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skills to previously disadvantaged people. "We put a fair whack into our social responsibility commitment," he states, "and this year we were recognised by merSETA as one of their top 100 companies. We are also enrolled in the Black Empowerment initiative in South Africa and our training programmes aim to encourage personal development among our workers. We are a family-owned business but that doesn't have to mean we are family-run in the future. Everyone here knows that my job is open for them if they can prove themselves and we have some great examples of staff working their way up from the assembly floor into management." The company's overseas initiatives have really gathered pace over the past five years. Dancer says that previously, approximately 85 to 90 per cent of Hillaldam's work was for the domestic market, whereas today, export accounts for 30 per cent and is rising. The change in market focus is now driving the need for change at shop floor level, as Dancer explains. "Over the last couple of years we have begun to seriously look at ways to improve our efficiency and we recognise that large expansion internationally will put strains on some areas of operations.72 April 10

" We are now working towards ISO 9002 accreditation and hope to achieve this by the end of the year. There are lots of basic processes that need to be looked at and over the last four months we have started to instil a new sense of culture and have explained to our workers how this will benefit everyone." He emphasises the importance of quality and believes that ISO accreditation will merely reinforce this advantage. " Quality is the crux of our business- we are known throughout the industry for this, and for our innovation. China represents a challenge and has affected market prices but the quality of our products stands out. Our research and development work is very proactive and has led to the creation of hugely popular items like our Vistafold sliding folding products, which are now famous worldwide." So what of the future? " Well, along with our ISO aspirations we are now starting to introduce IT to some of our manual processes here in Johannesburg. Our Natal site tends to be more automated but again, we are looking at Hillaldam April 10 www. bus- ex. com 73 ways to improve efficiency whilst maintaining our reputation for quality both locally and overseas," says Dancer. The company has taken a stepped approach to entering new markets and has spent a lot of time on research and travel before launching in the UK and Australia. " More recently, we have also entered the Asian market but we did so conservatively and in the knowledge that our quality must not be compromised," Dancer explains. " Longer term, North America would be fantastic but we need to know the market and legislative issues first." Product protection has become an issue for Hillaldam in recent years, particularly given its appetite for innovation; but reflecting on the company's biggest challenge brings Dancer back to its ambitions. " Expansion represents our biggest challenge, but we feel that ISO accreditation will bring more control as we start to get bigger. You have to have a five year plan, and our ambition is to be a renowned global competitor," he concludes. - Editorial research by Vincent Kielty