was always seen as a logistics business and still remains part of OneLogix. It was Lourens’s 15th attempt at starting a business; 12 of these have been successful and sold off by Lourens after their initial growth stage.
“I’m driven by the excitement of starting something new. I always sold when I had to start spending time on upkeeping them. The franchising model of PostNet was new to me and I ended up sticking around.”
That entrepreneurial spirit is now the governing principle of OneLogix and a management lesson learnt the hard way in the first
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Not being decisive enough when it was needed. four unsuccessful years of the group’s existence. “The initial OneLogix wasn’t properly conceived or well managed. We now understand the essence of entrepreneurial activity and professional balance and how to sustain it – but it was all learnt from making mistakes.”
All of OneLogix’s business units are headed by the entrepreneurs who founded them. In that vein, Lourens spends most of his time at the PostNet head office in Midrand, where Finweek interviewed him. His role as CEO is to communicate the vision and strategy to his colleagues and “let them get on with it”.
The group’s head office is small and intentionally disempowered: it doesn’t offer much more than a centralised administrative function for the separate units, apart from guidance on better business processes. Lourens is probably the only CEO of a JSElisted company interviewed by Finweek who hasn’t admitted to workaholic tendencies, saying he’s happy to have a balanced life as opposed to micromanaging every aspect of the organisation. He’s reluctant to talk about his personal role in OneLogix’s successes. “My role here is to make sure everyone understands what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.”
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