Team Habanero (we’ll explain later) was recently in the United Kingdom, Australia, and South Africa working with EPI-USE on a project to build a forward-looking operational model to help senior leaders better understand regional performance and share best practices across EPI-USE, globally.
Our team was thrilled to learn that our International Business Development experience would be supporting a Haas alum, Quintin Smith. Working with an alum was a privilege. Quintin went above and beyond to show us how important this project, and our professional development, was to him. Quintin is a 2008 FTMBA alum from Haas and joined EPI-USE upon graduating. This brought him back to his native South Africa, and more specifically, to his hometown of Pretoria which is also home to EPI-USE Global HQ.
A bit more on EPI-USE: a technology solutions provider traditionally focused on SAP Human Capital Management products and implementations. In additional to South Africa, EPI-USE has 3 other major Territories of operation: Australia, United Kingdom and the U.S. Luckily enough for our team, this meant we would have the unique opportunity to travel to multiple countries during our in-country stint.
Early on, the team realized that we had something big on our hands. Every week, we spent time with Quintin via telephone, bouncing ideas off of him and reporting on our progress. Not only that, we held bi-weekly calls with Jonathan Tager, Group CEO of EPI-USE. Jonathan was extremely engaged throughout our project, making sure that we had all the resources and access needed to build or model and understand the operations in each of the four regions.
The team spent a considerable amount of time scoping the project, making sure that our expectations were challenging, yet manageable. This time proved to be crucial as we began to delve deeper into the nuances and differences in operations among the regions. Before traveling to the regions, we scoured their financial statements and held in-depth interviews with the leaders and head accountants in each region. Our goal was to have a good understanding of the business before arriving in-country. One key milestone we wanted to achieve was to have a working excel prototype of the model ready before our travel – and we did!
As we mentioned before, in order to build our model with the level of accuracy required, we had to travel to each of the regions and uncover the drivers of revenues and costs. Stephen and Kevin traveled to the UK while Rodrigo and I headed off to Sydney. What we found there was no surprise: amazing people! An overarching theme of our IBD experience was the generosity, hospitality and kindness of each and every EPI-USE employee we encountered. Our team was taken aback by the level of caring showed by our hosts. When we needed their time, they were there, no questions asked. We cannot say enough about the unique culture at EPI-USE, where we learned ‘management’ is a verb, not a noun (thanks, Jonathan!).
So what did we do? After building a solid understanding of the EPI-USE business, including how the company earned and invested money, we iterated on our excel-based model. These iterations made for some long days…
We certainly do not want to portray our IBD experience as all work. We played…a LOT! It was our first time in these countries, and we took full advantage thanks to our extraordinary hosts.
South Africa was unbelievable. We rode elephants, went hunting, and helped save some rhinos. No seriously, we saved rhinos! In South Africa today, rhinoceros poaching has reached an all-time high, threatening the species. They are poached for their horns, which can fetch upwards of $250,000 USD on the black market. We had the extremely rare opportunity to participate in the transport of a number rhinos, which were being moved to platinum mine, where they would be heavily guarded against poachers.
In the end, our project was a success. Our model was well received and is being piloted in the UK. We have memories to last a life time. Thank you EPI-USE and a special thanks to Quintin!
Oh, and we were dubbed Team Habanero because Quintin always wanted us to go the extra mile in our analysis. He encouraged us to be creative and think outside of the box. He called it “making things spicy”!