Conlog’s journey spans over half a century of a proudly South African company stepping into the forefront of manufacturing and offering utility management solutions to a customer base across four continents. What has led to this claim to fame is the role the company’s leadership team played in orchestrating a successful ‘tour’.
In 1965, the founding members of Conlog began their expedition without knowing that their work on PC boards as a hobby from a double garage would become a world-leading electronics design company specialising in prepaid metering solutions.
John Michelle and Alan Murray, both Chemical Engineers by training and looking for ways to measure systems and industrial control, formally started the Conlog journey in 1970. The initial foray was into industrial products, followed by the automotive industry in the late 1970s.
Since those early days, a strong leadership team, all of whom have equally interesting stories to share, has consistently spearheaded the metering company.
Conlog’s Chief Executive Officer, Logan Moodley, faced a similar journey, albeit not one that started in a garage. About 18 years ago, he started at the firm as a young engineer within the design and innovation division.
“An exciting start to a career in the Systems Software department saw my coding skills duly tested in the development of Conlog’s second-generation Revenue Management and Vending platform,” says Moodley. These formative years helped the young engineer understand the value of focused and disciplined engineering standards and how adopting such standards ensured that Conlog could build products of the highest quality, even compared to others globally.
… I recognised the value of our purpose – bringing access to energy. What an important mission we were given!”Logan Moodley |Chief Executive Officer
The company’s commitment to the domestic economy, coupled with African innovation, has enabled them to build and maintain a successful business. Their engineering standard’s approach to manufacturing offers opportunities to elevate the quality of smart metering in South Africa, leading to economic growth and job creation.
This philosophy attracts talented individuals to the team, such as Sibusiso Skosana, it’s Commercial Director. Skosana started his journey as a regional manager responsible for the northern regions’ (Gauteng, North West, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and Free State) provinces. “I spent close to three years as the regional manager but left for a five-year sabbatical,” he states, indicating that rejoining the team as the Commercial Director for the SADC region is where his passion lies.
The team’s curiosity drives innovation, and as a Conlogian you are surrounded by experienced and well-respected engineers. Moodley explains: “I was challenged to soak up the immense amount of information that came my way. This knowledge gave me a firm grounding on industry concepts, and I soon found myself engaging with our clients as an expert within my field. I enjoyed the client experiences and sought every opportunity to learn more about their challenges but also took pride in finding ingenious ways for solving some of these challenges.”
The CEO adds that the depths of Conlog’s knowledge pool extends to the far reaches of the planet as it included every client the business has served or continues to serve globally. “I enjoyed and have memorable stories to share of every experience, but these experiences certainly strengthened by an understanding of the sector and the challenges we’re looked to solve,” he explains, “so early on, I recognised the value of our purpose – bringing access to energy. What an important mission we were given!”
BRINGING ACCESS TO ENERGY CALLS FOR MOTIVATION
Close to a hundred utilities worldwide prefer Conlog’s solutions, and consider the company their chosen energy management partner. However, even a commitment to positively affect communities’ livelihood by producing excellent local products requires considerable motivation and leadership. Moodley advises that Conlog created the concept of acting for the ‘Collective Good’. “This simple notion was adopted about six years ago when we were faced with a reset of the business to some degree.
The team agreed that whatever decision we had to take, whatever activity we had to pursue, we should always confirm the straightforward test of it complying to the rule; did it serve the Collective Good for all and the company.” Adding to this, Skosana confirms that his approach, in line with the Collective Good strategy, is a simple one. “My team is a professional group, and I treat them as such. They are all experts in their areas. I share the vision with them and let them craft the ‘how’ part. Ordinarily, this requires some heavy lifting at first, but once everyone is clear on the direction, they are motivated to achieve the vision. I then use a scorecard to manage performance progress and outcomes.”
According to Moodley, it is also essential to attach the concept of Collective Good with an emotive context that speaks to “real purpose”. Therefore, the company took the time to re-mould its purpose statement, ensuring that everyone in the business could connect personally to what the business was setting about doing.
Thus, ‘Enriching Lives by Connecting People and Resources’ fit perfectly with Conlog’s evolving business but fundamentally stayed true to the ‘CollectiveGood’ concept. “I also think it’s important for people to love what they do; this keeps them self-motivated. Ensuring people are passionate about their jobs and what they are doing here in Conlog is important. This was the new culture we strived for,” explained Viven Perumal, the company’s Marketing Manager. “There arealways merits in ensuring we take the necessary human capital steps to ensure individuals are motivated, but I firmly believe that collective motivation is far stronger.”
… supporting the growth of our incredible continent must be the number one priority to sustain and build for the next generation of Africans.Viven Perumal |Marketing Manager
STEPPING INTO THE UNKNOWN– RISK OR ADVENTURE?
One of the most significant risks undertaken by Conlog was at the beginning of 2019. “The company moved into larger premises while doing an S4 meter rollout in Ghana – marking this as being the first in Africa in the manufacturing sector to do so. As well as entering the Nigerian market and setting up an establishment there,” said Perumal.
Setting about a courageous and dynamic strategy for growth is one thing, but also migrating the entire business from its home base of 34 years? “This certainly adds more dimensions of courageousness,” states Moodley. According to the CEO, the team at Conlog always takes excellent care: “We value tremendously our pragmatism and the benefits of being somewhat risk-averse, but we had reached a point where an environmental change was necessary. This was especially necessary as we felt that to deliver the planned results, the new strategy would need to ensure scalability in our operations and make us more accessible.”
As such, the company is now located in the Airport Precinct in Durban at a new state-of-the-art facility, which “secures exactly this”. The main risk lay in the project’s migration; where set goals secured the move without any turbulence to the business and its operations. The leadership team’s main concern was maintaining zero-impact on the people-culture of the company since “the fact was that people’s lives would be considerably altered as their daily commutes and livelihoods around the plant had to change”, states Moodley. “It could end up terribly wrong if we had not spent nearly two years planning the event and mitigating every single risk associated with the project.” It was a relief to the empathetic leadership team that employees settled into their new home and now firmly believe it forms a solid foundation for Conlog’s next chapter of success. The company has also faced risks while negotiating new contracts, but Skosana’s team has professional experience with this risk.
He explains that the team sets “ceiling and floor” limitations ordinarily where if negotiations reach a stalemate, “we then walk away”.
“Naturally, it is not a great feeling when one walks away from a deal, and the deal was going to have a significant impact on our sales revenue and profitability,” says Skosana. “Thankfully, in one such instance, we ended up getting the contract due to a competitor not being able to comply with the technical requirements of the contract. This, for me, was nailbiting and certainly a true test of character for my team and me. Purely because of the amount of work we had put in and the significance of the project.”
My team is a professional group, and I treat them as such. They are all experts in their areas. I share the vision with them and let them craft the ‘how’ part.Sibusiso Skosana, Commercial Director
PERFORMANCE, CONFLICT ANDBLIND SPOTS
In the stressful sales environment, Skosana crunches the numbers and uses Objectives and Key Results (OKR) to manage expectations realistically. “This is the system we use with my team. It helps manage performance and is not ambiguous if implemented well in the beginning,” the commercial director clarifies.
Perumal measures his performance effectiveness and output of the marketing team and the achievement of Conlog as a whole.“If we as a company are failing, then my team and I are failing or vice versa for success,” he stresses.
Skosana points out that, in most cases, conflict is the result of unclear and sometimes unaligned objectives by individuals. He believes that “if you always go to the most basic reason for doing a task or project, you might find that conflict is either resolved or avoided completely”.
He continues: “With so much excitement in the market, it’s easy to lose focus. This can prove to be an expensive ‘blind spot’.Sometimes, it is also caused by looking at numerous things at once and not focusing on closing deals systematically. While sometimes this is difficult, it always helps to prioritise and stick to those priorities.”
ADDRESSING THE FUTURE WITH AN OPEN MIND
It’s critical to conduct scenario planning, warns Skosana: “It helps business or leaders plan for several different scenarios that can come into play. Sometimes to even plan for the worst, even though there is already a mitigation strategy to resolve and avoid that eventuality.”
The trends to watch are mainly around market pivots and continuous changes in countries of operation. “While we try and keep tabs on what is happening in the market, sometimes there are so many changes that it is somewhat impossible to keep track,” advises the commercial director.
Top of mind for Perumal is the industry facing lack of support, for various reasons, from African utilities for an African product: “But supporting the growth of our incredible continent must be the number one priority to sustain and build for the next generation of Africans.”
Playing a role in the 2020 global pandemic’s economic recovery is at the forefront of the company’s 2021/2022 plans. “We are continuously looking for ways to make our customers’ lives easier – not only in a B2B context as we are now extending it to B2C – where we ensure that end-users’ lives are enriched,” states Skosana. The company will do this by connecting customers to resources and launching several solutions to enrich people’s lives.
As a South African commercial brand, Conlog is a critical component of strong national brands and a key messenger in positioning the country competitively domestically and internationally.
As such, the company’s leadership team express appreciation to all their clients to contribute to the growth and development of Conlog and wish to further collaborate in developing a sustainable energy future.“We must be open-source inbeing a proudly South African manufacturer, and we hope that we can reach many vulnerable societies through our services and contribution to jobs, and offer a better life,” concludes Moodley.