Interview with Brett StClair
What are some unique aspects to doing business in Africa?
Doing business in Africa isn’t a one country approach. With so many cultures, languages and tribes across the continent, each market requires a specific approach. But that is what makes doing business in Africa so exciting and dynamic.
We have seen many Developed World technologies change the African landscape. Having been involved in part of the journey such as growing Google’s Mobile, Youtube, Gmail and Cloud business to over 250 million users in Africa, one thing rings true to me; Africa really does have the opportunity to leapfrog the rest of the globe when it comes to technology. And one of the things I love most about the continent is our need and ability to solve our own problems through modern technologies.
We use solar to create micro grids, we used social media to replace SMS and leveraged SMS as a form of payment. With Cloud, Artificial Intelligence and The Internet of Things there is so much opportunity to start building our own African tech solutions and the excitement is palpable. We look at roads and ask why not invest in a Drone Highway that’s far cheaper and more effective. We look at Data Centres and we think Cloud all the way. When doing business in Africa we are about working for the greater good so we collaborate to lift our communities out of poverty and into modern society. We see it all the time.
Many of your talks focus on the digital. What are your thoughts on how digital services become more and more integral parts of our lives?
The first challenge is to understand what Digital is. We traditionally see digital as a website or App, maybe even a cross platform advertising campaign. The reality is that Digital is a way of work and a different type of solution that lets you do things fast and at scale. A Digital environment enables businesses to make better data driven decisions, facilitates the launch of products to market seamlessly and at scale and to audiences that previously never imagined this kind of access.
For me, if I were to choose a definition for digital it would be any system of business that does not come to an end. It is continuously changing and evolving to solve customers’ problems. Compare this to traditional ways of managing technology or IT in a business, where we make a series of assumptions, take 18 months to deploy and then leave the technology in place and without upgrades or changes until the next release. This legacy makes it very difficult to respond to a customer’s changing needs.
The Customer is the entity that is driving Digital, with services like Google, Facebook and Airbnb, the bar for a seamless customer experience has been set extremely high. There is now an expectation that all business behave in the same way offering equally as good experiences that add value to your personal and working lives. The speed of change is now exponential. If you as a business are not responding to changes every day and doubling your capabilities, services, growth and impact, you could soon fall behind.
So to win in the game of digital you need to move quickly. If Google and Amazon release over 10 million code changes every single day, you have to ask yourself how quickly you can respond to your customers’ needs.
Why do you think digital transformation is so integral to innovation?
Digital transformation is really about ensuring your business continuously innovates within your industry. Companies that are afraid of any type change and not prepared to evolve digitally or any other way will be eclipsed by the competitor who does. It just so happens that digital technology and culture is at the forefront of this change. The longer you wait, the more difficult it will be to catch up and win in your industry.
Do you have a favourite experience from your speaking career?
My favourite experiences are when I engaged audiences who have started their journey and you can see the adoption through language and action. Especially if it is a client I have worked with in the past. What makes me excited is when I see how the culture has started to shift after people attend my talks and how they start to grapple with and overcome that fear of change. This is the hardest hurdle to overcome
How are your keynote presentations unique?
What makes my keynote presentations unique is that I have been on both sides of the fence.
- I have worked for businesses that have always disrupted industries. I have been part of the teams and leadership that has scaled to 100 million user bases in regions that most people thought were impossible. I have worked at Barclays Bank Africa where we were the industry being disrupted and needed to keep up.
- I spent 3 years working to rebuild the technology, organisation and the refocus to solve customer problems.
- I share my stories of success and more importantly failure, because if you do not learn how to fail you cannot learn how to innovate. My keynotes clearly highlight where the disruption in your industry is coming from, how these organisations think and act and how to begin your journey to move from disrupted to disruptor.
- I share these stories through anecdotes and real life examples so that have fun too with a few laughs while leaving inspired to make a change.
How much does humor factor into your speaking engagements?
Digital is all about customer experience and ways of work and in truth less so about the technology. My shows are all about people who matter and that our businesses ultimately serve. The show engages deeply with the audience with an intention to blow their minds while having a laugh at the same time, my anecdotes are fun and light hearted. My intention is to inspire change and leave you entertained.