Interview with Paradigm’s Managing Director

A leader is expected to perform a creative function of laying out goals and policies to encourage their team to work with zeal and confidence as well as empowering them with the skills to exceed expectations, giving customers the attention and service they deserve.

In this interview, Paradigm’s dynamic leader, Steve Anderson shares his Paradigm journey starting from the beginning till now.

STEVE’S JOURNEY AND EXPERIENCES

What’s your current position?

Managing Director

How long have you been in this position?

6 years

What would you say most motivates you to do what you do?

I am one of the lucky ones; I really enjoy my job and all the people it allows me to interact with, so it is easy for me to be motivated.

What are you most excited or passionate about?

Creating a world class software application, that can really have an impact on businesses and therefore the people that work for both Paradigm and all our customers.

Who are the people/mentors who deeply influenced who you are, what you believe in and what you’re committed to in your work and life?

There are many people that have influenced me and continue to do so every day. These include my staff, business partners and friends. However, my dad, Andy, is one of my closest friends and mentors. Although he is not at all IT literate, he is BC (Before Computers), he has mentored, guided and been my role model all my life and continues to do so at the age of 82. My business partner and life-long friend Trevor McLachlan has also been a rock in my life and steadies the ship whenever I have crazy ideas and go off half cocked.

THE PARADIGM JOURNEY

Tell us about your specific role and contributions to Paradigm? What was the first thing you did when you started Paradigm?

It all started when I wrote an application for a customer inside of Excel that eventually became Paradigm. So, my first function would have been “developer”.

Were there any surprises?

Operating a business in South Africa guarantees that there are surprises around every corner, they are never far away.

What were the key relationships that mattered most?

While I have had the idea of a Paradigm type application for many years, there was never technology available to produce the software, so the idea faded. As I did the initial work in Excel, the concept surfaced once more. However, I still did not have the platform to produce Paradigm. I approached Fanie van der Merwe as he had worked for me in the late ’90s as a developer. Fortunately, he was available to work with me in trying to find a technology to develop an application even though I did not yet know what it would do. He helped find the technology that we use, and the rest is history. A critical relationship was the fact that Ross Anderson worked for us. He immersed himself in the technology and spent many hours, many of them in his own time, teaching himself how to use it. This enabled us to take full advantage of the world-class technology that Fanie had found.

What were the key sources of support or resistance you encountered?

Our most important source of support was from my business partnership with Trevor as he helped us find ways of funding Paradigm through years of no income. We have had massive support from close family as it has taken many, many hours to get to where we are today. Those sitting at home while we work and are absent cannot be thanked enough, without their support, there would be no Paradigm.

Tell us about some of the memorable characters in the Paradigm journey, the ones that give the journey colour, or brought in drama, comedy, conflict, etc.?

The Paradigm team are all memorable characters; I would not change them for the world. In most instances, we have managed to minimise the drama and conflict associated with business. When it comes to providing colour and comedy, not one of us has a monopoly, we simply love working in a relaxed environment and loud laughter is never frowned on. We have two awards on a weekly basis. The serious one is W.O.W. – “Windgat of the Week”. The second one is less serious and is also W.O.W. – “Wallie of the Week”. Everyone loves winning the second W.O.W. award as it’s considered a badge of honour!

What was difficult or challenging in the journey?

Being a start-up, funding and cash flow is always the top challenge.

What did you do to deal with these challenges?

Once again, a big shout out to Trevor who has been our saviour, thank goodness that as a partner he has to provide his skills at no charge, his contribution and support has been monumental.

What has been the most rewarding in the journey so far?

Satisfied customers and the ability to provide such a great team and their extended family with work, opportunities, careers and work fulfillment.

REFLECTIONS AND LESSONS

What are some of the lessons that can add value to other businesses?

SME’s and start-ups like Paradigm are the engine of the economy. They are never started if you only have an idea, you need to take decisive action to commence this journey. My advice to those out there that have been thinking about “going alone” is to just do it! Make sure that you do the following:

  • Find and surround yourself with positive people.
  • Make sure you have people that are passionate and committed, you can teach skill, you cannot instil passion and commitment, you can only encourage and nurture it.
  • Work out what you are good at and do it, find others to do the rest, you cannot do everything, and you cannot do everything well.

If you could start Paradigm over again, would you do anything differently? Why, and what would you do?

This question has niggled me for some years. I have made mistakes and changed direction several times in six years. Unfortunately, the adage of “experience requires mistakes and time” is valid for all of us and for all businesses. There are things I would do differently based on current experience and knowledge; however, the problem is that without the time, experience and the making of mistakes I would not have this insight. My policy is to not look back other than to use the experience in what you do going forward.

What have you learnt from the human capital you’ve worked with?

You cannot do it all, you do not know it all, so collaboration is the best way to come up with solutions, new ideas and the best results. Without your team you are far less than with them.

What do you think you’ve taught them?

I would hope that I have and continue to build confidence, challenge thought, provoke questioning and encourage personal growth.

Do you view your contributions to Paradigm as successful?

Yes

Do any metaphors come to mind to describe the kind of work you do?

  • • Invest in riders, not horses.
  • • A win, win in every situation.

When you think of the future, what gives you a sense of hope?

Human capacity for good; it is the only way that we can improve for generations to come.

What are you looking forward to?

From a business perspective, an ongoing successful business that provides opportunities to staff and that helps customers grow their business successfully.

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