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This business is a team effort
A brother and sister team is determined to continue the legacy of their late father by keeping his freight management business strong.
Thanks to SBMS help, Brent Egan and Shelley Orfanellis are well placed to keep Team Express going and to make it even stronger.
Tony Egan started his freight management business in the 1980s after working as a freight forwarder. The freight broking business facilitates import/export logistics for anything from scientific research products to capital equipment for manufacturing business.
“Dad ran the business on his own for a long time and then my brother started working with him in 2004,” Shelley says. She also helped when she could.
When Tony passed away three years ago after a long illness, Brent and Shelley took over and had to work out their father’s systems and deal with a work backlog. Their mother, Linda, is a director.
Team Express is well placed as a specialised service with the experience and contacts needed to make life easier for importers and exporters. Few other companies offer the same level of service.
But Brent and Shelley felt they needed some help in steering the ship and better organising the business’s systems and finances.
While Tony had a good business with loyal customers, he had managed much of it “in his head”, leaving Brent and Shelley to try to work it all out. At first they spent most of their time maintaining the status quo.
As a family business, Shelley says they also needed advice from an objective observer who could suggest ways to improve what they were doing.
After contacting SBMS, Shelley and Brent were matched with mentor Bruce Abbott, who has more than 30 years’ experience in the steel, manufacturing and distribution industries.
After starting as a metallurgist with Comsteel, Bruce became marketing manager and moved to BHP, where he rose to Group Manager Marketing. He then spent 15 years in executive recruitment with Boyden Melbourne.
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.
Shelley and Brent had four sessions with Bruce over five months, and may have more. Bruce helped them with a range of issues, including
- Competition review and competitive advantage;
- Profit and loss
- Balance sheet
- Customers and invoicing analysis
- Customer contact planning and pricing
- Branding, logo and standard documentation
- Process mapping
- System selection and implementation and
- Business planning.
Shelley says Bruce was a great sounding board, offering good advice and setting them “homework” that made them think about where they were and where they wanted to be.
They also discussed sales issues and how much time was too much to spend on customers who pushed hard on price.
“Working with Bruce made us sit down and think about what we wanted to do, and think about what our business actually is and what our point of difference,” Shelley says. “It was about getting the systems right."
“The main success of it was centralising our operations. We didn’t have a central place where we could have all of the client information, all of our jobs together. It’s made our business more saleable as well.”
Bruce says Team Express now has a new system, a new accountant, documented procedures, additional customers and is busier. At this stage there are no additional staff.
Bruce says profitability has probably improved but has not been reviewed yet. “We have identified lots of things to do that will help to improve the business and the main issue now is having enough time to carry them out,” he says.
“Our main improvement to date has been the introduction of a centralised data management system to reduce the need for it to be all in their heads; also to better allow new employees to work in the business.”
Shelley is now confident that Team Express is well placed to move forward. She says it provides an invaluable service that few can match and puts the client first.
“We assist importers and exporters,” she says. “People are entrusting their products to us. We manage the logistics of it. It’s not about giving them the cheapest service. It’s about finding a competitive price and also ensuring a good standard of service.”
Bruce has helped Shelley and Brent to focus and continue to consolidate and grow their business.
They are now working on a new website and hope to prepare a detailed business plan. “Up until now it’s really just been word of mouth,” Shelley says.
Shelley is grateful for Bruce’s help, which made the most of his extensive business experience. He also gave them a gentle nudge to look at simple things they had put off due to a lack of time.
“It gave us a direction to move forward finally,” she says. “We can now see a great new future for the business.”
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