Rowan Swartz co-founded ATM Solutions, the first Independent ATM Deployer (IAD) in South Africa in 1999, from a small office in Johannesburg. ATM Solutions was to be the first of a number of successful Paycorp group companies. From that early triumph he pioneered one innovation after another, and not just in the ATM business.
On the 10th of May 2021, he was invited by ORT Jet to share his business success story along with the integral lessons he learnt along the way, which made for an eye-opening webinar.
“I grew up poor. I didn’t want to be poor, the aim was that I didn’t want to live where I couldn’t afford things. From a young age I always had business idea at the back of my mind, I always had something on the go that was making money. At school, I sold computers and computer software. I always had a job, and on weekends I worked” said Swartz
At the young age of 18, Swartz was a victim of fraud and was unexpectedly put into huge debt. “I knew very little about business. I was taken for R280 000 at the age of 18, this back in the 80’s. This would have put people out of business, but I found a solution. Out of an adverse situation I created a new business, and made something out of it. I came out stronger than before”. said Swartz
Where did your inner strength come from? Asked David Zidel, ORT Jet facilitator and Wits Business School lecturer, who interviewed Rowan throughout the session.
“I always had a moral slant on life. At that stage, I believed in the good of people and got easily defrauded. I could have simply thrown up my hands as at the time I had absolutely no assets, however I was determined to find a solution. In the end I truly made Lemonade from the situation” said Swartz
Where did the idea of ATM solutions come from?
“The idea wasn’t mine, it was my partner Steven Kark’s. Starting the business we encountered numerous obstacles that could have sunk the business before it even started. But we always managed to find solutions and persevered.” said Swartz
“We provided ATMs to small businesses where it was not viable for the banks to place an ATM, yet it was still in the site owner’s interest to have an ATM on their premises. There was huge demand from these merchants.”
What advice would you give to entrepreneurs? Asked Zidel
“Think out the box when strategizing. Think of the most varied and wild possibilities in your strategies. Eliminate the ludicrous ones and use the ones that are left. This lateral thinking process will enable you to find innovative strategies to develop your business.”
How do you assess if you must push through a brick wall? Or should you quit? Asked Zidel
“When I was younger, I would take huge risks. Nowadays my thinking on risk has changed. Back then we had nothing to lose, but now it might be different.”
“It’s important to have FUN when you are working. It is hard to have fun when you not making money, but you do need keep things fun and enjoy it.”
What other advice would you give to people starting out ? asked Zidel
“Look to build annuity income in your business. Recurring revenues enables a business to grow more consistently and easily .”
Name 5 things to do that you need to do to be successful? Asked Zidel
“ Build Annuities and ongoing revenues.
Think laterally and out the box.
Work with mentor’s and advisors. Always consider opposing strategies. Don’t be too egotistical to think your way of doing things is the best.
Always think ‘what’s in it for the person across the desk’, otherwise you won’t be in business.”
How do you approach failure? asked Zidel
“Failure can bring us down and in business, when you hit an obstacle you may think of giving up. Every business will have challenges. Nevertheless, don’t give up. Challenge yourself to find an alternative strategy – if there’s a mountain in your path, you don’t have to climb over it – find a way to walk around the mountain , look for the path through the valley.”
“It’s also always easier to sell to existing clients, see how you can expand with clients that you have. These are the people who trust you. It is harder to find new clients than to mine existing relationships. Consider ways to improve or expand your current offering. “
What is a red light for you when investing in a new business?
“A poorly thought out business plan is a red flag for me. It is so easy to make a business look good in a spreadsheet, but one needs to truly consider what is required to make the business work.” said Swartz
“Life is about experiences. For me, I try a little bit of everything. For example appreciating art, music, a little bit of everything. I am not an all or nothing type of person. I’ve got a long bucket list, and I’m ticking off things on my list all the time.”
“When we leave this place, you leave with experiences.” he concluded