Full Steam Ahead into the Future

Despite the severe economic consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic, Max Mabuti looks positively into the future. He set the right course for his firm at the right time. And that is paying off now: His turnover will double in this “corona year”. Among other things, the new partnership with a steam boiler manufacturer in Germany is also contributing to his success.

South Africa has taken tough measures in combating corona, with extreme effects on the economy; Max Mabuti’s business also came to a standstill. “My turnover was practically non-existent”, the 44-year-old CEO of the Flat Foot Engineering Company says. From June on there was a gradual easing of restrictions, and the first joint project with the new partner could be realised.

Setbacks and Successes

Originally, the self-made engineer wanted to market his filter systems for oil-fired boilers in Germany. However, these boilers are no longer installed here. A minor setback, which the former professional boxer overcame with professionalism. He concentrated his entire energy on the search for a strategic partner to expand in Africa. And in Germany he met the international sales manager from a manufacturer of high-speed steam generators. “We were soon in agreement; we had the same goal”, says Mabuti. Flat Foot is now the exclusive distribution partner for Africa.

Flexibility in Cooperation

Max Mabuti is an alumnus of the Manager Training Programme from South Africa. 

The first joint project was the installation of a steam boiler in a brewery in Cape Town. Actually, a representative of the hidden champion from Germany was meant to be on the spot. His air ticket had already been bought but corona turned his plans upside down. So, the team at Flat Foot was prepared for the assignment via video conferences and online training. Further joint projects outside South Africa are planned but can currently not be realised due to the trade and travel restrictions still in place. In Ghana and Namibia customers are already waiting for their steam boilers from Germany. Mabuti is waiting too – for a further easing of economic restrictions so that they can get the projects started. The ex-boxer says that making the right move at the right time is something he is good at. “I learned that in my boxing matches”.

Social Responsibility

Flat Foot switched to modern technologies in good time. The technician manages orders, from logging right up to completion, via an app on his smartphone; digital collaboration takes place via clouds. During the pandemic, this has been an advantage for the entrepreneur; working from home presented no problem for the administration. Despite the heavy blow to his business, Mabuti has been able to keep all 45 of his employees. This is also an important success for the country, which is faced with the threat of the unemployment rate increasing from 30 to 50 per cent due to corona.
Mabuti takes his social responsibility seriously and supports the government in the promotion of vocational training.  In September 2020, the first group of 30 students started their vocational training in the field of electromechanics. This investment in the future also means a benefit for Flat Foot.

Max Mabuti (in the centre, seated) with his team at a customer, the Bhisho Provincial Hospital, where he provides maintenance for the boilers. 

„Stepping into the Future“

“Stepping into the Future” is Flat Foot’s slogan. And their vision is also future-oriented. “We want to become global players”, says the ambitious businessman. He originally established his business with the distribution of air-conditioning systems and, over the years, specialised in the installation and maintenance of boilers, laundry equipment, emergency generators and sterilisation equipment. That is quite a lot for a small business owner; during the MP, Mabuti realised that he needs a focus. And has therefore changed his strategy. Now he is concentrating on his many years of experience in the construction of pressure vessels. He intends to offer these to his customers in addition to the German systems. The pressure vessels can be used for sterilising, for instance in hospitals, hotels and restaurants or in the food industry. Flat Foot wants to become a leading manufacturer with these products and be unrivalled on the African market.

Vehicles from the Flat Foot fleet in front of the firm’s boiler house. 

The South African Ministry of Health with its numerous hospitals throughout the country is currently Flat Foot’s main customer. Here Mabuti would like to become less dependent and wants to buy small businesses in the private sector. He would never have dreamed that corona could ever be of benefit to him in this respect. The government recently launched a programme to promote the economy, through which he can apply for government-guaranteed loans. “This is unique in the history of South Africa and a great opportunity for us”, says Mabuti.

In spite of the losses due to corona, Flat Foot expects to double its turnover to two million euros in 2020. Mabuti manages his firm with the same ambition he showed in his sporting career: “When a boxer steps into the ring, his goal is to win”.


Photos: ©Max Mabuti