NAB senior leaders take a closer look at Australia’s trade and export sector – providing all-important insights into how regional and agribusinesses can best respond to today’s challenges and opportunities.
For a business that started from a ute, Southern Cross Industrial Group has come a long way. A big reason for its success is its laser focus on attracting and developing the best talent.
In 2004, Sean Worsley was servicing industrial equipment from the back of a ute.
Today, from its base in Mackay, Queensland, his Southern Cross Industrial Group (SCIG) supplies the agricultural and civil construction sectors with technological and operational solutions including lighting towers, machinery and equipment, auto electrics and labour hire.
“At the beginning, I thought I’d have one or two people working for me,” Sean says. “Then we expanded quite rapidly until the global financial crisis in 2008. That was when I realised investment and focus on diversification would make us a much stronger company to even out the peaks and troughs of business in the regions.”
One of the major challenges to sustainable growth for a fast-expanding regional business is finding the right people. That’s especially the case in Mackay, which is enjoying almost full employment right now.
As a result, Sean says SCIG is focusing on developing the skills it needs internally.
Initiatives include apprenticeships, internships and offering university graduates an opportunity to build managerial and business skills within the group.
“They can work in areas ranging from finance, import and export, manufacturing and dealerships to retail and sales,” Sean says.
Sean is also committed to giving everyone who joins the business a chance to fulfil their potential.
“People might start working in our retail store, then decide they’d like to learn another skill or a trade within our business,” he says. “We have young men and women learning to become auto electricians, diesel fitters and small engine mechanics – things they’d never thought about when they joined us.
In regional areas you have to give good people opportunities to go further in the business or they’ll just go elsewhere. That isn’t good for us or the community.”
Following Sean’s decision to diversify, SCIG became the first in Australia to develop LED lighting towers for industrial sites.
Sean now has a fleet of over a hundred towers, which he hires to companies around Australia as well as exporting new towers to Africa, South America and Canada.
“Investing in the towers involved an upfront cost, so that’s when our partnership with NAB was particularly important,” he says. “NAB understood what we were aiming to do and provided the capital we needed to start building the hire business. That gave us the base to set the company up and keep on growing.”
Today, NAB provides support for the group at a local, state and national level.
“Southern Cross is continuing to diversify by looking into new markets and also acquiring a range of different companies,” says Joanne Hamilton, NAB’s Senior Business Banking Manager in the Mackay Whitsundays region.
“This is where it helps to have such extensive support. As well as their relationship with me as their local banker, they have direct access to business banking experts and a whole team of economic and financial specialists.”
With the reinvestment of capital back into the business through the support of NAB, Sean says SCIG has been able to grow and support nearly 200 families within the group. “It’s also enabled us to support many worthwhile charities in our local community,” he adds.
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