A web solution that ’s world-class
Bay company’s 18 years’ experience sets it apart
After 18 years in web development, Online Innovations has established itself as a one-stop shop for the online space. For the owners, Dirk Erasmus, Bronwen Burger and Andre Olivier, the secret lies in finding qualified, happy staff for their Newton Park office.
Can you give some background on yourselves and how and when the business was started?
Dirk: I was involved with a computer company and a partner at the time [who is no longer involved] was with another computer company, so we came together and Online Innovations was born in January 2000.
We started off in the first year with four people. Since then we’ve grown to eight, and we’ve never exceeded eight, split between programming, design and communication and writing, specifically for social media and website content .
What is your core service?
Dirk: Our core service has always been web development, focusing on business solutions. Everything else we do is built around that. The market has become less defined.
I think the fields have become very blurred. A lot of computer companies will also do web development. Most advertising agencies will offer social media marketing, but everyone still has to focus on something.
What makes your business unique?
Dirk: I think one of our strong points is the ability to see a problem and come up with a web solution for it, instead of seeing an obstacle.
Bronwen: Experience is also something we have going for us. We’ve been running for 18 years, doing one thing, which other people have just started doing and they’re still trying to find their feet, where Andre and his team already know what to look for. We don’t have those teething problems.
What are some of the biggest inhibitors your business faced in its early days?
Dirk: The only real inhibitors we had in those years were internet access and speed. People didn’t see the need for the internet at that stage; you really had to convince them.
What are some of your biggest challenges in day-to-day business operations and your particular industry?
Dirk: We don’t face that many challenges day to day, but from a business viewpoint, staff recruitment, or finding qualified people, is difficult.
Another challenge is quoting against 500 other people where clients don’t do their homework on the companies quoting, and there might be a one-man company [which] will download a template for a website, [and these] always come in cheaper than us.
How do you measure success in your business?
Dirk: By always having enough work to do.
Bronwen: With one of our customers, we took their orders from being manual to online, and I went there about six months later and the lady showed me her desk was clear because she managed to finish paperwork [with the time spent on orders in the past].
When the customers comment on the improvement you’ve made to their space, that is a success to me.
What kind of advertising do you do?
Dirk: At the moment, far too little, but essentially only social media.
Andre: We have great ideas for advertising, but before we have time to implement them for ourselves, we implement them for our customers.
What is your target market?
Dirk: It is very wide, from a one-man show right up to international companies. Our latest project that was launched was Bridgestone South Africa, and in a couple of days we’ll probably launch a one-page website for someone who sells Jelly Tots from home. Our service is for anyone who wants to go onto the web, be it via social media or a website.
What are some of your highlights in running Online Innovations?
Bronwen: During the day I can deal with somebody who sells sweets, and then end up on a factory tour of a company that creates amazing technology, and then I’ll end my day off with a photographer. My customers are so diverse. I don’t get bored and I get shown so many different things.
Dirk: One of the highlights is the environment we operate in and working with our team. We don’t really face the staff struggles many companies face. It ’s a very relaxed yet super productive environment.
Andre: I like the industry. It ’s silly to say it’s where the world is going because it’s long past that, but I think there’s still a lot to happen on the web.
How important is social media and an online presence for your business?
Dirk: It’s pretty important because it’s an example of your product. It’s a live brochure for your clients to see.What do you think is the best way to motivate your employees?
Andre: Challenge is always a great way to motivate people.
Bronwen: We don’t question our employees and allow people to make decisions in their areas of expertise, which I think is fulfilling for our staff. To me, that is a motivator.
Do you have any plans for expanding the business, and how would you go about this?
Dirk: I don’t think we are going to expand but we do want to grow.
What is the biggest lesson yo u’ve learned from your business journey so far?
Dirk: Get a bookkeeper and a financial adviser you can trust. I’ve also learned that SARS penalties are expensive.
What are the greatest challenges and advantages of running your business in a city like PE?
Dirk: Firstly, a lot of companies have their head office outside PE, and they don’t believe that PE can deliver the product they need.
Secondly, a lot of companies have their head office in PE and they don’t believe that PE can deliver the product they need.
There’s still a mentality that businesses need to go outside PE to get their product developed. I don’t think there are many industries where PE can’t deliver a world-class product.
The lifestyle here is an advantage, as is the proximity of everything. We’re very close to all our clients...