This month we sit down with David Hazell from Onetrak. They import and distribute heavy off-road equipment. David shares his insights into business success. Thank you, David, for sharing some excellent business advice with our readers.
1. When you are out and about, and people ask you, ‘what do you do?’ How do you answer that?
I sometimes light-heartedly say I’m a paid tourist that gets to travel Australia meeting great industry people and making lifelong friendships, but more specifically I am the MD of Onetrak, a company that imports and distributes quality heavy off-road equipment for the construction, forestry, material handling and extractive industries through six locations across Australia.
2. Building relationships must be a key to success in your business. What do you look for when recruiting people to your business?
We look for people who not only have a real passion for this industry but importantly have a desire to provide exceptional customer service. A cultural fit with a real can-do attitude is an important factor for us and particularly real people who mean what they say and do what they say they will do.
3. Onetrak has been around for over 12 years; what is your secret to success?
Success does not come easily, I personally find it difficult to utter the word ‘success’ because to me it’s a goal that is never completely achieved as there is always a better way, more refinement and improvements that can be made. That said, if we look at where the business started to where it is today we can certainly be proud of what we have collectively achieved. I believe we owe this to three distinct things being supportive and loyal customers who value good service, dedicated and hardworking people with a passion for customer service and great products such as Hyundai Construction Equipment, Tigercat Forestry Equipment, Terex Fuchs, Striker Crushers, Hidromek Construction Equipment and Dressta Dozers franchises.
4. How important is it to you to have an external stakeholder, for example, Michael Denehey, to talk to and bounce ideas off?
It’s crucial for a number of reasons in my opinion. Firstly, as a company with approximately 80 employees, you cannot afford to have experts internally in every field and external consultants can provide this breadth of intellectual capacity as required. Secondly, as we get caught up in the demanding day to day operational requirement of the business it can be difficult to get the clear head space to think strategically. Michael Denehey has been terrific in this area and helped our organisation a lot with the development of more overarching strategic thinking and governance. Thirdly it’s important to me to be able to ‘just call’ and sometimes run an idea past someone who understands your business but is not caught up in it daily for what a call a ‘sanity check’.
5. How has technology helped the development of your business? Will robots help or not in the future?
Within Onetrak we run fairly typical computer systems and CRM systems for a business of our size and industry profile. Where technology is indirectly assisting our business in the advancements in machine technologies with telematics allowing remote monitory of equipment, machine control systems and GPS awareness, regenerative systems for fuel savings and advancements such as these. I don’t think robots in the traditional sense will feature strongly in our industry but machines that can be remotely operated or controlled by GPS system is certain applications is already happening in some industries such as mining and some of that will undoubtedly spread to our industries in the next few years. This could be a real benefit as I would not mind a dollar for every time a customer has told me they would buy the machine tomorrow if I could sell them an operator with it!
6. What advice would you give to a business owner who is looking to grow their business but is unsure of what steps to take?
Recruit slowly and don’t be satisfied with a close fit. We sometimes learnt this the hard way in the early days. It’s a challenge when starting up but pay for the best people you can afford, getting the right skills into the business may cost but the rewards will follow. Be prepared to work hard – harder than you thought possible and stay close to your people and your key customers. Finally, it’s important to have a partner who will support you through the hours, stress and time away from the family, I have been lucky like that and it’s a real balancing act.
7. As an importer and distributor, how much impact does the government have on your business?
To be honest we have not encountered much influence from the government on the import side of our business. Governments both state and federal do however have a huge influence on our business with regards to capital expenditure in capital infrastructure projects such as road and rail. This type of work generates capital equipment sales and higher levels of activity and confidence for our clients.
8. How important is a positive mindset do you believe in business success?
You are going to have good days and bad days. We have had lots of both and in the not so good days where you are struggling, your team look to you with a positive attitude. You can endure a lot if you try and keep things in perspective and the better times do come if you work hard and keep pushing through.
9. As an owner of a business, there are many hats to wear; which is your favourite and why?
I love getting out on the road and meeting the customers in their various work environments and listening to their challenges and success stories. Having been involved in a family contracting business in a previous life I believe I still have a lot of empathy to the customer. There are just so many genuine down to earth Aussie battlers out there who are an inspiration themselves to be around and having the pleasure of selling them a solution or machine to advance their business is very enjoyable for me personally.
10. Best piece of advice you have ever been given?
There have been many, some of which start to make more sense the longer you are in business and I guess as you progress in years. This is a hard one to answer but my Grandfather saying that you need to really ‘hold onto your business’ still resonates with me every day. Business is a moving target and not always predictable, we have all seen very mature businesses, even banks go to the wall historically – so keeping focused and no letting things go when it gets hard would be the best advice in my opinion.
You can learn more about David and his business at Onetrak