Gafcon CEO Yehudi Gaffen could have picked more lucrative places to start, but an international expansion to South Africa is personal for him. He and his family left the country during the Apartheid era. Gaffen is looking to give back by helping the country continue its quest to build a 21st-century infrastructure that works for all. Gafcon is a family-owned construction management firm headquartered in California that provides a variety of construction consulting services throughout a project’s lifecycle to both public and private entities. CBO recently spoke with Gaffen about Gafcon’s plans, his reason behind the expansion and how he intends to successfully implement it. Read his comments below.
CBO: Why was South Africa your top choice for expansion?
YG: I was born and educated in South Africa. It’s an amazingly beautiful continent that I’ve always missed. The reason we [my family] left was because we didn’t see a promising future there at the time. I’ve always felt like there was an opportunity to go back, though. About a year ago, I was a speaker at a conference sponsored by Oracle in Johannesburg. It dealt with technology in large construction programs for all of Africa. There were about 300 participants from all the largest building entities on the continent, both public and private. That led to a lot of questions and opportunities.
CBO: How do you plan to improve the infrastructure through the Gafcon expansion?
YG: Africa is an interesting place. The cellular phone business has taken off recently because there wasn’t much prior communication. Suddenly, everyone in the third world could have service. You would be driving through the bush and come to a thatched stall selling cell phone services. In the construction sector, technology is also just coming into its own. In Africa, construction companies are taking advantage of all of the innovations that have previously occurred in Britain and the United States to manage large programs and projects. These companies are looking for expertise that they can transfer to South Africa. At Gafcon, our focus has always been on using technology to make the industry more effective. Our strategic partnership with Oracle will help with this—because they have already established themselves in South Africa.
CBO: How involved do you plan to be in the expansion?
YG: We are looking to recruit core people to run the company there. My vision is that the expansion to South Africa would eventually be locally managed and self-sufficient. It’s extremely difficult to have Americans work there because American salaries are significantly higher and there are still some security concerns. I plan to be very involved early on in recruiting and hiring for the expansion.
CBO: What advice do you have for business owners looking to expand internationally?
YG: We have worked internationally with mixed success. My greatest advantage was in knowing South Africa and having school friends still in the country. Having contacts and knowing the area is a lot easier than not having a knowledge of the local infrastructure. My biggest advice would be to not underestimate the amount of effort or capital it will take to expand. For Gafcon’s expansion, it’s about growing the business, but it’s also about a desire to improve the economy there.
For more information, visit Gafcon.