For 20 years, Tactile Technologies has given many of its larger, global competitors a real run for their money, says Mauro Mercuri, founder and group director of Tactile Technologies.
He says the company was started out of the need for a new challenge. After five years working at an industry related company in Belgium, Mercuri felt like he had two options, he could either go and work somewhere else or start his own business.
“I had visited South Africa several times already and when I looked at the IT industry in South Africa back then, I noticed that it was running behind European markets. So I saw an opportunity to bring the lessons I’d learned working in Europe, and my understanding of industry trends, to South Africa.”
Growing up and growing a successful brand
“When you’re 26, which is how old I was when I started Tactile Technologies, your vision for what you want to create is limited and let’s be honest, has a lot to do with your ego,” explains Mercuri. “It was all about making money and being successful. But the world of business quickly humbles you and teaches you a thing or two about what really matters.”
While Tactile Technologies has achieved many of the goals that Mercuri initially set out to achieve, the brand’s focus has also turned outwards. “I’m proud of the work we’ve done and continue to do to develop young people and to provide them with opportunities to better themselves and further their careers. We’ve also always shared our success by working closely with various local charities.”
Over the course of Tactile’s history, we’ve seen so many changes in the market and experienced a number of ups and downs, he continues. During the financial crisis in 2008, Mercuri quickly realised that Tactile needed to expand its product range to include different product categories.
“The diversity of our product range today means that we can cater to businesses with limited budgets and to those with slightly deeper pockets.” And having a broader offering as well as an exceptional customer base stood Tactile in good stead in the last year when so many businesses faced uncertainty and experienced disruption due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Tactile’s recipe for success
We’ve become successful by focusing on our customers, our people and our culture, notes Mercuri. He believes Tactile has been very good at bringing together the right people over the years; people who have played a significant role in the brand’s success and sustainability. “When you start a business on your own, there’s nobody to bounce ideas off, which means that all the responsibility lies on your shoulders. This is why I’m so grateful for the team and the partners we’ve recruited over the years.”
Another key to the brand’s longevity is what Mercuri dubs “old school business”.
“When we make commitments to our customers, we stick by them. When customers buy something from us, we’re entering into a relationship with them whereby we’re always available to assist and support them along their product journey. This approach on a daily basis is a huge differentiator.”
But very few enjoy success without hurdles along the way. “We’re not perfect. We do make mistakes. We’ve introduced products that just didn’t work. And we’ve opened offices that didn’t take off. I don’t think there is an entrepreneur out there who hasn’t had some experience with failure. And while it’s hard at the time, the important thing is that you learn from these mistakes so that you don’t make them again going forward.”
Looking ahead, Mercuri is excited by how the business will grow both from a people and revenue perspective; with the current workforce being trained and developed to take the business into the future.
Tactile Technologies is also always looking for new and innovative ways to grow and expand, which entails identifying gaps in the market and having the guts to go after the business you want.
When Mercuri looks back on what the business has achieved over the last 20 years, his overwhelming emotion is pride. “I feel proud because we’re a medium-sized, privately-owned company and over the 20 years that we’ve been in business, we’ve given many of our larger, global competitors a real run for their money. We are right there at the top of this industry, recognised to possibly be the best privately-owned touchscreen, auto -id and payment technology vendor.”