Raymond Ledwaba is the CEO of ITThynk, a software development and ICT advisory business based in Johannesburg. The company develops and implements customised smart solutions for public and private sector applications. A big challenge for small businesses in the IT sector is finding and recruiting the right skills. This story showcases how EOH supports ITThynk’s business growth through ongoing strategic skills and enterprise development support.
Sometimes siblings can wear you down and change your life for the better. As a trained chartered accountant and high-flying corporate executive, Raymond Ledwaba was on a very different career path to his brother Jeffrey, a trained electrical engineer with a passion for technology. That didn’t stop Jeffrey from pestering Raymond to join forces in business.
“Jeffrey and his friend Gideon, a trained software developer, started a small business together called ITThynk in 2005 that focused on solving technical problems,” says Raymond. “From the start, it was pretty clear to Jeffrey and Gideon, two techies with limited exposure to the business side of running a company, that they needed help. For the next two years, Jeffrey was constantly on my case to either loan him money to pay salaries or to join the business.”
In 2017, Raymond visited Jeffrey and Gideon at their offices and saw first-hand ITThynk’s potential – as well as the business challenges it faced. The next day, Raymond resigned from his corporate job, joined ITThynk as its CEO, and hasn’t looked back since.
“It has been an interesting and exhilarating journey, says Raymond. “As a small business, you have to work hard to stand out in a noisy crowd of bigger competitors. There is enormous pressure to deliver the work better than anyone else – which means you need the best people in the industry on your team. Not easy when nobody knows your brand and you can’t afford top-of-the-range salaries. But I had an idea.”
Training the right skills
Instead of eroding ITThynk’s margin by hiring expensive resources, Raymond proposed setting up a skills training academy to develop an in-house talent pipeline of technical specialists. Of course, a training academy isn’t cheap to run and doesn’t make money immediately.
In 2020, EOH partnered with ITThynk to support its IT skills development training programme with funding. EOH is serious about actualising South Africa’s socio-economic transformation by supporting small businesses in ways that go beyond the stock-standard corporate compliance with Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) legislation. Its partnership with ITThynk presented a perfect opportunity to effect real change through skills and enterprise development.
Development support that keeps on giving
Thanks to EOH’s financial support, ITThynk is now able to run its academy, which has a direct and demonstrable impact on its core business growth and sustainability. In just over 4 year, graduates from the academy already make up 30% of ITThynk’s current payroll. But EOH gives ITThynk more than money; it also considers the students’ unique needs, especially in the current context.
“When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, we decided not to renew our company’s office lease and move everything, even the training academy, online,” says Raymond. “Most of our students come from disadvantaged backgrounds, so many don’t have the necessary infrastructure to enable online training from home. I don’t just mean the lack of private, quiet space. Even our students who are fortunate enough to have access to a computer at home battle with unstable internet connections, expensive data fees, and load shedding. EOH provided us with a training facility at its head office that is fully equipped for our trainers and our students’ needs – the company goes so far as to give all the participants lunch!”
Not only is ITThynk developing a pipeline of technologists that it can recruit at an affordable cost into its business, but Raymond is also in talks with EOH to bring his business on board as a supplier.
“EOH is a remarkable transformation partner to have on our side,” says Raymond. “Our journey together began with funding for skills development and evolved into support for enterprise development. Now that EOH has seen what we can do, it wants to transition us from an enterprise development partner into a supplier, once again supporting our business’s growth and sustainability. It’s fantastic.”