Alchemex Values Part 1: New Beginnings by Gary Boddington

As we embark on this new journey with Sage it is worth pausing for a moment to reflect on some of the “moments” in the first decade in the history of Alchemex. As I cast my mind back over the years I am excited to share that I sincerely am overwhelmed with predominantly positive thoughts and experiences from what we have accomplished at Alchemex to date.

Even though this acquisition represents a huge and exciting opportunity for all of us in a global market, it is worth remembering some of the more difficult times as well, if for nothing else but to validate Charles’ often repeated mantra of “That which does not kill you makes you stronger, good timber does not grow with ease; the stronger the wind, the stronger the trees.” One of the biggest lessons for me personally has been handling rejections, and we have had our fair helping of rejections from vendor’s and partners alike. We certainly worked long and hard on the Pastel account for many years, and overcame many rejections, until we finally made the breakthrough to become an integrated product, to create what today is known as the Pastel Business Intelligence Centre (BIC).

I also recall a day, probably around 2005, when we heard that Sage had acquired a competitive product. For a moment I think we all felt that the sun had set on our opportunities. As is the Alchemex way however, a few crazy jokes, a couple of beers and a good laugh later, we were all back on track focused on getting on with the things that were in our control. That really typifies the roller coaster ride we have been on with some real dips where we were challenged, but thankfully we have had way more highs that have kept us buzzing through the decade. A cynic once remarked that it took him 10 years to become an overnight success, and sometimes that feels like the case with Alchemex as well.

Along the way there are many specific milestones that are worth a mention, but to be fair the turning point was the Pastel deal, ultimately concluded in less than 15 minutes over a of cup of coffee in a pokey coffee shop at the old Pastel offices in Johannesburg. However, and for the record, we would never have got to that point if Darryl hadn’t sat in the corner of the garage, with ants crawling up his arm, and written the original version of Alchemex 1.0. Equally, it wouldn’t have happened if Charles hadn’t ripped out his air-conditioning unit from his home so that we could jam it into a hole in the garage wall in an attempt to make the garage more workable in the stifling heat of Durban summer. (The fact that he left a hole the size of an industrial air-conditioning unit high up in the wall of his bedroom at home, which stayed there for 2 years, is immaterial right now.)

Very significantly, none of this would have happened had Charles not gone out and secured our first deal, and returned with our very first cheque, which we still have in archives I believe, and which was the forerunner to us being able to pay ourselves a salary. Most importantly, it was the beginning of revenue streams which enabled us to start to seek people who would buy into and become an integral part of achieving some rather lofty ambitions from a garage.

The last 10 years would not mean a thing if we hadn’t all built this team that now represents the Alchemex vision and our shared values, and we have built an outstanding team. We also have a culture that makes us want to be around colleagues who genuinely are our friends and are fun to be with. I would like to think that we have achieved some small measure of success in this regard at Alchemex and I would go so far as to say, at the risk of sounding arrogant, that our culture is the envy of many of the companies that we work with. So I would urge us all to ignore my arrogance on the matter, but accept this reality with humility, and continue to nurture it in every possible way.  We should all be proud that so many people have joined and stayed for the period that they have at Alchemex, I thinks it speaks volumes about our culture. I know it’s never easy to keep a big family happy and it’s not always possible to please everyone all the time, but I think if we all share the same values and seek to retain what we have, we are in good shape for the next decade.

Unsurprisingly, it’s the people who bring the happiest memories and proudest moments of the last decade to me. The Year End parties are legendary, “the book” of mixed metaphors is hilarious as an endless source of amusement, the conferences, trade shows and partner events we are privileged to attend always have additional spirit when the Alchemexicans are there. Our two special monthly awards not only honor those who have gone the AlchemEXtra mile with the Eagle award but also add an element of fun with the Warthog Award (which other companies are entitled to tell someone they behaved like a clown and get away with it?).

There is not much that we have not seen or tried or are afraid to see or try. We have made our presence known in Africa, Asia, Australia, North America and Europe.  We have had guitar sessions, beer and biltong sessions, Indabas, World Cup in SA, international tourists and food fights. We have swum, cycled, run, mountain biked, paddled, kayaked, surfed, played squashed, racquet ball and some hockey (on ice now too!!). We have eaten Samoosa’s, Bunny Chows, Boerie Rolls, KFC and a potato farm lot of chips. We have rappers, classical guitarists, karaoke queens, harmonica legends, Freddy Mercury in tights and breakdancing wannabe’s. We have been loyal to Jack Rabbits, Waxy’s, JB’s Corner and everything in between including our own bar fridge. We have consumed beer, wine, spook, captain, tequila, springboks, jaeger bombs, and the rest. The Funsunzi day [ ] is who we are, let’s keep it that way.  PLAY- MAKE THEIR DAY – BE THERE – CHOOSE YOUR ATTITUDE.

The good times are just too many and varied to recount in one mail, but as I alluded to earlier, it’s easy to find good team players and a unified team when things are going well, the mark of a good team is how they pull together when the going gets tough. Our collective ability to continue believing in ourselves despite the rejections we have faced, I believe, has built resilience in our team which is only fostered through these sometimes difficult or bitter experiences. Going global is no average accomplishment and we have endured the challenges, trials and tribulations of creating a global footprint. Pulling through this phase and handling it as a team, has undoubtedly also made us a better team.

Let’s also be realistic though, just as we were enormously disappointed when we saw Sage’s acquisition of our competitor years ago, so in our acquisition by Sage there will be competitors of ours that will be disappointed because they will see opportunities shutting down for them. Let’s not be fooled into thinking they will just disappear now. More than the time ants were climbing Darryl’s arm,  we need to steel our collective resolve and make sure that what we produce in our products and services, our dealings with others (internal and external),  the professional image we project to a global audience and the legacy we leave behind, are nothing short of world-class. Let’s expect excellence in everything we do, no exceptions.  The great news is that excellence (The Ex-Factor) is what we have always been about, so as we start afresh let’s keep believing in ourselves and let’s stay focused on the things that make us a world-class team.