- Be prepared for rapid growth
- Keep your team resourced motivated and supervised
- Focus on exemplary customer service
- Attend education and training
The businessClaas Harvest Centre Echuca opened for business five years ago, an initiative of the Australian agricultural machinery distributor Landpower.
Previously the German-made Claas farm machinery had been sold from about 80 multi-franchise sites across the country, but Landpower consolidated the brand in a dozen independently-owned harvest centres.
Brendan Caffery, a farm machinery specialist, and his wife Marcella, an experienced business administrator, moved from Temora in central NSW to start up the harvest centre in centrally-located Echuca in April 2009. Their territory ranges from Mildura in the west to Bright in the east, Deniliquin in the north and Gisborne in the south.
'Marcella and I started with just two employees, but we’ve grown faster than expected, and soon we’ll be appointing our 20th staff member.'
Their product ranges from giant Claas combine harvesters worth more than half a million dollars, to small hay mowers for around $10,000.
Brendan has no doubt his biggest challenge is the management of his team and keeping them resourced, motivated and supervised.
“In our game, customer service is what differentiates us from the competition so I need people who can deliver that. When we started I did most things myself but now I have to let go, delegate responsibility and trust others.”
The business has salespeople and technicians traveling around the country every day. When one of their machines breaks down, someone from Brendan’s team must be on site quickly to repair the fault, and that can mean long road trips.
'Travel’s a big issue for us. One of our guys might have a 400-kilometre round trip to do a repair job, and that’s a lot of time on the road.'
Brendan and Marcella are big believers in constant education and training.
'You should never stop going to training courses. If you don’t go, you don’t learn anything.'
Marcella and a colleague have attended Small Business Victoria’s Building Your Online Strategy workshop while Brendan attended Marketing For Growth, both workshops being hosted by the Shire of Campaspe.
'The workshops also help networking, particularly as we weren’t locals when we moved here to open the business. The others there might not be in my game but they must be like-minded, no matter what they do.'
Business Today / The Future
The rapid growth of the business means Brendan and Marcella are now focussed on consolidating their gains. Brendan knows they need to be more planned and targeted for the next phase, using the knowledge they have picked up from experience and the Small Business Workshops and Seminars program.
'Until now it was all about myself as the main person, but now I really need to focus on the business, the systems and the processes. We need to be more professional.'
And that means building their brand with a continuing focus on customer service.
'All farm machinery these days is all pretty good, and if a customer looks hard enough they will find a cheaper price somewhere. We must be able to offer the best service possible, and that’s what will keep us ahead.'
The result'I learned how important it was to maintain and manage the brand -- not just the sign on the wall but everything including how the staff dress, how they talk and even their phone greeting.'
- Brendan Caffrey