A company milestone in 2020
Managing Director Ryan Roseveare reflects on five key success factors as BUI celebrates 20 years of innovation.
Ryan Roseveare remembers walking through a Sandton shopping mall with a cellphone in his hand and hearing hushed chatter from the people behind him. “Look, that guy’s got one of those new cellphone thingies,” someone had whispered in amazement. It was the dawn of the new millennium. The world was still getting used to novelty items like mobile phones. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn were on the distant horizon. And digital technology was evolving at an unprecedented speed.
In the year 2000, Roseveare and his good friend, Willem Malan, were working at an IT firm that was struggling to adapt after a takeover. “We saw a very dynamic business deteriorate into a complete mess. It became very clear very quickly that the focus was on the stakeholders instead of the people.”
As the corporate carnage continued, Roseveare and Malan weighed their options. “We knew we didn’t want to do mundane IT. And we knew we wanted to put people first. We soon realised that starting our own business was the best thing to do,” he says. And so, BUI was born.
They started small and focused on their strengths, gradually building up a customer base in Johannesburg before taking on projects from around the country. It was a year before they could afford to move the business out of Roseveare’s house and into a corporate space. But the lessons learned in those first 12 months proved invaluable, and Roseveare believes their success comes down to five key factors…
Creating new opportunities
Johannesburg had been BUI’s main hub since inception, but satellite staff had been supporting customers elsewhere, too. With increasing demand in the Mother City, and a desire to broaden the company’s range of solutions, Roseveare approached Living Tech, a leader in managed services. “We were looking to establish a hub in Cape Town, and we were also looking to expand our capabilities,” he explains.
The acquisition of Living Tech ticked both boxes: BUI gained a metropolitan office in the Cape and a new business arm to leverage in service of a growing customer base. Roseveare was determined to make the integration as smooth as possible for Living Tech employees. “For two years, we didn’t change anything. We didn’t even change the coffee!” It was a thoughtful approach that created an opportunity for new faces to become familiar ones, and for teams to learn each other’s rhythms and routines. And it worked. “We have a very close-knit community,” he says.
Collaborating with peers
BUI’s expansion and continued success didn’t go unnoticed. “We had multiple corporates courting us, trying to purchase us, and we turned down a lot of offers,” confesses Roseveare, adding that he and Malan had similar concerns about BUI losing its unique identity. It was a proposal from First Technology Group CEO Arnold Sharp that finally made them reconsider.
“When Arnold came to us, he understood who we were, what we were doing, and how we worked – and he didn’t want to change us. He wanted us to retain our independence, but benefit from belonging to a bigger family,” remembers Roseveare. BUI joined the First Technology Group in 2015. “It was a positive move. It’s given us more strength, more credibility, more reach, and an ally who appreciates our philosophy.”
Being part of the First Technology Group also enabled greater collaboration within the local IT industry. BUI has had a strategic relationship with Ascent Technology since 2017. It’s an accord that Roseveare attributes as much to their shared mission as to their shared status as First Technology relatives. “I think we’re kindred spirits, as far as businesses go. And our agenda is the same: to transform our customers’ IT, modernise them, and make them secure. It makes sense for us to work together to deliver more value to the people we serve.”
Choosing the right partners
Delivering value to customers is one of BUI’s fundamental principles, and technology vendors and partners have always been chosen with this core tenet in mind. “If you’re going to pin your flag to someone else’s mast, then you better choose wisely,” advises Roseveare. “We’ve been selective. We’ve chosen good partners, and good platforms, and we’ve got it right the first time.”
Going all-in with Microsoft was a key decision, and a natural one. “It was a Microsoft world when we started BUI. That worked in our favour, because we knew the market and we had the expertise. But we also saw how technology was changing society. We knew we’d have the chance to innovate alongside one of the most innovative companies in the world,” says Roseveare.
BUI also has longstanding relationships with Cisco and Palo Alto Networks. “For us, end-to-end consulting means having advanced capabilities,” explains Roseveare. “It means knowing which complementary products and services would best suit a customer’s needs. And it means mastering the skills required to develop seamless, integrated solutions.”
Concentrating on people
Aptitude is important, says Roseveare, but attitude is paramount. “We’ve got an eclectic bunch of individuals here, and our offices are open, interactive places. We talk, we share, and we encourage friendly rivalry. But there’s a golden thread in our business: everyone has the same drive, and the same passion to be the best.”
The company culture is something that Roseveare set out to establish from Day 1. Working from the spare room of his Parkhurst home, he had the dual responsibilities of new parent and new business owner. Malan, likewise, was balancing his home life with the demands of entrepreneurship and a commute of more than 100km every day. “He used to spend half his salary on petrol and the other half on food,” chuckles Roseveare. “It took a lot of energy, but we did it. We planned, we prepared, and we executed.”
Their personal experiences informed their team-building techniques over the years. “We’ve built a people-focused business with a specific culture around agility, flexibility, excellence, and positive outcomes – for BUI and for our customers,” explains Roseveare. The results speak for themselves: dozens of elite technical specialists; a trophy cabinet full of industry accolades; and an enviable list of clients in diverse sectors. “We’re just warming up,” he quips.
Calculating for the future
BUI will continue to focus on managed cloud services, cyber security and networking, especially in the local market, where skills shortages remain a challenge for even the largest enterprises. Roseveare is also committed to expanding the company’s footprint internationally.
“We’re putting a lot of focus into growing our customer base in sub-Saharan Africa,” he says, adding that cloud-centric solutions make sense in developing countries where infrastructure and capacity constraints may be obstacles to productivity.
He has similar plans for the BUI base in the United States, but he’s being purposefully methodical about scaling up in a foreign environment. “We’re ambitious about our growth. We do want to become a truly global business. But first, we need to make sure that what we’re doing here can be replicated successfully overseas.”
After 20 years at the helm, Roseveare has every confidence in BUI – and his team. “The people in this company… They’re the ones waking up at dawn to solve problems for customers. They’re putting everything they have, and more, into making BUI a success. Without them, nothing would happen. It’s that simple.”