Breaking Industry Trends
When I started my first business I was 20 years old, it was a bootstrapped startup…. but probably the biggest challenge for me was a 5 year period where I focussed on breaking into a new industry – Breaking Industry Trends.
I wanted to break into an industry that was completely different, it had completely different regulations and an industry that was controlled by older people that I was not familiar with.
I remember time after time, whenever I was fortunate enough to arrange meetings with my target customers they would usually say “so is it just you in the business….?”
Because to be truthful, my competitors in that industry were large corporations with managing directors that normally have established company boards. They had proven industry brands. With their structure, there was either a component of ‘grey’ ownership or ‘grey’ management that the customers also felt secure about.
This predicament made it obscure for my target customers to accept that I was a ‘contender’ and not just a ‘talker’. I needed to break the stereotypical industry trends of the past in order to succeed.
Finding an Alternative Target Industry
From the moment I was born, all I have ever grown up with was learning about my families different business ideas (over 3 generations). How they swapped and changed to manage the best financial market for the industry they were most likely to succeed in. Those businesses ranged from retail, farming, agriculture, technology and tourism.
So for me, it was always my ambition to have a successful business of my own.
I found that opportunity towards the end of my apprenticeship. When I started in business, I was 20 years old and I had a bootstrapped budget. I started a sole trader plumbing business based from Thargomindah .
As time progressed, my geographical limitations required me to travel vast distances in order to gain enough work to be sustainable. It was a choice of:
- (A) either keep traveling, or
- (B) diversify the business to stimulate other growth opportunities.
I chose ‘B’ and my newly formed company diversified into electrical contracting (among others to follow later on).
It might role off the page that this was simple…. it wasn’t. I was ridiculed at almost every level when I pursued this avenue of trade diversification. Competitors were relentless in making me fail. I was repeatedly scrutinised by industry associates and subsequently regulatory authorities were introduced to quash any improper intent. Good. But it only made me stronger.
As the business grew, there were times where the “business pain” seemed to fall far short of the “business gain”…. and, that was simply because of the financial burden of recruiting new employees, financing new projects, followed by mitigating bad debts (the regular business issues).
- I faced a bad debt ratio of $1:$10 and the gap was not getting smaller.
- I had a large customer base simply because of the necessity to create business in a geographically remote environment.
- I had shared my customers across 60% private and residential compared to 40% commercial in order to share my risk.
Business was under pressure……
I began looking outside of the building and construction industry I was servicing and focus on finding a historically independent and sustainable alternative that was better suited, or at least would compliment, our business future.
With considerable research, and examining the synergy that our business already had available, it became apparent that the alternative I was seeking was the energy industry for which I knew nothing about when I began…..
Getting a Start Isn’t Easy
Making the change or at least some sort transition to a change was not simple. The energy industry is an incredibly difficult industry to enter. I pursued avenue after avenue, and it was a relentless pursuit that always ended in a closed door conversation.
Clients always wanted a ‘safe set of hands’ to complete their work and were not willing to take any risk with a ‘newcomer’ to the industry.
I received this feedback constantly for ~ 5 years, and then I received a call asking if we could arrange for the plumbing and electrical connection of a small camp in a remote Australian oilfield.
This ‘1’ project gave me the slight chance to covert an opportunity into a long term energy industry contract:
- Firstly I had to win the bid,
- Secondly the installation had to be better then the client was expecting (under promise, over deliver),
- Thirdly wherever there was an opportunity to discuss works with the client I would be avid in proposing our willingness to be involved.
I took this project with ‘both hands’, it was a clear opportunity that could drive the business well into the future with obvious growth prospects. I had the background and knowledge for working in geographically remote locations and I knew that I had the right people to make this project a success. I just had to break through the industry trends.
We struck out with everything imaginable so that the project had no delays in construction. We started and immediately found our rhythm. We worked in well with other contractors that were already working on site and we began to build new relationships.
I wanted our new customer to feel comfortable, I wanted them to feel they had their project in ‘good hands’.
As our project progressed I made sure I was the first person on the job and the last person to finish. I wanted to work harder then anybody else and I wanted everybody to see that our business was clearly a business with the potential to deliver other projects for the customer.
As our project neared completion, this effort paid off. I was asked to price another project and then make plans on a return trip to complete that work. This would mark the beginning of the future for our business, we had just started in the energy industry…..
Growing a Business in a New Industry
Growing a business in a New Industry is all about ‘getting runs on the board’ before you can truly break industry trends.
Because unless you have some sort of proven success or proven track record; gaining any sort of opportunity just doesn’t happen…… you have to make it happen. Keep on keeping on – “go with the goers”
I kept piecing together project after project until such time that I had a decent profile whereby I could approach other energy industry customers.
After a period of almost 12 months I was fortunate enough to be given another opportunity. I would work all day around Thargomindah, drive to Eromanga (300km’s from Thargomindah), have a meeting to discuss opportunities and then drive back to Thargomindah for work the next day. Sometimes those meetings would mean arriving back to home well after midnight.
I would do whatever was necessary to build strong and confident business relationships.
I began meeting customers in Brisbane, Adelaide and then Perth & Sydney on a regularly occurring routine.
It was apparent that robust business systems were required to sustain ongoing decentralised business growth. We kept raising the bar on ourselves with the ambition to make it harder for industry competitors.
As time progressed, the industry trends that we worked so hard to overcome in the beginning became the barriers that prevented industry newcomers from attempting an industry change…..
Changing between industries is not simple, but it can happen.
The initial pain and pursuit to break through industry trends would ‘build our future’.
Written by Geoff Pike, Entrepreneur, Speaker & Business Mentor
Also, if you would like to read future posts then please click ‘Follow’ at the top of this article and feel free to connect via Facebook or visit the ‘Equipped to Discover’ Webpage, Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin page.
Geoff founded a sole trader plumbing business in a remotely located and vastly underpopulated location in outback Australia. Starting business with only enough money to pay 4 weeks wages, Geoff persisted by growing the business into a multi-disciplined trade services company. Over a period of 12 years, the company Geoff established grew to employ a workforce of over 300 personnel covering an area almost half the size of Europe, receiving international award recognition with an annual revenue of over $30mil. Geoff knows what it takes to overcome adversity.