10/08/2011 - 10:32

Top-shelf strategy for growth

10/08/2011 - 10:32

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THE concept for DMD Shelving Direct was hatched in 1995, when (then) 17-year-old metal fabrication apprentice Mark Antonio and his mates, Danny and Dave, were at a barbeque talking about setting up their own shelving installation business.

More than a decade and a half later, DMD has become one of Western Australia’s leading suppliers, installers and manufacturers of customised shelving and storage products, having secured notable clients such as Coca-Cola Amatil, BP Refinery and John Holland.

By his own admission a poor student, Mr Antonio said neither he nor current business partner Danny Wright had any experience in running a business. 

“They [Danny and Dave] thought there was a niche in the market for a shelving company, particularly focusing on installation, so I understood there was an opportunity there and said I’d like to get involved as well, hence the DMD name today,” Mr Antonio told WA WA Business News.

“It was a bit of the spur-of-the-moment thing; the next morning we [Danny and I] both decided we weren’t going to go to work, so we wrote up a flyer on the computer and I faxed it out to all these companies saying we were professional shelving installers, and we got a phone call back that day.”

A 2011 WA Business News 40under40 winner, Mr Antonio said that very first contract got the ball rolling for the fledgling business, which for a time was operating out of a garage as an installer of second-hand shelving equipment. 

Four years into the venture, Mr Antonio and Mr Wright decided to buy out their business partner to enable them to move the company in a new direction. 

“We had different ideas of where we wanted to take the business; we wanted to develop some of our own products and get away from dealing in just installation of second-hand material,” Mr Antonio said. 

With a growing number of SME clients, the pair decided to lease premises in O’Connor, before moving to a larger facility in Bibra Lake with their 10 staff in 2000.

At that time, DMD decided to make a move away from installing second-hand shelving and shift its focus to installing new product to satisfy growing requests from customers for customised work.

However, Mr Antonio said sourcing product from local manufacturers proved a costly exercise.

“With the new product we initially tried locally and that proved very difficult, because a lot of the local manufacturers would keep their price advantages for themselves and they just weren’t price competitive, so we had to look at different options,” he said.

“Without the support from local manufacturers we started to look elsewhere, some of that was interstate and overseas.” 

Growing from 10 to 28 staff during the past decade, DMD recently moved into a new $3.6 million purpose--built facility in Bibra Lake, containing a showroom, warehouse and manufacturing workshop.

“The business has gradually grown over a period of time by one or two staff each year and there has never been a massive spike,” Mr Antonio said.

“We have always experienced some nice sustained growth of 20 per cent year on year, and we’ve been able to manage things that way.” 

Mr Antonio said a ramp-up in marketing and a shift back to second-hand shelving installation enabled the company to continue to grow through GFC.

“During the GFC we did feel an initial handbrake on the business; for us there were some pros and cons because people still needed storage, whether they were downsizing or upgrading,” he said.

“We also tapped back into the second-hand market a little bit because there was a lot more available in the market, so we made sure we had our share of that.” 

Despite consistent growth in turnover and staff, during the past two years in particular, Mr Antonio said the recent skills shortage in WA forced DMD to recruit staff from overseas. 

He said this strategy was the right decision for the company and attributed it as a key factor in the growth of the business. 

“A lot of people in SMEs never grow because they don’t look at putting on the right people, they try to do it themselves,” he said.

“If I was still out there installing we wouldn’t have grown the business and we would be doing the same thing today.”  

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