David Mason (OK 2001) spoke to The Herald this week about Rebus, a business he started in PE/Gqeberha in 2016 (HeraldLIVE)
Gqeberha-born and raised David Mason said as a child he would disassemble anything electronic and try to find new ways to use the components.
As such, he naturally went on to complete his ND in electrical engineering at NMU in 2006.
His working career began at WIKA Instruments, an international instrumentation manufacturer, where he was employed as a technical sales rep.
“While my technical skills far outweighed my selling skills, I was able to interact on all levels with my clients and within a few years I was promoted to regional manager for the Eastern Cape.
“I gained invaluable experience in my 10 years at WIKA on both the business and technical side.
“The dream of starting my own business became a reality when I realised I was pushing more paperwork around my desk in a day than doing what I loved, being out in the field and seeing clients.
“This is when Rebus Industrial Controls was born,” said the family man, who has two children — Matthew and Chloe — with wife Hayley.
When did you start your business?
My business, Rebus Industrial Controls, was started in 2016.
What is your core service?
We specify and supply process instrumentation both locally and nationally.
Our main product focus is pressure, level, flow, analytical and temperature instrumentation.
In our workshop, we have the equipment to test most of the different instruments, perform basic repairs and calibrate the instruments to make sure they are still within factory specifications.
What makes your business unique?
Among our sales staff, Rebus has more than 60 years’ of process instrumentation experience combined.
As a team, we are solution-driven and approach every client with their best interest at heart.
We are also fortunate to work alongside many international and local brands.
This gives us the edge to be able to assist our clients quickly, and in our industry, urgency is what matters when a machine is standing.
If someone wanted to copy your business model, how would they start?
With massive guts and determination. Rebus started with zero guarantees, it was thanks to hard work and amazing clients that we have built the brand we are today.
What are some of the biggest inhibitors your business faced before getting off the ground?
Cash flow was a challenge for us as a start-up. As well as marketing yourself as a new brand in the industry.
Do you have any tips for budding entrepreneurs or new business owners?
Work hard and truly believe in yourself. Surround yourself with like-minded people who equally share your passion, positivity and vision for success.
What are some of your biggest challenges in day-to-day business operations and your particular industry?
Managing logistics, a fair amount of our instrumentation is manufactured overseas and often this comes with import delays, which in turn creates frustration for us and our customers.
What is the best advice anyone gave you on success?
My father-in-law’s daily words of wisdom: there are no shortcuts to success, the secret is to do the basics right, every day.
How do you measure or define success in your business?
Satisfied customers, if our customers are happy, we are doing our jobs right.
What are some of the best practices that have made your business successful?
I have kept my team small but powerful. We work closely together and keep customer satisfaction and service at the core of everything we do.
I have surrounded myself with a team that I trust and believe in.
What kind of advertising do you do?
None, excellent customer service and word-of-mouth are our best advertisements.
What is your target market?
Rebus services various industries, the main one’s being pharmaceutical, automotive, food and beverage and water processing.
What have some of your highlights been in running your business?
Watching Rebus grow from strength to strength over the last six years and building a team that I am immensely proud of.
How important is social media and an online presence for your business?
Social media does not play a massive role in our business, we still need to be hands-on and face-to-face with our clients.
How many people do you employ?
When I started Rebus, it was just myself and my father-in-law, Mike McCall-Peat.
We worked tirelessly together to get Rebus off the ground and on the map. We are now a staff complement of six.
Do you have any plans for expanding the business, and how would you go about this?
No major plans to expand currently, we want to concentrate on servicing our existing customer base for the moment.
How did you acquire funding for the business?
The business was and is still self-funded.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learnt from your business journey so far?
There is no such thing as easy business, you need to work hard at it every day.
What have been the greatest challenges and advantages of running your business in a city like Gqeberha?
Can I just stick to the positives, I love doing business in Gqeberha. Over the past 16 years in the industry, I have not just gained clients, but friends. I feel privileged to be a part of this industry, we really do live in a great city.
What do you believe are the three key traits of a successful entrepreneur?
You need to be hands-on, stick to what you know, and trust your team around you.
What do you feel are the key traits of a successful employer?
Leading by example, getting the best out of your staff and treating everyone fairly and respectfully.
What do you wish people knew about your industry?
Our industry is the heart of all manufacturing. Every machine, conveyor, tank and assembly line requires some sort of intelligent instrument on it to function and I am extremely proud to say that Rebus Industrial Controls is a contributor towards that industry.