Two years after joining Andrew and Nicola Forrest’s Minderoo Group as chief operating officer, Grant Vernon has moved onto a new challenge at fast-growing cooking appliance company Thermomix.
Mr Vernon has been appointed chief operating officer at Thermomix, which expects to sell 70,000 of its innovative cooking devices this year, at $2,099 per unit.
“Double digit annual growth has been the norm in this business,” Mr Vernon told Business News.
“It certainly hasn’t reached its limit yet, but the systems and infrastructure within the business had reached their limit.
“We needed to establish a platform for future growth.”
Mr Vernon said he left Minderoo after completing a restructure that brought together the Forrests’ philanthropic and commercial interests under one name.
“Their commercial and philanthropic interests are so connected, and Andrew and Nicola are deeply passionate about both, and we wanted to bring it all together.
“I helped with that restructuring process.
“The other really important thing was their charitable status; we wanted the ultimate status, which is a special listing in the Tax Act.
“We were successful in getting that.”
“I reached a point where they just didn’t need me any more,” he said.
His gradual withdrawal included resigning last month as a director of Minderoo subsidiary, Harvey Beef.
“She asked me to come to some meetings and see if I could help; it evolved from there,” Mr Vernon said.
He said the new role built on past experience at family businesses such as print franchise Snap and Minderoo.
“Part of my role here is to help with mentoring and developing our people. We need the people to grow as fast as the business is growing.”
Changes have included fine-tuning the management structure and introducing open-plan offices to get people working more collaboratively.
Thermomix is also implementing the NetSuite enterprise software system that will link finance and logistics.
“We’re one of Australia Post’s biggest customers in WA because of the volume we’re distributing,” Mr Vernon said.
He said Thermomix had been closely engaged with customers but relied on anecdotal feedback.
“When you’ve got 3,000 consultants and selling 70,000 units a year, you need something beyond that, so we’re looking at market research and social media and demonstrations and all of the ways we engage with customers,” Mr Vernon said.
“It’s incredibly successful, it’s not like it needs radical change; it just needs support to help it continue growing.”
Ms Mazur said sales had been helped by the launch of a new model, which includes a computer chip that links to an iPad-type display on each device.
She believes annual sales across Australia and New Zealand could reach as high as 140,000 units.
Mr Vernon said the new technology meant it was very easy to use a Thermomix device, which is promoted as an all-purpose kitchen device.
“It made me think wow, even I could cook with that,” he said.