Brett Cooper

Brett Cooper

Age: 31
Business Est: 2006 (purchased)
Number of staff: 45
Growth: 5 per cent
Turnover: $4 million

COOPER Technologies owner Brett Cooper says his voltage cable assembly, harness and loom manufacturing company
received a blessing in disguise when a big name client pulled the plug on him three years ago.

“Within a couple of months of taking over we had Volvo come in and say they were going to move work offshore to places like Mexico. As a company that’s still finding
its feet to lose 40 per cent of your volume sales isn’t easy, but we got over it,” says Cooper.

“In manufacturing if you’re producing lower volumes it’s harder to make money out of, but it wasn’t our policy to say no on jobs so we took on smaller customers and sure enough we were making money.

“It was a blessing in disguise as we had to find customers, substitute the work and that really paid off. We then got Volvo back to a certain extent.”

Under the trading name of Harnex which Cooper bought in 2006, the company produces 8000 different lines of products servicing industries including pathology, telecommunications, mining, agriculture and IT.

When he started with Harnex Cooper’s agenda was to find efficiencies by improving capacity, so he went to the US to buy the latest machines for the maximum output.

“You’ve got to adapt to what the rest of the world is doing – you’ve definitely got to keep your finger on the pulse because if you don’t you’ll get left behind,” he says.

“I suppose the biggest hurdle for manufacturing generally in Australia is that everyone knows it’s getting harder and harder to compete on a global scale.”

Since 2006 he has made the shift from a revenue-focused business to a profitable company, with the belief that too many businesses focus on sales without looking at margins.

“When we started it was definitely making less profit which wasn’t anywhere near what it is now as money wasn’t being made out of the products back then – even though they had solid orders the profitability wasn’t enough in my eyes,” says Cooper.

“Last financial year our revenue was just a tick over $4 milliion but this year we’re probably not going to meet that amount.

“But what we are very excited about is that we’ve increased our profitability by 110 per cent this calendar year, which comes back to all the efficiencies we’ve found over the years and working with smaller customers.”

He says the one thing an entrepreneur should never do is under-deliver.

“You’ve always got to chance what the customer might want and it’s very important that you be up front and honest about market conditions and what you can’t do.

“Don’t overstep what you can do with your products because in this industry credibility is very important.”

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