Wayne Zwiers: A Technology Maverick Solving Complex Business Problems
Adversity is inevitable but having resilience is the single most important factor that determines success”, believes Wayne Zwiers, the Founder of Basalt, One of the Stories of Inspirational Entrepreneurs
According to Wayne, leaders should be authentic, lead their business decisively and fairly as well as have humility for everyone they encounter. They need to understand that every individual has strengths and a story to share. And by encouraging each team member to grow, upskill and take calculated risks, they can cultivate resilience across their businesses. Wayne has inculcated all the mentioned traits throughout his professional journey.
Let’s find out more about his entrepreneurial ride in an interview conducted between Wayne and Insights Success. Below are the highlights of the interview:
Kindly take us through your journey on becoming a proficient tech business leader.
For several years I wanted to start my own business, one that was aligned to my values. I was in discussions with various potential partners and felt that the timing was right to pursue my goal of creating purpose-led software solutions to address areas of need from education to health, to finance. We began Blackbeard in 2016 in Johannesburg, South Africa and, after winning some incredible contracts and growing the business, we decided to rebrand in 2019 to Basalt Technology to cement and celebrate our evolving business. Basalt is now an award-winning software development company that solves complex business problems through the rapid implementation of profitable, technology solutions.
I have won several industry accolades, including the Africa Tech CEO of the Year Award in 2019, joined many entrepreneur societies and even developed an NPO, Tech Relief which distributes tech devices to African school children that are in need. I started out as an entrepreneur by walking away from a path I didn’t want towards creating a life that was harmonious and value-based, so, in that respect, I feel accomplished. Every day I grow as a leader, in part because of my incredible team, however, my journey is still unfolding and the adventure for Basalt is very much underway.
What roadblocks or challenges were faced by you in a corporate business? And how did you overcome them?
The difficulties that you face with corporate businesses are largely to do with organizational structure and due diligence constraints. Things move slowly, approvals are slow, decisions are delayed and there are consequently many barriers to agility. I invented our business model by turning these challenges on their head and into opportunities. This saw our model incorporate remote working with international teams, agility in terms of structure, and the necessity to make fast decisions unhindered by legacy issues.
How do you diversify your organization’s offerings to entice the target audience?
Our planning is very strategic. No business and no business model can last forever. Industries, markets and customers, are constantly changing. A business needs to therefore be very strategic with how they disrupt themselves. We constantly look at our customers and evaluate their needs which helps us to stay ahead of the market.
How do you keep yourself up-to-date with the latest technology?
The first step in keeping up to date is learning to speed read which I managed to master many years ago. Your ability to read faster determines how rapidly you can take in information and thereby build your personal database and points of reference. I use both books and social channels for learning and research. I recently learned how to build a motorbike piece by piece on YouTube. I love researching the latest technology through surveys, podcasts and doing short personal development and skills courses.
Where are you focusing your energy now, and where do you hope to make an impact next?
I believe that there is a moral imperative for big business to generate positive change. This thread of purpose runs throughout Basalt as a business and is the reason that we have set up our NPO, Tech Relief which is partially funded by Basalt. As a tech business that began in Africa, we are keenly aware that education in technology and facilitated by technology is an exit strategy to poverty that we need to support. Tech Relief collects and distributes ‘old’ donated technological devices such as tablets, iPads, and laptops to STEM learners.
What culture change you suggest for companies that want to embrace the full power of AI?
Firstly, there needs to be a mindset shift around what AI is and how powerful it is going to become. There is no escaping it, so it will be the early adopters who naturally benefit most. Secondly, all companies need to be considering how technologists can incorporate AI and make their product/service offerings better for humanity or they risk being left behind.
What does it take to attract and retain tech talents?
A work environment that is creative, admired, and experimental helps to attract top tech talents. Creating an environment of consistent innovation with a degree of autonomy encourages retention. At Basalt, our technologists work in small groups of five to seven people, whereby a leader is allocated who has certain KPIs to achieve. Our teams then split their time between clients and the rest of their time on the business itself. The latter can include categories such as mastery, incentives, business development, and innovation. Essentially, employees select what they want to work on, which naturally leads to higher “engagement and better results.