Perfect Laser Founder & CEO Warwick Smith Chandler

As the CEO of this company, it will always be my responsibility to build a culture that gives every one of our clients a winning solution. My 46 strong team and I challenge ourselves daily to ensure that we collectively simplify our clients’ businesses enabling superior growth and profitability. Breaking this down further, my team knows that to simplify our clients’ business means to make sure that Perfect Laser Technologies staff embrace the reality that if our clients are not successful we ourselves will not prosper.

We do this willingly in the midst of a national climate where ‘meaningful work’ within all levels of public service has been eroded by corruption and self-serving actions.

Most South Africans see 2022 as a pivot point. For my organisation, it is straightforward. We remain absolutely determined that our company’s team of technicians, support specialists, managers and our branch network strive daily to make sure that our clients of any size are successful. In so doing they will be able to fulfill all their obligations to their clients and families and hopefully, as we have done, employ more staff.

We recognise that ‘good service’ is the enemy of ‘great service’ and that industry benchmarks merely confirm where average is. My staff commit to long hours voluntarily to attend up-skilling courses, run support lines until 8 PM servicing and supporting our clients, offer free machine training to clients every Saturday morning and conscientiously write up this knowledge and experience gained within our cloud management platform. This allows all 46 staff to learn efficiently and assists us with the onboarding of new staff. It also ensures that our clients get the right advice the first time. We don’t always get it right but every day we try and be better than yesterday.

In the process of creating an ethos of increasing and sharing knowledge, our team has become ‘de facto’ specialists in CO2 lasers, UV and eco-solvent colour printers, CNC, sublimation and fiber technology machines. Closely allied to hardware competence is our software expertise from Windows 7-10, and a myriad operating and design platforms ranging from CorelDraw to Illustrator, Fusion 360, AutoCAD and countless more.

Our clients have used our energy and skills to increase the number of different machines that they own and use. Just last week we installed three 1325 CO2 laser machines at one client in Johannesburg. Our record number of machines for one client is 22 and the number of clients with 2 or more machines has risen to over a hundred. In further support of our clients, we are proud to say that our electronic and critical parts on hand availability stands at 98% or higher.

Like most South African companies, we are faced with ongoing challenges – incoming air cargo availability is limited and per kilogram cost can exceed R250. Seafreight container costs have skyrocketed from R35 000 to almost R200 000 per 40ft container. And the list goes on from rising electricity and fuel costs to potholes. It forces us to reinvent and get better at what we do. As we get better our clients get better.

In 2022 our commitment to client success will be accelerated. In the second half of 2021, we received over 100 5/5 or 5* reviews on various social media platforms. We are aiming to more than double that recognition in 2022. Visit any of our nine branches on a Saturday morning and you will see clients with their colleagues or family attending free supplementary training. On the odd occasion, we were ‘called out’ for unacceptable service one of my senior management team members personally make contact with the client within 2-3 hours.

In early February we will open another retail store in Pretoria. With 9 retail locations across South Africa, we have been successfully servicing and supporting our clients. As the range of uses and applications for our machines increases – being closer to our clients is imperative. With a national footprint our clients who ‘migrate’ successfully all around South Africa – whether it is to the coast or from the city to our smaller towns or vice-versa, we are always close at hand.

To support this acceleration of customer support we will continue to upgrade our VOIP (telephone) architecture allowing our staff to operate on a roster basis at home to provide after-hours support. Our cloud management software which has had over 3000 improvements since it was started in 2017 is scheduled for a further 600 this year. The 10 stunning service and technical instruction guides (often up to 100 pages long) that we started during the 2020 lockdown continue to be improved – proving that meaningful change can be achieved even if it had its birth in the darkest Covid-19 days.

Late in 2021, we created 4 senior posts. Product Managers for CO2 Laser, Colour, CNC and Fiber – each with their own team. It is just so pleasing to see how our competent staff migrate into the responsibility of being a Product Manager!

From April of this year, our clients will have access to smartphone apps to record photos/videos and audio of any technical issue – directly into their client record on our cloud system – ensuring more accurate recordings of issues and better service turnaround times.

I am reminded by a client from our Bloemfontein branch who had a copy of an EXCEL invoice – soon after we first started the business – and on it said “ free replacement tube” as part of the deal. 2022 and almost 5 years later, the client is back and so relieved that we honour our commitments – and that we are still in business. For me personally, it was another truly satisfying moment. When my company and my team makes a commitment we stand by it. When we say – that eventually your ‘laser tube’ will fail and it will save you R10 000 – we know what we are talking about. To be able to say “YES” we were right and we are here to help ( i.e. keep your business going) was just the correct tonic for all our staff to realize the meaningful responsibilities and expectations we as a team bear daily!

There are a few more firsts coming up in 2022.

1) Our first WaterJet machine capable of cutting in excess of 5cm steel has arrived and will be installed early February.

2) Our automated Fiber Engraver conveyor belt ‘mini factory’ has been built and will leave for South Africa late February after the Chinese New Year is finished.

3) Hopefully (Covid permitting) we can resume participating at various exhibitions around South Africa.

Warwick Smith-Chandler

Founder and CEO

January 2022

See part one of my article on Tiny Factories here.