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Building a dynamic business
Craig Robinson’s innovative carpentry business is much better placed to move forward thanks to advice from the Small Business Mentoring service.
If he had not sought help, Craig says his business may have closed.
After completing business studies at university and working for five years as a carpenter, Craig incorporated Dynamic Developments in 2010.
It was a change of pace for Craig, who loves the outdoors and had planned to study conservation. After a gap year he realised that opportunities were limited in that field, so switched to business studies.
He then entered the building industry through family and friends and hasn’t looked back. Dynamic Developments, which has 20 employees, is a contract carpentry business for registered builders.
It targets Victoria’s domestic and medium commercial sectors, offering registered and commercial builders a professionally managed, well systematised service compliant with all standards and OHS expectations.
Craig says the service, which offers a high degree of professionalism, systems control and positive outcomes, is rare in an industry where some sub-contractors are happy to “wing it and make a buck”.
“For a medium size commercial builder it is beneficial, if not critical … that their own standards are upheld by the subcontractors they employ,” he says.
Craig had a solid business idea but needed help with the nuts and bolts of making it work. After attending a business seminar and looking at the SBMS website, he was matched with mentor Keven Diggens.
“I am a great believer in getting all the help I can and benefitting from that,” Craig says. “I had little prior experience at managing a business.”
Keven spent 20 years learning world class marketing, sales and financial skills in multinational companies in the UK and Asia, ending up as a General Manager of a multinational business in Australia. He then purchased his own, very small business in Melbourne and developed it into a profitable, internationally recognised leading supplier to the building industry.
SBMS is a non-government, non-profit organisation of volunteer expert mentors who give their time and experience to help small business. It is supported by Small Business Victoria, which refers clients to it.
Craig has had more than 30 sessions over three years and mentoring is continuing.
Initially Keven helped Craig to set up a reporting system comprising profit and loss budgets, monthly profit and loss (actual versus budget), cash flow forecasts, an estimators report and a debtor report.
“It quickly broadened to involve most aspects of the business including restructuring their accounting package, pricing, quoting, labour efficiencies, advice on personnel, recruitment, EBAs, bonus schemes and other matters as they arose,” Keven says.
“One of the benefits of the meetings was to help provide direction and priorities to the business decision-making.”
After the first four sessions Craig established a monthly board meeting with his key personnel and Keven. The SBMS reports were used as the minutes of these meetings from then on.
Since seeing Keven, Craig has been running the business in a much more professional manner with a budget and monthly reporting systems. Profitability has improved and so have the business’s finances and cash flow.
“All issues critical to the business survival and success are now being dealt with routinely, rather than allowing things to lapse till they become a serious problem and thus moving from crisis to crisis,” Keven says. “The business is leaner and wiser with the quality of staff improving steadily.”
Keven says Craig has an improved understanding of what is needed to run the business and improved skills at working on the business.
“Sales have increased and the business has turned the corner from being seriously unprofitable,” Keven says. “There are now greater safeguards against losing focus which in the past led to near disaster.
“Many new systems have been set up, the HR process and staff relations have been improved and many key decisions regarding the future direction of the business have been reviewed together.”
Craig has been so impressed by the breadth of experience SBMS can offer that in addition to his ongoing monthly discussions with Keven he has worked with two other SBMS Mentors to gain advice on specific topics such as accounting structure and franchising.
“This is one of the strengths of SBMS,” says Craig. “If I have a specific issue I need to explore, SBMS can match me with a Mentor with that specialist experience”.
Dynamic Developments’ sales rose by 100 per cent in the second year of mentoring and another 50 per cent in the third year. While the number of new customers remained fairly steady, the business is much smarter about targeting potential customers and larger scale projects.
Overall the business has moved from significant losses to trading profitably. It has gone from five staff to 20 and Craig has introduced a bonus scheme.
While he has not yet been able to take more holidays, Craig says Keven’s advice has made “a major difference”, identifying problem areas and ways of overcoming them. He has also gone from working from home to renting a warehouse and office.
Without Keven’s help, Craig says his business might no longer exist. “SBMS has helped me overcome almost unsurmountable difficulties that have been thrown at the business,” he says.
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