Meet The Real Life Winston Wolfe

Heavy Chef's CEO Fred Roed spoke to Robin Hook, founder of Flusso Consulting. With well over a decade of experience in various management roles, organisations and industries, Robin recently launched Flusso, offering people-centric, progressive solutions to businesses to guide them through their change management processes. Fred talked to Robin about his new venture and his passion for solving problems, for enabling businesses - large or small - in becoming future ready in today's ever-changing environment. 

Robin, congrats on your new venture. What made you take the leap? 

I've always been intrigued by the obvious rift that exists between People Management -Traditionally known as HR - and Operations in most businesses. Globally, but more notably in South African businesses. It blew my mind that they sat so far away in the priority scales in a business when it's a no-brainer that people make operations happen! The two need to be attached at the hip in order to realise true operating potential.

It was from these observations, some 4 years ago, that Flusso first became an idea. How could I partner with any business, assess the opportunities that exist for them operate more effectively, and help them develop solutions that enabled them to work better whilst empowering and engaging their people. Simple.

It felt like the right time for me to take the leap. The right time for me in my career to partner with more than one business to create positive change. But also the right time for where we are as a country. From one man entrepreneurs aCand start-ups and business in early-stage growth, to well-established organisations with multiple operating units; the opportunities for all to offer a global service, increase profits and contribute to our growing economy, has never been more real. In order to do so, change is essential. I just believe that businesses need to be constantly looking at new ways to operationally innovate in order to become future ready.  

 I realised that often business leaders may neither have the time nor the resources to independently assess all the moving parts of their business to identify where these opportunities are. And that's the assistance I offer to my clients.

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You have a background in operations - but, more specifically, fixing organisations that are either growing too fast or struggling with the transition. Sorta like The Wolf in Pulp Fiction. How has this translated into creating your business? 

Haha. "I'm Mr Wolf. I solve problems" - Spot on! 

Every business has its own need to change. They may be growing too fast and need to adjust the way they work to support bigger volumes, or time to market for a service or product. Or maybe a business has changed its offering and the way it has always worked is no longer appropriate. Whatever the reason, a business needs an independent partner to work with their internal teams to identify where the opportunities are, and do what needs to be done. A partner that can come in, focus on assessing where the opportunities are in the context of its need for change, and drive the implementation the change with the people in the business.  

It's likely that a business already has an Operations Director - or even an operations department -  responsible for making sure everything runs smoothly. Which is great. But how can you be sure that they know where all the issues are? Are they identifying all the problems and developing the right solutions? Are they sure that the problems are actually the problems? This is why, free from the influence of internal politics and red tape, Flusso is able to work objectively with business people and teams to find the most effective path to achieving the desired changes. 

Where do you think South African businesses are really struggling at the moment? What areas causing the most pain? 

It's no secret that there has been, and will continue be, an increase in startups and small businesses in South Africa. In my opinion, there is room enough for them all. The problem that I have with new age businesses is their rush to succeed. Of course I'm generalizing here, there're always exceptions but what I often observe is that a new business wants to be great right from the outset. The lack of business knowledge, operations abilities and market knowledge restricts a new business's ability to grow organically. Ultimately leading to unethical business practices in pursuit of the quick success, which damages a market's ability to sustain many businesses at the same time. These new businesses need to ensure that they are set up effectively from the beginning, have a sound growth strategy in place, and stick to that strategy until such time as change needs to be made based on a period of executing on that strategy.

Big business in South Africa, I feel, is too often reluctant to look at new innovative ways of doing things for fear of 'that's not how it's done around here.' Whilst any change in big business will take more time, the necessary adjustments to their operations will reap greater profits, better quality output, satisfied clients.   

You've been involved for some years with WWC, a digital transformation firm - what areas of digital are you most excited about?  

I'm excited about the effect that digital and technology has on the way in which a business works. A business's ability to adopt technology in critical areas will open up areas of growth not previously recognised. Something as simple as whether a business is using the right software to manage the flow of work around its business. Is it being used to its full capabilities? Or are there better technologies that suit the needs of the business better? 

These days businesses have the ability to create a wider reach and engage with markets previously unreachable without the technology. How about the creation of bespoke technologies that allow the removal of multiple checks in a process, thus delaying a product to market? The possibilities are endless.

In order to adopt suitably and enabling technologies that will contribute to future growth, business needs to understand what the needs are for their workforce, understand how mobility features in their businesses, and then align technology solutions with the businesses change and transformation strategy.  

Thats what we do at Flusso, we help our clients understand what the problems are and, amongst other solutions, how technology can open new areas of growth to maximise their ability to deliver.  

We're in a particularly challenging time in the African context - economy downturns, stagnating job provision and shoring up of investment funds. What advice do you have for developing nation entrepreneurs who are going through their own challenges? 

I may have touched on this already in a previous question. But my advice would be to ask for help, understand your market, have a plan, and stick to it! It's inevitable that the plan will change as your business grows. But it is an essential business survival tool in a competitive economy like ours in South Africa.  

Take risks, but don't stretch yourself beyond your financial reach. Too often I've seen businesses not just fail, but get themselves in debt for a long time after the business has closed. Risks are essential to get ahead, but keep your risks calculated.

Ask for help. Whether it be from a consultant or a business mentor, learn from someone who has experience in running a business. It doesn't necessarily need to be the same business as yours. We can learn a thing or two from markets and industries completely unrelated to ours.

That's where innovation and new thinking can quickly be adopted to put your business forward. And lastly, work hard and be patient!  

Thanks, Robin, we're excited to see how your new venture evolves.

If you want to learn more about Robin and his offerings at Flusso, visit the website here.