DESPITE a contraction in Australia’s manufacturing industry, Cooper Technologies Australia met all of its budgets over the last 12 months.
Brett Cooper (pictured) describes FY10/11 as a ‘good year’ as his high voltage assembly and electrical wiring business locked down clients including truck brands Volvo, Mack and Western Star.
“We’re always looking for new clients and to spread our eggs across as many baskets as we can,” he says.
“We’ve diversified in construction work and are currently working on Brisbane’s Airport Link. We weren’t involved in construction until about a year ago, but it’s a big part of what we do now and we’ll diversify further in future.
“We’re also value-adding by investing capital on our machines to improve efficiency and throughput. We can’t compete on a global scale in terms of the high volumes that China and South America can, but we can value-add, so that’s what we’re pursuing and we believe that will be the difference between us and our competitors.”
Tendering for new contracts and exploring overseas options present opportunities for the company.
“We’re tendering for a contract to manufacture the electrical systems for military vehicles and there are a few other small contracts we’re tendering for that will increase our revenue by 25 per cent and mean we can employ 15 extra staff if we’re successful,” he says.
“We’re always trying to compete with the rest of the world, so we’re constantly looking at the option of outsourcing to China or the US. We’re investing capital in our own machinery to stay competitive though.”
Alongside sister Hayley, Cooper bought the business five years ago when it was ‘rundown’ for $1.5 million and spent a further $2.5 million on tools and machinery to bring it to a point where it could compete on a national level.
“Collectively, there was quite a bit of equity, particularly from our parents, although we owe the bank quite a bit of money. We’re heavily committed, but thought it was a process we had to go through to grow the business,” he says.
“My background is in electrical and I’ve always worked in manufacturing, but as with any business, there are issues and problems you deal with every day to keep things moving.
“Our biggest challenge was that right after we bought the business and started investing in fixing it up, the GFC hit, so our revenue started reducing and we still had these huge outlays. It was tough, particularly as the future was so uncertain.
“We’ve made a lot of changes since then. A lot of our smaller customers are dealing with the same problems we’re dealing with, so our service needs to be seamless and positive word of mouth will follow.”
YOUNG ENTREPRENEUR FINALIST
Business Est: 2006
Growth: 7 per cent
Turnover: $4.15 million
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