Blackie’s Celebrates 15 Years!
Blackie’s Consultants are officially celebrating 15 years in the industry! We learn more about Managing Director Neels Swart, his important role in the South African Police Service and how that shaped the businessman he is today.
Neels originates from Ladybrand in the Free State and finished school there. After school, he joined the South African Police Service (SAPS) and was attached to specialised investigation units as a detective.
He learned his business skills from his father. His time in the SAPS formed the foundation of who he is and how he manages people.
It gave Neels a sense of righteousness by running everything according to the law, which he feels contributes to Blackie’s success. We learn more about Managing Director Neels Swart, his important role in the South African Police Service and how that shaped the businessman he is today.
Neels used to serve our country in the police service and was involved in organised crime investigations concerning VAT fraud with cross-border movements. The field always fascinated him and gave him the foundation and basic knowledge of customs.
In 2008 there were only six customs brokers/customs clearing agents at Maseru Bridge Border Post, and Neels saw the opportunity to start up Blackie’s. “At the time, my vision was only to serve clients at Maseru Bridge. Over the years, my vision changed drastically by being able to serve clients at all land borders between South Africa and our neighbouring countries, as well as to venture into sea freight and air freight”.
Business Challenges and Change
Change is constant in customs. Laws constantly change, affecting how people do business across borders. Neels shares. “Every few years, one of the customs entities either in South Africa or our neighbouring countries will implement huge changes either in their electronic systems or actual law amendments, which has a huge impact on how clients conduct business across borders. This is, however, not seen as a challenge by us but as opportunities to broaden our knowledge and to serve our clients better”.
When Blackie’s started in 2008, declarations were still done manually. The electronic process (EDI) with SARS was voluntary. In 2010 this started to change when EDI became compulsory, and the world of customs became electronic. In Lesotho, it became an electronic process in 2014.
“In the customs world, the saying goes: The only constant is change, and everything always evolves. This makes the industry so interesting and challenging because there are always some new implementations and new things to learn”.
Business Lessons Learned
Neels says that he has learned huge lessons when it comes to partnerships in business. One should be careful with whom one partners in the business world and learn to have reputable, trustworthy partners to run a business successfully. There were hard lessons to learn over the years, and mistakes had to be made to learn from, says Neels.
Another important lesson Neels learned was that you simply cannot do everything yourself if you want to be successful. Neels learned to build a strong, intelligent, competent management team to assist you. “This is one of the biggest lessons to learn if you want to build a successful business”, Neels shares.
Contributions to Success
The huge changes in the customs world every few years are not challenges but business opportunities, Neels says. “A good honest name in the business is of great importance to me, and keeping my word to a client is paramount. This contributes to your business selling itself using its good name”.
The Blackie’s team has grown from being operated by one personnel member in 2008 to being about 70 people today. Neel’s team means the world to him, and he knows they are his most valued asset. Blackie’s does its best to keep personnel happy and positive.
As an example, Blackie’s pays their female employees their full salaries during maternity leave – for the full four months even though the labour law states it is unpaid leave.
“Because we support our staff like this, they support our business in the same manner, and this makes us quite successful because of them helping us build and evolve our company’s good name all the time”, Neels says.
The Next 15 Years
The Blackie’s goal is to keep building a reputable, honest, law-abiding and forever evolving business along with service excellence.
“Our main target is to grow our service delivery in other neighbouring countries and not just in Lesotho. We also aim to become a reliable customs broker regarding sea and air freight movements”.
Blackie’s Consultants has offices with capable consultants in Maseru, Maputo, Caledonspoort, and Van Rooyens Gate. Blackie’s aims to facilitate trade between nations as efficiently as possible and ensure compliance from all relevant parties.
For expert advice and a seamless process, contact Blackie’s Consultants.