FOUR GREAT STORIES OF WHAT IT TAKES TO STAY IN BUSINESS!
Updated: Jul 1, 2019
Success is measured differently for everyone, but organisational success is often determined by size, wealth and economic growth. It takes more than passion, a positive outlook and a dream to make a business work. This, of course, is part of it, as well as having a thick skin and sense of humour to get through the tougher times. We are all connected and have a responsibility to help support local business which starts by not driving pricing down. Are you as a consumer guilty of bargaining to get a rock bottom price? Profit allows future generations to be employed and have opportunities for progression. If you are dropping pricing to try and compete, simply stop. You are on a one-way ticket to spiraling out of control! Instead, find the value in your business and the problem you are solving. Here are four stories of organisations that continue to stand the test of time and will see many more financial year ends.
Ford and Doonan began their journey in 1985. As friends, Andrew Ford and Kyle Doonan saw a gap in the market to provide advanced air conditioning designs. Their values were aligned to form a business partnership that would be inseparable, with a focus on providing premium customer service. Their partnership has been like a marriage, it has required hard work, compromise, communication and a willingness to get through the harder times together. With 34 years under their belts, they have learnt valuable lessons over the decades. For an industry that is seasonal, it was imperative early on to manage the winter slow-down with similar overheads to the summer, only with less revenue. A growing company needs cash and the directors believe you need to retain more profits than you take out.
One of Ford and Doonan’s greatest challenges over the years has been recruitment due to a lack of good service technicians and skilled salespeople. It has become harder to terminate employment with employees who are under-performing. It can take months to work toward dismissal, consuming time and money. There is an old concept in business that Andrew and Kyle have adopted: “Be quick to fire, and slow to hire”. Employees need to share your dream and passion. The second biggest challenge as a business has been to follow strict rules within Occupational Health and Safety, sometimes causing difficulty to find solutions within the guidelines. Employers need to ensure their employees are carrying out risk assessments and hold the relevant qualifications with working at heights, excessive noise, lifting, workplace hazards, electricity and correct use of machinery and tools. As you grow, new challenges continue to be faced.
In the boom period in Western Australia, Ford and Doonan, like many other companies, experienced massive growth. Unfortunately, with anything that goes up, it eventually must come back down. Ford and Doonan had to scale down to withstand the downturn. It was hard to reduce overheads quickly as the business had been increased in the boom time. This sadly brought many companies across all industries to close their doors, bringing business owners to their knees with bankruptcy. Andrew and Kyle’s ethos was to always be changing, improving and looking for new products and markets. In 2001, they opened their first franchise which allowed them to rapidly expand through the early 2000s and by virtual growth, their market share increased. By 2016 they had opened their 8th franchise in Morley. Franchising combined 10 stores’ advertising budget into one allowing cost-effective marketing strategies. A business’s advertising budget is directly proportional to market share.
Ford and Doonan is the largest air conditioning supplier in the WA market which helped it to create and maintain its dominance, and no-one can out-spend the company – for now. Its size has provided them with buying power as they shop and negotiate prices as a group. As they continued to learn personally and professionally, Andrew witnessed the changeover to builders including ducted air con as standard before anyone else around 2012. Against opposition from their own team, even to lower prices, they reshaped their supply chain (importing from China to reduce the cost of sale) and built relationships with builders before competitors even knew what was happening. Almost all those relationships remain intact 7 years on, allowing Ford and Doonan to keep the competition out. They have respected and valued their supplies, paying them on time which has helped to strengthen their position in the market. Word of mouth and referrals are so powerful, and they help build or break businesses. Andrew and Kyle know Perth is a small city and believe in doing the right thing by everyone as your reputation is everything.
They acknowledge being more expensive than their competition, making it harder to sell, but without profitability, their company cannot grow nor weather downturns (like now). Businesses have become reactive to survive and not strategic to play a long game and ensure sustainability. Andrew believes if you are not growing, then you are going. Growth requires profit and the understanding that marketing is king.
Build a brand, be famous for something, spend money on advertising, and enter yourself and your business into awards to build confidence and credibility. Be cautious of failure, but never fear it; it always teaches a great lesson. Andrew’s personal mantra is ‘You can get whatever you desire in this world if you just help enough people get what they want’. Don’t forget to keep balance in your life as the years go way too fast! Have fun by creating a happy and positive environment with laughter.
Zambezi Plumbing and Gas, established in 2007, is a family owned and operated business in Perth. They pride themselves on their standard of work, timeliness, service to customers and focus on building lifelong relationships. Tricia and her husband Steve Corry-Thomas instils the words of Richard Branson into their culture daily, “Clients do not come first. Employees come first, if you take care of the employees, they will take care of the clients”. They believe that in following this ethos, their employees are proud to work with them, and this comes across in the way they serve Zambezi clients. This is then confirmed by the fact that their employees have longevity at Zambezi Plumbing, giving a great deal of satisfaction and assurance to their clients who experience continuity by dealing with the same employees repeatedly.
Zambezi Plumbing and Gas has not gone without trials. Their greatest challenge they faced was staffing. Finding the right person to fit into their expanding team and ensuring that they adopted the company’s vision and values hasn’t always been easy. Knowing exactly what they were looking for in an employee has sometimes proved very difficult when recruiting, especially when the mines were at full kilter and not many tradesmen were applying for jobs in Perth. Those that were, demanded highly inflated rates of pay and were chasing the money rather than the right job or employer. Zambezi Plumbing and Gas has been able to withstand the economic downturn because of the standard of workmanship and level of customer service they deliver. Their competitive and fair pricing and the fact that their staff are all engaged, efficient and highly skilled, allow for repeat business and continued growth.
The directors encourage their staff to ensure their vehicles are clean and well stocked, so every job can be completed the first time, incurring no extra cost to the client. Tricia firmly believes that nowadays customer service is the most important factor in achieving success. Its workmanship guarantee means Zambezi Plumbing and Gas will be in the trades industry for many years to come. Their organisation has all the required insurances, licenses and only provides quality products to ensure longevity.
There are many ‘COWBOYS’ in the trades industry. Zambezi employees often advise clients that they may choose to do something on the cheap, but if it goes wrong it’s doubtful the low-priced operator will return and fix things free of charge. In addition, in the instance of major issues, they will undoubtedly not be insured, and the client will be left footing the bill. They will ask prospective clients if the cost outweighs piece of mind. With twelve years behind them, Zambezi Plumbing and Gas would advise any new business owner to make a business plan and follow it. Take time each week to refocus on what you are trying to achieve and how you are going to do it but be kind to yourself and don’t set unrealistic goals.
Ultimo Construction was established by Angelo Rossi in 2010. Angelo is a home-grown success story who commenced his career in the construction industry as a carpenter and worked his way to become a registered builder, director and now owner of Ultimo Constructions, specialising in turnkey property development. Angelo and his wife, Rebecca, who is the General Manager of Ultimo Construction, believe they have sustained their position over nine years within the market due to transparency, attention to detail, personalised service and running efficiency. Their greatest challenge during this period of growth has been to uphold a consistently good level of service and educate their team to think and work as they do. Their success as a team has been to work together and understand the organisation’s vision and how it benefits the internal and external environment. While the construction industry is notorious for driving the price down, Ultimo Constructions ensures a project is delivered on time and in budget through hard work and team effort.
Ultimo Construction has had to manage client expectations by providing quality service and not cutting corners – the cheapest price isn’t always the best. Typically, the team will meet a prospective client who has received four quotes, two will be within $5K - $10K difference and the one will be significantly cheaper, raising a red flag. It is about educating a buyer and ensuring they understand the proposed risk. The lower price is an indication that something is wrong, or corners will be cut compromising quality. Ultimo Construction has made a conscious decision not to compete with cheaper pricing. They want to ensure they are around in decades to come and will not engage in a price war to the detriment of their business.
Ultimo Construction knows the importance of managing overheads, delivering what it said it would and ensuring continued communication with its clients throughout the project. The owner’s focus is to build strong working relationships with stakeholders, ensuring open and honest communication. The industry is small, so transparency is fundamental as word of mouth will contribute to the success of a business. With a cyclical downturn in the value of construction work done, Ultimo Constructions balances its emphasis on people and profit to sustain its position within the building industry. To continue contributing to economic growth, Ultimo Construction recognizes the importance of networking, supporting local and educating investors when purchasing property. The owners keep their word over deliver and strive for quality to ensure continued personal and business credibility in a turbulent market.
District32 was borne in 2015 with the vision to grow local businesses by providing networking, promotion, collaboration and branding opportunities. District32 does this through a business cooperative system, providing members access to a suite of high-level quality services and resources under one banner. In an ever-changing and evolving market, Lorraine Garvie and Dean Keating, the founders of District32, work hard to push the envelope through innovation. Despite the economic downturn, as a young business, the owners aspire to surpass the norm of networking and include training, podcasts, diverse events, varied locations and times to suit individual and business needs. District32 goes above and beyond to empower people with valuable knowledge while benefiting from the ‘Power of Connection’.
In business, you will be faced with different milestones in your journey no matter the age of the company. In the first 18 months of business, District32 had to reduce its prices every quarter, while increasing its presence in the community. Whilst building a business from scratch, the team strived to differentiate the business in the marketplace. District32’s success is a testament to the hard work, determination and a core belief by Lorraine and Dean that it would succeed despite other businesses going into insolvency in Western Australia in recent years. For emerging start-ups, District32 recommends that you have enough money in the bank to cover you for a minimum of 6 months with no sales. As a young business, you need to focus on sales, sales and more sales. Less than 5% of business owners have a documented sales plan that drives the business and is a major reason why 80% fail within 5 years. Nothing else matters … No sales, no profit and no sustainable business growth, which impacts the employment, well-being and lifestyle of individuals.
District32 doesn’t negotiate price; it offers high value and more competitive pricing compared with its competitors. Clients are empowered to choose between three different membership plans providing flexibility and affordability even to those on low budgets. This provides a tailored solution while not compromising on quality, delivery, sustainability and profit.
District32 is striving to be recognised as an industry leader in networking through strong business values, integrity, and the drive for education, continued innovation and collaboration. On their way to achieve this, the team doesn’t forget to have fun and often finds humour on even the toughest days.
Whether you are in business for 34 years like Ford & Doonan, Ultimo Construction for 9 years, Zambezi Plumbing and Gas for 12 years, or District32 for 4 years, what the above businesses have in common is The Power of Connection, along with the hard work, grit and determination of their owners to succeed in the face of adversity. Ability to deliver is where a business starts and ends as it stimulates sales, profit, growth and sustainability.
At Universal Electro Tech and Universal Switchboards, we are creating a ‘Profit Day’ on the 1st of July annually to mark the new financial year in Australia. Profit is the lifeblood of an organisation; it stimulates employment opportunities, innovation and economic growth. Make sure your business is here for the next financial year … become profitable! Help us by posting across your social media platforms for ‘Profit Day’ to become nationally recognised on the 1st of July. Connect to a skilled team of Electricians who deliver quality electrical solutions to you and your business. We provide a reputable service that will be delivered for decades to come.
Electrical Solutions Designed and Delivered by Universal Electro Tech and Universal Switchboards. Contact our team on (08) 9328 9491 | firstname.lastname@example.org | www.universalelectrotech.com.au/ or visit our premises at 105 Robinson Avenue, Belmont, WA 6104.
Ford and Doonan
(08) 9331 8800
Zambezi Plumbing and Gas
(08) 9361 7665
(08) 9240 1006
1300 552 293