14/05/2008 - 22:00

Midalia’s fresh challenge

14/05/2008 - 22:00

Bookmark

Upgrade your subscription to use this feature.

AFTER 33 years in the steel industry and having grown the family business into one of the state’s biggest names in steel retailing, former Midalia Steel managing director Geoff Midalia has taken a completely different tack with his newest business venture

Midalia’s fresh challenge

AFTER 33 years in the steel industry and having grown the family business into one of the state's biggest names in steel retailing, former Midalia Steel managing director Geoff Midalia has taken a completely different tack with his newest business venture.

The sale to OneSteel in February 2004 signalled the exit of the family from the business, which had its origins with Mr Midalia's grandfather, a scrap metal collector and processor, in 1918.

"It was a great company and I had a lot of fun with it," Mr Midalia told WA Business News.

"Eventually, succession planning crept in and neither of my two children was going to follow me into the business." After his three-year contract with OneSteel expired last year, Mr Midalia sought to get back into business ownership in a completely unrelated industry.

That's when local food wholesaler Stirling Foods Wholesalers came onto his radar.

Put on the market by its retiring founder Barry McGougan after 21 years, Mr Midalia bought the company in November 2007.

'I wanted something I could get my teeth into, something I could have some enjoyment from...and something where I could utilise my experiences and knowledge gained over the last 30 years," he said.

From its sizeable Balcatta factory, Stirling Foods supplies bulk and packaged nut, dried fruit, grains, pulses and confectionary products to independent supermarkets and growers markets across the state.

The company roasts between one and 1.5 tonnes of nuts per day and delivers between eight and 10t of food daily to its customer base, predominantly in the Perth metro area.

Stirling Foods employs 36 staff.

It's a long way from running the steel retailing group, which at the time of sale was turning over about $1 million a week.

"The interesting thing for me is [that] the last time I managed a business this size I was 40.

I'm going to be 60 next year, so what I thought was buying a small company to get some enjoyment from and last me through my latter career years has meant going back 20 years in terms of involvement," Mr Midalia said.

"I'm involved in all the micromanagement facets of the business, which in a way has been good because it's forcing me to learn about the food industry far more rapidly." Mr Midalia is currently in the midst of modernising certain aspects of the business, the most visible of which is new branding due to be launched in the coming weeks.

The branding was created by Ad Impact, the agency behind the famous Midalia Steel 'm-m-mate' television ads.

Mr Midalia is also looking to bring modern standards to the business, addressing the operating procedures, efficiencies and processes in the factory.

He said he wanted to engage the employees by encouraging team building and greater staff inclusion by allowing staff to show initiative.

"I'm very much a people person and I enjoy having people come along for the ride and getting some fun out of it," Mr Midalia told WA Business News.

He said he planned to put a greater focus on the end consumer, or who he calls his "customers' customers".

"I've always been a retailer and so I enjoy retailing to the end user.

This is a wholesaling business, it's a very different perspective to come from.

But I cannot do this without having a focus on the final consumer," Mr Midalia said.

"Because it's food, how does it look, how does it appeal, how does it taste -not to the supermarket owner but to the customer's customers?" And while the growth in the number of supermarkets entering WA presents opportunities for Stirling Foods to increase its market share, Mr Midalia expects to continue serving just the WA market.

"My father taught me that you can't control what you can't see, so I've adhered to that and I probably will in this case too, although you never know what could arise in the future," he said.

"If I spend too much time dwelling on how I can take this across the border, I won't have an eye for who's coming in from other states to take on my territory."

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

Subscription Options