The CEO of Red Alert Group of Companies, Peter Harvey, has quietly been forging ahead with an aggressive growth strategy that has resulted in the company doubling their turnover in under four years. Listed as one of the top five cleaning companies in South Africa, Red Alert are making their own waves while everyone else is focused on the third wave and lockdown levels. This is an interview with a new giant of industry.
On first meeting Red Alert Chief Executive Officer, Peter Harvey, one can’t help but be struck by the man’s sheer presence coupled with a disarming – and genuine – humility. It is instantly apparent that he is driven not only by a passion for what he does but authentically believes in the true upliftment of others.
Although an import to our fair shores, Peter is as inherently South African as boerewors and braais, with the heart of a lion to match.
As the youngest son of Don and Margi, Harvey was born in Zimbabwe in 1974; however, the family made the difficult but necessary decision to migrate south in 1980. As Peter laughingly recalls, East London became their adopted home based purely on the perception that the city “had fewer Afrikaans speaking people than other cities,” and so it was declared that this was where the Harvey clan would settle.
Educated at the eponymous Selborne College, Peter learned very quickly from his “serial entrepreneurial” parents that success is the result of hard work, strong teams, and a keen understanding of people’s needs. This foundation has translated into a customer centric approach that has driven growth and helped build longstanding client relationships.
Harvey credits his “remarkable parents” as his earliest mentors and strongest supporters. He displays a keen work ethic and is driven by the family tenet: “to those whom much has been given, much is expected.”
It is this ethos that has guided the Red Alert group, which sprung from humble beginnings as a family-owned and run security company with a single guard in 1981 and has seen them burgeon into the multi-million Rand, hugely successful business that we know today.
To their credit, in over 40 years of operation, the business has never lost a cent and has always been incredibly adaptable to meet clients’ changing demands. Our stable of long-standing clients speaks volumes about our customer-centric approach to all areas of the business. Any growth we’ve experienced is because of having built a solid foundation and sound working relationships.”
Over the last forty years, the organisation has put diversification at the head of its growth strategy. This future-focused approach has shown impressive returns, with the group doubling their turnover within the space of just over four years. No mean feat when viewed against the backdrop of the South African economic lexicon.
The group now employs over 8 000 personnel and has a national footprint with facilities management, guarding services, cleaning solutions, hygiene and chemical products, personal protective equipment and even an emergency medical services arm – naturally all still family-owned and managed.
This visionary approach has helped the group weather more than one storm – especially in the last eighteen months.
“That the COVID pandemic has negatively impacted every South African and every business cannot be overstated. Of significant pride to me, as the Chief Executive Officer of Red Alert, is that we were able to retain every single one of our staff members. Of course, we felt the effects, but we pulled together as a team and as a family to regroup, rethink and realign the business. We all knew it was crunch time, but we stood true to the Harvey family motto: United we build. And build we did,” comments Harvey with no uncertain amount of emotion.
“As a business, we have always believed in investing heavily in both knowledge and skills transfer so that our employees are always assured of an upward personal growth trajectory no matter the length of their tenure at Red Alert. As such, we were quickly able to deploy staff to other sectors of the group without missing a beat,” continues Harvey.
Whilst the group has wholeheartedly embraced the age of Artificial Intelligence, they are still very much a family-oriented company at their core. “The future is undeniably technology-driven, but robots will never replace people,” states Harvey emphatically.
“My management style is such that I surround myself with exceptional people that I pay well and strive to keep motivated. But. I always hold them accountable. There is zero favouritism at Red Alert. Every employee is empowered to treat their specific business unit as if it were their own, and over the years, this has paid off in spades. In an industry notorious for its “revolving door” attitude to staff, we have one of the lowest levels of staff turnover. From the time my parents established Red Alert, our staff have been the driving force behind the values of our company. We all have a shared vision.”
So, where to next for the Red Alert powerhouse?
“Whilst certain parts of our business have experienced a contraction, this has been mitigated by growth in others. The security, retail and manufacturing sectors remain a robust part of the business. I see additional revenue streams emanating from the logistics sphere, where we are perfectly poised from an infrastructure point of view to enter the transport of refrigerated goods with the necessary insight to deal with any anticipated bottlenecks.”
“I remain 100% optimistic that South Africa still offers a reasonable level of growth for businesses that keep their fingers on the pulse, listen to their clients, and examine how trends – and innovation – can be used positively to contribute to their bottom line. If the company wins, everybody wins. But you’ve constantly got to stay one step ahead of the game,” concludes Harvey.
In conclusion, all that remains to be said is that Peter Harvey is the rock of a very solid foundation at Red Alert.