Entrepreneur extraordinaire, Arnoux Maré, is a rising star on South Africa’s business stage. Driven to push through difficulties and transform challenges into opportunities, the award winning, self-made millionaire grew his turnover from R32 million in 2013 to an astonishing R780 million in 2017.
His motto – adapt and thrive – has served him well since starting a labour consultancy back in 2011 with a mere R500 in his pocket. He spent the first nine months growing the operation by spending 12 hours on the road every day promoting his business in Pretoria, Johannesburg, Middelburg and Mpumalanga.
Maré says canvasing for new business required a huge amount of courage. “Trying to get people to buy into my vision required digging deep and selling myself and my vision with conviction. Progress was slow, and it took hard work and determination and many ‘no’s’ before I got a ‘yes’, but little by little I built up a solid client base.”
It also helped that Maré made it his business to fully understand South Africa’s complicated labour law when he started out. “I knew I need to understand labour procedures and legislation, especially as they relate to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA). By gaining an in-depth understanding of labour law, I was able to position myself as an expert in the field.”
Today his company, Innovative Solutions GroupTM, incorporates 17 subsidiaries, more than 9,000 employees and offices in all major operational areas across the country. The first and largest arm of the business is Innovative Staffing Solutions, which outsources staff to businesses in the transport, engineering, manufacturing, agriculture, hospitality, retail, admin and labour sectors.
Innovative Staffing Solutions was started when Maré realised that the only way to mitigate his clients’ labour risk was to bear it himself. “By placing appropriately-skilled Innovative Staffing Solutions’ employees with our clients, we assume responsibility for their labour needs.”
Maré believes that the measure of a man’s character is determined by the difference he makes in the lives of others. “The wellbeing of my staff is non-negotiable. Only when employees are well taken care of can they, in turn, deliver the industry-leading services that we offer our clients.
“We believe that focusing on the wellbeing of our employees and their families will result in greater productivity and efficiency for everyone. An employee who is feels valued is more likely to be productive and, importantly, to remain with the organisation, an important consideration in an economy where employee retention is an ongoing challenge,” adds Maré.
Maré negotiated hard for an affordable and comprehensive in-house medical aid plan for the approximately 5,500 truck drivers the company employs. “Generally, truck drivers don’t get a good deal when it comes to medical aid. They spend long hours on the road in sometimes stressful situations, so making sure they had a plan that covered their health and wellbeing needs was very important to me.”
Key to Maré’s business success is his ability to keep abreast of industry trends and harness innovation to stay relevant. “Many businesses fail when they don’t heed the warning signs, whether it’s technology that is changing the landscape or new legislation that threatens to upend the norm.”
When Maré’s original business model was threatened by various changes to the labour landscape in 2011, he reengineered his business. It was a big risk, but his foresight paid off and turnover increased by 143.75% between 2013 and 2017.
For Maré, growing a business is all about remaining upbeat when challenged and not panicking when the chips are down. “Rushing to solve problems can create new challenges and lead to rash decision-making processes. A more measured approach can help uncover more viable and longer-lasting solutions as well as identify new opportunities.”
Maré is aware of what is happening in his business at all times. As CEO of Innovative Solutions Group and MD of Innovative Staffing Solutions, he could be excused for deciding to let his team handle most of the operational aspects of the business.
But, that’s not Maré’s style. He likes to be hands-on and, if the truth be told, his mind is always busy, even when he’s on holiday. He’s always thinking – about new ideas, new ways to expand the business, new approaches to customer care and better ways to streamline operations.
When Maré is not growing his business, he is indulging his passion for super cars. “I’ve always been passionate about cars. Creating a successful business has allowed me to invest in some of these powerful and beautiful machines.”
While he enjoys owning beautiful vehicles, Maré has his feet firmly on the ground and never stops thinking about how to improve the business, the lives of his employees and the services he offers his clients.
Underpinning Mare’s success is a never-give-up approach to life and business. The challenges he faced when he started his company taught him how to be persistent and pursue his goals with single-minded determination. When the business landscape changed, he drew on his earlier learnings to transform his company and reach even greater heights.
He does not understand the concept of giving up. “When I’m thrown in the deep end, I don’t get emotional and I don’t brood. I look for solutions. I’m also a great believer in ‘what you put in is what you get out’ – if you’re willing to work hard, you’ll be rewarded.”