In attempt to keep its incubated entrepreneurs inspired and motivated, Turbine organizes Entrepreneur’s Talks. This is an opportunity for founders of new start-ups to learn about the journey of seasoned entrepreneurs, to ask them for advice and to exchange ideas with them.
This month, we had the pleasure of welcoming Zulaika Sunthbocus – Co-founder and Managing Director at Spoon Consulting.
Zulaika is Mauritian, born and raised. She has done her primary and secondary studies in Mauritius and then moved to France to pursue her tertiary studies following which she started working as a software analyst. She always knew she wanted to come back to her roots in Mauritius.
While in France, Zulaika tells us she climbed the professional ladder she started off as an analyst, getting from programmer to manager to project manager. By the time she left France she was an IT consultant at PwC accompanying her clients in their information system implementation. When she came back, Zulaika worked at Accenture as a Delivery
Manager for about a year. It was then that she teamed up with her co-founders in order to set up Spoon Consulting.
The idea was to build a company that would provide ERPs and CRMs, and they could do so by leveraging the fact that all 3 of them were Oracle consultants. The 3 founders invested their savings in order to create Spoon Consulting. Zulaika mentions that they have always been trend setters as even during their early days they were investing significantly in training on the salesforce platforms for their team.
In the early years, she was very involved in operational activities of the company until one day she decided that perhaps she should try something a little further out of her comfort zone. She decided to venture out into another business. Being a certified PADI passionate diver, it was no surprise that her venture was in the diving sector. She built the business up and ran it for a couple of years.
But fate brought her back to Spoon Consulting in 2013, this time her role in the company was different. This time around she was more in charge of the Talent and Culture aspect of the company, and it turned out to be something she thoroughly enjoyed. Today Spoon Consulting has over 100 employees and she attends most of the recruitment interviews.
She enjoys working with her teams in order to promote a healthy work culture. She explains that having a committed team is one of the pillars of running a successful business. At Spoon Consulting prides itself in the attention that they provide to their employees. It is important for them to make their talents feel like they are the major asset of the company directly generating value for the company through their high-quality delivery geared towards customer excellence.
To what would you attribute the sustainability of Spoon Consulting as a company that is born and bred in Mauritius?
She accounts the sustainability of Spoon Consulting over 15 years to the following:
She has nurtured a leadership style with the major objective to empower her team which remains the major asset of the company
Within this culture, she is continuously challenging her team, taking them out of their comfort zone, and at the same time motivating them and valorising them and above all making them feel as part of the Spoon Consulting family
Ongoing training including soft skills training is being delivered whole year round to ensure that her people are not only getting more money in their pockets but also strengthening their brains.
- Commitment and Strength.
It is important to note that it was not always a “La Vie en Rose” scenario with starting a company as a woman in the time that she did. IT was, as it continues to be, a male dominated industry and in that time, it was crucial for her to be committed to producing good work and maintaining positivity in order to build her credibility. She also points out that it is important to believe in yourself and never give up and today she is proud to be on board of several IT commissions in Mauritius, hence sitting at the same table of the IT guys .
The next thing is, money. During the first few years of Spoon Consulting, revenue was an issue for the company. She says this is something that everybody should be aware of, it is normal to have to bootstrap at the beginning. Getting money flowing into the business will not be easy. It can be frustrating to see that the forecasts don’t match the reality of the company’s performance. She says: “10 years ago, I was struggling, and it can be a stressful experience!” but today we are experiencing a constant increase of 20 percent of our revenues ( chiffre d’affaire) since 2015 and we have over 100 clients
- And last, but not the least: Diversity
Don’t be afraid to embrace new technologies and trainings for your employees. It is important to make it as a priority: Invest in training and cater for their well-being on a daily basis .
Always ask for feedback, even though sometimes feedback can be negative, it is important to be able to learn from your mistakes. Focus on lessons learnt and learn from the perception of the client. See the situation from the client’s point of view. This will help you identify the factors that help differentiate you from your competitors.
Moreover, when it comes to personal level, Zulaika says it is important to be passionate and motivated. She lays emphasis on keeping a positive and bold attitude while working.
She says she is amazed when she sees entrepreneurs working at Turbine. She feels that these people are fearless and is quite inspired by this.
How do you recruit? And how do you make them stay?
They recruit graduates from the University of Mauritius who they then put through a bootcamp training and on the job training.
- Treating Talents Like Assets
When it comes to retaining talent, Spoon Consulting is a big advocate of investing on training, valuing the talents they recruit. To treat them like assets that appreciate over their journey with the Company. This creates value for the company as well as the employee as you then become an institution through which they get to grow professionally. That being said, the company also covers half of the medical insurance, they pay half of the gym membership, they sponsor mini football pitch for team members that like to play football. They are sponsors of a great number of IT events in Mauritius and they even bring members of the team to huge IT events in San Francisco on a yearly basis since 6 years now.
- “Top Talents”
She explains that Spoon Consulting has also implemented “Top Talents” these are employees that get preferential trainings to develop their skills based on their exceptional performance. There are two appraisals a year and managers are trained to value their subordinates.
- Performance Appraisal
Their performance appraisal is based on Engagement, Value Creation and Knowledge transfer within the team.
- Team Building!
They have also coined the term “Spoon Spirit” in the company which implies taking ownership of their tasks and feeling like they are in a family at Spoon Consulting. A lot of the training at Spoon Consulting is done by the seniors to the juniors.
How do you keep up the spirit when the revenues fluctuate?
On low seasons they encouraged people to follow training to improve their skills. It is important to show them that they can still generate value for the company when the sales are low. Developing their skills during low season ensures that they can deliver a continually improving service to their customers.
How have you managed to stay with your co-founders?
It is important to have complementarity at the heart of a founding team. Theirs is broken down as follows: Marketing, Tech and Culture.
It has not been that easy, she says. But they have had (and try to keep) a good communication. They have never taken one executive decision without having a unanimous clearance. When one of the founders wants to take a new measure or initiative, Zulaika explains that they must have a valid and rational reasoning behind it.
As a parting note, Zulaika imparted an important piece of advice: Learn to identify and to seize opportunities. They can make or break your path as a business owner.