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Engineering business success
Alexis Valenza’s engineering business is making waves after he complemented his technical skills with Small Business Mentoring Service management expertise.
European-born Alexis combined his affinity for water with a love of the outdoors to complete a Master of Hydrogeology and Engineering Geology and a Diploma in Geology, becoming a groundwater engineer.
He worked with international mining and hydrogeological consulting firms on large environmental, geotechnical and infrastructure projects.
These included tunnelling and underground dewatering in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and South East Asia.
Since moving to Australia in 2008, he has worked on projects such as the M80 Ring Road widening, the Westgate Freeway upgrade, the Western Distributor tender, South Australian and Victorian desalination projects, Brisbane’s airport link, Newcrest Toguraci mine (Indonesia), and the FIFA world cup stadiums (Qatar).
After 15 years as an engineering consultant, Alexis started Melbourne-based Valenza Engineering in 2011. It has three full time employees (one based in Hungary) and several specialist contractors supporting key projects.
The groundwater and environmental hydrogeology engineering consultancy works globally with a team of specialists to provide technical, advisory and expert witness services.
It generally collects data in the field, analyses it and provides advice to clients including farmers, mining companies, construction contractors and water corporations.
“I enjoy solving technical problems as well as the interaction with people/clients,” Alexis says. “We provide technical advice for clients on groundwater related matters. We provide support to the farming industry, water supply, environmental sector, mining and resources and construction.”
Alexis’ personable approach to problem solving enables Valenza Engineering to achieve clever and cost-effective outcomes – forging constructive and long-lasting relationships across all sectors.
“We are specialised but flexible in our technical approach,” he says. “We tend to be more innovative in the solutions we provide.”
The business had great potential but Alexis wanted to ensure he could run it as effectively as possible. “I wanted to understand how to run the ‘business side’ of the business,” he says.
After learning about SBMS through an online advertisement, Alexis was matched with mentor Bruce Abbott. Bruce has more than 30 years’ experience in the steel, manufacturing and distribution industries.
After starting as a metallurgist with Comsteel, he became marketing manager and moved to BHP, where he rose to Group Manager Marketing before spending 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.
Alexis had six sessions with Bruce over two years and mentoring is continuing. They covered a range of topics, including:
- business planning, including analysing strengths and weaknesses
- time management and the need to spend more time on sales and marketing
- reviewing Alexis’ client base and targeting the most profitable jobs and customers
- website redesign
- ensuring that profits grew as the business did.
Bruce was impressed by Alexis’ efforts to develop his operation. They mapped out a three-year plan that Bruce is confident Alexis can achieve if he ensures that his profit levels are adequate.
“The business has grown from a one man show to having employees and a city shared office,” Bruce says. “New and different types of clients are being sought.”
Since seeing Bruce, Valenza Engineering sales have increased by 20 per cent and the business has broken into the infrastructure sector.
“We have hired a new permanent staff and rely on a series of contractors to assist us during busy periods,” Alexis says. “We have developed a new website and have now an office in the city, which makes our company more visible to our clients.”
Alexis is “extremely happy” with Bruce’s help. “He has experience in my industry and has been extremely proactive in his approach,” Alexis says.
“Bruce has very early on identified the strengths and weaknesses of the business. He has flagged a series of issues, and provided simple solutions to overcome them.
“He has also provided a series of tools to analyse the performance of the business, which revealed crucial issues. He has been of great help in raising the consciousness of what a business can be.”
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