As an eventful 2016 draws to a close, we met up with Fix Forward CEO Joshua Cox to ask him about the year that was, and what we can expect from the company in 2017.
How did Fix Forward perform in 2016?
Josh: In the last year, Fix Forward grew our pool of tradesmen from 12 to almost 60. This growth is encouraging and obviously multiplies Fix Forward’s impact and ability to connect more clients to quality tradesmen.
With such growth, there must have been a lot of learning. What can you take away from the year in terms of lessons learnt?
Josh: The biggest lesson to come out of the year for Fix Forward was to constantly challenge our ideas on the best way of doing things. For example, previously the Entrepreneur Development Program was very much classroom based, but we wanted to adapt it without losing the face-to-face interaction and learning. We shifted the training to e-learning, which was a much more effective way to deliver content to people, allowing them the convenience of engaging with it at their own pace and in their own time. The lesson in this is realizing that we need to constantly challenge if we are doing things the right way.
What has changed since for the company since you first opened your doors?
Josh: A lot of has changed since we first opened our doors! For example, when we started out we really identified quite strongly as a non-profit social enterprise and were modeling ourselves around what other social enterprises were doing; but just over a year ago we realized that we are much more of a tech start up, and so have tried to learn from the likes of successful tech start ups like AirBnB and Uber. We would like to achieve a highly scaleable business, which non-profit organisations struggle to achieve because they rely on funding. Our vision is to scale this – not only across South Africa but also worldwide.
With 2017 just around the corner, how do you plan to continue your development next year?
Josh: We would like to get the business to the point where we are ready to scale up to Johannesburg. This involves testing and ensuring that the new learning program is working; and that the e-learning is going smoothly. We are developing a web application which we will need to check, and if it is fully functional and the automation of our systems and processes are working properly, then we will be ready to scale up to Joburg next year.
Challenges are a part of both business and life. What challenges are you facing in the construction industry at present?
Josh: One of the biggest problems faced in the industry – which is a longstanding challenge – is that clients often aim to pay as little as they can and still expect exceptional service. Our challenge will be to change that mindset and to one where our clients can get fair value for money instead. Ultimately there is a price point which is beneficial to both the client and the tradesmen; if it is cheaper than that then it’s beneficial to neither because the tradesmen are forced to cut corners and the quality is compromised.
We need to get clients to understand that paying a little bit more is in their best interest for quality work. Overcoming this will have to involve communicating to clients what a fair price actually is – particularly because the tradesmen come from lower income areas, there is a perception that the job will be a ‘cheap deal’. Fix Forward is all about about positioning our service as a quality service, not a cheap one!