November 1, 2009

Interview with the CEO of Concargo, David Kruyer


I recently had the pleasure of having a lavish supper and great conversation with David Kruyer, the CEO of transport and logistics company Concargo, that specialize in logistics in South Africa. He has many insights and stories to tell, which he describes in colourful detail and humour.

David KruyerStartup CEO: You are a major player in the transport and logistics industry, can you tell me a little about yourself and your background?

David: I started with an American company, selling newspaper subscriptions from door to door which I eventually took over, and ran a crew of about 15 sales people. It was very successful in this country, but unfortunately their Visas expired and they had to go back home.  They then transferred me in 1975 to the United Kingdom where I worked in London for the Daily Mirror doing public opinion surveys, and six months later came back to South Africa to do my national service. After the national service I joined a company called Allied Publishing and was involved in the transport and distribution of newspapers. In 1985 I joined the courier business DHL for a year, then left them after I was headhunted by Thomas Nationwide Transport, an Australian company. I went to work for them for a few years, then left in 1987 and started Ace Express Couriers. I registered Concargo at the same time as Ace Express, and operated the two companies in parallel, where one was bulk and one was courier of small parcels.  There was a guy that purchased some airplanes in an Armscore tender and came to approach us in 1992. He wanted to take the courier business into the air and I thought it was a good time to sell my equity in Ace Express. My restraint of trade limited me to transport a limit of one ton, and that’s what Concargo became.

Startup CEO: Transport and logistics must be a tough gruelling industry,what made you go that route?

David: I find transport so challenging and so interesting, there’s really not one job the same as the next. There are so many destinations, there are so many configurations, there are so many variations – and all of those challenges just make logistics interesting. And obviously, its also a lucrative business to be in.

Startup CEO: What are some of the dangers you see in the future of your industry?

David: The dangers I see are in terms of the cost of fuel, but its really the only thing I can imagine. Obviously we have to look for greener efficiency, alternative power but I don’t foresee any specific dangers. I see a lot of growth in the industry and in South Africa.

Startup CEO: What are the most important values in your business?

David: The most important value is, honestly, the client. Its about making sure you are communicating with the client constantly from cradle to grave, from beginning to end, so that there is no misunderstanding about whats happening and what you’re doing with the client. Service has its pitfalls, and you don’t always have a smooth transition or smooth transactions, but while you are communicating and you’re telling the truth, everybody stays in the loop and everybody stays happy and you have a reasonable resolve.

Startup CEO: So would you say the customer comes first or the employees come first?

David: I would say the customer comes first.

Startup CEO: What sacrifices have you had to make to ensure business success?

David: I would put it down to time – I would have spent more time with my family, or my younger family. Time is a sacrifice, but its a self-driven sacrifice. I would have to say that only one out of 50 individuals give freely of their time, the rest watch the clock.

Startup CEO: You have often mentioned about how much you value innovation. Tell me a bit more about how you innovate within Concargo?

David: The way I innovate within Concargo is about constantly coming out with concepts and ideas. Putting them with the board of directors, or even with second line management, where they can contribute to improving the concept. We’re coming out with a new e-marketing strategy on almost a weekly basis, and acting on it and implementing it.

Startup CEO: Its interesting, because many other players say that e-marketing is dead, obviously you have driven that concept and ensure success there.

David: In terms of our business, we are targeting people of like mind and other logistics companies that need to outsource. The information we are giving in e-marketing is valuable to them – information that their companies haven’t taken the time and trouble to put together to keep people informed, and to educate people about how logistics works.

Startup CEO: You’re going to like this question. What is your favourite way of celebrating business successes?

David: My favourite way is to have a party, and make sure that all the staff are included and understand why we are having a party and making sure they benefit from the success of this, because they are a part of the success of this.

Startup CEO: What is the most difficult thing you have ever had to do in your business?

David: I would imagine the most difficult thing is having to downscale, but once you do it once, the second time is very easy because you realize how that protects what you have. As easy as it is to scale up, you have to react fast and scale down sometimes.

Startup CEO: What would you do if you had all the money in the world and could do anything you wanted?

David: I would still work in Concargo and make it one of the really serious players in the market. We’ve always been viewed as a transport broker, but I prefer to see it as logistics consultants and transport managers – managing the fleets and sweating the assets of others. There’s a niche for marketing, and there’s a niche for the vehicle owner. Unfortunately those two mixes are not always found in one company.

Startup CEO: Your wife also works in Concargo. What role does she play, and what is it like working with her?

David: Beverly controls finance. She makes sure not just Concargo but in the other companies that are run, that the transfers of moneys remain under our control. She also sees what the flow of business is, and she is able to bring certain things to my attention. We have always worked very well together for the last 20 years.

Startup CEO: Give your best piece of advice for would-be entrepreneurs.

David: Don’t hesitate.

Startup CEO: What is your most and least favourite thing about being a CEO?

The least favorite thing is having the responsibilities of protecting everyone’s jobs, and the coolest thing is that I can make all the decisions if I want to, but I don’t operate like that. I do empower because you can’t be on top of everything that’s going on, and you have to rely on the advice and experience of your management team.

Well there you go guys – a great talk with a fascinating man. What do you think?

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  1. Truden November 3, 2009 at 12:15 am

    Hi, Where are you from? Is it a secret? :)

  2. Ryan Theron November 3, 2009 at 9:22 am

    Nice article David

  3. ceo November 3, 2009 at 9:58 am

    @Truden: I will let you know soon about my business and who I am ;)

  4. Don Barry November 3, 2009 at 4:29 pm

    Hi David,
    Will be in CT soon & will give you a call.
    Nice initiative.
    Regards to Bev & the girls.

  5. Rudi September 7, 2010 at 9:16 pm

    Nice article, very interesting points have been made and the value is clear to see. Keep writing compelling posts.


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